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Bernal Heights housing project approved after 41 years

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“Somebody crazy not giving up” finally wins new homes

A rendering of several two and three story homes with peaked roofs. Rendering courtesy of Kerman-Morris

Developer Patrick Quinlan is bringing new housing to Bernal Heights, and it only took four decades to get the job done.

At last Thursday’s meeting of the San Francisco Planning Commission, the body unanimously approved Quinlan’s plans to build on the long-vacant hillside lots at 1513 York.

Quinlan aims to create four new duplexes of varying sizes (up to three stories) along with an underground garage with a car lift and space for eight vehicles.

City planners recommended the project, calling it “on balance, consistent with the objectives and policies of the general plan” and praising it for adding to the city’s housing stock.

But—surprise—not everyone was supportive of the York Street plan in the past. Quinlan purchased the property back in 1978, and has battered against a staunch wall of opposition from area residents ever since.

The report submitted to the Planning Commission ahead of Thursday’s hearing emphasized just how long this plan has been in the works, with the deadpan allusion that “the project sponsor has a long history of collaboration with [...] surrounding neighbors since late 1987.”

One Bernal Heights resident who appeared at Thursday’s hearing, Kathleen Campbell, admitted that she had been fighting Quinlan’s proposal since 1997. However, now she’s finally come around to supporting it, praising the new designs by architect Toby Morris of Kerman-Morris.

Morris on Thursday called his design for the site “modern, but deferential to local forms.”

The new look was apparently a big difference-maker, with Commissioner Kathrin Moore praising the “skillful design” and Commission President Myrna Melgar calling it “hundreds times better than what we’ve seen before.”

True to spirt, some opposition persisted. Neighbor Bill Wright admitted that the plans by Morris were “very well thought out,” but lodged an objection that “having that many units in that small of a space represents a fundamental issue.”

Despite some holdouts from the public, the commission approved the duplexes.

Before the vote, Laura Foote, the executive director of housing lobby YIMBY Action, called the proposal the result of “somebody crazy not giving up for decades.” She further warned that other developers might not want to endure decades of delays for the sake of housing in the future.