Last week’s news that the city of San Francisco will buy the troubled McDonald’s at the corner of Haight and Stanyan and convert the site into affordable housing was as close to an all-around win as we ever get for housing in the city.
But there’s plenty of bandwidth for conflict as the city decides precisely what to build right in arguably the most important corner of the neighborhood.
The Haight Ashbury Neighborhood Council [HANC] community group got an early start when its Land Use Chair Rupert Clayton sent a letter to the Mayor’s Office of Housing laying out the group’s expectations going forward.
First of all, HANC has a particular idea of what “affordable housing” ought to mean in this context:
All residential units in the new development should be affordable to people with incomes less than 80 percent of the area median income. While HANC recognizes that the extreme pressures on housing in San Francisco have caused difficulties for many people, including those of moderate income, the fact remains that low-income people have been squeezed the hardest and have the lowest provision of new housing.
In 2017, 80 percent of Area Median Income as defined by the Office of Housing is $64,500/year for a single San Franciscan or $92,250/year for a family of four, although that will certainly change by the time any units at the Stanyan site are ready to move into.
Clayton also tells City Hall that HANC doesn’t want them trying to get clever with the building design:
This site is not a location in which to experiment with micro-units for transient occupancy. This is a very prominent site, where Haight Street meets Golden Gate Park, and the size and design of the development will have a major impact on residents and park users, including the tourists who provide much of the income for local merchants. The development must be designed carefully to complement the neighborhood’s historic architecture and respect the adjacent park.
Finally, Clayton cautions lawmakers and planners: Build as much as possible...but not too tall please:
We are concerned that the 65-foot, 7-story alternative may have significant environmental impacts and degrade the historic value of the west end of Golden Gate Park and the neighboring Stanyan Park Hotel.
A development of this height and bulk would be the largest building fronting Golden Gate Park and would substantially change the character of the area.
HANC does support maximizing the amount of affordable housing constructed in our neighborhood, but only where this is appropriately balanced with preserving the neighborhood’s character and environmental quality.
At first glance this does seem to be a contradictory position: Either neighbors can support maximizing the amount of housing or they can suggest capping the size and density of the building, but it’s hard to do both.
HANC, however, contends that the city should be able to get just as much housing out of a five-story building at the site “that will have a a less than significant impact on environmental quality.”
Neither Clayton nor anyone else at HANC responded to requests for an interview. You can read the group’s full statement here.
The Board of Supervisors has not yet voted to approve the purchase of the Stanyan site, much less begun seriously considering building design. But it seems busy minds are already at work well ahead of the process.