The San Francisco Planning Commission approved a 168-unit residential building Thursday that will go up on an existing parking lot.
The proposed project at 321 Florida St. near 16th Street, is a nine-story building sponsored by DM Development and Urban Land Development, with Urban Land Capital as the capital partner.
The project would include 64 studios, 37 one-bedroom units, 67 two-bedroom units and an approximately 1,500-square-foot retail space on the ground floor that will be given, free of cost, to Community Arts Stabilization Trust, a San Francisco-based nonprofit that acquires land for use by artists or art organizations.
Of the 168 units in the building, 23 (13.6 percent) will be below market rate, 14 of which are intended for residents making between 50 and 55 percent of the area median income. In 2020, 55 percent of area median income was $56,400 for a family of two and $70,450 for a family of four.
Project sponsors will pay an approximately $3.8 million density bonus affordable housing fee. California’s State Density Bonus Program allows builders to exceed height limits in exchange for more affordable housing, and city legislation places a fee on developments that take the optional bonus.
“In addition, we have signed a [memorandum of agreement] with United to Save the Mission to make a contribution of $2 million dollars for the acquisition of 2675 Folsom St. to develop up to 125 units of 100 percent affordable housing,” Mark Macdonald, the CEO of DM Development.
Mission Housing Development Corporation will reportedly be responsible for the development on Folsom Street.
The memorandum, which was signed only hours before the commission meeting began, also agreed to other terms set forth by United to Save the Mission.
Those requirements include design elements; “in particular, the color that we were going to be using on some of the materials, as well as the color and the design of our bay windows, all of which we worked very productively and collaboratively on,” Macdonald said.
The property will also include at least 118 bicycle parking spaces, along with 45 to 55 off-street parking spaces, two of which would be for residents with disabilities and one as a car-share parking space. The parking spaces are located under the building, and will involve an automated mechanical system that stacks and stores cars on top of each other to maximize the space.
“I would say it is becoming increasingly the standard to have some sort of mechanical parking lift because it is quite expensive to excavate. … It’s more now the norm rather than the exception,” Macdonald said.
The majority of people calling in for public comment spoke in support of the project, including members of United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America Local Union No. 22 and organizations neighboring the site, such as Friends of Franklin Square and Sweet Peas Preschool.
Opposition to the project mostly came in the form of a few residents who live close to the project site and said the building will adversely affect their homes by blocking their views and access to sunlight.
“This patio is a little sliver of solace that I can escape to,” said Richard Brown, a resident of 14 years, referring to the shared backyard area at his home.
“I question whether we will have any sun at all,” Brown said.
Project sponsors have committed to hiring union carpenters for the project and upgrading the playground of Sweet Peas Preschool, which is directly adjacent to the project site, as well as upgrading the wall separating the two properties.
Although planning commissioners generally supported the project, some raised questions about the amount of open space for residents.
“The amount of open space that is being provided is roughly half what would be otherwise required by our code,” said commissioner Sue Diamond.
“I think the amount of open space is insufficient,” said commissioner Kathrin Moore. “The state density bonus seems to be detracting from the quality of housing. … I think we should be doing better.”
Units on the ground floor of the project will have private backyards, and commissioners asked that more of those units be two-bedroom units rather than the studios currently planned there.
“We’re always happy to receive feedback from the planning commissioners, we’re very happy to look back at how we can incorporate that feedback,” Macdonald said, adding that the requested changes would not be difficult to implement.
Ultimately, the commissioners approved the project unanimously with the condition that project sponsors return to the commission once those recommendations have been implemented to their plans for final approval.
Macdonald said he anticipates it will take six or seven months to receive the necessary building permits, and 22 to 24 months to construct the building.
After working on this project since late 2018, Macdonald said he was glad to finally receive approval, even if it was conditional.
“I think when you work closely with the community at a grassroots level and work directly with people in the community … it’s a great process,” Macdonald said.