3355 Geary Site

While the redevelopment of the Mel’s Drive-In on Geary Boulevard has yet to be approved or permitted, the necessary Environmental Review for the project, a precursor to its approval, is underway and appears to be nearing completion.

As proposed, the diner will be razed and a four-story building designed by Ian Birchall and Associates, with 23 residential units over ground floor retail along Geary and Beaumont, and parking for 33 cars, will rise across the Inner Richmond District parcel at 3355 Geary.

3355 Geary Rendering

55 thoughts on “Redevelopment Of Mel’s Drive-In Moving Forward”
  1. Wonder how long before the “too many parking spots” comments.

    Looks like a decent building, though. Nothing to rave about, but nothing too ghastly.

    1. Nothing to rave about. In fact, it’s the default design for buildings all over the city.
      Not too modern. Not too old-fashioned. Not too individual. Not too ugly. Yawn.

    1. I don’t know the current status, but there had been previous discussion of making planned commercial space on the ground floor available to Mel’s following construction.

          1. Geary is a dump. 3rd-rate restaurants and mattress stores and auto body shops. For *the* major east-west arterial in the northern half of San Francisco, that’s a pitiful joke, and Geary desperately needs revitalization.

          2. It’s a traffic sewer, much like Lombard.

            The “vital” parts of the Geary corridor are 1-3 blocks away from Geary itself. This isn’t uncommon in other areas of the city, not sure why Geary should be different.

        1. Eh, there’s nothing that says a subway revitalizes anything in the Bay Area. In fact, one could argue that a subway makes the street above them worse. See: Market St., Mission St., Broadway in Oakland.

          1. Yes, an open trench for 10 years (cut and cover) does make the stuff above worse. That did kill Market Street. However today we do have TBMs which, while not perfect, allow tunneling beneath the street without such a disruption.

            We do badly need subsurface transportation in this city no matter how much SFMTA sticks their fingers in their ears. Frankly anything underground would help, even an expressway with only a couple exits, but ideally a subway of course would be the same solution. It’s just ridiculous that it takes an hour to get from one side of such a tiny city, to the other. More if you rely on the insanely stupid 38 bus route, which has a stop at nearly every block. There is an “L” route of course but frankly the 38 buses and drivers should be diverted into service of the 38L to alleviate crowding and too-infrequent service.

    1. Looks fine to me for Geary. Just a nice basic building for average people. I just wish we could approve stuff like this very quickly

  2. Great, I think we need a lot more development in SF like this replacing underdeveloped land with architecturally insignificant single story structures with higher density mixed use. There isn’t a lot of undeveloped land in this city but there is a lot of underdeveloped sites like this all over.

  3. The fellow in [this link] has the right idea. A basic plan like this should be pre-approved and we should build it over and over all over the Bay Area and in SF neighborhoods like this.

    1. Nice. You read a lot of crap online lately about how SF should be building more high-rises, but I think 5 stories is perfect for a city our size. I live right near Mission St. in the Mission District, and it’s silly how many buildings are just over 1 story tall.

      1. I tend to agree. I think high rises are fine in certain areas too. I just think we need to have a much more transparent process

      2. SF should be building more highrises, at least when it comes to downtown and the neighborhoods surrounding it, and at least partially along busy transit corridors like Geary and Van Ness (especially if/when transit gets improved). And this building is ok, but it would be better if it were say, 8 stories. More housing is needed, and if w build enough it also means not quite as insane housing prices, and less gentrification pushing existing middle class, working class and impoverished residents out of existing buildings…which the majority of people living here and moving here would appreciate, seeing as we’re mostly not wealthy here in SF (contrary to stereotypes), and have in large part lost the ability to move anywhere new within our own city due to this decades-long housing shortage pushing prices sky-high.

        5 stories is nice too. But i’d call it under-building if there’s too much of it. How exactly is 5 stories “perfect for a city our size?” You mean for one of the biggest cities in America? Highrises are perfect for SF too, and have been getting built here since the 1800s.

        1. I believe it has been shown that high rise neighborhoods are not as dense in terms of residents as you might think and often not as much as blocks of smaller buildings. A lot of factors go into this (like who buys high rise apartments for one thing) but blocks of 5 story buildings without excessive parking can be pretty dense

          1. Agreed. And as I note below, the economics of high-rise construction don’t actually result in a housing product which satisfies local demand and just winds up pulling in demand from well outside the local market, including overseas. And thus does not make nearly the impact on easing the housing crisis as the high-rise advocates profess. I’ve found in these discussions that the high-rise advocates don’t actually know that much about construction, construction fire-rating types, construction costs, how the different product types function from an operating cost, how they age over time differently (which plays into the longer term ‘natural affordability’ of older buildings), etc.

            Its often just young urban planners or, frankly, amateurs like SFBARF, who have never actually built or developed multifamily real estate. They see 20 stories and think that’s more dense than 6 stories, so its automatically better. When the reality is far more nuanced and dependent on actual technical and professional level knowledge and experience in the field.

            Our city’s affordability crisis will not be met by building lots of high-rise towers in the CBD. Vancouver tried that model (high rises in the CBD, don’t upzone the residential outer areas) and now they can’t figure out why Vancouver has among the highest average housing costs in North America. They keep putting up high rise condos hoping doing the same thing over again will yield different results.

            Our city’s affordability crisis WILL be met in part by building LOTS of 5- and 6-story wood-frame buildings in existing low-rise zones. Or to frame it in a more visual manner, Parisian levels of density. (Attached, townhome style development can also help, but most of the residential neighborhoods are already at that level of density so there isn’t much fruit to pick from the tree in that regard.) The young techies will be able to afford that product type, and it will pull them away from pushing into the more working class rental stock, which for many of these folks is a “second best” option, but is the only option they have because we refuse to build new housing for them.

            Over time, these wood-frame, stucco & Hardi clad buildings will age far less gracefully than the high-rises and become more naturally affordable over time. I personally oppose those who expect every building to be of “high quality”, with “high quality finishes”, etc. I WANT those wood-frame buildings to get a little dumpy over time. I DON’T want them fancy. I want them basic. Basic is easier to get built, basic is cheaper to construct, and basic will wear out faster. I want lots of mass-produced, cookie-cutter product. THAT is what is needed to address our housing crisis.

            Its not sexy, its not fancy. But its what works because thats how the MATH works.

        2. 1. this is NOT one of the biggest cities in America.
          2. more housing and more height does not magically lower housing costs.
          3. moving anywhere “new” in The City means you have to afford it. Pretty simple.

          I get your frustration, assuming you are a renter. But your broad generalizations seem pretty much off the mark.

          1. What? The Bay Area is the 5th largest CSA in the US. Are you concentrating on silly lines drawn on a map rather than actual metro populations?

      3. Yup. It’s been said here before – central Paris, central London residential districts, Greenwich Village in NYC, etc – all famously desirable neighborhoods, and all tend to be 5 to 7 stories.

        But, a consistent 5 to 7 stories – not a 5-story surrounding by 1- and 2-stories; and also not a mix of 1- and 2-stories with the occassional 15-story to average out to 5.

        1. Yes, true: Paris is generally consistent 5-7 stories, but remember: Those were almost all built at the same time, not over 100 years.

          We are “inconsistent” in that sense, only because many of our 1-2 story buildings were built 80-100 years ago. The consistency of 4-6 stories here will eventually catch up, as older buildings are torn down and newer ones are built.

          People here seem to forget exactly why are street edges are inconsistent. that will slowly change.

          1. Don’t tease my Haussmann fantasies. Put a redevelopment czar in place for just 24 months, we could work wonders on this tarnished Bauble by the Bay.

          2. Paris was built all at the same time? LOL. Some of the Haussmann areas, sure, but there’s a reason that most of Paris still has medieval street layouts, because those areas existed before the Haussmann plan, and surprise! The buildings also existed. Paris was built over a 1000 years, making our complaints of 100 years seem pathetic.

          3. Wow, you really need to get better at picking your fights. Paris was virtually rebuilt by Haussmann in the 19th century, and his work is a classic and key element of any urban planning curriculum.

            The presences of continued quasi-medieval street grids in *some* of the pockets between the boulevards doesn’t change the fact that 95% of what most people picture when they think of “Paris” are the boulevards, etoiles, places and landmark buildings created by Haussmann. And to the original topic of this comment thread, *the* reason that all those mansard-roofed 6 and 7-story buildings along the boulevards all look the same is because they were built at that same time, as part of Haussmann’s scheme. As such, it’s perfectly legitimate to say that without Haussmann, Paris as we know it today would not exist.

          4. Um, you need to read up a bit more on what Haussmann did. His plan obviously dealt with the famous boulevards of Paris, but the MAJORITY of the buildings in Paris were built prior to that and not rebuilt during that time.

            If we’re just talking about the boulevards, then sure, most of those were rebuilt in a short timespan after wholesale demolition took place. However, there are huge swaths of Paris built at 5-7 stories that were completely untouched by Houssmann and date centuries before that.

            My point is that it isn’t like Paris was some 1-2 story city until Haussman came along, demolished it, and rebuilt it at 5-7 stories.

          1. How so? What aspect of 5 to 7 stories above-ground prevents the use of parking underground?

          2. Entry/exit spaces for the cars. It works ok for large blocks, but not so much for smaller buildings (like non-Haussmann areas of Paris).

          3. Not to mention that it’s underappreciated just how much road space is required for all those cars. That’s space that can’t be used for housing, etc. Compare SF and Paris on those terms– and then consider that we already have constant complaints about not having enough of it.

      4. Nobody is saying build high rises everywhere, and on the same token, building 5 stories everywhere is just as silly. On mass transit routes, high rises should be the norm. On outlying neighborhoods and suburbs, 5 stories mixed use is a great use of land.

        1. 5 stories is plenty to support high-quality mass transit. In fact, it would never work without it. The Richmond has a daily mass transit ridership of over 100,000 today.

    2. Not sure how financeable that proposal is, but I think he is right on the money [about] the 5-6 stories. I complain/rant to every housing wonk I know (I’m in RE development) that the City’s focus on CBD high rises is a consequence of planning cowardice and isn’t going to solve the City’s housing crisis. Planning can’t get density approved in the outer neighborhoods, so the focus on getting high rises approved in existing high rise areas or in quasi-industiral/commercial parts of town where the residential population is small or not going to object to high rises.

      But Type I construction is expensive, and more so once you push past 9 stories. It serves a truly luxury level consumer – including absentee investors in the case of high-rise condos, which does nothing to accommodate local demand and thus ease price pressures. And rents / sales prices for high rise product tends to stay at an elevated level for much longer over the life of the building than a typical wood-frame multifamily. And the high-rise product is not a substitution good in terms of if its not built, buyers/renters will go into working-class neighborhoods and rent a shabby unit in a run-down Victorian.

      Type V at 5 to 6 stories where the focus should be. The $/SF to build are significantly lower, it tends to get more “naturally affordable” over time, and it serves a fatter part of the market. And it meets a segment of the marketplace that in the absence of that kind of product, is much more likely to seek a substitution good in the former of existing rental stock in the neighborhoods.

      1. Don’t know about financing but I think one important aspect of this idea is to essentially per-approve a design which should reduce carrying costs quite a bit. I would also prefer a design that had different unit sizes but the main point to me is a set design that a developer knows is favored

      2. 100% agree. Dues in hi-rises tend to be much higher as well so even if there are “affordable” units included, it doesn’t really help if you’re paying $800-1200 a month to the HOA

        1. High rises are also not the preference of more families (and others for that matter). Although many would want a SFH a large apartment with a shared outdoor space works for many more people I believe

          1. But isn’t there some contraction in saying that these dense building add supply, so buyers have more options, are less desirable and yet still drive up prices?

            The absentee investor theory might explain this, but are downtown towers really filled with absentee investors? And even if they are, what’s the issue? You’d have all these absentee’s paying large property taxes (and effectively development fees via the purchase price), yet these absentees would consume no city services or add to the transit load?

          2. Zig – times and preferences are changing. Not all families want a SFH anymore.

            I have a family and live in an high rise apartment. I have a great view since most of SF is low rise. It is like living in the clouds. Our child loves our view and living in an apartment. We do have a shared patio and some other shared spaces to play in. Though most days we are outside in the great SF parks, enjoying the sunshine. If we had a SFH, I’m sure we would be spending more time on upkeep and less time outside in parks.

  4. that is too much parking for being a major transit corridor. PS this building is only 4 stories, not 5. A wide street like Geary can certainly accommodate a couple more stories. Increase the number of units and the amount of parking will be fine in my opinion – roughly 1:1 or a bit less.

  5. I wish they’d step the materials up on these sort of projects. The stone tiles at streetlevel + siding + aluminum look is getting pretty tired.

    1. You’re forgetting about construction budget. You’re also forgetting about durability at street level. Two significant factors that determine what will be specified.

      What materials would you suggest?

  6. Given that this is located in the Inner Richmond district, it should have a good mix of two and three bedrooms for families. If the interior design (ie. good use of space, bright, lots of space-saving built-ins) is done nicely, these units should move quickly as an alternative to a single family home. Kaiser Hospital, St. Mary’s, and UCSF Mount Zion are not too far away.

  7. As before this is an add-it-to-the-list under-built building. Out of scale and irresponsible for a wide boulevard as Geary. If Planning weren’t stuck in 1980, they’d insist on 6 levels with a setback of two additional. Nothing that tall — modest density. For the fear-of-height crowd, nothing scary. Bonus floors for public parking within the building. As for design, is that plywood and stucco and plastic windows?

  8. Perhaps we should emulate the Paris plan with seven stories above a commercial floor along major roads

  9. Normally I’m against another friggin condo building that looks identical to all the other friggin condo buildings, but in this case, I’m happy for anything that isn’t dead in the heart of the Mission or Castro. Let some other neighborhoods accept the construction of units for foreign investors for a change.

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