The Planning Department approved a project Thursday that proposes to demolish the baby-blue S.F. Auto Works building at 1021 Valencia St., near 21st Street, and build a 75-foot-tall residential building.
The proposed project consists of 12 one-bedroom units, 12 two-bedroom units, a 3,003 square-foot commercial space on the ground floor, and a roof deck.
As required, three units will be below market rate, according to Planning Department staff. In an affidavit, project manager James Curley said the units will be for residents making 80 percent of the area median income.
Curley noted in the document that residents of the below market rate units could own them, but added, “I reserve the right to change this.”
In 2020, 80 percent of the area median income was $82,000 for a family of two, or $102,500 for a family of four. The below market rate units are required for the project to qualify under the state’s density bonus program, allowing the project sponsors to exceed the height requirements.
The planning commission’s unanimous approval was conditional on project sponsors making certain adjustments, such as improving the quality of materials for the windows and expanding the amount of accessible open space for building residents.
“We all know that vinyl windows will basically age and sag and will be more expensive in the long run,” said commissioner Kathrin Moore.
Commissioner Sue Diamond pointed out that, “this project is providing significantly less open space than would otherwise be required if it weren’t a state density bonus project.”
However, Diamond acknowledged that a similar project at 321 Florida St also lacked outdoor space and the commissioners approved it two weeks ago.
The garage was first built in 1922 and bought by Norman Elkington in the 1930s. Elkington’s descendants have owned the building ever since and are now pushing for its demolition in favor of housing.
Ken Elkington, the grandson of Norman, did not return requests for comment, but told Mission Local in 2018, “we hope to be on the right track to do something positive for the Mission” as developers prepared to first submit the project application.
At the time, developers said they hoped to receive approval by the end of 2019, but the project was delayed, partially to negotiate with neighbors and community groups.
Now that the project has been approved, it remains unclear how long it will take for developers to construct the building, or whether they will simply sell the freshly entitled property.
Kevin Sawyers, a mechanic who took ownership of S.F. Auto Works in early 2019 after the previous owners retired, hopes it’s the latter.
“They said, ‘We’ll give you the business, but you’ll have to pick it up and move it,’” Sawyers said.
Although he took over the business with the knowledge that the building owners were applying to demolish it, Sawyers said he was ecstatic.
“All of a sudden, I found myself living this dream,” Sawyers said.
Sawyers previously owned a classic car repair shop for four years in Clovis, a city in Fresno County, until he was outed as gay in 2016.
Now, even though the large mixed-use building has been approved, the auto mechanic hopes to save the building from demolition.
“Where hanging my pride flag at my old place lost me business, here, it’s gotten me business,” Sawyers said.
His goal is to buy the business from the Elkington family and turn the basement area of the auto shop into several artist studios that can be rented out monthly.
The building owners also seem amenable to selling the building, according to Sawyers, but the long-time mechanic said he needs to do a lot of saving up first.