Long-Time Garden Center in San Francisco’s Sunset District to Make Way for New Condominium Development

Sloat Garden Center, Tom Hu, San Francisco, Sunset District, Lowney Architecture
Rendering Courtesy of Lowney Architecture

By Meghan Hall

The Sloat Garden Center has been a staple in San Francisco’s Sunset District for the better part of five decades, and since its founding has grown its business to include cities all over the Bay Area. Now, however, as the Garden Center plans its future, a local developer has submitted plans to construct up 213 condominium units on the property.

“I know San Francisco is short of housing, but they’re also short of garden centers, so I think both uses are admirable,” said Dave Straus, owner of the Sloat Garden Center.

The original Sloat Garden center opened in 1958 and was founded by Dave Geller. A small enterprise at the time, the business was run out of an older building at the corner of 45th Ave. and Sloat Blvd. The garden center has moved around the block several times since its founding and opened its current location at 2300 Sloat Boulevard in 2000, where it has remained since.  Over the years, the garden center has added an additional 12 stores around the San Francisco, Marin and Contra Costa counties and is the Bay Area’s largest independent and locally owned garden center.

“We were a little basement in the bottom of the residence, actually,” explained Straus, who has worked intermittently at the garden center since he was 14. “We used the garage as the site to sell indoor products, and we used the backyard to sell plants.”

The decision to sell the option to redevelop the property to a developer was made nearly ten years ago. Ultimately, the original developer decided to pass the opportunity along to another. According to public documents, the new developer of the property is Tom Hu. The project team, which also includes Oakland-based Lowney Architecture, submitted its preliminary planning application to the City of San Francisco at the end of March, and the proposal is currently under review. While Sloat Gardens is listed as part of the project team, the business has little to do with plans for the site, stated Straus.

Project documents show that the developer intends to take advantage of the HOME SF Program, and that affordable units will be included in an effort to also increase density. HOME SF requires that 23 percent of the condominiums constructed on-site to be sold as below-market rate units. Out of 213-total units, the 2300 Sloat Boulevard project itself will include 49 affordable units.

The units will be spread out across three buildings which will rise nine stories in height. There will be 98 studios, 28 one-bedrooms, 65 two-bedrooms and 22-three bedrooms. Units will range from several hundred square feet to around one thousand square feet.

Tower A will include 2,412 square feet of retail and 3,325 square feet of coworking space, and Tower B will include 2,995 square feet of retail. Tower C will hold a 4,439 square foot fitness center, 2,400 square feet of retail, and an additional 7,000 square feet of either commercial or amenity space. Ground floor open space, roof decks and balconies are also accounted for in the plans.

According to the project team and project documents, the Sunset District is in particular need of for-sale units, with few residences coming to market that are affordable to many in recent months.

“For most of 2019 and for months prior to the filing of this HOME SF project PPA, there has been little or no market rate housing units for sale under $700,000 in the entire Sunset area of the City,” project documents state.

The units will cater towards families, individuals and couples. Due to the HOME SF program, condominium prices are expected to start in the mid- to high-$200,000-dollar range.

As the project moves through the entitlement process, Straus says that the Sloat Garden Center has negotiated with the developer to remain on-site until entitlements are complete and construction is ready to begin. 

“We would like to stay as long as possible,” added Straus, who also emphasized that they are preparing to move as soon as they get word. Currently, as well, Sloat Garden Centers is looking for space not just in San Francisco, but in communities immediately outside of the city.

“We are actively looking for sites,” said Straus, who believes that Sloat Garden Centers would be a great community addition wherever they land. “The great thing about garden centers is they always provide their own ambience.”

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