By Meghan Hall
The City of San Francisco has been pursuing measures to increase the amount of easily accessible affordable housing in downtown with its implementation of the Hub Plan, but it has only been partially successful in convincing developers to adhere to its increased affordability requirements. San Francisco’s bustling real estate market means that landlords and developers are more likely to maximize the number of available market-rate units to make the most of their investment, rather than allot for additional affordable housing.
The Hub Plan Area, located in central San Francisco, is comprised of 84 acres spread across six of San Francisco’s rapidly developing neighborhoods, including the South of Market (SoMa) and the Mission neighborhoods. The City is pursuing developments that will not only allow for increased density in the Hub Plan area through zoning that includes significant height increases but developments that will increase the amount of affordable housing in the area as well.
The original maximum zoning height was initially set at 85 feet within the Hub Plan Area, but developers can now propose buildings up to 400 feet in height in order to increase the space available for housing through changes in zoning. The City’s goal is to develop every parcel within the Hub Plan area to its maximum height, which could add as many as 8,100 new residential units.
With changes in zoning, city officials are also encouraging developers to include 25 percent on-site affordable housing, for which builders would receive a conditional use authorization to reduce the amount of parking required for their projects. For some developers, however, the reduced parking requirement is not necessarily enough to encourage them to provide more than the minimum amount of on-site affordable housing.
Two developers with properties inside the Hub Plan Area — Lendlease and Related California — are planning to take full advantage of the new, increased height requirements. However, while the Australian international commercial real estate firm Lendlease is working with the City to include higher amounts of affordable housing at 30 Van Ness Avenue, mixed-use developer Related California will stick to the standard affordable housing required by the City at 98 Franklin Street.
The Lendlease development at 30 Van Ness Avenue is a 38,100 square foot lot that is fully occupied by a 75-foot-tall, five-story building and is utilized by a variety of retailers, government offices and a Walgreens. The trapezoidal site currently includes 164,480 square feet of general office space, 12,790 square feet of pharmacy and drugstore-designated space, 1,050 square feet of restaurant space and 15,580 square feet of parking space.
The City is proposing to increase the allowable project height from 400 feet to 520 feet. Lendlease’s current plans for the 30 Van Ness project would partially retain the existing office and retail space but also build a new, 47-story building with ground-floor retail space, seven floors of office space and 39 floors of residential space, for a total of 520,000 square feet of space. Of the 610 planned residential units, 229 would be studio and one-bedroom apartments, 92 units would be two-bedrooms and 60 units would be three-bedrooms. Twenty-five percent of the units for the proposed project would be made affordable to low to moderate income households, making 30 Van Ness one of the few developers to adhere to the City’s high affordable housing standards.
When asked about the city’s standards, Lendlease’s Tiffany Bohee, general manager, said, “This project is an incredible opportunity to bring our global resources, creative energy and holistic approach to revitalize this site in a way that reflects San Francisco’s values of innovation, sustainability and housing at all levels of affordability.”
Construction for the 30 Van Ness Avenue project would be completed in a single phase, beginning in 2020 and lasting around 44 months, with expected delivery in 2024.
Related California’s 98 Franklin Street site is smaller at 23,750 square feet, and is currently a surface parking lot with 100 spaces. The 98 Franklin Street development would include 11,530 square feet of private open space for residents, a rooftop deck and amenity space for the approximately 440 students that will be occupying the FAIS International High School.
“In 2016, we received an invitation from the city to participate in the HUB rezoning, a project that has been made possible by the San Francisco Planning Department’s imaginative and forward-thinking vision for our city,” said Melinda Bihn, Head of FAIS International High School. “We are excited about the opportunity to partner with the city to build a mixed-use project that will bring together great urban design, affordable housing, and educational space in the heart of our city.”
For Related, this was an important area in which to participate, and the company was happy to include the affordable component that was set at the time of the agreement. “The topic of The Hub is an important one for the City, and the specific one we’re involved with is just one component of The Hub,” said Matt Witte, principal at Related California. “The reason we’re interested in The Hub is that we’ve been following development in this part of the City for four or five years now. We were aware that the City was looking to up-zone, and we were looking for another opportunity to get involved when we read about French American (FAIS). French American filed an EEA prior to us getting involved, and in so doing that, the minimum amount of affordable housing required was fixed at 18 percent. I think we all have the same objective, which is to add more housing.”
Updated zoning for the project under the Hub Plan would increase the allowed height limit from 85 feet to 360 feet, a larger increase than what is currently proposed at the 30 Van Ness Avenue site. Like Lendlease’s development proposal at 30 Van Ness, plans submitted by Related California for 98 Franklin Street indicate that the project will take advantage of the increased height limit but would forgo the increased on-site affordable housing allocation. Instead, Related California is proposing to make 18 percent of the units affordable.
The new development would include 349,200 square feet of market-rate and affordable housing, 3,100 square feet of designated retail space and 75,000 square feet of school space. There are 345 planned residential units for the development that would include 172 studio, 86 one-, 54 two- and 33 three bedroom apartments. Proposed plans for the project also include 41,800 square feet for 111 parking spaces, located in a three-level below-grade garage. 345 for residents and 144 class 1 bicycle parking spaces for students will be included on the basement level.
The timeline for the construction of the Franklin Street project would be between 39 to 46 months with anticipated completion sometime during 2023.
Before both projects can proceed, however, the City of San Francisco must approve and issue construction permits for both projects.