A visualization of the proposed project by DM Development and Handel Architects

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. 

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Juan Carlos Lara covers business and development in the Mission. Juan Carlos, a San Francisco State alum, is as much a photographer as he is a writer and previously worked as the campus news editor at Golden Gate Xpress, SF State’s student paper.

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  1. 🤔 When the 400 Divisadero project was being hammered out, then-Supervisor London Breed and her legislative aide Vallie Brown negotiated for 20% BMR (36 units) and the progressive bloc said that wasn’t enough. Dean Preston, who failed to defeat Breed but did defeat Brown for the Supervisor’s seat, hammered on this point incessantly, 20% wasn’t enough.

    Can we suspect similar outrage from this bloc for a project that’s only 23 BMR units, not even 14%?

  2. I’m concerned about the efforts to put up really big buildings, such as the one shown, that seem out of scale with the neighborhood. I am really in favor of the City offering help and incentives to individual property owners in neighborhood commercial districts (many of which have one-story buildings) so that they could add 2nd or 3rd floor residential to their commercial properties. It’s not as easy for the developers, but I think it will create a more livable city. Plus it could increase income for small property owners. We also have to deal with excess auto use and overbuilding in the commercial sector. Too easy, maybe, just to add more big residential buildings, with questionable effect on “affordability,” and negative effect on other aspects of city life.
    This is all complicated, of course, but more conversations (with no name-calling) could be very helpful.

    1. If you want to live in the suburbs go live in the suburbs. There are plenty of places you can find “livable” (for whomst??) communities with no tall buildings. Meanwhile people seeking economic opportunity have little choice but to stretch to live in or near a city made expensive by the policies you advocate. To your last point, endless conversations in fact help no one–unlike tall buildings, one cannot live in them.

      1. Those who came before us poured billions into building regional rapid rail transit, BART, so that people could live around the region and commute into San Francisco. That’s seemed to work for commuters. But that approach affords no opportunity or justification for lucrative infill upzonings, hence YIMBY crafting NIMBY nemesis and using the East Side of SF as a whipping neighborhood for the “nice” neighborhoods of the City.

        The only alternative to this is a corrupted moribund affordable housing nonprofit cartel that inspires nobody because it is only interested in drumming up business for its members. This is the effective neoliberal cooption of progressive politics, similar to how the PRI dictatorship in Mexico during the 20th century formalized the political domestication of civil sectors into docility via authoritarian patronage.

  3. It’s time to repeal SB 35. People are starting to see that it’s just a super-gentrification law designed to destroy communities.

    “Blah blah blah NIMBY” is goonish name-calling that promotes hatred and tribalism.

    1. SB 35 is great. NIMBYs are very real and very terrible. This is common knowledge and only a NIMBY in denial of the racist and exclusionary affects of their actions could disagree.

    2. I don’t think SB 35 applies here. In any event, I suspect failure to build enough housing has caused much more gentrification. Just look at thoroughly gentrified neighborhoods such as Bernal Heights, Noe Valley, the Castro. Lack of new housing certainly didn’t stop gentrification there. And Valencia St. started gentrifying long before new housing started to sprout. That said, I wish San Francisco would emphasize building more housing in neighborhoods such as West Portal where gentrification is simply not a concern.

    3. We have a massive housing shortage and you’re mad at a law that enables more affordable housing to get built?

  4. this looks good to me, glad it’s getting built. anytime we can replace a parking lot with homes is a win in my book

  5. I’m kinda in favor though if only for angering the NIMBYS in their houses on the other side of the block.

    Marin County has plenty of sunshine and open space… Look into it.

    1. Are we reading the same article?

      “…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.”

      Or does BMR mean something other than “below market rate” that I’m not aware of?

      Beautiful Marijuana Rotunda, perhaps? If so, I’m down.

      1. “Beautiful marijuana rotunda” … Tell me you’re working on little scale models!

        I agree that isn’t enough below market housing. At the risk of a naive tangent, it seems like also providing traction for those in the wide gap between the very low income ceiling for BMR housing and those who can comfortably afford insanely inflated housing might be helpful, too. Without a significantly increased number of low-income housing units, as well as something that adds options for those who don’t make either cut, these developments are still just commercial ventures. You can build a condo tower on every parking lot in town without really addressing the housing crisis.

        Being from SF & knowing/loving it as the geographically small city it is, & having studied urban planning… I have very mixed feelings about density as a solution and nimby/yimby as a polarizing positions. I mean don’t move in next to a club or school and complain about noise, but what on earth about someone being upset about losing their patch of sun means they are fussy, or suggests they can afford to move? Who has the actual power here? There are far fewer artists musicians, teachers, old people, blue collar families etc. in SF for a reason. I know it’s not all because of local policy, it’s the capitalist juggernaut and the ripples of its greater forces… Maybe decentralized/remote work and perhaps another earthquake could help level out some of the economics of this all….(kidding/not kidding)

  6. At what point does Sam Moss’ YIMBY predilections on behalf of Mission Housing, and attacks on Peter Cohen and Fernando Marti on Twitter, cause the Council of Community Housing Organizations (CCHO) to come undone, relieving progressives of that corrupt, dominating and exclusive albatross?

    And is USM now an extortion operator for Mission Housing? The FBI and US Attorney should look into this public sector extortion operation. Why can’t the conditions for public entitlements be negotiated by the public sector under sunshine on behalf of SF residents instead of by unaccountable, undemocratic agents of the CCHO on behalf of their private corporations?