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Affordable development NIMBYs hate upzoned with law NIMBYs also hate

A double dose of disgruntlement for opponents of Shotwell senior housing

A rendering of what the eight-story senior building on Shotwell would look like. Courtesy MEDA

Even by San Francisco standards, the fight over the development of 1296 Shotwell is a bit strange.

This one gained instant infamy this year, as neighbors came out against the proposed midrise on the corner of Shotwell and Cesar Chavez despite the fact that it would be 100-percent affordable housing, and catering to seniors to boot.

To be fair, it’s a vocal minority of Mission activists who took up arms against the Shotwell project. At last week’s Planning Commission hearing, the pro-development brigade was noticeably robust.


In fact, this development made unlikely allies out of Mission stalwarts, YIMBYs, and non-profit developer Mission Economic Development Alliance.

Then again, those parties wouldn’t have had to join forces if someone hadn’t been trying to fight the building in the first place. You’d have to look pretty hard for a more telling case study about Mission division.

The Planning Commission approved the development’s requested upzoning, adding two stories onto a building that opponents complained was too tall for its zoning already.

Originally zoned for 55 feet, the Shotwell development will now total 85, with 94 units in all.

“I couldn’t sleep tonight if I voted no,” commission VP Dennis Richards said before casting his vote.

In a final, bitter sting for Shotwell skirmishers, that upzoning came by way of the hated Affordable Housing Bonus Program, a law that development skeptics fought tooth and nail all year long.

The AHBP grants developers extra floors and units in exchange for more on-site affordable housing. For political reasons, it became the target of focused rage and a cause célèbre for those who want to slow down development.

Half of the law is still lingering in committee, waiting for the winds of opposition to die down.

But the city did sign off on the parts of the package that benefit BMR developments, and 1296 Shotwell is the first and so far only project to benefit from its largesse.

It’s a lot of political toil to yield to only a few dozen extra units in all for the year. But even one additional home makes a big difference to those who end up living there.