By Thomas K. Pendergast
The 12-story, 400-unit building proposed to replace the Sloat Garden Center on Sloat Boulevard is already getting push back from a small but growing local opposition.
The developers, 2700 Sloat Holdings LLC, bought the 30,000-square-foot site in 2020 for $8.5 million and they are planning for 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 below market rate (BMR) units.
The Tier 3 option allows for two additional floors over the existing 100-foot height limit, plus another five feet for ground-floor retail space, for a total of 125 feet.
This is not welcome news to some of the neighbors who are losing a gardening supply store that has been there for decades and gaining potentially a whole lot more new neighbors. But they are not sitting idly by and just watching it happen.
“We’re in the process of creating the online petition to attach to the website. We just started in the last month, trying to get a group of us together to do an outreach program to the neighborhood, the people around that would be concerned about this,” Renee Lazear said. “We’re trying to get more people to be involved, the volunteers and such like that.”
Lazear, a resident of 45th Avenue, explained that the group has not been incorporated, nor have they picked a president or vice president. In fact, they have just started out with a core group of four people. But she said eventually they might form a non-profit and they are reaching out to various community groups who might also oppose this building. Plus, they are establishing a presence on social media.
“I think it doesn’t fit the neighborhood because it is way too big,” Lazear said. “We already have the Westerly on the corner, which is a fraction of this new proposed building’s size and it’s been sitting there for four years pretty much unoccupied. There are very few (condos) that have been sold.
“The commercial space that’s down there has yet to be leased to anyone. That was built there as a promise for the neighborhood, something to benefit the community and the neighborhood, such as a good grocery store, or there’d be a yoga place. Whatever was good for the neighborhood,” she said.
A man familiar with the Westerly situation, who prefers to remain anonymous because he is not authorized to speak to the press, described the Westerly as “high-end” condos, because they are generally larger than average. He also explained that the pandemic seriously reduced the sales for these units because many tech workers left the City and demand dropped accordingly. However, starting sometime last summer, interest has been picking up again now that these workers are starting to come back into the City, he said.
Of the more than 50 residential units at the Westerly, about 75% have now been sold, he said.
Amie Miller lives in a single-family home on 44th Avenue. She is also organizing opposition to the new project.
“I think it’s going to make a really negative impact in the neighborhood. It’s out of character, for one, in terms of high-density. High-cost luxury condos at this scale in this area are just simply not needed,” Miller said. “This excuse that we need to build more and more housing, if we do then why are we building luxury condos for people who can’t afford them? I don’t know who needs these houses, especially when we have such a high rate of vacancy already. Who are these houses going to be for?”
Luis Cuadra, a spokesperson from the public relations firm BergDavis, who is handling the public outreach for the developers, said the units are not just being sold as luxury condos, but will be priced to accommodate different income levels.
“Our primary goal is to provide a significant amount of home ownership options, including affordable, middle and family housing in the Sunset at a price point that is well below the price of a single-family home in the immediate area,” Cuadra said. “We know there’s a demand for new housing of all income levels and believe that there is a lot of pent-up demand for owner-occupied housing that will cost between $300,000 and $800,000. And that includes market rate and below market rate units.”
That is, studios and one- and two-bedroom condos.
The three-bedroom family housing will likely start at around $900,000, depending on the market when the project is for sale, which will be at least a few years from now.
“Clearly, these are not luxury condos,” Cuadra said. “These are actually intended to be geared towards affordable, middle-market family housing.”
They hope these units will appeal to folks who can’t afford to buy a single-family home but instead would prefer to start with a condo.
The developers already know the project will not be an easy sell to the community.
“It’s a project that’s unlike any other in the neighborhood. It’s much taller than the single-family homes nearby,” he said. “We are just starting our conversations with neighbors about what is possible.”
Although the Sloat Garden Center is more or less all at ground level, Melinda Sarjapur, a land use attorney with the firm Reuben, Junius and Rose, says the current zoning allows for up to 100 feet.
If it is a Home SF project, however, two more residential floors above that limit are allowed, plus an extra five feet can go into the commercial space on the ground floor.
The Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA) by the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) is updated every eight years. Ahead of each cycle, California’s Department of Housing and Community Development determines the number of housing units needed to keep up with the State’s projected population growth and then assigns allocations to regional groups like ABAG, which then make assignments to individual jurisdictions.
For the 2023-2031 cycle, San Francisco is assigned to build more than 82,000 units.
“We’re in a housing crisis and the only way we’re going to be able to provide the sufficient housing moving forward to reach the City’s RHNA goals is to start locating more of our multi-unit housing in areas of the City where we haven’t seen it,” Sarjapur said.
Another issue is that the project will include 56 spaces for off-street parking, 10 of which will be for car share purposes. Critics say this is woefully inadequate and will increase competition for street parking in an area that sometimes already has high demand.
“The bottom line is, there are plenty of places where you can live if you want to own a car; this is probably not it,” Cuadra said. “We think this is going to appeal to people who are comfortable with public transit and other alternative modes of transit. If I owned a car and I needed a parking space, I would acquire a condo with a parking space.”
The Westerly offers an off-street parking space for each residential unit.
“I have a driveway, thank God. I still need my car. I work part time in Marin,” Miller said. “On the weekends, when all the people come to the zoo … or even when they come to the beach, we have seen a huge uptick in people coming to Ocean Beach during the pandemic. Still, I’d say certainly that’s dropped off, but people who are coming from the East Bay are not taking BART and Muni, they’re driving.”