Plans to level the Phoenix Irish Bar & Gathering House at 811 Valencia Street and build six stories of single-room occupancy (SRO) units on the Inner Mission site have been in the works since mid-2108, as we revealed at the time.

While the project was close to being approved, with demolition and building permits having been requested and nearly issued, the owner of the adjacent, three-story building at 805 Valencia Street challenged the project via a requested Discretionary Review (DR), noting concerns about the loss of light to the building’s lightwell and resultant impact on the health the building’s tenants.

From Planning, which is recommending that the DR be denied by San Francisco’s Planning Commission next week and that the project – which is now slated to yield 18 SRO units, averaging around 270 square feet apiece, over a 537 square foot commercial space and a storage room for 19 bikes – be approved as newly rendered below:

“The Planning Department’s review of this proposal confirmed [its] support for this Code-complying project. The proposed project reciprocates with the adjacent building’s lightwell with a lightwell in a manner consistent with the Department’s guidelines. It is worth noting that in cases where the dimensions of a light well are such…that they are generally considered to be self -sustaining – designed large enough to provide light regardless of adjacent conditions – that no matching is required. The DR requestor’s light well is such an example.”

And yes, the proposed development now sports Bay Windows as well (versus as originally envisioned).

Comments from Plugged-In Readers

  1. Posted by Panhandle Pro

    This is great! Death to single story retail.

    On another note, I know we’re moving away from cash as a way to get things done (cash bail etc), but there has to be some deterrent to these frivolous DR’s. Or, ideally, DR’s need to be reviewed within one month of submission so they don’t turn into a delay tactic.

    • Posted by density

      Agreed. We should actually just prohibit DRs. Most major cities don’t allow it. Waste of time for the Planning Dept staff, Planning Commission, and project sponsors. Just allows people to shake down potential projects and further delays the ability to build anything in this city.

      Also contributes to the general zero-sum mentality that plagues the idea of making any physical changes to SF. If we removed DR, maybe more groups would focus on approving more projects in general (therein building more affordable units in the aggregate) rather than negotiating the affordable %’s on each project right to the line of feasibility (such that if market conditions change, as they always do, projects become endlessly delayed/cancelled).

    • Posted by Ken m

      It’s actually not that great of a project. 547 square feet for ground floor retail? Come on

  2. Posted by Brahma (incensed renter)

    The basic problem, Panhandle Pro, is that almost all developers, flippers, real estate agents and other hangers-on in the real estate “game” think that any DR is a frivolous DR. San Francisco should certainly not get rid of them or allow the definition of “frivolous” to become “anything that gets in the way of someone hell-bent in making money in real estate to do so”.

    Yes, some discretionary reviews don’t meet the spirit of what they were intended for, but they offer residents a last-ditch to restrain developers that intentionally run roughshod over current residents.

    Other major cities might not allow discretionary reviews, but in the absence of an actual real-world list of such cities, I would say that those other hypothetical cities don’t quite have the same situation as S.F., where hundreds of people arrive here from elsewhere with dollar signs in their eyes, every year, to make money exploiting the high-incomes of people who want to work here and ready, willing and able to violate the law and planning rules in order to get their way.

    If it were not for bad actors in the so-called “developer community” there would be no need for discretionary reviews. We have them for a reason.

    • Posted by Kyle S.

      Seattle is one city that does not have an equivalent to SF’s Discretionary Review. Projects are put to the Design Review Board, but individuals cannot challenge their findings. Washington has construction by-right, and Design Review approval grants the applicant the right to construct the project as approved.

      This led to an explosion of unglamorous “four-packs” in the late 2000s, which will certainly not win any design awards but were otherwise code-compliant and therefore could not be stopped.

      • Posted by Scott F

        I’ll take unglamorous housing over unaffordable housing any day. It’s always the declassé housing types that “explode” that end up being the most affordable segment of the market, viz. dingbats in LA or Richmond Specials here.

        • Posted by tyler

          you say that but you live in a place with plenty of nice buildings… come to Indiana where that isn’t the case.

    • Posted by Ohlone Californio

      That’s because they are. They put too much power in the hands of untrained and invested partisans.

  3. Posted by Scott F

    Why does the rendering say Phoenix? Are they inviting the bar to reopen in the ground floor commercial space?

    • Posted by Juan Doe

      The bar owner is the developer

      • Posted by Ken m

        So is the bar slated for the ground floor retail space?

        • Posted by SocketSite

          Per the plans, which don’t include a commercial kitchen and only 537 square feet of total commercial space, including 158 square feet of space on the second floor, it’s unlikley.

          • Posted by Ken m

            Well that’s a disappointment. That size retail space isn’t going to have a lot of takers. Yet another mixed use bldg with ground floor sitting empty.

            Density’s great, but it should not at the expense of community serving retail.

        • Posted by y

          that really should be the default “ground floor retail”.

          on the other hand… I don’t know anymore about paying a 100% service charge.

    • Posted by y

      oh if only

  4. Posted by Mike D

    The original design looks much better.

  5. Posted by Aaron Goodman

    Too bland and no understanding of classical principles of architecture. If your going to play with pop outs and material changes than put in some elements that make it read stronger. Water table sills and proper proportion. The design looks like a quick draw up vs a serious elevation study. Back to the drawing boards. Too many of these infill projects lack any real inventiveness and are bland beyond belief.

  6. Posted by Clyde Benke

    Great. Will blend in with all the bland1970’s bay window buildings that infest the city. Not exactly cutting edge or good design !

  7. Posted by y

    Is this the demise of the Harvard Final Club?

    Please say yes.

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