Built in 1955, plans to double the capacity of the three-story Van Ness Motel turned “Van Ness Inn” have been drafted.

As proposed, the second and third floors of the existing motel’s motor court would effectively be infilled with new rooms, an all-new fourth floor would be added atop the structure, and the entire property would be renovated, increasing the room count from 42 to 87 rooms and transforming the property into a hotel.

From the application, which was drafted last month:

“According to CBRE Hotels, the demand for hotel rooms throughout the Bay area is still not enough despite new hotel openings, and they project a 6% rise in demand for 2020.

San Francisco Travel reports that a total of 26.2 million visitors came to San Francisco in 2019, up 1.4 percent from 2018 and a tenth consecutive year for rise in spending and visitor numbers.”

We’ll keep you posted and plugged-in.

21 thoughts on “Plans to Transform the Van Ness Motel”
  1. After examining the plans and photos of the Project Application, I suggest (at a minimum) that the designer/project sponsor rotate the 3-level “core” of 6 new rooms (18 total) 90 degrees and add a “walkway/bridge” across each lightwell to access the central rooms. That way you can ensure natural light to the central rooms (whereas currently they are devoid of all such light).

    Additionally, along the north side and south side (zero lot line situations) , at least add skylights at newly-proposed (light-locked) Rooms 407 and 413 and Rooms 416 thru 419 (unfortunately existing Rooms 207, 213, 216 thru 219, 307, 313, and 316 thru 319 are going to be increasingly rather dark and sucky.)

    Seems like a lot of expense and bother to produce a rather crappy expansion of 45 rooms.

    Alternatively better play here would be to eliminate parking altogether, convert the existing 18-stalkl carport level into new rooms (+16), construct a 4-level stack of new rooms along the west-side (+16 rooms; slightly set back with entry gardens along Van Ness for enhanced privacy) and a new 4th floor replicating the existing 3rd floor (+21 rooms.)

    Then, transform the central area into an generous, lushy-landscaped central courtyard, providing abundant natural light/ventilation and pleasant views to all the rooms (This would have the added benefit of mitigating the numerous costly fire-life-safety Code issues that the current proposal is going to trigger.)

    Ultimately, this would result in a total of 95 (much nicer/higher quality) rooms — 8 more than the sponsor is currently proposing — and a project that will generate more income and, thereby, be more successful — once people start traveling/vacationing again, that is 😉

    1. Well I certainly like your idea better. Ultimately, though, it’s probably a reasonable project from a financial POV. Quality of rooms probably doesn’t matter all that much, since there will always be people snapping up the cheapest available room. And hotel parking spaces rent for a lot of money.

      1. For a tourist, having a car in SF is getting to be as problematic as have a car in NYC.

        With out a doubt, it comes down to how much one can earn per night for a hotel parking space vs. an hotel room.

        The hotel room will be substantially more profitable than the parking space.

  2. “the demand for hotel rooms throughout the Bay area is still not enough despite new hotel openings, and they project a 6% rise in demand for 2020”

    Best one liner I’ve heard in ages. But in a sad way.

    Anyway, are we to assume the approval of this is somehow contingent on that being (even remotely) true? Tho existing hoteliers probably always like to see supply limited, I doubt the city itself does.

    1. That caught my attention too! Which is it? “the demand for hotel rooms throughout the Bay Area is still not enough”…or…”they project a 6% rise in demand for 2020”

      1. Oh, the statement is internally consistent – increasing demand that supply can never quite keep up with – I just think it’s wildly optimistic: the demand for hotel rooms in SF right now is about what would be normal for Weaverville…well, OK, maybe Ukiah … and it’s hard to see that changing much until people begin travelling for pleasure again; which at a bare minimum means getting restaurants reopened (yeah people can dine in their rooms, but it’s hardly an ideal situation: it’s a quantum leap in cleaning and waste disposal issues)

        1. Oh yeah I see what you mean: guess it’s a typo “supply of hotel rooms isn’t enough”…apparently their grammar isn’t any better than their forecasting.

        2. I assume this proposal was in the works prior to the pandemic. Now? It seems totally unrealistic and a major financial risk. No one knows how long before tourism comes back to anywhere near its pre-pandemic level. As it was, conventions were starting to cancel/move their events to other cities from SF – because of the homeless and the dicey condition of SF streets. Traveling for pleasure will take a while to come back – the whole “experience” will be different for a while. Going to a four-star restaurant where the waitstaff is wearing masks and gloves, you are wearing a mask (except to take a bite) and temperatures are taken as you enter the hotel/restaurant is not appealing. I’d guess this proposal will languish for a number of years before a decision is made to move forward or not.

          1. Have no fear, the Building and (especially) the Planning Departments are quite accomplished in making projects languish for a number of years prior to issuing permits.

            By the time this project goes through innumerable public hearings, neighborhood meetings, all the various public agencies that “review” it (and take their cut), and then the project sponsor actually gets it built, the tourism and hospitality industries will be humming once again — in about 5 to 6 years, that is.

            If not, they’ll have double the number of rooms to rent to the City for homeless housing — with 22 parking spaces for tents, to boot!

      2. I also think that if they wrote this more towards the beginning of March, it wouldn’t have seemed that unreasonable, if at all, at that point. But 5-6 weeks later and it seems like it’s living in an alternate dimension.

    2. Lot of uncertainties now, of course. If the current crisis results in a lot of AirBNB apartments falling back into long-term rentals (as a lot of people are hoping will happen) there may be a sudden shortage of hotel rooms regardless of construction. But who knows.

  3. This has never been architecturally worthy; it is just a suburban hotel in a city. They should knock it down and build a new hotel suitable to the neighborhood, which has many San Francisco houses and apartments.

  4. It’s a 65-year-old “open-air” motel building nearing its useful life end. It wasn’t built to last. Raze it and start over with something more befitting the city and location.

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