Tenderloin Housing Project Looks to Bring Contemporary, Urban Style

San Francisco, Tenderloin District, Sandhill O’Farrell, Emeryville, Bay Area

San Francisco, Tenderloin District, Sandhill O’Farrell, Emeryville, Bay Area

By Michele Chandler

A 1924 parking garage in San Francisco’s gritty Tenderloin District could give way to a new housing complex under a proposed development slated for 550 O’Farrell St.

Palo Alto-based Sandhill O’Farrell LLC will be the developer of complex. Company Director and President Prabhas Kejriwal owns the land, which includes an 11,808-square-foot lot located between Leavenworth and Jones streets.

Brick Inc., an architecture and interior design firm located in Emeryville, is also involved in the project, which was proposed in April of 2017. The City of San Francisco Planning Department filed a Preliminary Project Assessment giving details about the project on July 11. Brick Inc., the project’s sponsor, submitted an Environmental Evaluation Application on July 26, said Rob Zirkle, the company’s founding principal.

The proposal involves demolishing the existing two story plus-a-basement parking garage that carries a historic designation. It would be replaced with a 13-story tower containing 115 apartments. Those units will sit above a two-level basement that contains parking for 21 vehicles, including one car share space.

Nationwide, developers are including fewer parking spaces in urban projects that are located near public transportation, which opens up more space for housing and cuts construction costs, according to the nonprofit Center for Neighborhood Technology.

Under the O’Farrell development proposal, two bicycle storage rooms would provide 108 bicycle storage spaces in the tower’s basement.

The plan envisions two large open space areas for residents, one on the second level and the other on the roof, and some apartments may have private balconies. The apartments will be “a little on the smaller side,” Zirkle said, but are also designed to be functional, durable and “won’t price people out” of the neighborhood, which is drawing investors and new development.

The proposed apartment tower’s location in the historical Uptown-Tenderloin National Register District will be one of the factors that will be discussed as part of the environmental study, Zirkle said.

Bringing more housing to the Tenderloin community, “is notable, and needed,” he said. “Now, we’re just awaiting feedback from staff eventually about what their thoughts are, what they would like us to study moving forward.”

He added that Sandhill O’Farrell LLC is striving to “create market-rate housing that meets our inclusionary, affordability requirement. These are not intended to be luxury housing, per se, we are providing units that aren’t too big and aren’t too fancy…The market that our client is trying to address and balance is housing, which is acceptable to more of the workforce and also meets our desire and our obligation to provide the appropriate amount of affordable and inclusionary housing.”

The studio and one-bedroom units would be located within a 130-foot-tall, mixed use tower containing a total of 102,844 square feet, including 1,442 square feet of ground level retail space along O’Farrell Street.

There is no cost estimate for the project yet. “The project really hasn’t gone to that level of detail yet. The conversations…have been a little bit more design-related and a little less cost-related,” Zirkle said.

He added that he also could not pin down a time frame for work on the project to start: “That’s really hard to predict.”

Zirkle estimated that it could take between 12 to 18 months “before we start moving to construction documents. It’s a little ways out.” An examination of the proposal to demolish the garage is a contributor to that time frame.

“Presumably, there will also be some feedback and conversations that we’ll have with some of the neighbors that will inform the design moving forward, as well,” said Zirkle. “That’s going to take a little time to move through the process.”

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