The Parkmerced investors

As a massive residential project moves forward, tenants turn a wary eye toward Wall Street landlords

Daniel Mudd is the controversial CEO of Fortress Investment Group, which bought a large stake in the ParkMerced project

Parkmerced is one of the largest rental properties west of the Mississippi, and with more than 1,500 rent-controlled units, it's an important piece of the city's affordable-housing stock. Among the residents who live in the neighborhood-scale apartment complex are seniors, young families, and working-class San Franciscans, some of whom have called it home for decades.

A plan for an extraordinary overhaul of the property envisions tearing down the existing low-rise apartments and nearly tripling the number of units with a construction project that could take up to 30 years. On March 29, after Guardian press time, the Board of Supervisors was scheduled to vote on whether to uphold the plan's environmental impact report (EIR), a key milestone of the approval process.

The Planning Commission voted 4-3 to certify the EIR, and if the board followed suit by rejecting four different appeals filed against it, Parkmerced would be on track to clear final approval sometime in May.

San Francisco Tomorrow was among the groups that filed appeals against the Parkmerced plan. "They want to destroy a neighborhood without sufficient justification or mitigation," said Jennifer Clary, the group's president, citing concerns about traffic congestion, loss of an historic landscape, and the destruction of rent-controlled housing.

Julian Lagos, a resident of 18 years, filed an appeal on behalf of the Coalition to Save Parkmerced. "It's a very blue-collar community, and they want to replace it with wall-to-wall luxury high-rise condos," said Lagos, who lives in a unit that would be targeted for demolition under the development plan. "I call it ground zero," he said. "And I tell my neighbors, 'You're living at ground zero.' "

Mayoral development advisor Michael Yarne noted that most points highlighted in the EIR appeals had already been addressed, except one charging that there hadn't been adequate consideration over whether a Pacific Gas & Electric Co. gas pipeline running underground near Parkmerced could be jeopardized by construction activity. "The answer to that is, that's a really good question for PG&E," Yarne said. But he asserted that it wasn't a project EIR issue.

Elected officials' reactions to the overall plan were mixed. Lagos noted that campaign filings showed that Sups. Carmen Chu and Sean Elsbernd had accepted donations from people related to the project, and he predicted that Board of Supervisors President David Chiu would be a swing vote on the issue. Chiu spent several hours touring Parkmerced the Friday before the vote. He did not return Guardian calls seeking comment.

A development agreement between the city and the developer, Parkmerced Investors LLC, promises that existing tenants will keep their rent control at the same monthly rates — even after the apartments they now reside in are razed to make way for new residential towers.

Such a plan typically wouldn't fly under state law because the Costa-Hawkins Act prohibits a city from imposing rent control on newly constructed housing. Yet city officials, with input from the City Attorney's Office, say they've constructed this deal so that it falls within one of the exceptions written into the state law, offering a legal defense in the event of a court challenge and a guarantee against affordable housing loss.

"The development agreement is like a constitution for land use," said Yarne. "You can't get rid of it." If the project changed hands or the developer went bankrupt, the new owner would be bound by the same terms, Yarne said.


Note that the only issue before the Board is one that is designed to help the Developer grease his skids...and that is, how to close the deal and insure that the agreement to reinstall tenants into new units under their pre-existing rent control is in fact binding.

So the Board wants to see this project proceed and the only question is how to close the deal...

Posted by Charley_sf on Mar. 30, 2011 @ 5:07 pm

How long will the redevalopment take? Years?

Many tenants will die, marry, divorce, relocate or find new homes in that time.

Antoehr idea is to offer the tenants a payout, say 10 grand, to give up their rights.

Posted by TheDoc on Mar. 30, 2011 @ 5:28 pm

count the loss of open-space at 191.2 acres to 62 acres,
analyze the exhibit T and the loss of open-space per garden unit.

approx. 800sf per unit...

times the cost of construction for new units $800 per square foot...

you get a nice number....

more than what you would think possible....

Posted by goodmaab50 on Mar. 30, 2011 @ 10:52 pm

the community loses open-space, 191.2 acres to 68 acres...
each unit loses 2/3rds its open shared space...

10k is not = to this....

the developer equates this to a new washer/dryer/dishwasher..

800 s.f. x cost of construction of new units in SF = a lot more $$$$$$

Posted by goodmaab50 on Apr. 03, 2011 @ 7:52 am

According to every expert that has been asked about this project, including those who support it, rent control for those units simply cannot be legally guaranteed.

Posted by Eric Brooks on Mar. 30, 2011 @ 6:04 pm

I hope so many armchair preservationists, NIMBYs and alarmists won't spoil this project. To declare that the architecture of Parkmerced is anything but the nadir of postwar bunkerism is beyond nostalgia. Even the Thomas Church gardens hold little interest beyond the street roundabouts.

The developer has addressed concerns of the residents. All rent-controlled units will be replaced by similar units BEFORE they are demolished, allowing for residents to simply move from their 1940's undistinguished apartments into new units designed by on of the top architects in the field. The new units will have close to a zero carbon footprint. All possible building materials will be recycled on-site.
Parkmerced is such a dead-zone. The expansive, thirsty lawns are little-used. There are few walkable services, so many residents drive to shopping that is nearby, but a very unpleasant walk along 19th Avenue.

The corner of 19th and Holloway is one of the most dangerous for pedestrians in the city. Besides much-needed traffic calming and safe bike facilities, moving MUNI to a safer location makes perfect sense. It would make even more sense to run it all the way to Daly City BART, but that's another issue.

Not only Parkmerced residents will benefit from the urbanization of their community. SF State students will have somewhere to go between classes. Why is a college in a dense city considered a commuter school? Why doesn't it have the street life of UC Berkeley?

I hope that the developer can go on and put more housing in the vast, impermeable Stonestown parking lots. There is much potential on the west side of the city. It will benefit residents, but NIMBYs want no change, ever, even if it would benefit their community.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 31, 2011 @ 8:00 pm


Did you notice my buddy, David Campos folding on the issue in the Chronicle? He told Nevius that he thought the issue of whether extending rent control to new units was, "possible" because ... "We've got some smart people working on it.".

Then, in the same edition, he told Will Kane that: "it became clear to me and the rest of the board that we just needed more information." ... He then called for a backroom deal (he called it a, "closed session") in which the BOS could hammer out a deal.

Dude, not only is the BOS no longer Progressive, it certainly appears to me that even the leftiest of the left has sold out.

Go Giants!


Posted by Guest h. brown on Mar. 31, 2011 @ 9:04 pm

Yes, I noticed it and I sent him comments.

Let's see how it plays out. And hold them all -strictly- accountable on this one.

It would be an absolute disastrous tragedy for that developer to get its way.

Posted by Eric Brooks on Mar. 31, 2011 @ 11:16 pm