By Thomas K. Pendergast
A proposal to replace the Sloat Garden Center at 2700 Sloat Blvd. with a 12-story, 400-condo, mixed-use residential building is now under review by the San Francisco Planning Department and starting to get public attention.
The developers, 2700 Sloat Holdings LLC, bought the 30,000-square-foot site in 2020 for $8.5 million and they claim it will be a HOME-SF project, which requires 30% of the units be sold at below market rate using the Tier 3 option of the program. That comes out to 120 units.
The Tier 3 option allows for two additional floors over the existing 100-foot height limit, plus another 5 feet for ground-floor retail space, for a total of 125 feet.
Two separate parcels make up the project site, which will be combined into a single parcel. Building setbacks will be incorporated to achieve the look of separate masses, which will connect with an internal corridor using a single concrete core for three elevators.
The mix of apartments will be: 45 three-bedroom units at 980 to 1,080 square feet each; 131 two-bedroom units at 770 to 815 square feet each; 96 one-bedroom units at 475 to 615 square feet each; and 128 studios at 350 to 400 square feet each.
An interior courtyard is designed to accommodate children’s play areas, amenities and access to the main lobby.
The project will provide 56 off-street vehicle parking spaces, including 10 cars dedicated to a car sharing program. Also included will be 200 internal Class 1 bicycle parking spaces and 24 external Class 2 bicycle parking spaces.
The parking basement and ground floors will also feature retail space for businesses on the corners of Sloat at 45th and 46th avenues, in the hope that pedestrian traffic going to and from the San Francisco Zoo across the street will lead to visitors stopping by for some shopping. These retail tenants will include smaller neighborhood-focused businesses, the developers claim.
Two large roof decks totaling 23,000 square feet are also proposed.
Although final project approval could take months and construction would not begin for possibly years, a plan for a 12-floor, 400-unit building stands out in this foggy and remote part of the Outer Sunset, where 40-foot height limits are the norm.
Standing right across the street from the site is the Westerly, currently the tallest building in the immediate area but still roughly half the size of the proposed project, with nowhere near as many residential units to offer.
So the sheer scale of the proposed building already has people buzzing.
Jose Guevara, a San Francisco native and real estate manager on the board of directors for the local chapter of the Building Owners and Management Association of San Francisco (BOMASF), thinks it will make the Westerly look like an in-law accessory dwelling unit in comparison.
“It’s going to dwarf it completely,” Guevara said. “I’ve seen some renderings of the two together and yeah, it just dwarfs it. You don’t even notice (the Westerly).
“That structure is just ridiculous, to put that many units in one block.”
A spokesperson for BOMASF clarified that the organization has no official position on the 2700 Sloat Blvd. project at this time, so Guevara was speaking strictly for himself.
But Laura Foote of Yes In My Backyard (YIMBY), a pro-development advocacy organization, is not convinced that the proposed project would be out of scale because of its proximity to the Westerly.
“These things often loom larger in the imagination than they actually do in practice,” Foote said. “You’re going to have ground-floor retail. You’re going to have the potential for coffee shops and things that the existing neighborhood will really enjoy.”
Yet the 400-unit building offers 56 off-street parking spaces, and considering that just up the street is a parking lot for the San Francisco Zoo, Guevara sees the potential for real parking conflicts as Zoo visitors max out the lot and start competing with the locals for street parking.
“There’s not going to be any parking on the street,” he said. “It’s just going to clog up not only the Zoo visitors but just the neighborhood. The neighborhood is already strapped for parking to begin with because a lot of those (existing housing) units have live-in units downstairs. A lot of them built out an in-law type of apartments in the lower part of those homes.”
Foote said she doesn’t think there will be much of a parking problem between the Zoo and the new residents who drive. She noted that there are several Muni lines serving that area, like the L-Taraval light rail and the 18-46th Avenue line.
Guevara, however, is not confident that these lines, as they presently run, will be enough to handle more than 400 additional people.
“They’re slow to run. They run less in the evenings. If there’s a breakdown or a backup in the tunnel then it has to rely on transferring over to Muni shuttles to get you over the mountain,” he said. “These are all things that, unless you’ve experienced them, you’re not going to realize. Even on a good day, it’s about an hour ride.”
“In having 400 residences with 56 parking spots, even the bike parking is not sufficient, it just doesn’t make sense,” he continued. “And then on top of it you’re going to throw all those people on Muni? Because Muni, by the time it gets up to 19th Avenue, they’re packed. Muni doesn’t have the best record …. It’s not like they’re going to step up …. They’re not going to do a damn thing,” he said.
“This is the kind of Catch-22 you get into, where it’s really hard to justify investing more in transit infrastructure when you don’t have sufficient levels of (population) density and then people block the density because they feel like there isn’t sufficient transit,” Foote responded.
“We’re talking about a project that will take a couple of years to get permitted and then built. We’re all going to see these families coming into the neighborhood. And the transit investments will and should come and there is good transit already there and this will incentivize further investments in that.”
But with only 56 car parking spaces and dubious street parking opportunities, won’t this discourage people who own cars to move in?
Foote says maybe yes, but ultimately that’s the point.
“There are plenty of places where you could live a car-centric lifestyle,” she said. “The point of cities is to make it easier and easier to give up your car. For the future of our entire planet we have to make it easier and easier to give up having a car…. It’s a climate catastrophe for us to continue to only make housing available for people who like to drive everywhere.
“There’s plenty of other places you can live if you really want to drive everywhere,” Foote said.