Neighbors Balk at Irving Street Developer’s Expansion Plans

By Jonathan Farrell 

While state-mandated restrictions on non-essential construction have been in effect since the COVID-19 outbreak, neighborhood groups have become concerned over proposed plans for an apartment building at 4326-4336 Irving St. in the Outer Sunset District, between 44th and 45th avenues. 

4300 Irving

Construction on this apartment building on the 4300 block of Irving Street is on hold as a “non-essential” project during the coronavirus pandemic. Meanwhile, neighbors and the City’s Planning Department have reservations about the developer’s renovation plans. Photo by Michael Durand.

 According to San Francisco Planning Department documents, the proposed plan by Q Architecture of San Francisco is to expand the property with a one-story vertical addition to the existing three-story residential building. 

“The vertical addition is to include expanded living space for four of the six existing units on the third floor as well as small private roof decks for two of the units,” according to the report. “No additional dwelling units are proposed as a part of this project.”

Located in a RH-2 (two units per lot) residential zoning area, the proposed plans would essentially turn a 12-unit building into a 17-unit facility. 

At a public hearing held on June 4, more than 35 neighbors and residents showed up to oppose the plan. In addition, the Planning Deptartment received more than 60 letters of opposition and 27 letters of support for the project. 

What members of Sunset Parkside Education and Action Committee (SPEAK) and others are opposed to is the filling up of existing lot space by adding more units. 

Adding a fourth story creates more density to its neighbors on both sides, opponents argue 

“Because the current owner previously converted the garage on the bottom floor into more units, tenants of the building may park their cars on the sidewalk, adding to an already existing problem,” said long-time resident Larry Delaney. 

 In its overall analysis, the Planning Department deemed that the project does not meet planning code and residential design guidelines. Despite the fact that Planning Department staff worked with Q Architecture to amend the plans, project sponsor Dawn Ma was unwilling to make sufficient changes to meet the residential design guidelines.

Some say that the plans do not have any shared common spaces – such as a family room or dining room – and that the overall project does not include any provision for affordable housing. 

Delaney attended the hearing on June 4 and its continuance on June 25. 

“The most troubling part of this whole issue is that the property developers agreed on April 3 to not build anything on the fourth floor in exchange for us neighbors dropping our opposition to their plans for the second and third floors,” he said. 

“But then the developers broke the agreement and, on April 23, they proceeded to submit their proposal to build a fourth floor with an additional eight bedrooms and eight bathrooms and a number of decks,” Delaney said. “We (neighborhood groups) did not become aware of this until April 30, leaving us scrambling to mount an opposition.”

This is unsettling to SPEAK, Delaney and others because, as early as Oct. 23, an advisory team reviewed the plans on behalf of the Planning Dept. The team made a number of requests for modifications to minimize the impact upon the adjacent neighbors. 

Even with revisions, Q Architecture failed to meet many of the Residential Design Guidelines. 

“The previous owners of this Irving Street building were part of Delancey Street, and they operated it as a halfway house for individuals leaving prison,” Delaney said. “Neither we nor my neighbors, to my knowledge, ever complained or raised an issue concerning Delancey Street’s use of this building. We are a very accepting and caring community and are proud to have inclusion and diversity among our core values.”

The Planning Dept. does not support any variances from the planning code which Q Architecture requested for this proposed expansion project to the 4326-4336 Irving Street building. 

Members of SPEAK and Delaney noted that there are multiple permits for the project. The permit for the five Accessory Dwelling Units is from the Department of Building Inspection. The permit for the proposed fourth story is through the SF Planning Dept. Building owner/developer Brian Veit is determined to expand this building. 

A halt was put in effect for all construction while yet another continuance has been set for July 9. 

District 4 Supervisor Gordon Mar is urging the Planning Commission to reject a 4th floor addition. 

“Developers (Brian Viet and others) are increasing their profit margins while negatively impacting the immediate neighbors,” Mar said, siding with the neighbors.

In email correspondence with Delaney, David Weissglass of the Flex Team Division of the SF Planning Dept. noted: “What will almost certainly be permitted on July 9th is a 4th floor that meets the department’s recommendations, which are: (that the addition be) … “set back 15 feet from the front façade, set back 15’ from the west property line and, set back from the rear so it’s no further into the rear than the adjacent property to the east.” (Veit and his developer crew) “will not be permitted to build anything larger than that.”

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