The highest concentration of single room occupancy hotels in The City are in South of Market and the Tenderloin, above. (Jessica Christian/S.F. Examiner)

Application to convert SROs to tourist hotels meets with opposition

The San Francisco Planning Commission will consider an application Thursday to convert six San Francisco single-room occupancy hotels into tourist hotels in return for the development of a previously approved group housing project in the Tenderloin.

The proposal, however, is meeting with opposition from Planning Commission staff, who have recommended against approval on the grounds that the replacement units are not genuinely comparable to the affordable SRO units that would be lost in the conversion.

Project sponsor Forge Land Company is seeking to convert a total of 214 residential hotel units at six buildings located in the city’s Tenderloin, Downtown, Union Square and South of Market neighborhoods to tourist units.

City law requires hotel owners wishing to convert to either pay 80 percent of the cost of replacing the unit or to construct or cause to be constructed a comparable unit.

In this case, the applicant wants to be allowed to convert units in return for the construction of two residential hotel buildings at 361 Turk St. and 145 Leavenworth St., which were previously approved by the planning commission in 2015.

That project is required to include 12 percent affordable units, and since the buildings were approved, the applicant has entered into agreements with the San Francisco Firefighters Local 798, the San Francisco Police Officers Association and the Boys and Girls Club of San Francisco to provide 40 affordable workforce housing units in the buildings. In a report to the commission, however, Planning Department staff argue that the new units are not truly comparable to the SRO units that would be lost in the conversion.

Most of the units in the new building would be offered at market rates, with only 28 subject to permanent affordability protections and the workforce housing agreements set to expire after 10 years. And none of the new units would be subject to rent control, according to planning staff.

The project has drawn opposition from groups including the Coalition on Homelessness, Hospitality House and Market Street for the Masses, who have highlighted the loss of rent-controlled affordable housing.

The commission is set to meet at noon in Room 400 at City Hall.

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