A Dispatch delivery robot on 19th Street (not pictured: delivery robot handler with controller). Photo by Laura Wenus

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

“No robots on sidewalks!” city leaders have declared. Well, kind of! Except for in specific places: Robots and PDR (production, distribution and repair) apparently go hand-in-hand, because that’s where they are allowed.

And, there are no restrictions on security robots like our new friend K9 at the SPCA. Nor have I heard of any backlash against this realty robot Curbed reported on this week.

Yes, automated home tours. But let’s not get excited here — this is not a robot. This is an elevated version of an iPad tied to a stick mounted on a remote-control toy car. And, poor lonely not-bot, at the end of the promo video embedded at the Curbed story, the renter hopefuls cheerily walk off and leave it standing, alone, in the wide-open doorway, realizing that it does not have arms.

Meanwhile, we realize that as we watch the robots advance, housing costs continue to disappoint — Rents jumped as the year is winding down, delighting no one. I like to get a more concrete picture of those big-picture rent numbers by browsing Curbed’s listings of apartments for less than $2,000 a month. Last week they threw me a bone with a catalogue of listings for $1,600 and less a month, and they are are, let’s say, not encouraging.

Oh, and while we’re still figuring out how to deal with the huge imbalance between jobs and housing in San Francisco, why don’t we just go ahead and build even more office space?

At first glance, that’s what a new ballot measure proposes — relaxing the 1986 Prop M limits on how much office space the city can build. But wait, there’s nuance — the Chronicle reports that the measure includes a limitation that the city couldn’t approve more than 6 million new square feet of office space until 15,000 housing units are also approved.

Yes, that next ballot is going to be plenty crowded, particularly with housing-related stuff. I’ve already mentioned that tenant advocates are looking to put a proposal that no tenant can be evicted without legal representation on the ballot, and the YIMBYs are trying to make affordable housing by-right.

Meanwhile, activists are also trying to put the pressure on state legislators to make a Costa-Hawkins repeal happen, which it hasn’t, for many years, despite many efforts. The latest: tenant advocates, in a reference to the evictions they see among their clients, slapped state representative David Chiu with a “45-day notice to quit” eviction letter taped to his door, threatening to “evict” him from office if he doesn’t support repeal of the law. (Because Costa-Hawkins restricts rent control on vacant units, they argue that it incentivizes the eviction of long-term tenants.)

Back in the Mission, plans for infill housing continue to crop up here and there. A proposal to add eight units to an existing four-unit building at 350 San Jose Avenue near 26th street have been submitted to the Planning Department and are under review.

And another auto body shop is on the chopping block. The proposal is to knock down Barney’s Auto Center on South Van Ness Avenue near 21st Street to build nine condos.

Lastly, a big question mark for the future of the Social Security office in the Mission: the Hibernia Bank building has been sold, Curbed reports. The office will remain in place until 2022, but that’s the end of its lease.

The property has development potential, but also historic character, which in other areas has prompted proposals that retain the ground-floor facades of existing buildings and put modern homes on top. Will this, too, become another condo building wearing another building’s pants?

Follow Us

Join the Conversation


Please keep your comments short and civil. Do not leave multiple comments under multiple names on one article. We will zap comments that fail to adhere to these short and very easy-to-follow rules.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. I was very happy to see signature gatherers doing just that (by the bucketful) on the No Evictions Without Representation measure in the Upper Haight. How is it going in the Mission?