Massive mixed-use development near Ocean Beach back on track 

click to enlarge Roberts at the Beach Motel on Sloat Boulevard will soon be demolished to make way for a $30 million mixed-use project. - MIKE KOOZMIN/THE S.F. EXAMINER
  • Mike Koozmin/The S.F. Examiner
  • Roberts at the Beach Motel on Sloat Boulevard will soon be demolished to make way for a $30 million mixed-use project.

A decade of planning may finally lead to shovels in the ground for a new mixed-use project in the Outer Sunset.

And in two rare twists for San Francisco development, the multibuilding project met with very little opposition and will include below-market-rate units on site.

San Francisco has awarded permits to construct the buildings on an entire block near Ocean Beach. Developer Fergus O'Sullivan of Sloat-Parkside Properties said he is poised to demolish three commercial buildings, including the recently shuttered Roberts at the Beach Motel, on Sloat Boulevard between 46th and 47th avenues, early this summer to make way for a five-story building and others, with construction planned to begin Sept. 1.

The estimated $30 million project will include 56 residential units above nonformula retail and restaurant space on the ground floor. Underground, a garage is expected to provide one parking space per unit and another 56 for commercial use, according to Planning Department documents.

Tim Colen, executive director of the Housing Action Coalition, said some neighbors complained about the project being too big and out of character for the neighborhood, but his group holds the opposite view, calling it "an excellent usage of the land."

Colen said the housing coalition has supported the development from the start, though its members were uncomfortable with the number of parking spaces made available to residents who would live around the corner from the terminus of the L-Taraval Muni line.

Before The City approved a conditional-use permit for the developer, the public submitted 17 complaints in opposition to the project compared to 46 letters or phone calls of approval, according to Planning Department documents. Primary concerns were that the five-story structure would not fit in with the neighborhood's two-story buildings, and street parking in the area was not sufficient for so many new residents.

click to enlarge This rendering shows the planned development on Sloat Boulevard between 46th and 47th avenues. - COURTESY SLOAT-PARKSIDE PROPERTIES
  • Courtesy Sloat-Parkside Properties
  • This rendering shows the planned development on Sloat Boulevard between 46th and 47th avenues.

O'Sullivan and others with Sloat-Parkside were tight-lipped about other details of the project, but Planning Department documents show that the 56 housing units will be for sale and seven will be offered at below market rate. That's a rarity for recent developments in San Francisco, as developers often opt to pay into The City's housing trust fund in lieu of building below-market-rate units on site. If done on site, San Francisco requires a minimum of 12 percent of units to be below market.

Amid a yearslong housing crisis that has seen rents increase to the highest in the nation — the median asking price for a one-bedroom in San Francisco reached $3,460 in February, according to real estate website Zumper — and longtime residents being displaced, Colen said any new housing is good even if it is not going to solve the affordability problem overnight.

The Planning Department first approved a conditional-use permit for the project in 2008. But when the developer failed to break ground within three years as approved in the permit, The City issued a three-year extension in 2012 to file for construction before Feb. 9.

The project sped up in December when the Department of Building Inspection permitted the planned construction of the buildings and demolition of longtime occupants Aqua Surf Shop, John's Ocean Beach Cafe and Roberts at the Beach Motel, which have all since closed. Aqua relocated to Judah Street and 44th Avenue, while the cafe and hotel went out of business.

Tony Batshon, whose father, John, owned John's Ocean Beach Cafe since 1979, said the developers struggled with the project through the Great Recession years, particularly 2008. The property was foreclosed and the developers declared bankruptcy to hold on for another year, Batshon said.

Sometime last summer, Batshon said, developer and attorney Tony Ye joined O'Sullivan and Kieran O'Carroll as a partner in Sloat-Parkside, pulling the company out of bankruptcy courts and moving ahead with the project. Ye's name appears on city building permits.

"They gave us about a good five-, six-month notice," Batshon said of the cafe's impending closure. "It was very hard, we have a huge following, really good reviews on Yelp."

But Batshon said his family still supported the project since the developers offered them a space in the new facility. Planning Department documents show the Aqua Surf Shop was also offered a spot, although it already found a new home.

The same cannot be said for Roberts at the Beach Motel, which closed after more than 50 years in business.

"Right now, the old block doesn't look very good," Batshon said. "So anything will look better than this."

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