Developing divisions

Thousands of housing units are coming to market, but not many San Franciscans can afford them

The 38 Dolores project, where expensive apartments are quickly being rented, had its grand opening Nov. 14.

With the clink of champagne glasses, kudos to the development team and its community partners, and the cutting of a red ribbon, the new housing development at 38 Dolores St. had its grand opening celebration on Nov. 14, a couple weeks after the Whole Foods on its ground floor opened its doors to Market Street.

In many ways, 38 Dolores is pretty typical of the new housing opening in this part of town these days. It took seven years to complete the project, "on time and under budget in a way this community can be proud of," developer Dan Safier of The Prado Group told the assembled crowd.

That process included countless meetings with various community groups, who successfully pushed for progressive features that include some key pedestrian safety improvements and limiting the number of parking spaces to just one spot for every two units.

"It was an amazing example of a developer working closely with the various neighborhood associations," area Sup. Scott Wiener told the well-dressed crowd at the event, a sentiment also voiced by his predecessor, Bevan Dufty, who said, "They've been the gold star as far as listening to people."

But not everyone agrees with that praise. Peter Cohen, a housing activist who also works for the San Francisco Council of Community Housing Organizations, said Safier broke longtime assurances that he would satisfy his affordable housing obligations by building below-market-rate (BMR) units on site, rather than just paying an "in-lieu" fee to the city, two options under Inclusionary Housing Ordinance.

"They basically did a bait and switch. It was a real bullshit move," Cohen told the Guardian, noting how desperate the city is for more affordable housing now. "The bottom line is they promised to do affordable housing on site and they didn't do it."

"There are so many nuances to how affordable housing works," Safier told us, vaguely explaining why he couldn't do on-site BMR units, including the demands of project funders. He worked with the city on doing a land dedication for off-site affordable housing, but the Mayor's Office of Housing was resistant, and it would have required a change in city codes to do in this part of town.

"They wanted to develop faster than we had to capacity to develop," MOH Director Olson Lee told the Guardian, explaining that his office was dealing with transitioning affordable housing projects under the old Redevelopment Agency and it didn't have the capacity to help Safier build the BMR units now. Instead, it accepted a check for about $5 million.

"We felt there should be more options for developers," Safier said. "But the reality is the city needs the fees."

Yes, over the long haul, the city does need those fees to build more BMR units, which require big public subsidies to build in San Francisco. But those will take many years and much effort to build. Lee said the $37 million now in the city's Affordable Housing Trust Fund will eventually translate into 185 BMR units.

"That's why we want the units on site," Cohen said, "because the clearest path is to build the damn units in your building."

By time the party started at 38 Dolores, 40 of its 81 units had already been rented, and the developers expected even more to be rented out by the end of the party, after attendees had toured the open units sipping free champagne or cocktails.

"If you've brought your checkbook, you can even rent a unit," Safier told the crowd.

Prices ranged from $2,950 per month for one of a half-dozen 505-square-foot studio apartments to $4,395 for the two-bedroom, two-bath, 1,099-square-foot units that the event was really pushing up to $8,100 for a few three-bedroom apartments with the balcony and killer views on the seventh floor.


I wouldn't take much notice of his opinion. He's the classic lefty nimby.

The new wholeFoods is great though. And rents starting at 3K a month are competitive for that improving neighborhood.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 19, 2013 @ 4:54 pm

Tim you keep forgetting that lots of people live in the castro, not all of them earn 3k a month, and many want to be able to stay there in case of a change of job, or a change in employment.

To do that you need flexibility in the market, obviously you do not comprehend mr. Cohen's stance which suggests that making the developments include MANDATORY on site units as part of any future development and possibly re-negotiating such off-site housing agreements on current projects may be required to get housing for everyday people built up front.

Perhaps we need to mandate co-ops and other developments as well to ensure stock is built regardless of market rate housing being pipelined.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 20, 2013 @ 8:03 pm

How much more time does the CCHO crowd need to execute its strategy? It is like they've tried nothing and they're all out of ideas.

I am so thankful that my housing security is in no way dependent upon the designated stakeholders for most San Franciscans at the planning tables.

Folding like chairs, getting walked over like doormats, when will this end, when will there be accountability, our neighborhoods are disappearing out from under us.

Posted by marcos on Nov. 20, 2013 @ 8:25 pm

can pay a million for a unit, or 5K a month to rent it, do not want to share an elevator with the great unwashed.

Build the BMR elsewhere.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 22, 2013 @ 7:52 am

Affordable onsite rentals can work in some situations. They are not a feasible solution for most condos since condos have HOAs that charge HOA fees and they do not give discounts to affordable unit owners. There are several people who have purchased an "affordable" unit in a building only to end up being foreclosed on and out of a home because they could not afford to pay the HOA fees.

Also, if the city government had its act together (which it doesn't on most things) building offsite affordable housing should be no issue. The city should simply taking the many millions of fees it collects and either build the housing itself or partner with not-for-profits to do so. But, as noted in the article, 38 Dolores took 7 years to finish approvals and construction, and affordable housing developments end up being a victim to the same dragged-out process that market rate housing is subjected to. It should not take 7 years to get through approvals and construction for anything in the City, let alone a relatively small housing development.

Here is my solution to the housing crunch: (1) Eliminate much of the red tape one has to go through to get housing built in the City. There should be a "fast track" approval process, especially if the development conforms to existing zoning rules. This is not to say there should be no process or that proposals should not get reviewed, but it should not take more than a year from proposing a project to getting construction under way, (2) Pass an ordinance that all affordable housing fees collected must be allocated to a specific project within a year of being collected and that construction contracts must be issued within a year of allocating the fees (so, within 2 year of collection, construction contracts should be issued), or else the fees go to the general fund. This would force the city to actually spend the affordable housing fees it collects to building affordable housing, (3) Make "in-law" units legal citywide and collect a small fee to fund inspection and ensure compliance with building codes on existing and new units. (More limited proposals are already moving forward through the Board of Supervisors). In-law units could easily provide about 100,000 new reasonably priced rental units without making any real change in the appearance of existing neighborhoods (i.e. no mid-rise or high-rise buildings, which seem terrify everyone in SF).

Posted by Chris on Nov. 22, 2013 @ 5:14 pm

is so slow and in competent at building BMR even when they have the funds, that developers should build them onsite instead.

That's a totally bogus argument. It's not the developers' fault that the city is useless, so they should not have to suffer, nor the residents of their building.

Like your ideas 1 thru 3 as well.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 22, 2013 @ 5:38 pm

ful whack for their units resent living next-door to a subsidized welfare family. It is a big negative when marketing the units.

So it's almost always better to just pay the fee, even if that works out more expensive.

Image is everything in high-end developments.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 19, 2013 @ 5:18 pm

my company put me up in corporate housing that I later found contained a good number of those subsidized units - the neighbors living in them were a total nightmare. They were very loud, had countless grubby unwashed children who pounded up and down the halls 24-7 and they were always repairing their cars in the attached garage. Total nightmare. The good thing is it motivated me to buy my home more quickly because I couldn't stand living there.

Posted by The Goebblin Love Child of Smaug on Nov. 19, 2013 @ 7:13 pm

It's called something else now, but it's that big, ugly building at Market and Polk,

Many of the units are for short-term corporate lets, but the building is rent -controlled so there's a lot of trash living there too.

And they all have to share the same elevators.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 19, 2013 @ 7:24 pm

not fit for purpose. He should be working with developers and not engaging class warfare with them.

Not enough BMR units get built because they are very, very expensive. And the taxpayers aren't willing to pay more and more taxes to house other people when they are doing well themselves.

Why are we looking only at SF here? Why aren't we looking to house more of our workers outside of the city where it is much, much cheaper?

Posted by Guest on Nov. 19, 2013 @ 6:29 pm

Looks like Cohen got rolled. Again. And he's still getting paid.

Posted by marcos on Nov. 19, 2013 @ 6:47 pm

He talks big and then gets played like a pussy and a patz.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 19, 2013 @ 7:00 pm

There would be no need to fight every project tooth and nail if the organizers who were designated to hold stake for the community organized the damn community to demand a better deal instead of folding like chairs and cutting a crappy deal. If Eastern Neighborhoods and Market/Octavia were not bad enough, Prop C that lowered on-site was the coup d'grace. That they did not organize for an increase in off-site in a rising market instead of a decrease in on-site proves their worthlessness and lack of political acumen further than securing more money for their nonprofits. Prop B and C in the last election proved that Cohen and the CCHO left money on the table, lots of it, when they caved on EN and MO.

Posted by marcos on Nov. 19, 2013 @ 7:17 pm

Investors are not an unlimited money tree. They can invest anywhere and will do unless they get their desired ROI.

Cohen is an incompetant shit - don't get me wrong. But you cannot demand what those with the money won't give.

B/C aren't indicative of anything other than peoples' views of one very specific and unique development. You cannot extrapolate from that that the people do not want all this new market-rate housing. They do.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 19, 2013 @ 7:27 pm

If developers cannot meet more stringent legal requirements then they can build somewhere else much less profitable.

Posted by marcos on Nov. 19, 2013 @ 7:35 pm

and that is far from obvious.

Investors have ROI targets imposed by their backers, and can invest globally. Are you seriously suggesting that similar or better ROI's are available nowhere on the planet? Not in NY, London, Dubai, Hong Kong?

As we learned from TwitterGate, the city doesn't hold many trump cards.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 19, 2013 @ 7:52 pm

These buildings like the one shown in the picture are for people who want to live in a cold-looking glass box. What is so attractive about that? All of these buildings I've seen look so sterile and cold. White ceilings and walls inside (why color-phobic?), outdated track lighting in one building. If you didn't know they were a place where pretentious and snooty (mostly white) people feel they must live to try to "keep up with the Jones-es" (and I'm not talking about Steven Jones), you'd think the buildings were an office building especially by the interiors. Cold, white and uninviting...just like the new tenants by chance? So where will this glass go when there's a major earthquake or has no one thought about that?

I agree with the article. There is not a housing crisis in San Francisco and I'm tired of hearing that. There's an AFFORDABLE HOUSING CRISIS in San Francisco. There are 3 extremely expensive homes around me that have been on the market for weeks and still remain unsold. That wouldn't be the case if there were a "housing crisis." And I don't know why anyone in their right mind would buy one of these condo glass boxes when they can buy a home for the same money in some cases.

Posted by Hyacinth Bouquét on Nov. 21, 2013 @ 12:11 am

Modern condos have certain advantages. They are easy to heat and maintain, there is no yard work, there is secured indoor parking with an elevator to your unit. These are all important factors for, say, older people or people with mobility issues, or foreigners who aren't here the whole year.

They are being built where there is lots of transit and, in the case of the building pictured, there is a WholeFoods in the building.

The fact that these units are renting and selling tells you that some people prefer them to an old building.

You're correct to observe that there isn't really a housing crisis. Almost every unit for rent or sale gets taken after a few weeks, or even days. And what you describe as a shortage of affordable homes is nothing other than the fact that there are lots of people who want to live here but really should be living somewhere cheaper and less desirable. IOW, it's a crisis of peoples' aspirations not being realistic.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 21, 2013 @ 7:36 am

"It was an amazing example of a developer working closely with the various neighborhood associations," area Sup. Scott Wiener told the well-dressed crowd at the event,,,,,

"Well-dressed crowd?"

Translation of that: Conservative-looking. Cookie-cutter clones of each other. In other words, they looked just like that D8 politician mentioned.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 21, 2013 @ 12:22 am

such hate for success in SF. I am sure the people who rented these units are terribly concerned that a bunch of miserable malcontents are judging them for their clothes on a third rate newspapers completely anonymous comment site.

Do you have an industrial strength gall bladder to hold in all that bile?

Posted by Guest on Nov. 21, 2013 @ 7:18 am

Success is measured by what you wear.

Posted by marcos on Nov. 21, 2013 @ 7:50 am

1) Invent a meaningless classification system for people

2) Categorize people into that system, ideally a binary one like white/non-white or rich/poor

3) Hate on the class of people you are prejudiced against.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 21, 2013 @ 8:16 am
Posted by Guest on Nov. 21, 2013 @ 7:37 am

"40 of its 81 units had already been rented,..."

Well that confirms that there are at least 40 idiots in San Francisco.

I can't imagine renting a place in a building without knowing who is upstairs above me or downstairs below me or on the sides of me as far as noise is concerned. Apparently these idiots didn't think about that, so when the heavy techno beat cranks up at full volume downstairs below you, enjoy it baby, as the whole building rocks to it. Whenever I've rented an apartment I try to take someone with me who knows something about construction so that they can advise me on the building and how well it's made and what I can expect. Most of these new buildings are being built on the cheap according to my friend who is a contractor who has watched some of them closely being built, especially in Upper Market. So I doubt that any of these 40 idiots gave any thought to how the building was made or anything like that (or where all this glass is going to go when there's a major earthquake). Especially while you're "luxuriating" sipping champagne and not necessarily "all there" an idiot is not likely to do anything but give a quick glance and say on autopilot, "this is nice, this is cute, I'll take it" and hand over a check. The 40 Suckers!

Posted by Hyacinth Bouquét on Nov. 21, 2013 @ 3:10 am

insulation than older buildings so that is unlikely to be a concern here.

And you can live for years in a condo building without knowing or meeting your neighbors, if you want that.

Calling someone an "idiot" for having different tastes to you seems misguided. If there are folks who want to live in these buildings, why do you care?

Posted by Guest on Nov. 21, 2013 @ 7:39 am

And that insulation makes sure that these buildings are hermetically sealed and that all of the moisture that entered the building during the rainy season portion of construction remains there as fodder for mold.

Posted by marcos on Nov. 21, 2013 @ 7:49 am

than, say, a ratty old Victorian condo with rotting windows and a disintegrating roof.. And better seismic strength, structural strength, soundproofing etc.

These homes are not for everyone, but plenty of people appear to want to live there, so why do you care either way?

Posted by Guest on Nov. 21, 2013 @ 8:15 am

That wind whistling through those mold resistant old growth redwood timbers ensures that there is sufficient ventilation to forestall mold. I anxiously await the sick building syndrome that awaits these nouveaux san franciscan arrivistes until they flee after the next big quake.

Posted by marcos on Nov. 21, 2013 @ 8:28 am

We get it.

But why the hate on new buildings? It's not really about their design and architecture is it? no, it's your NIMBY ideology screaming here.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 21, 2013 @ 8:38 am

Why on earth would I want to live in a moldy cheaply constructed claptrap when I live in a real San Francisco victorian belt home?

I doubt that this new craptcaular condo construction will last half as long as well built real San Francisco housing.

Posted by marcos on Nov. 21, 2013 @ 2:18 pm

probably try and claim that A is really better.

You live on one of the worst blocks of one of the worst neighborhoods in the city. Ask me how much you'd have to pay me to live there.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 21, 2013 @ 2:23 pm

As if anyone cares where you would want to live?

Posted by marcos on Nov. 21, 2013 @ 2:43 pm

See, I know where you live but you don't know where I live.

Kinda like that.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 21, 2013 @ 3:50 pm

Cyberstalking is the use of the Internet or other electronic means to stalk or harass an individual, a group of individuals, or an organization. It may include the making of false accusations or statements of fact (as in defamation), monitoring, making threats, identity theft, damage to data or equipment, the solicitation of minors for sex, or gathering information that may be used to harass. The definition of "harassment" must meet the criterion that a reasonable person, in possession of the same information, would regard it as sufficient to cause another reasonable person distress. Cyberstalking is different from spatial or offline stalking in that it occurs through the use of electronic communications technology such as the internet. However, it sometimes leads to it, or is accompanied by it. Both are criminal offenses. Cyberstalking shares important characteristics with offline stalking; many stalkers – online or off – are motivated by a desire to control their victims.

A cyberstalker may be an online stranger or a person whom the target knows. A cyberstalker may be anonymous and may solicit involvement of other people online who do not even know the target.

Cyberstalking is a criminal offense that comes into play under state anti-stalking laws, slander laws, and harassment laws. A cyberstalking conviction can result in a restraining order, probation, or even criminal penalties against the assailant, including jail.

Posted by marcos on Nov. 21, 2013 @ 8:30 pm

And yet you whine when you think someone is "stalking" you when all they are doing is refuting you relentlessly.

Now, if someone parked themselves outside your home, you might have a point. But few people in their right mind would hang out on the one of the worst blocks in the Mission, and I personally wouldn't be seen dead there.

So, jez man, lighten up. Refute people here if you can, otherwise STFU.

PS: If you don't want people to know where you live, use a trust for the title deed. I thought everyone knew that.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 22, 2013 @ 7:58 am

Posting home addresses of private individuals, posting homophobic attacks, these are all elements of cyberstalking.

Tim Colen is a paid political professional who advocates for heights and densities, dismisses anyone who objects to that as a NIMBY, yet lives in a single family home with a two car garage in a neighborhood that will never see high rises anywhere near his back yard.

Posted by marcos on Nov. 22, 2013 @ 8:24 am

I do know your address, and indicated so, and gave general information about your location. But since it is public information anyway, that is moot.

The simplest solution is obvious - do not post with an identifiable name.

While if you make a big deal about being gay, then you can reasonably expect people to utilize that category as well. And it's not like you don't insult others - you routinely do when losing a debate.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 22, 2013 @ 8:49 am

Although I do know it and have dropped general hints about your location.

But since it is public information, you have no case anyway.

If you seek anonymity, then do not post with a regularly recognizable name.

Likewise, if you do not want people to know about your gayness, then why speak about it?

Posted by Guest on Nov. 22, 2013 @ 8:53 am

One would think that if one didnt want to be called out for ones activities, then one would be more discrete in such a small city.
You reap what you sow.

Posted by Bob on Nov. 22, 2013 @ 9:38 am

No point in giving others easy targets to discredit you. But I guess marcos is a little too narcissistic to stay purely on topic.

There's a reason SFBG allows anonymous posting.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 22, 2013 @ 9:53 am

Kind of like posting a link to the Google satellite map of the home of someone you dont like along with their name - also doing the same at public meetings.. right?

Posted by Guest on Nov. 22, 2013 @ 9:36 am

tenants, so that people like marcos will go and picket their homes.

But presumably that is somehow different?

It's funny how the people who are the most full of their own self-importance are the people with the least basis for rationally believing that they are relevant and influential.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 22, 2013 @ 9:56 am

Why would anyone "flee" after an earthquake?

After almost every SF earthquake, the population has got bigger. And, do you not realize they have earthquakes in many other places, not just SF? For example, LA and Seattle have both had many strong earthquakes (including some really damaging ones), and I haven't heard of many people "fleeing" from those cities. Yes, if there were a devastating earthquake and many people were left homeless, then some of them may not move back. What you fail to acknowledge is that the people least likely to move back would be the poor and middle-class, not the so-called "noveaux arrivistes." And, studies have shown that the housing most likely to be destroyed in the City is the older "soft-shell" housing above a garage, which tends to be the sort disproportionately housing the poor and middle-class. But, I guess in your book, who cares if thousands of poor and middle-class people are permanently removed from SF, so long as an earthquake manages to bump out a few "noveaux arrivistes."

(By the way, if you are going to complain about elitism and snobbery, then it is best not to use pretentious borrowed French expressions when plain Anglo-Saxon English words work quite well).

Also, would you assume that every new building is going to have "sick building" syndrome? There are many new buildings that have no ventilations problems, and there are plenty of poorly ventilated old buildings.

Posted by Chris on Nov. 22, 2013 @ 5:27 pm

poor, in the same way as Katrina hit the poor the worse.

The Federal government shows up with lots of dirt cheap loans, and folks rebuild.

Probably works best for landlords though. The tenants have to move out for 2-3 years while the rebuild takes place, with the insurance covering the lost rent. Then either the tenants cannot be contacted and so new tenants move in at a market rent. Or the O&M and Capital passthru's are so huge that the rents are reasonable again anyway.

But the left loves their fantasy that, when the Big One arrives, SF will be like 1967 again.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 22, 2013 @ 5:44 pm

The ever present SF luddite. All change is bad, science is extremely suspect, the good old days were the best things will ever be.
I expect Marcos to be extolling the virtues of single pane glass, horsehair plaster, and knob and tube wiring.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 21, 2013 @ 1:15 pm

He opposed TIC's converting to condo's and yet he lives in a converted condo.

He opposes gentrification of the Mission and yet helped to gentrify it.

He opposes non-profits and yet it is a non-profit (UCSF) that pays him.

He's very confused.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 21, 2013 @ 1:24 pm

plumbing for all!! Bring back lead paint!!

Posted by The Goebblin Love Child of Smaug on Nov. 21, 2013 @ 1:42 pm

He has a dependency on it at this point. It will be a sad descent into senility, if the HIV doesn't get him first.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 21, 2013 @ 2:13 pm

Ad hominem troll.

Posted by marcos on Nov. 21, 2013 @ 2:49 pm

Do you always run towards the sound of cannons?

Posted by Guest on Nov. 21, 2013 @ 3:52 pm

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