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A rendering of a tall, glass-facaded high-rise building with a cutaway toward the top Rendering courtesy of BUILD Inc.

The biggest canceled or delayed SF housing projects

What happens to a dream deferred?

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This week’s shocking but at the same time not-so shocking news that the long-contentious “Monster In the Mission” project on 16th Street is officially no more is the latest proof of a longtime truism that new housing in San Francisco is almost always housing delayed—sometimes to the point of its own demise.

The reason for the delays and cancellation vary. Usually neighborhood opposition scuttles a building; while other projects could break ground any day now but pointedly haven’t, with construction stymied by costs, politics, or the owners’ desires to sell instead.

But all of them are a product—or lack of product—of the sometimes baffling alchemy of San Francisco’s rules, its housing culture, and the dispositions of San Franciscans. In most other major cities, the following project would have been finished by now, for better or worse, but here in SF all we have to show for them is a story—thus far.

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1. Oceanwide Center

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512 Mission St
San Francisco, CA 94105

We’re not talking about the 900-foot-tall tower at Oceanwide Center that, once finished in 2023, will be the second tallest in the city. Instead, the problem is with the shorter accompanying tower on the property, which is supposed to rise over 600 feet and include more than 150 homes.

Developer Oceanwide said last year it had not canceled the tower, which is already under construction—but in October it did indefinitely suspend construction, citing rising costs. In January, Oceanwide sold the entire thing to a different Chinese company, making the future (and name) of the development even more uncertain.

NIMBYs had nothing to do with this one, but the sheer complexity of SF’s building processes did play a role, as if Oceanwide had broken ground earlier they might have been able to build faster before the cost of construction rose. Chinese regulatory arcana about foreign investments also hampered the plan.

A scale model of the Oceanwide Center tower.
A scale model of the main Oceanwide Center tower at the 2016 groundbreaking.
Photo by Adam L Brinklow

2. 1060 Folsom

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1060 Folsom St
San Francisco, CA 94103

This planned 63-unit development in SoMa looked like it was on its way to breaking ground, but a dark shadow fell over its progress—or more precisely, a shadow would have fallen over nearby Victoria Manalo Draves Park from the 65-foot-tall building’s silhouette.

A voter-approved San Francisco law on the books for decades stops new high-rise developments that would cast significant shadows over public parks. While some new buildings have found ways around this prohibition in recent years—one Chinatown development delayed for decades built an extension of St. Mary’s Square on its rooftop to please the neighborhood—it wasn’t so here, as the Board of Supervisors spiked the deal in 2019.

Mayor London Breed scourged the appeal as an example of the kind of chicanery that drives up the cost of building, but city lawmakers argued that the law was the law. Critics at neighborhood meetings felt slighted by the fact that SoMa has so few parks as it stands, a feeling that developer Paul Iantorno was profiting at their expense.

A rendering of a seven-story building on Folsom Street. Rendering courtesy of SF Planning

3. 1270 Mission

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1270 Mission St
San Francisco, CA 94103

Currently the site of a parking lot and now-defunct pizza place, developer AGI Avant had dreams of cooking up 321 homes here. In fact, the city put in the order and approved the 21-story building in 2016, but since then neither demolition nor construction has begun.

Iwamoto Scott Architecture redesigned the building at the end of last year, presumably marking the beginning of some new phase in the would-be high-rise’s would-be life.

A rendering of a long rectangular high-rise building, the top half of which is light in color and slightly set off from the bottom half, which is darker. Iwamoto Scott Architecture, courtesy Buzz Buzz Home.

4. One Oak

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S Van Ness Ave & Market St
San Francisco, CA 94102

It’s been more than two years since City Hall approved the 400-unit residential high-rise at One Oak, but in that time the building has yet to start construction. The developer had to get a two-year extension on the permits in January for fear they might expire.

Once upon a time, Hayes Valley-based developer BUILD Inc. hoped to begin construction on the 319-home, 40-story Snøhetta-designed building in 2018 with a completion date of 2019. Now they have until 2022 to break ground.

A rendering of a tall, glass-facaded high-rise building with a cutaway toward the top Rendering courtesy of BUILD Inc.

5. Lucky 13

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2140 Market St
San Francisco, CA 94114
(415) 487-1313
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Continental drift doesn’t take as long as the housing development at the site of this seemingly undying SF dive bar. Developer Keystone Group now hopes to build 90 units here, but it’s hardly the first developer that wanted to create homes here.

Redevelopment plans for the lot date as far back as 2002, meaning that kids who were barely in preschool when SF first got word of Lucky 13’s demise are now old enough to drink at the still-extant watering hole.

Longtime former bar owner Frank Cafferkey did secure permits to demolish the bar in 2017 in favor of housing, but decided to sell rather than go through with a teardown. The buyers wanted to push through their own designs for the building instead, and so it’s still there, night after night, like a cash-only mirage.

The Lucky 13 bar, a bright red building with a cat’s head logo on its sign. Photo by Torbak Hopper

6. 901 16th Street

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901 16th St
San Francisco, CA 94107

To a limited degree, the saga at 901 16th Street and accompanying 1200 17th Street gets a happy ending, as developer Kilroy now says it will relocate the beloved SF Flower Mart to this Potrero Hill site instead, a move that saves the floral business and pleases Potrero Hill residents.

But this also means that a longstanding plan to build 395 homes here got weeded out instead. Prado Group carried the day for its housing plans here both at City Hall and in court but ended up so spent from the years-long tussle that they couldn’t build. Kilroy took over and pruned the housing plans.

7. 1979 Mission

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1979 Mission St
San Francisco, CA 94103

The latest casualty of SF housing politics, the “Monster in the Mission” had plans to turn into a 10-story, 330-unit mixed-use building right next to the 16th Street BART Station, one of SF’s busiest transit thoroughfares.

The BART plaza has a reputation for inherent funkiness—in multiple senses of that word—and developer Maximus Partners hoped they could frame the huge new building as a way to clean up the block. Instead Mission dwellers saw the planned market-rate homes and the sheer scale of the building as an invasion, and stymied it at every turn.

If it’s remembered for anything, the 1979 Mission non-development’s biggest legacy will probably be the out-of-touch “I Am Not a Monster” 2017 ad campaign, which sought to put a human face on the hypothetical future building tenants but came off as manipulative and inauthentic. Maximus announced this week they’re selling the property.

A rendering of a white, mid-rise building with drab exteriors of vertical lines. Rendering by SOM, courtesy of Maximus

8. 2675 Folsom

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2675 Folsom St
San Francisco, CA 94110

Not only was this a divisive Mission development in its own right, but it played a bit part in a different drama a few blocks away: Though initially opposed to the 117-unit proposal here, Mission groups eventually reconciled with developer Axis and backed the planned construction with the distinctive David Baker black-and-white facade.

But instead of building, Axis eventually sold the project—to none other than Monster In the Mission backers Maximus. Maximus offered to turn the entire Folsom affair into affordable housing in a bid to gin up support for its 16th Street proposal. The plan failed to gain the sympathy it needed, and now neither building is happening.

A rendering of people gathered on the lawn in front of a black and white four-story building. Rendering courtesy of David Baker Architects

9. 2918 Mission

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2918 Mission St
San Francisco, CA 94110

This Mission site has a nickname of its own, the infamous “historic laundromat,” so called after City Hall was forced to conduct a study of whether the old building was a historic asset or not. To be accurate, nobody claimed that the laundromat itself might be historically valuable—just that some of the property’s previous uses might qualify. Nevertheless, the name stuck.

Former owner Robert Tillman spent years trying to demolish the Wash Land laundry business in favor of an an eight-story, 75-unit building here, but in the end opted to sell. The Monster developers also offered to buy this property and add it into their affordable housing deal—a Monster Mash of contentious developments that will never materialize.

The place did end up with a buyer in the end: Hotelier Lawrence Lui, who paid $13.5 million (Tillman was long holding out for $18 million previously). Lui wanted to break ground on Tillman’s plans by 2020, but thus far the laundromat still stands—perhaps ironically now historic after all thanks to its spotlight role in the whole weird showdown.

Designs for a would-be mixed use building at the cite of a present Mission laundromat. Rendering courtesy of BuzzBuzzHome

10. 250 Laguna Honda Boulevard

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250 Laguna Honda Blvd
San Francisco, CA 94116

Christian Church Homes, a religious nonprofit that develops affordable housing for seniors, announced in 2016 that it would partner with Forest Hill Christian Church to create 150 units on a hillside lot at 250 Laguna Honda Boulevard, a sweetheart deal if ever there was one.

But the anti-development Forest Hill Association raised a ruckus over everything from the proposed building’s size, locale, and necessary zoning exceptions to the possibility of homeless people moving into the neighborhood. Association member Joe Bravo rejected the idea of a housing crisis in 2016, telling Curbed SF, “There’s no emergency that says 150 units have to get plopped down.”

Eventually the church’s City Hall partners passed on the site. Christian Church Homes told Curbed SF that the NIMBYs were not the main reason for the proposal’s excommunication but that it did play a factor.

The church building and mostly undeveloped hillside at 250 Laguna Honda. Google

11. 1515 South Van Ness Avenue

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1515 S Van Ness Ave
San Francisco, CA 94110

In 2016 it seemed like the proposal to turn this circa-1948 warehouse into 157 homes was going to skate to approval, but support for the building fell apart over the course of an angry and dramatic public meeting.

In fact, it was one of the supporters of the building who accidentally provided the verbal killing blow in the midst of a hearing that included, among other things, allegations of racism and a Bernie Sanders hand puppet.

But when one YIMBY backer compared the activists opposing the new building to the nativism of then-President Elect Donald Trump, some board members found the comment so distasteful that they specifically referred to it during the 9-0 vote to delay the building after all.

(A month before that protesters at the site compared developer Lennar to Satan, which was evidently less controversial.) Eventually developers did get the green light to build here, but in a familiar refrain, construction never started. Last year the city bought the building with affordable housing in mind.

1515 South Van Ness. Image via Google

12. 770 Woolsey

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770 Woolsey St
San Francisco, CA 94134

Neighbors rallied to save the decaying greenhouses at 770 Woolsey in 2019, pushing for the SF Planning Commission to declare the site a historic landmark in the face of developer L37’s plan to demolish the long-abandoned site and build 63 new homes here.

In perhaps a rarity, the appeal to historicity was not without merit, as the onetime Garibaldi Nursery, established in 1921, is the last physical remains of the once-critical floral industry in the Portola neighborhood, derelict though it may be now. In something of a surprise, the committee stomped out the proposal anyway.

This seemed to clear the way for L37, but just a few months later Supervisor Hillary Ronen intervened to once again revive the historic appeal. Ronen says she does want housing here, but contends that some preservation effort is also due, leaving the lots in limbo as negotiations continue.

Overgrown and decaying wood frame buildings on a rural-like city lot. Image via Google

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1. Oceanwide Center

512 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94105
A scale model of the Oceanwide Center tower.
A scale model of the main Oceanwide Center tower at the 2016 groundbreaking.
Photo by Adam L Brinklow

We’re not talking about the 900-foot-tall tower at Oceanwide Center that, once finished in 2023, will be the second tallest in the city. Instead, the problem is with the shorter accompanying tower on the property, which is supposed to rise over 600 feet and include more than 150 homes.

Developer Oceanwide said last year it had not canceled the tower, which is already under construction—but in October it did indefinitely suspend construction, citing rising costs. In January, Oceanwide sold the entire thing to a different Chinese company, making the future (and name) of the development even more uncertain.

NIMBYs had nothing to do with this one, but the sheer complexity of SF’s building processes did play a role, as if Oceanwide had broken ground earlier they might have been able to build faster before the cost of construction rose. Chinese regulatory arcana about foreign investments also hampered the plan.

512 Mission St
San Francisco, CA 94105

2. 1060 Folsom

1060 Folsom St, San Francisco, CA 94103
A rendering of a seven-story building on Folsom Street. Rendering courtesy of SF Planning

This planned 63-unit development in SoMa looked like it was on its way to breaking ground, but a dark shadow fell over its progress—or more precisely, a shadow would have fallen over nearby Victoria Manalo Draves Park from the 65-foot-tall building’s silhouette.

A voter-approved San Francisco law on the books for decades stops new high-rise developments that would cast significant shadows over public parks. While some new buildings have found ways around this prohibition in recent years—one Chinatown development delayed for decades built an extension of St. Mary’s Square on its rooftop to please the neighborhood—it wasn’t so here, as the Board of Supervisors spiked the deal in 2019.

Mayor London Breed scourged the appeal as an example of the kind of chicanery that drives up the cost of building, but city lawmakers argued that the law was the law. Critics at neighborhood meetings felt slighted by the fact that SoMa has so few parks as it stands, a feeling that developer Paul Iantorno was profiting at their expense.

1060 Folsom St
San Francisco, CA 94103

3. 1270 Mission

1270 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94103
A rendering of a long rectangular high-rise building, the top half of which is light in color and slightly set off from the bottom half, which is darker. Iwamoto Scott Architecture, courtesy Buzz Buzz Home.

Currently the site of a parking lot and now-defunct pizza place, developer AGI Avant had dreams of cooking up 321 homes here. In fact, the city put in the order and approved the 21-story building in 2016, but since then neither demolition nor construction has begun.

Iwamoto Scott Architecture redesigned the building at the end of last year, presumably marking the beginning of some new phase in the would-be high-rise’s would-be life.

1270 Mission St
San Francisco, CA 94103

4. One Oak

S Van Ness Ave & Market St, San Francisco, CA 94102
A rendering of a tall, glass-facaded high-rise building with a cutaway toward the top Rendering courtesy of BUILD Inc.

It’s been more than two years since City Hall approved the 400-unit residential high-rise at One Oak, but in that time the building has yet to start construction. The developer had to get a two-year extension on the permits in January for fear they might expire.

Once upon a time, Hayes Valley-based developer BUILD Inc. hoped to begin construction on the 319-home, 40-story Snøhetta-designed building in 2018 with a completion date of 2019. Now they have until 2022 to break ground.

S Van Ness Ave & Market St
San Francisco, CA 94102

5. Lucky 13

2140 Market St, San Francisco, CA 94114
The Lucky 13 bar, a bright red building with a cat’s head logo on its sign. Photo by Torbak Hopper

Continental drift doesn’t take as long as the housing development at the site of this seemingly undying SF dive bar. Developer Keystone Group now hopes to build 90 units here, but it’s hardly the first developer that wanted to create homes here.

Redevelopment plans for the lot date as far back as 2002, meaning that kids who were barely in preschool when SF first got word of Lucky 13’s demise are now old enough to drink at the still-extant watering hole.

Longtime former bar owner Frank Cafferkey did secure permits to demolish the bar in 2017 in favor of housing, but decided to sell rather than go through with a teardown. The buyers wanted to push through their own designs for the building instead, and so it’s still there, night after night, like a cash-only mirage.

2140 Market St
San Francisco, CA 94114

6. 901 16th Street

901 16th St, San Francisco, CA 94107

To a limited degree, the saga at 901 16th Street and accompanying 1200 17th Street gets a happy ending, as developer Kilroy now says it will relocate the beloved SF Flower Mart to this Potrero Hill site instead, a move that saves the floral business and pleases Potrero Hill residents.

But this also means that a longstanding plan to build 395 homes here got weeded out instead. Prado Group carried the day for its housing plans here both at City Hall and in court but ended up so spent from the years-long tussle that they couldn’t build. Kilroy took over and pruned the housing plans.

901 16th St
San Francisco, CA 94107

7. 1979 Mission

1979 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94103
A rendering of a white, mid-rise building with drab exteriors of vertical lines. Rendering by SOM, courtesy of Maximus

The latest casualty of SF housing politics, the “Monster in the Mission” had plans to turn into a 10-story, 330-unit mixed-use building right next to the 16th Street BART Station, one of SF’s busiest transit thoroughfares.

The BART plaza has a reputation for inherent funkiness—in multiple senses of that word—and developer Maximus Partners hoped they could frame the huge new building as a way to clean up the block. Instead Mission dwellers saw the planned market-rate homes and the sheer scale of the building as an invasion, and stymied it at every turn.

If it’s remembered for anything, the 1979 Mission non-development’s biggest legacy will probably be the out-of-touch “I Am Not a Monster” 2017 ad campaign, which sought to put a human face on the hypothetical future building tenants but came off as manipulative and inauthentic. Maximus announced this week they’re selling the property.

1979 Mission St
San Francisco, CA 94103

8. 2675 Folsom

2675 Folsom St, San Francisco, CA 94110
A rendering of people gathered on the lawn in front of a black and white four-story building. Rendering courtesy of David Baker Architects

Not only was this a divisive Mission development in its own right, but it played a bit part in a different drama a few blocks away: Though initially opposed to the 117-unit proposal here, Mission groups eventually reconciled with developer Axis and backed the planned construction with the distinctive David Baker black-and-white facade.

But instead of building, Axis eventually sold the project—to none other than Monster In the Mission backers Maximus. Maximus offered to turn the entire Folsom affair into affordable housing in a bid to gin up support for its 16th Street proposal. The plan failed to gain the sympathy it needed, and now neither building is happening.

2675 Folsom St
San Francisco, CA 94110

9. 2918 Mission

2918 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94110
Designs for a would-be mixed use building at the cite of a present Mission laundromat. Rendering courtesy of BuzzBuzzHome

This Mission site has a nickname of its own, the infamous “historic laundromat,” so called after City Hall was forced to conduct a study of whether the old building was a historic asset or not. To be accurate, nobody claimed that the laundromat itself might be historically valuable—just that some of the property’s previous uses might qualify. Nevertheless, the name stuck.

Former owner Robert Tillman spent years trying to demolish the Wash Land laundry business in favor of an an eight-story, 75-unit building here, but in the end opted to sell. The Monster developers also offered to buy this property and add it into their affordable housing deal—a Monster Mash of contentious developments that will never materialize.

The place did end up with a buyer in the end: Hotelier Lawrence Lui, who paid $13.5 million (Tillman was long holding out for $18 million previously). Lui wanted to break ground on Tillman’s plans by 2020, but thus far the laundromat still stands—perhaps ironically now historic after all thanks to its spotlight role in the whole weird showdown.

2918 Mission St
San Francisco, CA 94110

10. 250 Laguna Honda Boulevard

250 Laguna Honda Blvd, San Francisco, CA 94116
The church building and mostly undeveloped hillside at 250 Laguna Honda. Google

Christian Church Homes, a religious nonprofit that develops affordable housing for seniors, announced in 2016 that it would partner with Forest Hill Christian Church to create 150 units on a hillside lot at 250 Laguna Honda Boulevard, a sweetheart deal if ever there was one.

But the anti-development Forest Hill Association raised a ruckus over everything from the proposed building’s size, locale, and necessary zoning exceptions to the possibility of homeless people moving into the neighborhood. Association member Joe Bravo rejected the idea of a housing crisis in 2016, telling Curbed SF, “There’s no emergency that says 150 units have to get plopped down.”

Eventually the church’s City Hall partners passed on the site. Christian Church Homes told Curbed SF that the NIMBYs were not the main reason for the proposal’s excommunication but that it did play a factor.

250 Laguna Honda Blvd
San Francisco, CA 94116

11. 1515 South Van Ness Avenue

1515 S Van Ness Ave, San Francisco, CA 94110
1515 South Van Ness. Image via Google

In 2016 it seemed like the proposal to turn this circa-1948 warehouse into 157 homes was going to skate to approval, but support for the building fell apart over the course of an angry and dramatic public meeting.

In fact, it was one of the supporters of the building who accidentally provided the verbal killing blow in the midst of a hearing that included, among other things, allegations of racism and a Bernie Sanders hand puppet.

But when one YIMBY backer compared the activists opposing the new building to the nativism of then-President Elect Donald Trump, some board members found the comment so distasteful that they specifically referred to it during the 9-0 vote to delay the building after all.

(A month before that protesters at the site compared developer Lennar to Satan, which was evidently less controversial.) Eventually developers did get the green light to build here, but in a familiar refrain, construction never started. Last year the city bought the building with affordable housing in mind.

1515 S Van Ness Ave
San Francisco, CA 94110

12. 770 Woolsey

770 Woolsey St, San Francisco, CA 94134
Overgrown and decaying wood frame buildings on a rural-like city lot. Image via Google

Neighbors rallied to save the decaying greenhouses at 770 Woolsey in 2019, pushing for the SF Planning Commission to declare the site a historic landmark in the face of developer L37’s plan to demolish the long-abandoned site and build 63 new homes here.

In perhaps a rarity, the appeal to historicity was not without merit, as the onetime Garibaldi Nursery, established in 1921, is the last physical remains of the once-critical floral industry in the Portola neighborhood, derelict though it may be now. In something of a surprise, the committee stomped out the proposal anyway.

This seemed to clear the way for L37, but just a few months later Supervisor Hillary Ronen intervened to once again revive the historic appeal. Ronen says she does want housing here, but contends that some preservation effort is also due, leaving the lots in limbo as negotiations continue.

770 Woolsey St
San Francisco, CA 94134