Early draft of proposed project. Photo courtesy of BDE Architects.

The S.F. Auto Works garage on Valencia Street between 21st and 22nd could become a six-story, 25-unit apartment building in the coming years.

The owner/developers — descendants of Norman Elkington, who bought the building in the 1930s — are preparing to submit an application to the Planning Department by the end of the year.

The plan would raze the garage and build the 25 apartments atop 4,194 square feet of “neighborhood-serving” ground-floor retail. The plans also include a 2,000-square-foot landscaped roof deck. It will not include parking.

The developers hope the project will be approved by the end of 2019 and break ground in 2020.

“We sort of looked at [the garage] and said it’s not keeping up with what’s going on in the Mission,” said Ken Elkington, the grandson of California Court of Appeal Judge Norman Elkington. “The Mission is a great place, and there are a lot of great things going on there. That was our thinking going into it.”  

The garage on Valencia Street has been the home of S.F. Auto Works since 2004. Owners Kevin Hrebich and Joe Pramana agreed to terminate their lease early so that they could retire, according to the developers and later confirmed by Hrebich. The auto shop’s lease lapses at the end of the year.

Hrebich declined to comment further for this article.

Three other tenants in the building, renters of office and storage space, were aware of the development plans before signing their leases 18 months ago, according to the developers.

The building would contain two affordable units, which would satisfy the city’s 12-percent affordable requirement for its “base project” of 20 units. For the five additional units added under the state density bonus program, the developers will pay an affordable housing fee of $300,000 to the Mayor’s Office of Housing.

The garage, built in 1922, has been owned by members of the Elkington family since Norman Elkington bought it in the late ’30s. 

Ken Elkington said his grandfather transferred ownership of the building to his three children 30 years after he bought it, and the structure has remained in the family. In 2017, the three children combined their ownership with plans to turn the garage into an apartment building.

The building is “probably something that is under-utilized” when “we look at the need for housing in the city,” Elkington said.

Unlike the Superior Auto Garage at 16th and Albion streets — which was purchased for $8.7 million in 2013 by owners with plans to develop the property into housing, but who were subsequently hamstrung by its historical classification — the current home of S.F. Auto Works was deemed not to be a historic resource.

“We’ve heard that development has been difficult in the Mission,” Elkington said. But so far, he said, community feedback has been generally positive. So “we hope to be on the right track to do something positive for the Mission.”  

Other longtime landowners on Valencia have had the same idea of developing their land into housing. In August, the owner of Lucca’s Ravioli Co. put its parking lot up for $2.995 million with the intention of turning it into as many as eight residential units.

Jefferson McCarley, a spokesperson for the Valencia Corridor Merchants Association, said the developers recently presented their plans to the association. He said the meeting was positive and productive, and the association only took issue with the project having one large retail space, instead of two smaller spaces.

We just want there to be an active, independent retailer,” he said. “And we think it’s gonna be more likely if they’re two small storefronts facing the street instead of one large space.” 

“They seemed to be listening to us,” McCarley added. “So we’re hoping it’s gonna be no drama.”

S.F. Auto Works at 1012 Valencia Street.

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Julian grew up in the East Bay and moved to San Francisco in 2014. Before joining Mission Local, he wrote for the East Bay Express, the SF Bay Guardian, and the San Francisco Business Times.

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  1. “We sort of looked at [the garage] and said it’s not keeping up with what’s going on in the Mission,” said Ken Elkington. What a quote, this is sad when good shops like this are looked down on from what’s currently going on in the Mission. We still need shops like this in our city and pushing them farther and farther out or completely out limits actually staying local with our commerce. SF Auto Works is a great auto shop and it will be sad to see it go.

    1. So sad to hear another good shop closing in the Mission. My Subaru is still going strong at 19 years, thanks to Kevin, Joe, and the guys at SF Autoworks.

    1. State Density Bonus Law.
      They’re permitted a 35% density bonus by making 12% based on local zoning available to “Very Low Income” households, this typically means an extra 1-2 stories.

  2. @heidi Why don’t you use your brain for a minute before you attack the developer? Maybe you would prefer they leave the building as is (ie. commercial zoning) and build no affordable housing units?

  3. 2 affordable units? What a fucking joke! “keeping up with what’s going on in the mission” is right.

  4. Wow this should be a slam dunk and would be in most places. Unfortunately in SF and particularly the Mission, MEDA, Calle 24 and the other “activists” will look to have their way and ideally block it until they can buy it for their own ends. I really hope I’m wrong.

  5. I hear from authoritative sources that SF Autoworks will remain open under new ownership and the same staff in the same location until the time comes for the demolition of the building.

  6. ¤ Oh noes! It’s a War On Cars!!!

    (War On Cars is a registered Trademark of ENUF and other concern-trolling-for-the-working-class organizations.)

  7. “The developers hope the project will be approved by the end of 2019 and break ground in 2020.” This is such a sad statement that they are hopeful it will be approved in over a year. If a developer follows all the rules, the approval should be rubber stamped. If they don’t follow the rules, the planning commission should be telling the developers exactly what they need to do in order to get the rubber stamp approval.

    The politicians and planning commission are servants of the people. They work for us. They should be putting all of their effort into helping people navigate the government system. Not the other way around.