This article originally appeared on KTVU
SAN FRANCISCO – A plan to build a skyscraper with residential housing that would tower more than 50-stories high in San Francisco’s Sunset District near Ocean Beach and the San Francisco zoo is raising debate over development of affordable housing and the desire by some neighbors to preserve the character of the area.
Renee Lazear lives nearby and says she was stunned to see the plans filed last week by owners of the lot where Sloat Garden currently stands.
The owners want to build a high-rise residential building more than 500 feet tall, about the size of the Embarcadero Center.
“This is like are you kidding me? This belongs downtown,” said Lazear.
Lazear says the owners have filed previous plans over the past several years, ranging from multiple 12-story buildings to an even taller skyscraper than the current plan.
She and other neighbors have formed a group Save our Neighborhoods SF, calling for the city planning department to reject the high density 680-unit project. The building would include affordable housing units which Lazear says she supports, but the group believes the size of the project would cause problems with traffic, parking, blocking sunlight for neighboring properties and disturb the character of the area.
“We have approaching 3,000 petition signers who are opposed to this.”
“I love it. I think we need all types of housing across the city. We haven’t really built anything like that on the west side in a long time,” said Jane Natoli, who is also a San Francisco resident and serves as YIMBY Action’s San Francisco Organizing Director.
Natoli supports the project. She says YIMBY Action, is advocating for more affordable housing units.
“We haven’t historically built enough housing for 50 years. And because of that, we’ve reached this point where we’re going to see more projects like that. We’re going to see more proposals like that,” said Natoli.
Under a state law to encourage more housing, developers of affordable housing units are allowed to build 50% more units on a property, beyond current limits.
San Francisco’s planning department says the latest high-rise plan meets those rules, but is not allowed under the city code formulas that limit the height in the Sunset District.
In a statement, the Planning Department’s Chief of Staff Dan Sider said, “We recognize that the interaction between State and local law is complicated, but the limits are clear and the building remains a 600-foot-tall tower in a 100-foot district. We’d like nothing more than to partner with the developer to make dense housing a reality here, but we all have to play by the rules.”
“We want more places for people to live so if they found another some other arrangements with the same number of units, I’m sure we’d be supportive,” said Natoli. “What we don’t like to see is death by a thousand paper cuts, where projects get slowly whittled down.”
Opponents say the housing development next door has not be full since it opened five years ago.
“We have the Westerly down here,” said Lavear, “It’s only a third occupied. There’s commercial space that isn’t occupied. And they want to put commercial space here. I really don’t understand how they think they’re going to be any more successful.”
Lazear says instead, her group would like to see high-rises converted downtown to housing.
“They could take all those empty and vacant units and convert them into housing for sale, housing for rent and make it truly an affordable program not a subsidy helping developers get rich,” said Lazear.
The project is expected to go before the Board of Appeals on July 26. Both sides say they plan to show up and speak out.