Aralon adds eight floors to controversial SF condo tower 

Developer files for 100% density bonus for Telegraph Hill highrise

Aralon Adds Eight Floors to Controversial SF Condo Tower
Aralon Properties' Tom Murphy; 955 Sansome Street (Linkedin, Getty, Handel Architects)

Despite opposition from neighbors, Aralon Properties’ plan for a condominium tower on Telegraph Hill keeps getting taller. 

The locally based developer led by Tom Murphy has filed revised plans for a 24-story, 132-unit highrise at 955 Sansome Street, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. It would replace a two-story parking garage.

In September, Aralon had submitted revised plans for a 16-story, 102-unit building that would rise 184 feet. 

Aralon bought the property in 2019 for $13 million. Two years later, it filed plans for an eight-story building. Then it proposed a 10-story condominium building that would rise 110 feet.

Neighborhood groups opposed each project as far too tall for the historic district, and for blocking views of San Francisco Bay.

Plans now call for additional height after San Francisco last year cut back density controls in C-2, or community business, zoning districts meant to provide convenience goods and services to residential areas, according to the Chronicle.

The density deregulation was designed to spur developers to convert underused office buildings into housing.

Zoning rules for 955 Sansome limit construction to 85 feet. But Aralon quickly added more stories to its plan by taking advantage of the city’s density bonus program, Home SF, which offers developers extra height in exchange for more affordable units.

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Last fall, the developer added another six stories by employing the State Density Bonus program, which allows a 50 percent density increase in exchange for greater affordability. 

Now a new state law, AB1287, may super-size the 955 Sansome spire. Aralon now proposes 26 affordable units to its ever-larger tower.

In its revised application last week for the 24-story tower, Aralon plans to provide 16 of the proposed 132 units at 80 percent of the Area Median Income, and 10 units at 120 percent, according to the Chronicle.

AB1287, signed into law last year, allows developers to stack density bonuses, which means they can get an additional 50 percent bonus by dedicating more units to middle income families, as long as the requirements of the State Density Bonus law are met. 

The result: Aralon’s project is now poised to receive a 100 percent density bonus on Telegraph Hill. Planning officials they’re reviewing Aralon’s latest application for compliance with state and local laws. 

Telegraph Hill was one of the first neighborhoods in San Francisco to reduce height limits for buildings in a district with warehouses dating back to the Gold Rush.

Residents of the historic neighborhood have long considered “tall” development a threat to its character. Over the years, they’ve killed numerous development projects — though this one may be too big to bury.

— Dana Bartholomew

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