824 Hyde Street Site

While approved by San Francisco’s Planning Commission last month, San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors has sided with a public appeal of the project and unanimously voted to overturn the required conditional use authorization for the proposed 6-story, 30-room hotel to rise over 50 feet in height upon the vacant 824 Hyde Street parcel in Lower Nob Hill.

As we first reported a few months ago, while plans for a 5-story building with 14 apartments had been approved to rise upon the Lower Nob Hill parcel early last year, “after assessing the current and future housing market,” the project team changed directions and decided to build a tourist hotel.

But arguing that the (shorter) apartment building to rise on the former 4-story Chatom Apartments site (which has sat vacant since the Chatom was destroyed by a fire in 2010) was a better fit for the neighborhood than the (taller) hotel, the appeal found its mark with the Board which tied its vote to concerns about setting a precedent for developers to avoid rebuilding housing after a residential fire.

39 thoughts on “Supervisors Overturn Approval of Lower Nob Hill Hotel”
  1. Was the reason (per the developer) for not building residences here a real reflection of their bottom line and the current housing situation or was it an excuse to get something built quickly as would be more likely with a hotel? Time will tell – as in if the developer puts the entitled (for residences) parcel up for sale.

  2. FFS. Someone wants to spend money, on *private* property, to fill in a site that’s sat vacant for 7+ years. There’s a 5-story building on one side, and a 6-story building on the other – apparently, neither of which could be built in today’s planning environment. And this – bay windows and all – is rejected?!

    *sigh* I’m truly giving up on San Francisco.

    1. Incredible, isn’t it? It almost appears as if the city government is not interested in doing what is best for the city.

      1. This is a purely political decision based upon the fact that the previous building on this site contained rent controlled units. Nothing is SF is more sacred than a rent controlled apartment.

        It will be interesting to see what happens when SF is hit with “the big one”. There is no way that owners will be able to rebuild and rent to the former tenants at the same rents. We could see quite a few undeveloped plots without some sort of change in the current political views.

  3. Notice how many small hotels are being proposed on infill sites that were formally slated for housing? This has been the trend since spring 2016 when the Supes signaled they would set a percentage requirement for “below market rate units” that is undoable…especially on smaller sites. 10% of 14 apartments is 2 BMRs. 20-30% of 0 apartments is 0. Duh.

    1. As you’re likely well aware, the increased inclusionary housing requirements didn’t impact this site or proposal.

      In fact, the new affordable housing requirements for projects with fewer than 25 units aren’t slated to go into effect until January 2018, after which the existing 12 percent onsite requirement will increase by 0.5 percent per year to a maximum of 15 percent. But the maximum rent/sale prices for the BMR units will be increased as well.

      Regardless, the development team was planning to pay an in-lieu fee of $673,237 rather than include any below market rate units onsite for the residential building as approved.

  4. Why not acknowledge the benefit of vacant lot? They are much better than a hotel because they reflect “San Francisco values.” Now we will have this lovely open space for another seven years.

  5. Didn’t follow this story at all, but seeing as how S.F. is filling up with greedy out-of-town opportunists, it makes sense to me that the Board doesn’t want to incentivize ethically-challenged people to go around setting older residential buildings on fire so they can turn the property around as a hotel afterwards.

    Conifer’s hypothetical scenario where the property sits as a vacant lot for several years could be addressed by invoking eminent domain and conveying it to a developer that will actually build residential property.

    1. “Conifer’s hypothetical scenario where the property sits as a vacant lot for several years could be addressed by invoking eminent domain and conveying it to a developer that will actually build residential property.”

      Yes comrade, central planning at its finest! Government knows best! What could go wrong?

      1. Nah. Central planning and/or government-centric approach would be to seize the property and transfer it to a public housing agency such as SFHA to develop. What I referred to above would take advantage of the U.S. Supreme court’s ruling back in 2005, Kelo v. City of New London, that allowed cities to transfer property from one owner to a private developer.

        1. Yes, and if it weren’t for Bush v. Gore and Citizens United, that would probably be ranked as one of the most controversial and least-liked decisions of the 21st century. A government actor, taking private property from one person, to give to another person. What’s not to love [fear] about that?

          1. Nothing wrong with that in principle the possibility for which should remain open. It’s all in the execution which should be the subject of strict scrutiny. Your extremist position is self-defeating.

          2. Extremist? Thinking that private landowners should be able to do what they want with their private property (subject to existing, legitimately enacted codes) is “extremist”? Only in San Francisco.

            What’s extremist is the Kelo decision; as a real estate attorney, I’m pretty well placed to say that it was a shock to left and right, and both sides of the political spectrum find fault with it.

          3. Sierrajeff, you may be well placed to say that the Kelo v. City of New London decision was faulty, however you haven’t been keeping up with current events. We essentially voted on this question. Let’s recap, shall we?

            In June 2008, Proposition 99 was on the ballot in California alongside Proposition 98. Proposition 99 prohibited state or local governments from acquiring an owner-occupied residence for the purpose of conveying it to another person, with certain listed exceptions. It didn’t change anything regarding use of eminent domain for commercial properties.

            My layman’s reading of Proposition 98 was that it was stronger than Prop. 99 and would have explicitly disallowed the scenario I described above, in that it outlawed property being taken by eminent domain for private use under any circumstances.

            Your realize where this is going, right? California Proposition 98 was defeated, with 38.4% of voters voting for approval. Proposition 99 won handily, with 62% of voters voting for approval.

            So voters chose to protect private landowners from eminent domain, but only if they were owner-occupiers. Private developers who want to squat on commercial property and leave it vacant because they don’t like the zoning rules wouldn’t be protected.

    2. One would hope that prosecution and imprisonment for arson would be sufficient to dissuade the average would-be real estate developer.

      1. The average person who thinks this way, however, is thinking that, first, the fire has to be suspicious enough to trigger an investigation. Second sufficient proof has to be found to warrant an arrest or an indictment (unlikely). Then an overworked prosecutor has to be willing to take up the case. Then the finder of fact has to be willing to convict a specific individual.

        In short, the average person who thinks this way isn’t thinking they are going to be caught, so they aren’t going to be dissuaded.

        1. Any fire that burns down a building triggers an investigation. And, if an investigation uncovers suspicion of arson and it can be linked to a specific individual, the DA is not too “overworked” to bring charges. Also, as I mentioned in my comment below, an insurance company will always do its own investigation before paying out any claim, and insurance companies haven’t made billions of dollars by paying out lots of phony fire claims, and insurance fraud is a felony that is vigorously prosecuted.

          And, yes, dear, anyone charged with a crime would have a right to a trial, and in the majority of cases that go to trial as opposed to the defendant accepting a plea bargain, the defendant gets convicted.

          It’s one thing to discuss new development and development policy, which is what this site is about, it is another thing to engage in tin-foil hat conspiracy theories. In other words, don’t be crazy.

    3. No one set this building on fire to redevelop the property. Also, you have apparently never dealt with an insurance company. Aside from the usual fire investigation the city would do, which would uncover any arson, the insurance company always throughly investigates any fire before they pay out one cent. Insurance companies haven’t made billions of dollars by paying out claims, they look for any reason not to pay out. Not to mention, arson is a felony, insurance fraud is a felony, and if any gets killed, anyone involved in burning down the building would face murder charges. I know there is some fantasy among the fringe left where they think most landlords are happy to murder their tenants, but it is just tin-foil hat conspiracy theory nonsense. Yes, there are some jerk landlords (and also some very nice ones, too), but no landlord is trying to kill you. And, if you are one of those rare individuals whose life truly mirrors the plot of a thriller, then rest assured no one will bother setting your apartment on fire, they will likely just smother you in your sleep and then melt your body in a bathtub of acid.

      Also, while the city (or state or federal government) can use eminent domain to take private property for any public purpose, the reason you do not see San Francisco snapping up private property throughout the city to build housing is due to the requirement imposed by the Constitution that the property owner receive fair market value for any property taken, and property in San Francisco is extremely expensive. So, the lot will likely sit empty for some years until the owner decides the time is right to cash in.

  6. “S.F. is filling up with greedy out-of-town opportunists”

    Ah, yes, taking lessons from the POTUS, who feels that the USA is filling up with greedy immigrant opportunists. It is fascinating how the extreme left and right always meet on the other side.

    1. SF had been filling up with greedy out-of-town opportunists since 1849. Our entire local real estate market is predicated on last year’s opportunists selling or renting to this year’s opportunists at an inflated price. It’s literally the history of the City. Take that away and there is nothing left but grumpy sea lions and manzinita bushes.

    2. Nice strawman you set up there, Confier. Must have been easy to blow that one down without much huffing and puffing.

  7. Why not build a new residential co-living place (like Common, and other places like that) which seems to be the trend now? Alleviates some of the housing problems and brings in market rate rents.

  8. This is why we need as of right development. This is absurd. No other city has this byzantine and arbitrary of an approval process! It’s private property!

    1. It is strange how often Planning and the Supes contradict each other. I don’t know anything about the politics or communication between those two groups.

      1. And it is a waste of taxpayer dollars to make contradictory rulings and when the rulings get challenged in court and the City loses. Planning has its own agenda and Supes want to keep their jobs and power by playing to the populace.

        I would advise the developers to do a back of envelope calculation and come up with another form of market rate housing either like the co-living space as previously mentioned or something else if this winds its way through court.

        1. ^ This, perhaps, is the most salient and central point. If the City – through the people or the Supes or whatever – decide to impose zoning rules and caps and conditional use requirements, etc. etc., fine … but if Planning then approves a project *taking into account that existing regulatory framework*, that decision by (quasi-)professionals should be allowed to stand – it should be subject to political whims and second-guessing by the grandstanding Supes.

          1. Hmmm… I never thought I’d see it argued at SS that Planning’s decisions be held inviolable under any qualifying circumstances.

          2. I’ve seen all sorts of weird stuff argued here. Clearly part of the democratic process is to criticizing what we believe to be bad decisions.

            Also, this whole area is a hotel district, so while I’m sure the existing hotels don’t want any competition, this is not a good reason to prevent new hotels from coming up. We need more hotels in this city.

          3. “We need more hotels in this city.”

            Truly a first to my recollection, to contrasted with the thousands of exhortations for “MORE Housing!”

          4. But the Planning Commission itself is merely a devolved political entity. The commissioners are political appointees. And because San Francisco has “strong executive mayor” government like New York and Chicago, a majority of commission members serve at the pleasure of the mayor. Their agenda is usually the mayor’s agenda. Which is fine when everyone at city hall is in agreement about the course of development. But it can get extremely acrimonious when the mayor and supervisors are at odds with each other.

  9. Kind of weak reporting here. I’d like to know who the appellant was and the breakdown on the Board’s vote.

    As an aside, is it routine for such appeals to be dispatched so quickly?

    1. Okay, so it took only a rudimentary Google search to answer my questions:

      Seems “neighbors” filed the appeal asserting the new proposal is neither “necessary or desirable” for the location and the Board’s vote was unanimous.

      1. Or as we wrote in our first paragraph above, “San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors has sided with a public appeal of the project and unanimously voted…”

        And “neither necessary or desirable” is stock language to conform with the bases for a qualified appeal.

          1. Yes, as opposed to a named individual or group, (members of the) “public” was our shorthand for those in the area. But by “unanimously” we meant “unanimously.”

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