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Rare Sunset residential project will add 20 homes at site of former gas station

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The 1950s structure has been vacant since 2010

A rendering of a five-story building with a long profile and gray-green color scheme. Courtesy of Leavitt Architecture

Last week, the San Francisco Planning Commission cleared the way to demolish a 1950s-era gas station near Judah and 45th Avenue to make way for a new five-story apartment building, a rare new housing project in the Outer Sunset.

As Hoodline reports, the Outer Sunset has added only 21 new homes since 2011, including zero new units in all of 2018; the 3945 Judah project is a huge investment by neighborhood standards.

On top of that, the developer has invoked HOME-SF, the San Francisco law passed in 2017 (after much sturm und drang) that allows them to upzone the building by one extra floor in exchange for more affordable homes.

The result is a five-story Sunset District development with 20 units in all, five of them priced at below market rate. This is only the third building ever to take advantage of HOME-SF.

Per last week’s planning report, the new building includes ten one-bedroom apartments, nine two-bedrooms, and only one three-bedroom homes. The project will also include 2,440 square feet of retail.

The planning report also noted that “to date the department has not received any correspondences in opposition of the project,” but it did get 12 letters of support.

Despite this seemingly smooth course on paper, there is neighborhood opposition, including one resident who showed up to Thursday’s meeting to criticize the design, calling it “a monstrosity.” (Designer Leavitt Architecture’s renderings of the proposal look a bit like a sandcrawler from Star Wars.)

Another neighbor acknowledged, “I do think that site should be developed” and had no qualms about the design. But they did complain about the five-story height and the fact that the 20-unit building will have only seven parking spaces.

The existing structure at 3945 Judah has a long history, serving as a neighborhood gas station since 1950.

The historic resource evaluation report for the site (via Tim Kelley Consulting) says that it served as a “Flying A” station when originally built and was reminiscent of the style of the times thanks in part to its “integrated canopy with rounded corners and horizontal banding.”

Although old, it’s not considered historically significant. It’s also been vacant for nearly a decade now, surrounded by a rusted-out fence and covered in graffiti.

Despite the complaints, the Planning Commission backed the new building unanimously, with Commissioner Frank Fung calling it “good filler for a residential neighborhood.”

Commissioner Dennis Richards said he worries about approving buildings with large commercial spaces that may go empty and asked that the project subdivide the retail into smaller units, and backed the plan once they agreed.