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SFMTA to solicit hotel developer for Moscone Center Garage

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The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency voted to begin accepting proposals to replace the Moscone Center Garage with a hotel and affordable housing. (Mira Laing/Special to S.F. Examiner)

The City took its first step Tuesday afternoon toward replacing the 732-parking space Moscone Center Garage with a hotel and affordable housing.

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency Board of Directors voted to approve the issuance of a request for proposals for the project, the first step for The City to solicit plans to build a hotel at 255 Third St.

“At present, reducing or even eliminating Moscone Center Garage parking would displace relatively few parkers,” reads an SFMTA staff report, which revealed the garage’s peak occupancy is 53 percent.

The garage serves the Moscone Convention Center, which hosts an average of 50 conventions per year with more than 950,000 annual attendees, according to the SFMTA. Those attendees bring in big bucks — an average of $920 million in annual direct spending, according to the SFMTA.

“San Francisco’s destination appeal has resulted in record-breaking attendance and a growing demand for convention space,” wrote SFMTA and Office of Economic and Workforce Development staff. That attendance is a blessing and a burden; those convention-goers often book across a wide swath of hotels, the two agencies staff wrote in a report.

About 71 percent of hotels in San Francisco have fewer than 200 rooms, according to the staff report, prompting conventions to book rooms across as many as 100 hotels “for the largest Moscone Center events.”

“A new full-service convention hotel will help the city keep pace with hotel room demand,” staff wrote.

The SFMTA is seeking a developer to build a conventional hotel with a “minimum” of 650 rooms to “complement the expansion” of the Moscone Center, which is already underway.

That hotel proposal should include a minimum 100 units of affordable housing, or 133 units of off-site affordable housing, according to the SFMTA.

In July 2017, the Parking Authority transferred ownership of the Moscone Center Garage to the SFMTA, and the hotel development terms will see the transit agency retain jurisdiction of the site. The lease terms are for 65 years, with the option of a 34-year lease extension.

Half of the affordable housing units will be restricted to qualifying low-income residents at or below 55 percent of the area median income, according to the SFMTA, and 30 percent of the units will be formerly homeless families referred by the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing. Still, some of the units will be for those skewing toward middle incomes, as 20 percent of the units will be slated for residents earning at or below 120 percent of the area median income.

The site will also see shops and other businesses along the Third Street entrance of the hotel, according to the SFMTA, including a possible hotel restaurant.

Though it wants to see housing at the Moscone garage site, the SFMTA isn’t giving up on parking altogether.

Each development team is required submit two development proposals to the SFMTA — one including a public parking garage proposal with 200 to 300 public parking spaces, and one without.

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