July 6, 2015 Housing Action Coalition

Another Missed Affordable Housing Opportunity

As we enter our third year of an affordability crisis, the SF Housing Action Coalition continues to ask, “How are we doing? How much progress have we made to ending this crisis?” Not enough, we’re afraid! While there’s lots of talk about building more affordable housing, too many projects still routinely encounter hurdles, battles and derailments that delay and impede their ability to support more affordable housing, as we believe they should.

Take the proposed 75 Howard Street project as a perfect, heartbreaking example. On July 23rd, after more than four years of talks with the district supervisor, the Planning Department and neighbors to design a project that the City would accept, we’ll learn whether a relic from the old Embarcadero finally passes the test. A 550-space parking garage could be torn down and replaced with 133 condos, while paying about $9.8 million dollars to build affordable housing. It would also pay $915,000 more for future open space in the Transbay neighborhood. The SFHAC reviewed and strongly supports the 75 Howard project. It is disappointing that the earlier, taller project design that offered $17 million, the equivalent of a 33% in lieu fee payment to the Mayor’s Office of Housing (MOH), is not the one going to the Planning Commission. Read our project endorsement letter and report card.

Will a shorter building sail through the Planning Commission? Hard to say. A new “environmental” group, called ‘Save Rincon Park’, claims the project casts too much shadow on Rincon Park, a very sunny, but not officially recognized Rec & Parks waterfront park (see illustrations below). How much shadow? Less than 1 percent more shade on the park, for about 1.5 hours in the later hours of the day during the spring, summer, and fall. During the winter, the park is already 100 percent shaded, even without building 75 Howard Street. The SFHAC doesn’t claim that recreational space in our dense city isn’t important, nor do we say that shadows shouldn’t be considered when we debate development. However, we question whether a small shadow should be allowed to jeopardize approximately $9.8 million dollars to help build 103 permanently affordable homes. Would that shadow harm San Francisco’s livability more than the permanently affordable housing the project would deliver?

If you’d like to show your support for this SFHAC-endorsed project, SIGN THE EMAIL PETITION BELOWthat will go to District 6 Supervisor Kim and the Planning Commission. Also, save the date for Thursday, July 23rd to speak at the Planning Commission approval hearing with us.

As a result of a taller 75 Howard Street project falling through, Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corp (TNDC) downsized their Taylor and Eddy project that had been trying to reach economic feasibility for a decade. TNDC’s original plan proposed a 14-story residential building, consisting of 153 affordable apartments over a ground-floor grocery on what is currently a parking lot. With the loss of Redevelopment Agency money in 2011 and with the uncertainty surrounding the 75 Howard project’s in-lieu contribution, TNDC decided to move ahead on a smaller project with more reliable funding.*

What the Commissioners will review later this month is a downsized code-compliant, 220-feet tall condo project, contributing a smaller $9.8 million in lieu fee payment to MOH. Because of the lack of political support, either inside or outside City Hall, 75 Howard will fund 30 new homes versus 70 in TNDC’s Taylor and Eddy project.

The SFHAC deeply mourns the missed opportunity to build double the amount of affordable housing this project could otherwise deliver. The SFHAC hopes the shadow on Rincon Park won’t further jeopardize the approval of this project on July 23rd. If we are serious as a City about achieving the Mayor’s goal to deliver 30,000 more homes, with 10,000 affordable by 2020, we need to stop erecting obstacles to building housing – whether market-rate or affordable. Our City’s collective good depends on this. Let’s say yes to 75 Howard Street and help get it built!!

*The silver lining is that TNDC, with additional funding projected from Forest City’s 5M project, could continue with their proposal to build 103 affordable homes at Taylor and Eddy Streets, though with a smaller grocery store.



PowerPoint Presentation affordable housing








Image credit: Skidmore, Owings & Merrill

Housing Action Coalition

The Housing Action Coalition is a member-supported non-profit that advocates for the creation of well designed, well-located housing at all levels of affordability. We believe more housing means more choices and better solutions.

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