Supervisor Catherine Stefani on Monday said the 744 units of housing in the 3333 California St. project were “acceptable, warranted and desired.” (Caroline Ghisolfi/Special to the S.F. Examiner)

Large Laurel Heights development advances toward final approval

Proposed mixed-use project faces multiple appeals, continued opposition from neighbors

The largest proposed development on San Francisco’s West Side just got the green light from a crucial city committee.

The City’s Land Use and Transportation Committee on Monday pushed forward a special use district permit for the mixed-use complex at 3333 California St. in Laurel Heights.

While the project still awaits a vote later this month on three pending appeals, Monday’s advancement was a key decision that will allow it to come before the full Board of Supervisors.

The special use district permit will allow the fifteen-year project to replace the current UCSF Laurel Heights Campus with 744 units of affordable and market-rate housing — including 186 units marked as affordable senior housing — and more than 2.4 acres of retail space, parks and plazas by 2034.

“The project will provide much needed housing units on the West Side of San Francisco where very little has been built over the past 50 years,” said Dan Safier, the president of the project’s developer, Prado Group. “This is an opportunity to transform a walled-off suburban office campus into a walkable, connected and sustainable mixed-use community.”

The rezoning will drive rent prices down, while putting upward pressure on office space rents, according to The City’s Office of Economic and Workforce Development. While the housing price reduction will be relatively modest, estimated at just 0.05 percent, the special use district could drive office rents up by 0.5 percent or $32.4 million citywide.

“I want to celebrate that, despite much disagreement with some people, that we all actually do agree that the 744 units of housing at this site (are) acceptable, warranted and desired,” Supervisor Catherine Stefani said at the meeting.

The committee’s special district decision could also alleviate low-income housing occupants of up to $6,906 each per annual payment, and employ up to 187 people over the fifteen-year construction period.

“3333 California offers so much for so many,” a representative of the International Union of Operating Engineers said at the meeting. “It provides a lot of living-wage jobs to a lot of hard-working people.”

However, the project – which is five years in the making – continues to face strong opposition from local community members, claiming that its impact on the neighborhood and its residents outweigh its benefits.

The project’s encroachment permit. which allows developers to transform the land’s streetscape and treescape, and was also approved on Monday and generated much concern among citizens and supervisors at the meeting.

“The plan will completely destroy this core family neighborhood, chop down nearly every tree in an era of climate disruption and deface the very things that make our neighborhood… a green, park-like oasis.”

Groups challenging the project also expressed concerns about the project’s prolonged construction period, which will generate intensified and continued traffic, dust and noise pollution.

And some feared that the extensive spaces dedicated to retail would create challenging competition for local businesses.

“More retail space is neither needed or wanted,” Laurel Heights resident Mary Jacoby said at the meeting. Jacoby was one of many speakers to request that retail operation hours at the new complex be limited to 11 p.m. instead of the project’s original closing hour, 2 a.m.

The committee addressed these concerns by approving amendments to the developer’s proposal that regulate business hours and use of retail spaces at the new complex.

“I’ve realized that there’s going to be no perfect solution here… but we are all concentrating on getting as much as we can (from) our neighborhood,” Supervisor Stefani said in her final remarks. “The intent, of course, is to come up with a project that fits our community and also provides much needed housing on the West side of the city, especially affordable housing.”

Editor’s note: This story has been corrected to reflect that the project will add more than 2.4 acres of retail space, parks and plazas, not 24. It has also been edited to correct information on project heights and densities.

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