by Thomas K. Pendergast
The third time appears to be a charm for the developers of a mixed-use building to replace
the old Lucky Penny restaurant at Geary Boulevard and Masonic Avenue, since the SF
Planning Commission voted to OK it.
In a unanimous decision, commissioners approved plans for a 95-unit residential
development with a ground-floor commercial use, that will rise eight stories tall at the site
of the old 24-hour diner, which served the area for decades.
The breakdown of residential units in the new project is: two 3-bedroom, 29 2-bedroom, 64
studio and one commercial space of 1,756 square feet, within a total building envelope of
12,700 square feet. The 80-foot-tall building will also include 5,576 square feet of open
space, and is considered “23 percent affordable,” which works out to 22 units that meet
official “affordability” requirements, along with 120 bicycle parking spaces and 16 vehicle
parking spaces – of which one conforms with the American with Disabilities Act
As many as four of the vehicle parking spaces will be dedicated to “car share” parking,
with the remaining spaces reserved for “residential flex spaces.”
This is the third time that the developers, SoMa Development Partners, LLC, have
submitted plans to the department but the first time they got the commission’s approval.
This past summer the developer offered a similar proposal of the same size and
90 residential units, but then the City passed the Home-SF program, which led to the
developers withdrawing those plans to see if they could add units and floors by taking
advantage of the density-increasing program.
But, when the new design was submitted, all 11 floors and 121 residential units of it,
developers got a backlash from local community groups, which organized and got a lawyer
to start making further inquiries. The developers apparently took a step back and
reconsidered the payoff in taking advantage of the program. So, they once again withdrew
their design and instead reworked something very much like their original concept.
There are two issues that the project has raised: parking and the viability of the Home-SF
program. Commissioner Rodney Fong said it is a “very significant, important project” and
the kind of development that the west side of San Francisco needs right now.
“This is exactly what we want, on a transit corridor – on Geary Boulevard, on Taraval, on
Noriega – where there is transit … I think we do go as big as possible,”
said Fong. “As far as the mass and height of this project (is concerned), I totally support
this project. I’m glad to see it finally happen.”
Nevertheless, Fong did express concern for the issue of providing enough
“I bring up the conversation, for this project and maybe for other projects going forward,
about the parking, about the true need for and the use of Uber and Lyft,” he said. “We have
a huge lot, a huge building and parcel across the street at the Target. I’d just love to see this
shared idea where a retail commercial use across the street, a stone’s throw away, that
does not use parking at night, be at least attempted to try to … contract a hundred
spaces at night time. We’re struggling for these street spaces and it’s right there in front of
us, across the street.”
Commissioner Christine Johnson brought up the fact that the developers had decided
against a Home-SF project.
“Some of the contortions that we are trying to do around affordability, around project
design, are because this project is not a Home-SF project,” said Johnson. “That is a program
that we spent a lot of time on and it’s very dismaying to hear that this project in
particular … that Home-SF is becoming problematic and either it is not ‘penciling
out’ or being problematic for other issues … 121 units are more than 95.”
She then addressed the parking issue.
“We are quickly about to move into an era where there will not be as much need for
parking for individual auto ownership,” she said. “People are not owning cars as much.
We’re in a transitory, gray period, where the reality of a lot of people is driving but we’re
soon going to be in a place that’s a lot different from what it is today. Because we are
talking about affordability with this project, we should say that parking makes building
more expensive … it’s not just a design issue, it’s a feasibility issue.”