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Another housing denial: Concerns over apartment size kill 57 units on parking lot

A Google Street View of empty lot at 1010 Mission St. in San Francisco, Calif. A housing project was halted in this parking lot.

San Francisco is back at it with housing denials, this time killing 57 units planned for a 15-spot parking lot in the city’s South of Market district.

A conditional use authorization for the 1010 Mission St. project was denied at the Planning Commission last week in response to concerns from local community groups, who argued that the units were too small and that too few of them, at 13, would be considered “affordable” with even fewer set aside for the lowest-income people in the city.  

Just five members of the Planning Commission were present on Thursday to vote on the 1010 Mission project, with none of their motions getting enough votes to pass, leaving the project dead in the water.

“I believe the opposition of this project is really representative to what seems to be a trend of market-rate micro-unit housing being proposed in dense neighborhoods like SOMA,” said Commissioner Gabriella Ruiz, who voted against the project’s zoning approval. 

PJ Eugenio, an employment counselor from the South of Market Community Action Network, was one in a deluge of speakers who attended Thursday’s meeting to oppose the project. He and others argued that SOMA already has too many single-room occupancy units that aren’t affordable, saying it’s “out of touch with the community.”

“We do not need more tiny expensive units,” Eugenio said. “We need affordable housing, we need family-size housing. We need housing that fits in this community and meets the needs of the community.”

Other projects have been denied over similar concerns about unit size, including 316 group housing units proposed at 450 O’Farrell St; that proposed development was denied at the full Board of Supervisors last year. 

Those board decisions are an oft-cited deterrent for would-be housing developers in the city, who are increasingly looking to other markets like Oakland and San Jose with fewer hurdles to getting housing built. 

New housing permits in San Francisco plummeted to about half the 10-year average this year as developers grapple with exorbitant costs and a rare market pullback in the city, with rents still below pre-pandemic levels and home prices cooling. 

The drop in new construction comes at an inopportune moment for San Francisco, with city planners tasked with writing a state-mandated plan to allow for 82,000 new housing units between 2023 and 2031.

The state's housing department also launched a first-ever probe of San Francisco's housing decisions, an effort that is backed by Attorney General Rob Bonta and focused on “discretionary decision-making patterns” that lead to delays in new housing.

Correction: The property at 1010 Mission St. is located in the city's South of Market district.