What Does the Neighborhood Want to Replace McDonald's - City Schedules Public Meeting on Project for November 7

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By Rupert Clayton, HANC Board

Things seem to be moving fast on the city’s nebulous project to buy the McDonald’s site at 730 Stanyan Street (between Haight and Waller Streets) and use it for some undetermined affordable housing purpose. After vague press reports in the past couple months, we now have an official announcement that the Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development (MOHCD) will hold a community meeting on the project at 6 pm on Tuesday November 7, 2017 at Park Branch Library.

Clearly, many HANC members and neighbors are interested in how the site is developed. About 60 people gathered at our October 12 meeting to share ideas on possible uses and to learn what the planning and development process might look like. HANC assembled a panel to facilitate the discussion: Peter Cohen, co-director of the Council of Community Housing Organizations; Mary Howe, executive director of the Homeless Youth Alliance; and Dean Preston, from Affordable Divisadero.

 

The panel provided context on both the housing challenges in our neighborhood and how the development process works. Cohen explained that one key principle is whether the site is developed for 100% affordable housing or whether the city tries to also include market-rate units. San Francisco code requires the city to ensure that when it sells city property the resulting development is 100% affordable. However, it’s unusual for the city to specifically buy new property for development and we don’t know how the 100% affordable provision would apply in this case.

Assuming the city does stick to a 100% affordable development it may still be designed very differently depending on which groups it is primarily intended to serve: young people, the formerly homeless, low-income families, single people, seniors, disabled people and so on. Once the target populations have been selected, the project will be guided by MOHCD’s perceived requirements for those groups. The city will seek bids from affordable housing developers to take on the design and construction, and these might include both San Francisco-based non-profit developers and companies from outside the city. All have experience in developing affordable housing projects, but their willingness to seek and respond to the views of community may vary.

Preston emphasized that the Affordable Divisadero coalition had discovered strong support among local residents for policies and projects aimed at increasing the availability of affordable housing. 500 people attended Affordable Divisadero’s organizing and planning meetings and there was considerable consensus on the community’s core goals around anti-displacement, affordability and livability. While many SF residents are facing housing challenges, Preston counseled that this does not have to imply that advocates for each group must compete with the others.

The unique site location, where Haight Street meets Golden Gate Park, will guide some aspects of the development. Most likely, the site will include some non-residential uses on the ground floor. Open questions include whether these are retail stores or spaces for community organizations, and how any commercial rental income would be used. The project is also adjacent to two sites on the National Register of Historic Places, Golden Gate Park and the Stanyan Park Hotel, and the design will need to consider the impact on the park and the hotel building.

The site is currently zoned 50-X by the city, which implies a 50-foot maximum height. However, the planning code includes many routes for developers to get exception to zone limits, and the city has hinted that it may also be looking at a 65-foot option for the site. Present at the meeting was a PR person for the construction industry advocacy group SFHAC who tried to sound out support for building a 10- or 12-story tower. This seemed universally unpopular among neighbors at the meeting. Cohen from CCHO pointed out a clear downside to building above a certain height: city codes require that taller buildings be built from steel or concrete (rather than wood), and the higher costs mean the resulting units are very unlikely to be affordable in any normal sense.

The Haight-Ashbury has many unmet housing and community needs, but one of the starkest is the neighborhood’s long history of young homeless people. Mary Howe from the Homeless Youth Alliance explained various ways that developing the McDonald’s site might address those needs, including a more permanent base for health and social services for homeless youth and affordable housing for young people trying to get off the streets.

HYA’s roots in harm reduction for vulnerable young people on the streets of the Haight-Ashbury date back more than 15 years. The group is largely run by formerly homeless people, and serves 13,000 at-risk youth annually, providing drop-in services, harm reduction education, and medical and mental health services. In 2013, HYA lost its lease for its drop-in center and since then it has been operating entirely on the streets. There’s a clear need for a permanent base for HYA and similar organizations to provide healthcare and services to the many young homeless people in the Haight-Ashbury, and space for these organizations could be incorporated in plans for the 730 Stanyan Street site.

The meeting also discussed interim uses, as there will be a period of two or three years between site acquisition and the start of construction. One possibility is some form of navigation center to take in homeless people and connect them to public benefits, health services, shelter and longer-term housing. There has been much discussion about our neighborhood’s need for these services since the city opened the first navigation center in the Mission in 2015. But Howe cautioned that the navigation center vision has been compromised, primarily by the lack of longer-term housing for people to move into.

Community discussion of these issues is at an early stage and HANC will likely return to this in future meetings. We are also putting together a working group of members and other stakeholders interested in the future of the McDonald’s site project. If you are interested in joining, please email This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

 

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