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SF halts Mission housing development over ‘bulky’ design

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The proposed housing development at 2918 Mission St. would include 75 units, eight of which would be rented at below-market-rate prices. (Courtesy Gould Evans)

The “bulky” design of a mostly market-rate housing development slated to span several lots of Mission Street prevented the project from moving forward at the Planning Commission last week.

The development would take advantage of the state density bonus law allowing developers to build denser and taller than typically permitted in exchange for on-site affordable housing.

It would rise eight stories near Mission and 25th streets and bring 75 units of housing to the neighborhood, including eight units rented at below-market-rate prices. The project is also just a block away from the 24th Street BART Station and has spots for bicycles rather than car parking.

But several commissioners were troubled by the size and design of the proposal, which would replace a laundromat and outdoor parking lot on three lots of Mission Street.

“It’s just basically plopping a foreign object into this area and not thinking about its consequences,” said Commissioner Kathrin Moore.

The commission unanimously voted last Thursday to delay a decision on the project until late November, asking the developer to redraw the plans as multiple buildings rather than one.

“This building reads as too bulky and just a bit out of character with the neighborhood,” said Planning Commission President Rich Hillis. “We’re trying to build additional housing and maximize the density and I appreciate that, but I think we also have to look at the context of where it is and how it’s built.”

The plans are from owner Robert Tillman, who operates the coin laundromat currently on the site, located at 2918 Mission St. Tillman has reportedly tried to sell the site to an affordable housing developer since January 2016 without success.

Mission neighborhood groups are holding out hope that a developer like the Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development will build affordable housing there, but an agreement has yet to come to fruition.

“This project provides only a minimum number of affordable units in a sensitive neighborhood, with 67 units that are luxury and a design that is bulky, not fitting the surrounding area,” Erick Arguello of Calle 24 told the Planning Commission.

But for a pro-development advocate like Tim Colen, the Planning Commission should not have spent more than “nanosecond” considering the project.

“It’s not even worth discussing the benefits of this project,” said Colen, the retired head of the Housing Action Coalition. “This is a great urban infill project. It’s scaled to the neighborhood. It’s car free.”

“In my view, success for San Francisco would be building hundreds of projects like this on transit corridors,” Colen continued.

Mark Loper, an attorney for Tillman, urged the Planning Commission to vote on the project last Thursday and said Tillman may be unwilling to redesign the plans.

“I’m not sure that the project sponsor is going to want to move off the project as it’s currently proposed,” Loper said. “We will certainly think about the comments but there’s a lot of protection in state law … when a project is in compliance with the density bonus.”

The Planning Commission is scheduled to review the project again Nov. 30.

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