As we noted when the Mission District parking lot parcel on the southeast corner of South Van Ness Avenue and 15th Street traded hands for $4.995 million at the end of last year:

“…while plans for the 7,100-square-foot parcel have yet to be submitted to Planning, the 401 South Van Ness Avenue site, which sits across the street from the newish 40-unit building at 1501/1515 15th Street, is principally zoned for development up to 58 feet in height, not including any density bonuses.”

And with that in mind, bonus plans for an 86-foot-tall building to rise on the corner parcel have been drawn, with eight above ground stories and two basement levels as well.

As envisioned, the development would yield over 200 beds of mostly market-rate housing, including 154 micro units and “sleeping units” outfitted with another 65 beds. From the project team:

The proposed group housing project is a modern-day version of the affordable SRO hotels that were populated by San Francisco’s working-class, transient laborers and immigrants during the last century. The same dynamics that attracted the working class to these SRO hotels 100 years ago are at play with the current development.

The project will have a variety of living arrangements providing varying degrees of affordability to its residents. The upstairs bedroom suites will most [closely] resemble a traditional studio apartment and will contain a convertible Murphy bed, full bathroom, compact fridge, sink, and microwave. These bedroom suites surround a common community room on each level.

In the basement and sub-basement levels, there will be private sleeping rooms and bunk room arrangements where residents [will] share cooking, hygiene, and leisure spaces.

As designed by Prime Design for Elsey Partners, which is the same group behind the proposed micro-unit development to rise across the street, the building would be topped with a rooftop terrace for residents, along with 3,000 square feet of “resident-centric commercial services” on the ground floor, leveraging California’s Density Bonus law to yield the height and density as envisioned.

We’ll keep you posted and plugged-in.

Comments from “Plugged-In” Readers

  1. Posted by Mike

    This seems to fill a glaring need in sf. I lived in a tiny studio on Russian hill a long time ago and for that period it was great and sufficient for what I needed. This will be the same for a lookout of young people.

    • Posted by Jimbo

      Very needed development in that area. So close to transit and small condos fulfill a big unmet need

  2. Posted by Brutalism's cool

    So we have this: “The proposed group housing project is a modern-day version of the affordable SRO hotels that were populated by San Francisco’s working-class, transient laborers and immigrants during the last century.”

    And we also have this: the housing will be “market-rate.”

    Huh. Wonder why that seems so off and contradictory?

    • Posted by JWS

      It’s not inherently contradictory.

      In many (most, in fact) cities in America, “market rate” IS affordable. Market rate simply means the going price for the unit on the market, and not subsidized (what we really mean when we say “affordable”). Given the spartan nature of the design and the windowless sleeping areas, my guess at what they are trying to convey is that the market rate for this will be substantially more affordable than a studio apartment.

      With that being said, I’ve seen “modern SRO” units for rent that are going for $1,500-$2,000 so…we’ll see about “affordable”.

      • Posted by caitlin manning

        market rate in SF, “affordable?” To whom?

    • Posted by Mark

      I don’t see what’s contradictory. SRO units are the least expensive form of non-subsidized rental housing. Their defining characteristics are single rooms with a bed, chair, and sometimes a small desk with shared kitchen, toilets or bathrooms.

    • Posted by Curious

      Is it contradictory? I would guess that you are just not used to seeing unsubsidized housing that is built to rent for a comparatively low price because it is usually prohibited by zoning and building codes.

  3. Posted by MDG399

    SRO – ICK

    Just those three letters send shudders up and down my spine

    why not just build a slum

    • Posted by Curious

      OMG! Poor people! The horror!

    • Posted by Invented

      “ICK” ? “Shudder”?

      You are one of the out of touch new breed here. Get out of your SUV and take a walk around to see where you live. Your neighbors are not ‘human trash’. (To quote another ‘contributor” on this site.)

      • Posted by Big D

        Your presumptuous response (which is clearly aimed at provoking) is just as pretentious—as though an ignorant comment can only come from some sort of elite, who drives around in a luxurious, fortress-like SUV with the goal of avoiding contact with ‘regular people’. SMH.

        But yea, I agree that there’s a clear misunderstanding about what SROs are, who they’re for, and how they could actually help.

      • Posted by MDG399

        your presumptions of what I think, my motivations for my comment, who I am and what I drive is astounding…. Poor people…Ick…? I said “SRO’s…ICK”… And as a lifelong resident of SF ….. I’ll decide what I should & shouldn’t like in MY CITY …. Housing for the poor, the middle-class, yeah … 100% … oversized Closets…. ICK

        • Posted by Fishchum

          Nice attempt at backpedaling there. I’d suggest that you be a little more clearer if you’re going to denigrate something, but I get the feeling you’re having too much fun acting indignant when someone responds to your *checks notes* three lines of comments.

    • Posted by BernalDweller

      MDG, you are completely out of touch. When I first moved to SF I lived in an SRO, on the edge of Pac Heights. I had a room with a sink and the bathroom was down the hall and shared by the entire floor. My one window looked out on…a brick wall. It had ugly green shag carpeting. I hated it. But for six months, it allowed me to get settled in SF without coming up with first/last/deposit. Without that SRO, I couldn’t have moved to SF.

      • Posted by MDG399

        See above…..

        I’ll say this… A significant part of our housing problem here is the incredible ineptness/corruption of the Planning Dept and the politicization of virtually every project. Watching the Board of Supes horse trading building approvals with each other is a travesty that adds years to the approval process.

        Let the Planning Dept plan and enforce the laws and the codes and get the Supes out of the process.

        Completely corrupt and they all know it….

        Petty turf wars and turf protection. Nothing more.

  4. Posted by ToadJohnwhick

    Six figure techie barrios are our future

    • Posted by Brian M

      Nah. Most of the techie work can be automated or off-shored to places like Bangalore and Romania and Vietnam. This is a very temporary situation.

      • Posted by Anonymous

        It’s very strange that you believe such blatant and demonstrable nonsense.

  5. Posted by UnlivableCity

    Anybody read the Adam Gopnik piece in the New Yorker? He spoke about (among many things) how utterly drab and me-too these cookie cutter computer rendered buildings are. Case in point. Literally the same as buildings in suburban Waco Tx.

    • Posted by Hunter

      That’s how you cut costs. Never in U.S. history was housing for the low-income residents *not* the simplest, most basic cookie-cutter design (if that—ever seen a true slum where homes are made from found materials?). Today, zoning/building restrictions/taxes mean that this type of building is often barely affordable to the middle class depending on where you’re developing it. Advocate for loosening residential zoning laws and decreased fees if you want apartment buildings with more unique charm.

    • Posted by RejTejón

      I agree. They seem to be building this sort of building everywhere, and while it’s better than some of the crap put up in the 60’s and 70’s, it’s still awfully generic. I will say as someone who has walked past there many times, that it’s a lot better than the trash-filled hole that’s there currently.

    • Posted by Jack

      Could you dig up a link or an issue date? I’d love to read it and looked for it but couldn’t find the piece you are referring to.

    • Posted by Jack

      I’d love to read it, which issue was it in?

  6. Posted by Marina Boy

    WOW…there needs to be some sort of compromise and this does not seem to be the answer. I know everyone can not live in giant 5k sq + plus homes but this is not sustainable and too small of space for people to live and prosper. Studio units should be the minimum size this is not college. People need their own space.

    • Posted by Mark

      How are you an authority on how much space other people need? Do people not ‘live and prosper’ in college dorm rooms or shared apartments? Should we not let more people move to SF and participate in one of the best economies in the world because you feel their home is too small? Are you just trolling?

    • Posted by Anonymous

      It’s not up to you to dictate how much space people want or need for a living situation. Part of the problem is that zoning and other codes severely restrict our ability to build a wider variety of types of housing. SROs aren’t for everyone or even a large percentage of people, but there is absolutely zero reason to disallow them.

    • Posted by jimbo

      shouldnt people be able to choose their own size? there will be a market for this. there is a significant market in other major world class cities for these size units

  7. Posted by not sure why this is all caps

    “In the basement and sub-basement levels, there will be private sleeping rooms and bunk room arrangements where residents [will] share cooking, hygiene, and leisure spaces.”

    How are they going to get sunlight into the subbasement???

    • Posted by Kyle S.

      I’m surprised subterranean dwellings are even legal in San Francisco for fire code reasons.

  8. Posted by curmudgeon

    I’m confused about subterranean sleeping cells. I’m all for SRO’s, and all for affordability, but don’t bedrooms require windows according to the zoning code?

  9. Posted by Karl

    The proposed design has (65) “sleeping cubicles” within 2 basement levels.
    This aspect of the “design” is in violation of the SF Building Code.
    Good luck with that.

  10. Posted by kbbl

    I hate this less than the boxy bay window affectation adored by the Planning Commission.

    More often than not the real dinger is when the siding ages poorly, leaving what looks like a leaking husk in 5-10 years. Can’t discern that from the rendering.

    Presumably Waco has no need for SROs, but perhaps what Gopnik wants are affordable gargoyles.

  11. Posted by anti-affordable

    And they will still cost $2,000 a month.

  12. Posted by Scott Parsons

    Since there is no closet, you can just park your shopping cart in the corner.

  13. Posted by curmudgeon

    I’m confused about the housing in the basement and sub-basement. Aren’t windows required for bedrooms in the zoning code? I’m all for affordable housing and SRO’s, but I’m not sure I’d go so far as to permit subterranean living.

    • Posted by not sure why this is all caps

      Apparently we are all confused! Three comments on this issue, and no one has an answer.

    • Posted by SFMichael

      Perhaps they think that if they call them “sleeping cubicles” rather than bedrooms that those rules won’t apply.

      Good luck with that.

    • Posted by observant neighbor

      Beats living in a tent or a tuff shed, doesn’t it? We need to let the market provide housing options that are better than a tent but don’t cost as much as a studio or even a new, “above ground” SRO room. So long as it’s safe from fire and seismic dangers, build it!

  14. Posted by Herb

    How does one keep even a semi neat room without a closet?

  15. Posted by jack

    There was a long period in my twenties where I would have happily lived in a place like this. Kind of a continuation of college dorm life, with the built-in social life and common spaces that I instead got by renting rooms in big victorians.

    For 200 sleepers, you’d need probably two or three full time staff running the place I guess? A manager and a couple of cleaners? I guess the builders are envisioning building and operating this giant residential hotel, instead of flipping it to new owners?

    At say 1500/month for the mini units and 1000/month for the beds, you’d gross 300k/month on rents. At 2000 for the rooms and 1250 for the beds, you’d get closer to 400k. I wonder what the market in SF would bear for this kind of housing?

    • Posted by anon2.5

      My guess is pretty large market. A lot of the “luxury” apartments in SOMA are “flexed,” where the living room in a 2 bdr apartment is converted into a third room using a removable divider, effectively allowing three roommates to share a two-bdr. Assuming $4000+ rent per month for an apartment like that, it roughly works out to around $1300-$1500 per person.

  16. Posted by anon.2.5

    Also check out Starcity, which manages several dorm style buildings in the Bay Area.

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recent Articles