Housing Crisis

Developer Holds Meeting for 915 Cayuga Ave

A rendering of the development filed with the Planning Department by SIA Consulting.

Representatives from design firm SIA Consulting and developer SST Investments held a public meeting in Ingleside Police Station’s community room on Nov. 18 to gather feedback about a proposed Cayuga Avenue mixed-use housing development.

Of the proposed five-story building’s 113 units, 14 units will be for low-income residents, 44 units will be for those making 100 to 120 percent of the area median income and the remainder will be market-rate but rent-controlled, with five units dedicated for foster youth and their families.

“This is a legacy project for us,” Baha Hariri of SST  Investments told the crowd of 25. “Profit is not our number one motive. But we still have to make it make sense.”

In October 2016, the project made headlines.

While candidate for supervisor, sitting District 11 Supervisor Ahsha Safai negotiated with City Hall a first of its kind deal to make 51 percent of the project’s units rent-controlled.

Then-supervisor John Avalos issued an Ethics Complaint accusing Safai of performing work as an unregistered lobbyist on behalf of SST. Because Safai said he was not paid, the complaint was sustained.

Both SIA and SST are owned by Siavash Tahbazof, who is a family friend of Safai’s.

A development agreement between SST Investments and the city has been delayed because work on an environmental review has taken longer than expected to complete, according to Office of Economic and Workforce Development spokesperson Gloria Chan.

The Planning Commission must approve the environmental review before a development agreement is considered.

OEWD now estimates a development agreement will be ready for consideration by Fall 2018 instead of Winter 2017 as originally estimated, according to Chan.

Concerns

Because 915 Cayuga Ave. is adjacent to a proposed market-rate, 133-unit development at 65 Ocean Ave., participants expressed concerns about traffic and parking. Many believe the single narrow driveway will not be enough to accommodate all the vehicle traffic and Cayuga Avenue will become gridlocked.

Some questioned why the majority of below market rate units in the 113-unit building would go to households earning a yearly $96,850 or more, or 120 percent of the AMI, corresponding to a monthly rent of $2,768 for a one-bedroom apartment.

If conforming to the city’s new inclusionary housing laws, the mix would include a larger number of lower-income households.

“The Excelsior is having a lot of evictions, and more and more people are looking for affordable housing in this neighborhood,” said Laura Daza, a case manager at the Bill Sorro Housing Program of the Veterans Equity Center.

The program has more than 300 Excelsior households in their caseload — including tenants displaced from the basement of a laundromat at 5 Persia Ave. — who earn less than 60 percent of the AMI, according to Daza.

“If you want to keep people in this neighborhood living in your building, only 14 units is not serving the needs of the community right now,” Daza said.

The emphasis on middle-earner households is meant to assist teachers, bus drivers and others priced out of the city, as well as make the project lucrative enough for developers to complete it.

Some attendees questioned how the development would benefit the neighborhood if priority was not given to local residents.

Suhagey Sandoval, a legislative aide to Safai, said the supervisor’s office is working on ways to legally allow the immediate community preference to the BMR units.

“This is neighborhood is not downtown, so we are not looking to have studios,” said Hariri, showing plans for a mix of studios and two or three-bedroom units. The majority were two bedroom units.

Hariri said there were not yet any public documents guaranteeing the 55 units would be rent controlled, and would conform to current rent control laws, which do not include vacancy control, meaning that, when a master tenant moves out of a rent-controlled unit, landlords can legally raise rents up to market rate.

Under the 1995 Costa-Hawkins housing act, rent control applies only to multi-unit buildings constructed before 1979, and is not subject to vacancy control.

The need for retail spaces was questioned.

“Retail is dead,” said Joelle Kenneally of the San Francisco Outer Mission Merchants and Residents Association, who questioned the need for a large retail space on the building’s ground floor. “We already have a glut of empty storefronts on Mission Street.”

Kenneally and others expressed concern a cannabis dispensary might open in that space, but developers said they would notarize a promise that it would not.

“I’m going to say something that’s probably not going to be that popular in the room,” Avalos, the former supervisor, said of the five story building’s plan to include 1:1 parking.”The one-to-one parking ratio, I think, is going to be really damaging to the neighborhood, which is heavily impacted by traffic […] If we create more opportunities for people to walk, then we’re not going to have this impact on traffic.”

The comment drew negative shouts from the crowd, many of whom were Mission Terrace homeowners.

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