Mission District project would transform parking lot into high-end condos, maker space

A project promising to transform a Mission District parking lot into rental housing and high-end light-industrial space is facing pushback from neighborhood advocates over affordability.

Community advocates are urging the Planning Commission to reject the proposal by developer Manouch Moshayedi to build a seven-story residential building over a ground floor retail space and an adjacent three-story building with production space at at 344 14th St.

After months of delay, the $20 million project is set to be heard by the commission on Thursday.

Community advocacy group United to Save the Mission says the project, which would merge two lots, offers a “bare minimum of affordable housing” and includes a “high tech manufacturing space,” a majority of which advocates say will be available at market-rate prices.

According to planning documents, the project calls for 56 residential units, 18 percent of which are considered to be affordable, along with 78,825 square feet of ground floor commercial space, 5,633 square feet of retail sales and service use, 42 below‐grade off‐street parking spaces. The project also includes the construction of a three-story building offering some 6,240 square feet of PDR space — also known as production, distribution and repair space, or light industrial — on the ground floor and over 13,000 square feet of office and workspace for small business on the upper floors on an adjacent lot at 1463 Stevenson St.

Some 11 percent of the affordable housing would be accessible to very‐low income households, 4 percent to moderate‐income households, and 4 percent to middle‐income households. That breakdown allows Moshayedi to invoke a 35 percent maximum density bonus allowed under state law.

But Scott Weaver, an attorney who volunteers for local activist groups like USM, called the project’s affordability component “ridiculously low,” and criticized the project for potentially exacerbating traffic and infrastructure issues in the neighborhood.

“That area is in a part of The City that is getting hugely impacted by development,” said Weaver. “We don’t think The City did the proper traffic analysis. This project not only affects the circulation of automobile traffic but also pedestrian and bicycle safety.”

Moshayedi has partnered with the Learning Shelter, a nonprofit that seeks to place the homeless in jobs through mentorship and the development of high demand maker skills.

Founder Marc Roth, who is formerly homeless, said he aims to train up to 120 people annually in areas such as 3D printing, laser cutting, metal shop work and web design basics.

Roth described the project as an “interface between the top and the bottom of the food chain.”

“People coming out of recovery programs and working with cutting edge programs,” said Roth. “We want to have a positive effect on people in the Mission and also reach people in Brooklyn, Mumbai, Vallejo.”

He added that he plans to partner with “schools outside of the Bay Area…where we can send people beyond the program to get degrees.”

But advocates as well as city officials have voiced concerns over the affordability over the project’s residential and commercial components.

In a January 2018 memo, Office of Economic Workforce Development’s PDR Business Development Manager Susan Ma pointed out that while the project has the potential to create spaces for “nine to 50 small makers and manufacturers,” some of the smaller spaces would rent at approximately $6 per square foot, or “about triple the average rent for PDR spaces.”

“It may be that small businesses will not be able to afford the costs of these spaces. There are PDR spaces of similar size and price that have been vacant for months,” wrote Ma, who at the time encouraged Roth to “consider ways to create workforce opportunities for the immediate neighborhood such as working with businesses that will eventually tenant the building.”

A representative for USM criticized the partnership with the learning center at the Mission District space, calling for the spaces to be accessible to local “artists, craftsmen and manufacturers.”

“[Roth] will train homeless people, but he’s training them in computer driven manufacturing. There are no humans involved other than the people that run the software and pack up the parts,” said the representative. “They won’t stay within the community and they won’t give back to the community because it’s too expensive to do that kind of manufacturing here.”

Roth said that he agreed with concerns about the PDR spaces’ affordability, but added that potential tenants are “getting access to the resources in that space they are not using all the time.”

“I think the people that will be renting our [PDR spaces] can afford more than we are charging,” said Roth.

Moshayedi, who did not immediately respond to a request for comment, is no stranger to opposition from Mission advocates. In 2013, his development firm Mx3 Ventures purchased the 16th and Albion streets site of a former automotive shop with plans to build four stories of condos in its place.

Due to the building’s historic designation, those plans were later revised to propose transforming it into a massive restaurant and event space. The San Francisco Examiner has previously reported that community groups are opposing the restaurant use and are calling on Moshayedi to maintain the site as a PDR space.

lwaxmann@sfexaminer.com

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