SF planning body approves accommodation at former Castro restaurant site


The San Francisco Planning Commission unanimously approved the proposed redevelopment plan for the Church Street site of the former Sparky’s Diner. This is the first major housing proposal to move forward in the upper corridor of Market Street in the city’s LGBTQ neighborhood in five years.

Landowner Ty Bash first revealed plans to demolish the brick building that for years housed the 24-hour, LGBTQ-friendly restaurant two years ago, as the Bay Area Reporter reported for the first time. Sparky’s had operated at 242 Church Street and closed in February 2016, while Thorough Bread and Pastry at 248 Church Street remained open.

Originally slated to be a 22-unit development, Bash is taking advantage of a state’s density program for new housing projects to add two additional units in the new building to be constructed at 240-250 Church Street. Its 1,992 square foot ground floor retail space will be reserved for the use of the French bakery, which will also have dedicated access to the backyard for outdoor seating when the business backs down.

Designed by Schaub Ly Architects Inc., the accommodation will be a mix of 18 two-bedroom units and six one-bedroom units. Three of the units, one one-bedroom and two two-bedroom units, will be sold as affordable and priced at 80% of the region’s median income. All residential units will have access to a shared rooftop terrace, and while there is no vehicle parking provided, the project will have 30 bicycle parking spaces for residential and commercial components, according to plans.

Principal architect Jeremy Schaub told commissioners that “240 Church is a great place for city life without the need for private vehicle transportation.”

As a result of the decision to now include the required affordable units on the site, the project is entitled to a 24.5% density premium, or approximately 4,997 gross square feet, for residential uses. The project required a height exemption for the seven-story building, which is expected to be 74 feet, 11 inches tall.

After a November hearing was postponed, the planning commission voted 7-0 on December 2 to support the recommendation of planning staff to approve the project.

“While I would have liked to see a stronger transition to the corner building of Church and Market, I support the building,†said commission vice-chair Kathrin Moore.

The only person who opposed the project during the hearing was Stephen Torres, the secretary of the Castro LGBTQ Cultural District Advisory Board. Since the location is within the confines of the neighborhood, Torres criticized Bash for not meeting with the group regarding the housing development. He said district leaders were “disappointed” to hear about it for the first time in a Bay Area Reporter article last month and not from Bash himself.

“For decades, Sparky’s Diner has played a vital role in the queer community,” Torres noted, adding, “Alas, the same would not be true for the proposed development.”

He criticized the project for being primarily market-priced housing that would do little to help current LGBTQ residents in Castro afford to live in the neighborhood. Torres asked the planning body to delay voting on the project until the developer has met with the Cultural Quarter and other LGBTQ community groups.

Schaub noted that the development team had met with the Duboce Triangle Neighborhood Association and the Castro Merchants Association in addition to residents neighboring the project site over the past two years for feedback.

“Sparky’s Diner closed five years ago, long before this project was considered, so I don’t know how relevant that is,†Schaub said.

At the request of the planning committee, which added it as a condition of approval for the project, the development team said they would meet with the LGBTQ cultural district to discuss possibilities to add artwork reflecting the neighborhood and find ways to provide meeting space. for the community in the new building. But Bash stressed that his top priority was to ensure that the bakery ended up with a suitable space where his business could flourish.

“We don’t want to interfere with their opportunity to run a business,†he said.

Other developments
The upper Market Street corridor has seen a number of mixed-use developments with above-ground retail housing constructed over the past decade. The most recent will be the 44-unit condo project at 2238 Market Street by the Prado Group Inc.

It paved the way in July 2019 and is repurposing a former mortuary and its parking lot into housing and storefronts facing the sidewalks, with five of the condominium units to be sold as affordable. Originally completed in early 2021, the homes are now expected to start selling towards the end of the year.

Construction on the Prado project began around the time the apartment building at the corner of Market, Church and 14th Street began renting out its 60 units, eight of which were set aside as affordable. The decision of local entrepreneur Brian Spiers to initially use San Francisco-based startup Sonder to oversee market-priced furnished apartment rentals sparked controversy. (Last summer, during the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, Sonder sued Spiers to end their deal earlier.)

Several other redevelopment proposals on that same block of Market Street have languished in recent years. The former Open Bible Church at 2135 Market Street, which adjoins its Bash backyard development on Church Street, has long been sought after for accommodation, as has the former Lucky 13 straight dive bar across the street. street at 2140 Market Street.

Plans submitted to the Planning Department before the pandemic called for the two sites to use the state’s density bonus law to build at least 30 units on the church site and 90 units on the bar site. But the two housing plans had faced opposition from the neighborhood due to the height of the buildings and the limited number of units below the market rate.

Developer Kent Mirkhani retained Macy Architecture to design the buildings at both sites. The project at 2135 Market Street would set aside three of its 30 units as affordable. Revised plans for the building were submitted to the planning department in January, and Mirkhani and her architects have met with community groups in recent months to seek their support.

In May, plans for the Lucky 13 site were submitted to the city, which requested a new 70-unit brick building, 10 of which would be below market rate, as the pro-housing group SF noted at the time. Yimby. CONNECT: https://sfyimby.com/2021/05/permits-filed-for-2134-2140-market-street-the-castro-san-francisco.html

It is not known when either of Mirkhani’s projects will be submitted to the planning commission.

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