Real Estate

Real Estate: John Lee

New Westside Development

The announcement of a proposed 50-story, 712-unit skyscraper at the Sloat Garden Center location by the SF Zoo this past month stirred up quite a bit of debate on whether this is appropriate for the neighborhood and the west side of town. To put that into perspective, it will be approximately 600 feet tall, about the height of the Embarcadero Center Towers near the Ferry Plaza.

The developer’s calculations and his interpretation of the law is that this is allowable under the Planning Code and because the City of San Francisco has committed to build 82,000 more units over the next eight years, they should allow this project to move forward.

This triggered much debate among politicians, neighbors and the public in general. The politicians are saying this is crazy and so out of character with the neighborhood that it will never get built. The neighbors are concerned about all of the people moving in and what it does to a quiet neighborhood.

However, a San Francisco Chronicle poll showed that out of approximately 5,000 responses, 60% are in favor of this skyscraper and 40% are against it, contrary to how I am feeling when talking to others about this project.

There have been numerous proposals by the same developer on this site the past few years. The original plan was for eight stories with 213 units, then increased to 12 stories and 283 units and then to 400 units. This latest proposal is substantially larger than his attempts to get approval.

My opinion on this proposal is that the developer is using this for its shock value and starting with something that is so outrageous that he will negotiate down from there and tell everyone how much he compromised. What is surprising to me is the result of the Chronicle poll. We don’t know who responded to the poll and so would not put much weight on it other than it is one data point.

Contrast this proposal with the one in Stonestown where the developer has worked with the community on what to build there. They are getting very close on plans to build 2,930 homes, 150,000 square feet of new retail space, six acres of open space and a hotel. The tallest building will reach 190 feet.

They have spent countless hours in neighborhood meetings, reaching out to community groups and even having open office hours at the Stonestown Galleria talking to whoever that wants information on the development.

I think that when it is done, it will be a project that the neighborhood and everyone who had a hand in it will be proud of. But just to be fair, this is a much larger project than the Sloat Garden Center one.

Talking about new projects, I get a lot of questions about the Westerly, the building next to the Sloat Garden Center. This is a project consisting of 56 condominiums and ground floor retail. It has been on the market for about two years with very slow activity. Currently according to the tax records, there are still 19 units available and no businesses in the retail space. The scale of that project already looked so large compared to the rest of the neighborhood, the proposal at the Sloat Garden Center location will be substantially larger than that!

The other large project in the west end of town will be at Parkmerced. The last proposal was for 8,900 homes, but the rumor is that the developer cannot make the numbers pencil out to start construction, even though there has already been approval on the project. How this plays out is anyone’s guess at this point.

San Francisco’s goal of building 82,000 new units in the next eight years is a very lofty one considering that since the year 2000, we have built an average of 2,583 units per year. There are many people who think 82,000 is a pie in the sky number. Only time will tell.

John M. Lee is a broker with Compass specializing in the Richmond and Sunset districts. If you have any real estate questions, call him at 415-465-0505 or email at

Richmond Homes Sold in April*
AddressBedBathSq. Ft.Price
690 40th Ave.21975$1,250,000
747 38th Ave.311,1901,300,000
10 Seal Rock Dr.231,4801,400,000
763 45th Ave.221,3351,700,000
518 22nd Ave.31.51,6101,850,000
6133 California St.32.51,7802,500,000
591 18th Ave.44.52,7902,800,000
166 19th Ave.43.53,0653,460,000
17 25th Ave.54.54,8057,350,000
600 El Camino D. M.569,39012,250,000
9 25th Ave.56.57,54020,000,000
*Partial listing. Source: M.L.S.
Sunset Homes Sold in April*
AddressBedBathSq. Ft.Price
1782 28th Ave.211,450$1,100,000
2379 47th Ave.219001,200,000
2454 26th Ave.31.51,0901,270,000
1682 46th Ave.219251,285,000
787 Pacheco St.211,2251,395,000
1422 41st Ave.422,4241,410,000
2463 47th Ave.422,0851,450,000
2331 30th Ave.311,2861,500,000
2924 Rivera St.211,5861,550,000
1566 34th Ave.211,3751,600,000
1662 14th Ave.33.53,3852,002,000
2555 30th Ave.442,5032,710,000
601 Ortega St.33.53,8303,405,000
*Partial listing. Source: M.L.S.

5 replies »

  1. Excellent point, Mr. Lee, contrasting the difference between a project where the developers intend to involve the community and a project where the developers see neighbors as little more than a nuisance getting in the way of their grand designs. This project is clearly the latter, and the community will insist on its voice being heard!


  2. We all know San Francisco needs housing, though with no one ever talking about the Shadow Inventory of un-rented units, it’s hard to say exactly how much. What we shouldn’t be doing is throwing out the approval process by allowing ANYTHING to be built, and glad there was pushback on this obscene proposal. But the poll? I would bet most of the respondents don’t live any near the Outer Sunset, just like the 60+% or people who voted to close the Upper Great Highway in the last election didn’t live near there, and most likely didn’t use it to commute.


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