City rejects micro homes project in Tenderloin

Board of supervisors worry 316-unit development would become "tech dorms"

450 O'Farrell Street, San Francisco, CA (Gensler)
450 O'Farrell Street, San Francisco, CA (Gensler)

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to reject a group home development in Tenderloin.

The board said the tiny residences would become “tech dorms” for transient workers instead of being used as family housing, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. Critics said the area already has multiple hotels and that families with children who have been moving to the area need larger and more permanent homes.

The project, submitted by Fifth Church of Christ, Scientist and Forge Development Partners, called for a 13-story group home development with more than 300 micro units to be built above a new ground-floor church. The building that now stands at 450 O’Farrell Street would have been demolished.

The city’s Planning Commission issued a conditional use authorization in June. But the Tenderloin Housing Clinic appealed the decision, saying the units, which were to be rented for more than $3,000 a month, would be “temporary corporate housing disguised as permanent residences.”

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Opponents said the development would take advantage of a loophole in the city planning code that allows developers to exceed density limits for group housing by building communal kitchens instead of providing them in the individual units.

District 6 Supervisor Matt Haney, who represents the Tenderloin area, said he worked with the planning staff to increase the sizes of the units while maintaining the group housing status. That didn’t prove feasible.

“The vague definition of group housing made that very challenging,” Haney told the Chronicle. “We have come to the conclusion that the conditional use authorization does not meet the needs of the neighborhood.”

District 3 Supervisor Aaron Peskin said the project would add to “a glut of group housing in the Tenderloin and Mid-Market areas” that already has a high turnover rate. Peskin also argued that since the neighborhood has the highest level of food-insecurity in the city, homes without cooking facilities and adequate food storage would cause more harm than good.

[SFChronicle] — Victoria Pruitt