Photo by Mick Guzman

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

We’re building a fair amount, but Socketsite reports we’re going to be building less. Apparently, the total number of units in the pipeline has dropped to 63,300, about 400 fewer than its peak in 2016.

Interestingly, Socketsite’s map points out something that activists who oppose new market-rate development often bring up: Much of the construction that is happening is concentrated in the Mission. Because of impending megaprojects, the Bayview’s pipeline is much more concentrated, and the area around Lake Merced is pretty heavy as well, but other than that, the Mission is matched only by SoMa.

That’s all I’ve got for big-picture this week. But there were some interesting little projects that raised different issues at this week’s Planning Commission meeting.

You may have seen that the Planning Commission granted permission for a brewpub to open at 20th and Shotwell streets. The same body also rejected two proposals this week.

The first one, based on the fact that it would remove a rent-controlled unit, was never gonna fly. Planning generally doesn’t go for removal of rental units, much less displacing existing tenants.

The plan, at 2722 Folsom St., a three-unit building with an un-permitted cottage in the back and an additional un-permitted unit in the attic, was to merge two rent-controlled units on the ground floor. These (legal) units were possibly built without permits, but were ultimately found to be legal in 1975.

But it’s unclear what the purpose of the merger would have been. And about the illegal units: Building inspectors found them be uninhabitable earlier this year. Which raised the question among Commissioners: How can they have been deemed uninhabitable when they were … well, inhabited? For that quandary, however, it was already too late, because on further inspection, the building department had determined there was really no way to bring those units up to code. Tenants of illegal units do have the protections of rent control, but landlords can remove the unit if inspectors say there’s no way to bring it to code, so out the tenants went.

Then there was the the plan to demolish a single-family home at 792 Capp St. and replace it with four units. The proposal sparked a lengthy debate, and ultimately ended with an intent to deny that could result in some interesting follow-up.

Neighbors opposed the plan, citing the historic value of the existing building (officially not recognized as historic, but built sometime in the 1800s). Historic or not, the new proposal’s style would have stood out.

It also seemed neighbors objected because they believe the previous tenants had been evicted by the current owner and proposed developer and didn’t want to allow a precedent to be set for future demolition of existing homes. For his part, the developer said the previous tenant was the prior owner, and had vacated after the sale. The two sides hadn’t been able to meet extensively to find middle ground.

In any case, single-family homes aren’t subject to rent control (though tenants do have some eviction protections), and the proposal would replace one living space with four. Because the proposal would have meant an increase in the number of units on the lot, there was some concern about running up against the state’s Accountability Act, which directs municipalities to approve any addition of housing unless there are problems — backed by law — that justify rejecting the proposal.

In the end, the commission procedurally agreed to disapprove the proposal, based essentially on the idea that destroying a perfectly sound building doesn’t make sense.

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  1. The concentration in the Mission is real, and is why with Mission YIMBY (for which I’m a volunteer organizer), we’re focusing on increasing subsidized affordable housing in the Mission, not on attracting more market-rate housing to our neighborhood at this time.

    It’s worth adding that the reason there isn’t much housing development in other neighborhoods is more complicated than just “the market” or “developers.” Construction of new apartment buildings (affordable or not) is banned in much of the city, including in neighborhoods like Glen Park and Noe Valley, which also have strong transit service. Investment in those neighborhoods still happens, but it consists of renovating incredibly expensive single-family homes, which has no benefit to solving the housing crisis — nothing new is being added.

    I’ve written about how this zoning in wealthy neighborhoods is unfair to the Mission: If I may make a suggestion for next time you cover this topic, mentioning the zoning around other transit stations would give readers perspective on why new housing is currently so concentrated in the Mission.

    1. Perhaps you might want to consider that one reason why there is so much opposition to luxury condos in The Mission is that when the upzonings were passed in 2008, The Mission was the only established residential neighborhood subject to Transit Oriented Development upzonings. The upzoning drove up prices which made acquiring sites for affordable housing even more challenging.

      YIMBY’s of the day, demanding “housing at all costs,” led us to the place where luxury condos dominate and affordable rarely pencils out.