Developments in development: 29th Street fire

29th and Mission Streets. Photo by Lola M. Chavez

Developments in Development is a “weekly” column recapping real estate, housing, planning, zoning and construction news.

A year ago today, more than 50 tenants lost their homes in a fire that consumed several buildings and left others with serious damage at 29th and Mission streets.

Here are a few updates on what has happened at those sites:

First, Hillary Ronen just got approval for legislation that would double the time disaster victims can get rental subsidies from the city from two years to four years. Mostly this was aimed at 22nd Street fire victims, but applies to anyone – which is good because we have no idea how long it might take to rebuild the Graywood Hotel, where most of those displaced in the 29th Street fire lived.

The Graywood itself went up for sale in February, though the Examiner reports that it’s been withdrawn from the market. Both the status of the repairs and the future of the Graywood’s popular ground-floor tenant the 3300 Club are uncertain.

As far as businesses go, Cole Hardware is very likely to be making a comeback. Owner Rick Karp said last week he’s been in talks with the property owner, who is trying to develop eight units above a ground floor commercial space on the former Cole Hardware site. Not only are things going well, they’re actually discussing how to make the commercial space as hardware-store friendly as possible.

“We’re very excited about the possibility of reuniting with a neighborhood we’ve been engaged with for 32 years,” Karp said.

Another comeback is El Gran Taco Loco, which Saul Chavez had run on the block for 15 years. The Chronicle reports that the extent of the damage on his restaurant’s building was so unexpectedly severe that he needed to move on, but he has reopened 18 blocks away in the Excelsior.

Okay, back to your regularly scheduled recap:

For all the hype about how San Francisco’s housing is overly expensive, it’s worth remembering that affordability is a problem (admittedly maybe not on the same scale) nationwide. Apartment industry groups have commissioned a study saying that the problem is that there’s not enough housing. But on this grander scale, too, we’re seeing the familiar Bay Area problem: Oversupply at the high end and not enough production at the low end, according to Harvard’s Joint Study for Housing Studies.

One factor is the cost of land and building housing. Google is experimenting with circumnavigating the latter by buying 300 modular (pre-fab) homes for its employees and put them next to Moffett airfield in Mountain View.

Apart from being regionally interesting, this might be an undertaking to keep an eye on because the cost of construction is always a point of discussion, and there is already some skepticism about how much this will reduce building costs (20 percent? Or up to 50?).

There have also been some proposals to use modular housing to provide super-low-cost housing to the homeless right here in San Francisco.

Locally, projects continue to move ahead – and South Van Ness Avenue seems to be the hot street in terms of housing production updates this week.

Down on 26th Street, the new temporary Navigation Center for the homeless will open sometime next week.

Several blocks away at 19th and South Van Ness, developers have applied for an environmental review needed to put up a 75-foot mixed use building with 69 residential units and more than 4,700 square feet of retail space at 793 South Van Ness Avenue.

The current plan is for two 3-bedrooms, 28 2-bedrooms, and 39 1-bedrooms. That’s with a density bonus – without the bonus it would just be 51 units. 20 percent of those 51 will be low-income units, which allows for the bonus. Here’s an account from an earlier meeting about this project.

At 17th, new apartments on the corner have been completed, and are being advertised as “brand new luxury condos in an intimate setting.” Not sure what “intimate” means specifically here, but hey, roof deck! The project has four on-site affordable units, even though at a meeting in 2015 it seemed the developer was being encouraged to pay an in-lieu fee instead. Here’s that meeting from three years ago, and the Planning Commission hearing that followed. And here we are, as promised in the headline: Housing on South Van Ness Avenue, whether you like it or not.

Correction: An earlier version of this column erroneously indicated that the project at 17th and South Van Ness had no affordable units on-site. The story has been updated with additional information.

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