SF’s next big housing battle could be over a massive 400-condo development on the west side

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In the two years since the owners of the Sloat Garden Center first approached planners about redeveloping the property for housing, the proposal has behaved much like the perennials and shrubs that have attracted generations of green thumbs towards the Outer Parkside Nursery.

He grew up. And then it grew a bit more.

What was originally eight stories has grown to 12 stories. What started out as 213 units grew to 283 and then evolved into 400 condos.

Earlier this month, 2,700 Sloat Holdings LLC, which purchased the 30,000-square-foot site in 2020 for $ 8.5 million, filed a preliminary project application for what would be by far the most significant real estate development. tall and densest the west side of San Francisco has ever seen.

While the site is zoned for 100 feet, the developer plans to use San Francisco’s Home-SF legislation, which allows builders to add two more floors in exchange for a deal to make 30% of housing affordable. The 400-unit building would be condos for sale, meaning 120 of the homes would be sold at below-market rates.

So far, the proposal, one block north of the zoo and two blocks east of the Pacific Ocean, has been greeted by neighbors with about as much warmth as would-be bathers. are greeted on a typical frigid and foggy day at nearby Ocean Beach. At a Neighborhood Zoom meeting on the project two weeks ago, residents lambasted the proposal as being grossly out of scale with the low-key vibe of the western enclave of Sunset.

“Obviously, the height and most of the project will be a major issue for residents,” said supervisor Gordon Mar, who represents the neighborhood.

The proposal comes as the Sunset District – and the West Side, in general – becomes a new frontier for housing struggles in San Francisco. Across the Sunset District from the Sloat Garden site is 2550 Irving St., where Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corp. offers 90 affordable housing units. Neighbors recently filed a lawsuit to block a seven-story low-income complex and are arguing for a five-and-a-half-story alternative instead.

Sloat Garden Center spokesperson Evette Davis said developers are under no illusions that the project will be easy to sell. “It’s a project unlike any other in the neighborhood. It’s much higher than the single-family homes nearby, ”she said. “We know there will be changes. We start a conversation with the neighbors about what is possible.

She said the 12-story construction is the only way the builder can subsidize affordable units, which she called “the city’s moral imperative right now.”

“It’s those ocean beach views on the horizon that will pay for affordable homeownership opportunities,” Davis said.

The project would have 9,000 square feet of retail and would be constructed with cross-laminated timber, a prefabricated and strong engineered wood panel that is light, strong, but cheaper and more durable than concrete or steel. .

The project provides for 56 parking spaces, which Davis says will likely become a hotspot for neighbors, even though the site sits on two bus lines and the L-Taraval tram.

“There is a tension between what planners accept in terms of parking and what average people want,” she said. “It’s a transit hub, even if the people who live there don’t feel like it. “

Mar said the reputation of Sunset owners as development-hating “NIMBYs” was outdated. Of the Sunset District’s eight multi-family proposals proposed since he became supervisor, six of them have been accepted by the approval project with few objections, he said.

“There is a lot of rhetoric about NIMBYism at sunset and some of it has been valid historically,” he said. “But today there is support for new developments if the developer follows a good process and engages meaningfully with the neighbors. “

The owner of Sloat Garden Center, adjacent to Westerly Condominiums, proposes to replace the company with 400 apartments, a project that has become a major battle in the fight over whether to increase housing density in the western part of San Francisco.

Brontë Wittpenn / The Chronicle

He said the fact that the units will be for sale, rather than rent, will be of interest to some existing residents of Sunset. He said he hoped anything built there would be attractive to older neighborhood homeowners who might be willing to sell their single-family homes, freeing up more opportunities for young families.

The project would be adjacent to the Westerly, a recently completed 56-unit, five-storey project. “It was revolutionary and it’s twice as high and five times as dense,” he said.

The application also comes as the Irish Cultural Center, one block east of the Garden Center at 2700 45th Ave., seeks approval to build a seven-story, 125,000-square-foot community center. , which would include a swimming pool, a gym, a restaurant. , numerous meetings and classrooms, as well as a museum dedicated to the history and experience of Irish immigrants on the West Coast.

Liam Reedy, who runs the Irish Cultural Center, said it was too early to take a position on the garden center development.

“We understand that something will be built there and that there will be a lot of development along some of these traffic lanes,” Reedy said. ” Good luck to them. It’s the wave of the future. Perhaps years from now our cultural center will benefit from the increase in the number of residents and foot traffic.

Albert Chow, owner of Great Wall Hardware on Taraval Street, said he was shocked at the size of the project. He said he supported the affordable project at 2550 Irving and would likely agree with a seven or eight story building at 2700 Sloat. “I’m for a more urban density, but I would hate to see the Sunset become the next Waikiki or Miami Beach,” he said. “To me, it seems like it bites more than they can chew.”

Sunset resident Jeff Rigo – who is involved with the Sunset Forward Group – said some aspects of the project were intriguing. He said the Sloat Street plot – on the outskirts of the neighborhood – is a better place to put more height and density than the more central parts. He also said he approved of the developer proposing to use cross-laminated timber and the percentage of affordable housing is promising.

But he lamented the account that the Sunset District is blamed for the city’s housing affordability crisis. He said the low density of the neighborhood has attracted generations of residents.

“I think the character of the neighborhood is a good thing. I don’t think it’s wrong or sinful. I don’t think single family homes are either, ”he said.

The litigation that has emerged over 2550 Irving – and now seems likely at 2700 Sloat – will continue, he said.

“I think there are more and more people paying attention to the fact that there is a target on the Sunset in particular and the West side in general. A lot of people are worried about trying to make this side of town the same as the east side of town.

Laura Foote, executive director of YIMBY Action, said the Sloat Garden project is likely to become one of the main housing struggles in the years to come, especially given how vehemently some residents have fought against affordable housing on Irving. .

“We already know for sure that this will be something we will have to mobilize to support,” she said.

JK Dineen is a writer for the San Francisco Chronicle. Email: jdineen@sfchronicle.com Twitter: @sfjkdineen

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