455 Fell Site

The plans for a six-story Hayes Valley building with 108 below-market-rate apartments to rise up to 50-feet in height at 455 Fell Street, upon San Francisco’s Central Freeway Parcel O which also served as the northern half of the former Hayes Valley Farm, between Octavia and Laguna, are moving forward.

455 Fell Design: Hickory Street Facade

As proposed by Mercy Housing and sponsored by the Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development, the 108 apartments on the site will range in size from one to three bedrooms and be made available to low and very-low income families earning up to 60 percent of the Area Median Income (AMI), which currently equates to no more than $55,000 a year.

The proposed project also includes a mid-block community garden and passage between Hickory and Fell, a publicly accessible ground floor courtyard and 1,200 square feet of retail space at the corner of Laguna and Fell.

455 Fell Street Design

As designed, the development includes a storage room for bikes but no garage for autos.

And while the new building will cast a shadow on the nearby Patricia’s Green, the 0.07% increase in annual square-foot-hours of shade on the southern tip of the park is slated to be deemed as insignificant by the City’s Recreation and Park Commission this week.

455 Fell Street Shadow

Adopted by voters in 1989, San Francisco’s Sunlight Ordinance (Proposition K) prohibits new buildings from significantly or adversely increasing shadows on public parks, the significance of which has been challenged in the past.

Mercy is currently planning to break ground in 2017 and open 455 Fell’s doors in early 2019, assuming no delays in securing all necessary approvals and funding for the development.

Comments from Plugged-In Readers

  1. Posted by seriously

    So glad to see this getting filled out! At one point I thought I read that this was going to be housing for former felons? Is that true, or am I confusing projects?

  2. Posted by EBS

    I mean, that’s great, because all those low-income people are gonna love being able to walk downstairs and shop for $1,000 jackets and $500 dollar bags. Maybe even go grab a quick $60 meal at Absinthe and some $15 cocktails. Low-income people love doing that kind of stuff everyday. Great place to house them, really.

    • Posted by cfb

      Yeah that area sure is 110% full of wealthy people and fancy boutiques, and nothing else. Exactly right! In fact It’s preposterous to believe that non-wealthy people could ever live in that neighborhood, or anywhere in SF. How dare we build housing for them. Those rent controlled units throughout that area (hayes valley/the fillmore/western addition/lower haight) and elsewhere in the city, and the housing projects a few blocks away from that site, and the many businesses around that cater to those non-wealthy people who make up a majority of SF’s residents…nah, they don’t actually exist, just like that non-wealthy majority doesn’t actually exist. (that’s all sarcasm if you’re confused)

    • Posted by The Milkshake of Despair

      Or maybe they will be employed to sell those above luxury items?

    • Posted by Bobby Mucho

      I can assume by your response that you’re unfamiliar with the concept of mixed income neighborhoods?

      • Posted by EBS

        First, my unfiltered response: F that $hit! I grew up dirt poor. So poor my mother, three siblings and I shared one bedroom (not an apartment, one bedroom within an apartment) with one inflatable mattress for years. All in some POS neighborhood that nearly drove me insane. I hated it so much I swore I would never end up in a situation like that on my own as an adult. I was the first person in my family to go to college let alone graduate school. You think I worked my entire life to get away from that just to have the hood placed right back next to me? Hell no!

        Finally, my filtered response: People with limited incomes prefer to live in neighborhoods where they have access to basic life resources. Safety, along with food they can afford, clothing they can afford, and shelter they can afford are always the priority. The further they are from these types of basic resources, the more time they need to find between the likely multiple jobs they are holding, just to live.

        • Posted by Amewsed

          Good for your aspirations! I am sure your family is very proud of you. This reminds me of being an English tutor at Cal for struggling students who were admitted based on affirmative action. Their skills were so lacking there was no way they could keep up with the course load. As expected, these struggles spilled over into their personal lives in the form of social isolation and diminished self-esteem. Most of them dropped out of college as a result.

          • Posted by EBS

            First: Aspirations? I mean, I’m no English tutor, but don’t you mean achievements?

            Second: Why are we talking about affirmative action

            Third: Are you implying that low-income households should not go to college because they will likely fail?

        • Posted by Brian M

          Living in exclusively poor neighborhoods does not meet the very objectives you claim are important, including safety and access to supermarkets (Google “Food Desert”) This neighborhood is in the middle of a major city. How bad is the access to clothing, jobs (also available in nearby neighborhoods and the central core).

          Every point you make is contradicted by the location and amenities available at this site. And you badly mischaracterize the neighborhood, which is (still) full of less wealthy residents to the west and north. Or are you claiming the Western Addition, Hayes Valley (projects are mere blocks to the west) and Lower Haight are exclusively wealthy neighborhoods?

        • Posted by Miah

          Sorry, EBS, what you have said is just straight up silly. We all have made comments like these. This is just your time for the dumb comment. Hayes is a terrific place to place some low-income housing, and to add to a mixed-income hood.

          • Posted by curmudgeon

            Miah, first of all thanks for the gracious un-flame. And yes, I completely agree with you and what many others have said. A low/moderate income person living here has close access to affordable food (12 minutes walk to Safeway), affordable stores (big box retail like target, marshalls, etc is two muni stops away, Costco also close by), TONS of jobs in retail and services,etc, and near perfect transit access. EBS’s argument totally does’t hold water, especially compared to locations like Bayview/Hunters Point.

          • Posted by SFian

            I’m not low income and I’d love to live in Hayes Valley. I’m sure we can find 108 families that share in my excitement for that neighborhood.

            That being said I am somewhat concerned about how these apts will be managed and who they’ll let live there. The low income housing north of this location is crime ridden and negatively impacts its surroundings.

    • Posted by Sutro_Tower

      Speaking as a long-time resident of Hayes Valley this is in fact an ideal location for affordable housing. A dense, walkable community well served by transit and close to job centers.

      When we as a neighborhood succeeded after multiple ballot propositions to get the Central Freeway torn down and then subsequently, the Market & Octavia Plan approved we had a vision for housing across different economic levels.

      Of the 22 parcels that were freed up for development along the former freeway right of way, 7 were earmarked for affordable housing, the site in question being one of them. We look forward to our new neighbors in this great infill development. Your concern is noted and appreciated however!

    • Posted by san FronziScheme

      They also can get their coffee fix up the street, well, whenever the new Boulangerie is reopened, or across the street in the other coffee shop

    • Posted by Elitist Pig

      Good call. Is there a complete dump in the middle of nowhere next to a McDonald’s or a 99c Store where we can house these people? Somewhere more suited to people with low-incomes, or next to a homeless shelter.

    • Posted by Dixon Hill

      If this was a market rate project, the comments here would be along the lines of “Great news! build higher!!”.

      The Poors have such audacity to believe they can occupy the same city as us deserving folk.

      • Posted by EBS

        No. No it would not. Have you seen the way people react to new (dense) development here?

      • Posted by frog

        See EBS’s comment above. Yes, there does seem to be something inherently unfair about placing a subsidized development in a highly desirable area. I want many things that I can’t have and no one thinks I deserve them. In other words, your argument is crap.

        Your argument should be something about how mixed income communities decrease traffic for everyone and benefit society as a whole. In other words, the only way to argue for this kind of development is that it benefits the city as a whole or it benefits other people local to it.

        What poor people deserve is physical safety, a fair income if they work hard, a social safety net if something bad happens, and basic health care. They don’t deserve to live exactly where I’d want to live.

        • Posted by Amewsed

          It is the false notion of Champagne dreams on a beer budget. Come over to SF because lunches are always free and you get to fly First Class on your economy fare.

        • Posted by Brian M

          There is always a freeway underpass. That is where the poors deserve to live, dontcha know?

          • Posted by frog

            You missed what I said, entirely.

            If you reread, you will see that my views are exceptionally liberal, with safety nets and all. I even think there’s an argument to be made for mixed income development. But it’s not that the poor deserve to live somewhere really nice.

    • Posted by skyscraperluvr

      This hood was middle and working class long before the yuppie stormtroopers.

      • Posted by skyscraperluvr

        Pardon the Star Wars pun. I have been pumped with so much Star Wars marketing for the past month that I can now speak fluent Ewok.

      • Posted by frog

        I grew up near farmland in Pennsylvania. Now it’s condos everywhere and a lot of very rich farmers. My mom grew up in the Bronx back when it was Jewish. Then her neighborhood became black. Now it’s Pakistani.

        The world changes.

        • Posted by two beers

          “The world changes,” therefore all change is good?

          What a simplistic view.

    • Posted by condoshopper

      with the subsidized, discounted housing they receive, they are more likely to be able to have spare money for the aforementioned luxuries than their neighbors who pay their full share.

    • Posted by Rick H

      Well said!

  3. Posted by The Milkshake of Despair

    Nice to see the parks commission recognize a 0.07% increase in shade as insignificant.

    • Posted by Fishchum

      Yeah, I noticed that as well. Maybe the “Friends of Rincon Park” could take notice as well.

  4. Posted by MukDutch

    How many of these parcel remain?

    • Posted by Sutro_Tower

      11 parcels remain, B, D, E, K, L, M, N, R, S, T, U. 12 if you include the site (Parcel O) in question. Of these, some already have developments plans in place and are at various stages in the approval process.

    • Posted by AK

      There are still a few larger parking lots from the off ramps of the northern terminus of the freeway around McAllister and Golden Gate, and all of the narrow plots along Octavia with the exception of the first block (on which 8 Octavia was built).

      • Posted by Orland

        Those skinny parcels east of Octavia are scheduled for some very interesting residential developments which will hopefully be breaking ground in the coming New Year.

  5. Posted by haighter

    Who’s paying for this? Is it paid for by developer in-lieu fees?

  6. Posted by Sue Yu

    So, we’ll now have and extra +/-400 new neighbors with ZERO PARKING!?
    Are they planning to walk to work at Twitter, or getting free passes for Muni?
    Seems like far too many people and one small green that seats about 25 people max.

    • Posted by moto mayhem

      im sure only 100 or so of them will have cars circling to park

    • Posted by EBS

      How exactly is Twitter related to this post? I know that’s the standard BS everyone throws out for other developments, but seems like a bit of stretch when talking about low-income housing

      • Posted by Sue Yu

        I’m referring to jobs! This is a short walk to Market St where there are now lots of jobs, for people with set skills. No issues w/ Twitter here (although I’ve never used it) – but not sure how all these people will be getting to work, dropping off their kids, getting groceries will be parking.

        If a development has NO PARKING (!), any applicants who have a car WHILE LIVING THERE should be banned.

        • Posted by anon

          Not a fan of free markets, eh?

          • Posted by two beers

            I’m not defending Sue Yu, but you’re just uttering cliche propaganda. There is no such thing as a “free market.” All markets have rules, and markets are set up to benefit those who set the rules.

  7. Posted by soccermom

    I thought this place was called Avalon Hayes Valley.

    Oh wait….

    • Posted by Amewsed

      The retail spaces at the Avalon HV are still vacant. That is troubling with all the other vacant spaces, a concrete sign that the demand is not there.

      • Posted by Orland

        So very true. Even the corner space at Linea on Market surprisingly remains vacant. I would have thought such a prime location would be snatched up before construction was completed. Seems to be the pattern of most of the new developments including even along Valencia.

        • Posted by curmudgeon

          I’ve read that part of the problem with retail in these spaces is that it’s not really very central to the developer’s profits. They seem to make half-hearted efforts to design it for real retail needs (although the City seems to have been getting better at insisting on higher ceiling heights) and market it. The Valencia stuff does seem to be filling up. Not surprised about Linea….not a great retail area to begin with and an ugly building to boot. Seems a poster child for how the design neglected the needs of retailers.

          • Posted by Orland

            And yet some truly magnificent spaces along 4th Street continue to languish in Mission Bay

          • Posted by curmudgeon

            I think Mission Bay’s a different issue….still not a huge population density, and it’s not yet quite built out along 4th so it’s a little early to say. However, I’m not so sure the Redevelopment agency designed 4th Street so well for retail as they thought they did.

            For one thing, the sidewalks are not generous, so it’s not easy to get the café seating or other street activities that you’d really want on a retail street. And the buildings have done little to help. They’re mostly built flush to the the (insufficient) sidewalk…a few indentations could have created some more outdoor café opportunities. And despite being branded a retail street, there’s still a suprising amount of unactivated space that appear to be devoted to building entrances or circulation.

            Still, it’s hard to completely judge yet…maybe it’ll turn out decently. God knows Mission Bay needs some retail SOMEWHERE.

          • Posted by Orland

            I would have also liked to see more balconies fronting the street in the upper residential units lending “life” to the scene.

      • Posted by Orland

        This BMR development looks far better than Avalon (disaster!) in these renderings.

        I actually still greatly rue that this block was not set aside for development as a formal park incorporating the mature vegetation which was a hold-over from the decades as freeway landscaping. Could have been a jewel of a neighborhood.

  8. Posted by JRSF

    Hopefully since they’re contributing 0 spaces to the neighborhood they will qualify for 0 S sticker neighborhood permits. Between the Avalon and the development at the UC extension, what little available street parking there was in the lower Haight is effectively gone forever.

    • Posted by EcceMorons

      Which doesn’t mean that any current residents who need a car will give them up. I’ll be the guy double-parked on Fell, unloading my groceries, while cars behind me have to stop and all lay on their horns (makes for lovely living in the nearby homes), and then when I get back in my car to look for parking, I’ll be driving at 10 MPH, while more cars behind me honk – and then after 20 times around the block I’ll see a spot – on the other side of the street, and then bolt across all lanes to stop (with a car right on my tail), wait for him to back up (might take awhile), so I can park.

      • Posted by The Milkshake of Despair

        … or you could skip the traffic drama and have your groceries delivered.

        • Posted by Sue Yu

          Right, so they can park in the driveways of all the people on Fell St, and they can hear honking ALL day long!? It’s already terrible now with people blocking driveways and double parking on Fell St (i.e. delivery people) this will lead to even more honking.

          • Posted by The Milkshake of Despair

            And delivery vehicles are a new problem? I thought that this issue is decades old. Maybe even a century old.

          • Posted by EcceMorons

            True, it’s been an ongoing problem – which is why your suggestion above of adding more delivery vehicles isn’t such a good one. 🙂

          • Posted by The Milkshake of Despair

            I guess I don’t see how adding one more delivery vehicle servicing dozens of customers is worse than dozens of customers using dozens of cars for the same purpose.

        • Posted by EcceMorons

          Sorry, Milkshake, but I have to be 10 different places each day, all over the city. Need…car…to…get…to…each…place…on…time….

          That’s just how life works for some people.

          • Posted by The Milkshake of Despair

            Funny, I have similar requirements yet somehow am able to cope without needing 10 parking spaces.

          • Posted by EcceMorons

            Millkshake – yeah, but can you cope without having a car? Didn’t think so. This is why building 100 units and not including parking, into a neighborhood where street parking is already scarce, is a bad idea – unless it’s mitigated, by, as someone suggested, not allowing the subsidized below-market rate tenants of this project to get a neighborhood parking permit. This will still allow new subsidized tenants, but they’ll tend to be ones who don’t own a car, or need to own a car.

          • Posted by Brian M

            Might I suggest San Ramon or San Mateo. Cities completely designed for autosexual lifestyles. I hear there are even ginormous big box stores with hundreds and hundreds of parking spaces in this promised land. And three car garages filled with used clothing, skateboards, and the misses’ craft projects.

          • Posted by frog

            Brian M,

            Autosexual? Is that sex with a car or masturbation?

            See, that’s where bike people screw things up… I bike 200 days a year, but I have a car. And it’s not because I like to have sex with it. A car is a normal part of being an adult. Much like… ok, I’m on a tangent here. But the point is that an urban lifestyle and owning a car are not opposites. Telling people they are sexualizing their cars? That just makes you sound arrogant.

          • Posted by Again&Again

            @Brian M, the cities growing the most in population have the lifestyle you dismiss. I prefer to think forward instead of pretending it’s 1890. The expansion in population in the Bay Area for decades was everywhere BUT San Francisco. With safe self driving electric cars already here, pretending that a bike and some hipster facial hair can get me from 94123 to my office in Marin County or job sites throughout the Bay Area is pure luddite silliness. Technology is only getting better and trying to turn the clock back 100 years will not work.

          • Posted by busrider

            @ Again&Again It seems that we’re just a few years away from self-driving cars that can be parked far away from where their owners reside. And car share, which has significantly grown in just the past five years or so, will likely adapt with the advent of self-driving cars. A lack of problem may very soon become much less of an issue than it has been these past few decades.

          • Posted by frog


            I agree that self driving cars are amazing. But realistically we still have a decade or more to get to a point where they are accepted. There is a problem in this city (and others) where personal transportation keeps trending to the lowest common denominator. Zipcar used to have nice cars and they’d boot people who messed up the cars out of the program. Now, Zipcars are mostly very small and frequently are incredibly unclean. (This was a nightmare when there were no other SUVs and I was very allergic to the beast of a dog that had been in my rental before me. Or the time that a salad had exploded in the car earlier in the day.) Likewise, even within the city, you can’t have a nice bike because it will be stolen and there’s no where enclosed to park it at most destinations. As for muni, I want to like it, but the T smells horrible and often has 3 people listening to different songs loudly on their cell phone speakers. And we are eliminating all parking.

            My point is that until self driving cars arrive, we are creating a city with no way for upper middle class people to transport themselves in a slightly nice way. And when we get self driving cars, they will be crapped up by the same people who crap up zipcars.

          • Posted by Futurist

            Agree with you completely. The car haters will never understand the need for (some) parking to be included on site with all new developments. They live in a complete fantasy world wanting us to live just like them, without a choice.

            The lack of new parking for this large development will only make the neighborhood more congested, with more people fighting for fewer spaces. Terrible planning decision.

          • Posted by BobN

            instead of pretending it’s 1890

            Well, at least in 1890, they had the sense to build a huge horse/carriage barn to serve this neighborhood.

  9. Posted by GhostWriter

    6 stories in 50′??? Can it be? I get there is some slope on the lot… I wonder what the floor to ceiling heights are as proposed.

  10. Posted by EcceMorons

    Whose palms does one have to grease to get a killer deal on one of these units? I’m sure there are 100 applicants for each unit. How are the lucky lottery winners chosen?

  11. Posted by Aaron Goodman

    Nicely scaled and designed with a mix of units.
    Only need is for some info on color and materials, % of affordable units, and mix of units proposed.

    Fell Street will be tough retail sell, but there could be maybe some small manufacturing and efforts to create some local jobs on the ground floor for the area, including spots for the people living in the building and neighborhood.

    Looks otherwise like a great project for the site and area, to provide some local “affordability” to the hayes valley area.

  12. Posted by alberto rossi

    It seems pretty clear that developers don’t want to bother with retail. They only build it when the city requires. Even then the city only requires that it hide the ground floor parking and not that the spaces actually be usable as retail. Thus you get these long shallow spaces rather than the deep narrow spaces that are found on SF’s successful retail corridors and which make for an interesting pedestrian streetscape.

    • Posted by two beers

      Yes, wide storefronts kill neighborhoods, but they’re good for formula retail and developer profit. Developers should be required to provide more but narrower retail spaces, which would help entice more small businesses.

      Wide storefronts clad in granite and one-way glass.are conducive to medical offices, seasonal H&R Blocks, and a Walgreens on every corner, but they make for very ugly and sterile neighborhoods

  13. Posted by Jim

    RE: EcceMorons question. There are in fact thousands of applicants for every unit.

    The process is managed by the very professional Mayor’s Office of Housing, is very tightly controlled, and very public. The developers utilize a third party company to manage their side of the process. Every indication I have ever had is that the process is squeaky clean.

    While there are always dishonest people in the world, so many people from so many independent entities are watching this process it would be very difficult to cook the results.

  14. Posted by Conifer

    Have you noticed that housing for poor people does not include parking? The assumption is that you should take public transportation, that if you want and can afford a car you are not deserving of subsidized housing. In order to take advantage of the largess of the left, you have to buy into their view of how you should travel.

    As I have said before, the ultimate victims of leftist policies are the people they claim they are trying to represent. But they really represent themselves, and in this city they most want to keep their neighborhoods (Telegraph Hill) exactly as they are.

    • Posted by The Milkshake of Despair

      I recommend that you check out public housing projects in other less dense bay area cities. They include plenty of parking.

      The issue here isn’t whether the occupants are poor or not, it is the density of the neighborhood and access to transit.

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