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The planning for 65 Ocean, which will include 25 percent affordable housing, included three years of community outreach.

Planning Commission Denies Appeal, Unanimously Upholds Earlier Approval

By Jacob Bourne, Contributing Writer

At an October 24 hearing, Planning Commissioners denied an appeal of the approval of a residential project at 65 Ocean Avenue in proximity to the Balboa BART station. Presidio Bay Ventures plans to construct 193 dwelling units on a 0.9-acre site that also includes a a childcare facility with 6,013 square feet of classroom space and 2,613 of dedicated private open space, ground floor commercial, both private and shared open space, and below-grade parking. The residences will be a mix of studios, one, two and three bedroom units with a total of 48 below-market rate units. The planning process involved over three years of community outreach.

Offering 25 percent affordable housing, the project exceeds the 18 percent affordable housing requirement of the City’s planning code. “We’re in a dire housing crisis and it’s nowhere more palpable than in District 11,” said Cyrus Sanandaji, Managing Director at Presidio Bay.

193

Number of units planned for 65 Ocean

48

Below-market rate units

500

Estimated number of union construction jobs to be generated

The appeal was brought by People Organizing to Demand Environmental and Economic Rights, an advocacy group, which claimed that the project’s market rate units were out of reach for many residents of Excelsior and Balboa Park and would drive gentrification in a part of the city where rents tend to be lower. Instead they advocated for 100 percent affordable units and a greater number of family units; the plans call for 55 studios, 81 one bedrooms, 35 two bedrooms, and 22 three bedrooms. PODER’s appeal had challenged the Planning Department’s negative declaration finding, which exempted the project from a full environmental review under CEQA.

Commissioners unanimously decided to uphold the project’s approval as gentrification doesn’t qualify as an environmental issue under CEQA, and deemed that the developer offered a competitive community benefits package – including the 48 affordable units. Commissioner Milicent Johnson and others on the body expressed general understanding about gentrification concerns but said that it’s caused by a number of factors, including not enough housing being built, and predates the project by several decades.

In addition to the affordable housing proposed under the City’s Home SF program, the developer is committing to 100 percent union labor for construction, local hiring, 9.6 megawatt hours of rooftop solar power generation, streetscape improvements, public art, ride share and communal bike program. Lobby display boards will provide residents will real-time transit information. Forty-one percent of the total housing units will be two and three bedrooms to suit families. The childcare facility will offer onsite Spanish immersion learning. Another benefit is participation in the City’s Neighborhood Housing Resident Preference program, allowing 40 percent of the units to be reserved for people living within a half-mile of District 11.

“We’re achieving all of this in the form of these community benefits with absolutely no public subsidy,” said Sanandaji. “This is a fully privately funded project, so we’re very proud of being able to push the boundary well beyond the norms of San Francisco’s current development climate.”

Despite the opposition, the project drew support from many in the community who lauded the amount of affordable housing, childcare and open space that will be created. It’s estimated that over 500 union construction jobs will be generated in addition to over 30 long-term jobs in childcare and building maintenance. Several union construction workers attending the hearing to show support for the project.

“The project sponsor reached out to us very early and committed to building this project with union construction workers, pay good middle class wages with healthcare and retirement benefits that allow them to build this project — but more importantly have a chance to live in these units with the onsite below market rate and affordable units that this project’s going to offer,” said Danny Campbell, Sheet Metal Workers Local 104 Business Representative and SFBCTC Officer. “The members that I represent will be able to afford these units.”

Construction groundbreaking is set to commence in June 2020 with an anticipated opening date of June 2022.

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