Plans to turn an auto repair shop on 15th and Mission streets into 11 units of housing over a ground floor commercial space will go forward after a unanimous vote by the Planning Commission.
The project at 1900 Mission St. came to the Planning Commission as a result of the city’s discretionary review process, in which opponents of a project request a hearing and ask commissioners to exercise their discretion in making changes to the project.
In this case it was the Mission Economic Development Agency, through contractor Peter Papadopoulos, that triggered the review.
In considering the proposal in February, commissioners remarked on its sleek, glassy appearance and found it improper for the corridor.
“Big windows, to me, are a statement of class and privilege,” Commissioner Myna Melgar said at the time, while Commissioner Kathrin Moore compared it to the Starship Enterprise.
They asked the designer to adjust a lightwell for the neighboring building and improve the usability of the ground-floor retail space, but also specified that the aesthetic should be brought into line with other buildings along the corridor.
Project proponent Kevin Stephens Design Group offered a laundry list of tweaks, including practical changes to the lightwell and ground floor as well as reducing the window size by 25 percent and changing the facade materials.
“In a bigger picture, I understand there’s concerns about what is the new elements we bring to this family corridor, this commercial corridor,” said Riyad Ghannam, an architect who consulted on the project’s redesign.
But with the changes, the sponsor said, the project should fit in.
The commissioners seemed to agree, saying the changes responded well to their earlier critiques.
Papadopoulos agreed that the changes helped, but told the commission that he still worried about the current occupant of the space, Performance Auto Repair. MEDA, he said, has been working to help the proprietor relocate but has found it difficult.
“Neighboring businesses have mentioned a concerns that the displacement of business has produced some anxiety for them,” Papadopoulos said.
The design concerns, however, seemed mostly abated, though Papadopoulos and the commission both seemed somewhat dubious about a tall, turret-like design accent on the highest corner of the building.
There was also the question of what to do with a large blank wall that would result from the construction of the new building.
For both of these items, Ghannam had an answer.
“We, as architects, don’t always get it right, at least not on the first try,” he said, and presented an alternate design with the corner accent toned down.
As for the wall, he said, the group had already started discussions with local artists about adding a mural to the bare side wall.
The commission subsequently decided not to exercise any discretion on the project, and instead advised the architects and Planning Department’s staff to continue working toward the mural and the more modest corner accent, and unanimously voted to approve the project.
Disclosure: Mission Local rents office space from MEDA.