The Board of Supervisors killed plans Tuesday to replace a burned-down residential building with a micro hotel near lower Polk Street after neighbors called for housing on the site.
The supervisors, who voted unanimously to reject the construction of the six-story hotel at 824 Hyde St., were concerned about the precedent the project could set for developers building on sites ravaged by fires.
Supervisor Aaron Peskin, who represents the neighborhood, said that allowing the project to move forward would “be tantamount to saying that ‘it’s okay to have a fire and turn it into non-residential use.’”
“When [a project] gets turned into a non-residential use, it’s basically a policy statement by the Planning Commission and the department — and if we let it stand, by The City — that we do not believe in tenants’ right to return,” Peskin said.
Last month, the Planning Commission approved plans for the 30-room project on a parcel near Hyde and Sutter streets that has been vacant since a fire in 2010. Neighbors later appealed the project, arguing that a hotel was not necessary or desirable in the neighborhood.
“Housing should replace the housing that was lost in the fire,” said Chris Schulman of Lower Polk Neighbors, who filed the appeal June 29. “If there is anything desirable for the site, it is housing.”
The commission had previously approved plans to build a five-story apartment building on the site, but those were dropped in favor of the hotel.
“This was not a bait and switch,” said Ilene Dick, an attorney representing the developer. “This was not with any nefarious motive.”
Dick said that the hotel was needed because of the booming tourism industry in San Francisco. Dick also argued that the hotel could lessen the impact of short-term rentals on the housing supply.
“There is a great demand for hotel units, particularly in this neighborhood,” Dick said. “A 30-room hotel this size could actually make [short-term rental] dwelling units available to long-term tenants.”
But the supervisors rejected her argument.
“The notion of shoehorning in micro, 30-unit hotels because it’s somehow going to alleviate illegal short-term rental use is patently absurd,” Peskin said.
Supervisor Jane Kim, whose district is near the site, also called for housing rather than a hotel.
“I had the same reaction to the short-term rental argument,” Kim said. “I would like to see the evidence that it is the lack of hotel rooms that is causing people to use short-term rentals here in San Francisco.”
Supervisor Jeff Sheehy called the hotel plans “ill-advised.”
“The loss of residential units to fires is far too common here in San Francisco,” Sheehy said. “These incidents literally put tenants out on the street. The replacement of lost housing units in the middle of the housing crisis should take top priority in my view.”