Planning Commission hears a case of industrial displacement — and a remarkable request to turn housing into legal hotel rooms By Tim Redmond
JANUARY 4, 2016 – The Board of Supes doesn’t start meeting until Jan. 12, but the Planning Commission is back in action this week with two cases that reflect the dramatic changes happening in the city.
One is the conversion of a motorcycle DIY repair shop to luxury apartments in Potrero Hill – a move that probably meets all the legal requirements but that reflects badly on how the city is addressing the loss of industrial space.
The other is a proposal to turn a three-unit Nob Hill building into a legal hotel – after it’s been rented, according to the city, as short-term (and thus illegal) units for years. The owner of the building says she won’t rent to long-term tenants because she thinks the city’s rent-control laws are too onerous and wants permission to do what she has been doing anyway – but housing advocates say that the proliferation of these hotel conversions are eating away at the local rental housing stock.
The Planning Department staff has recommended that the application be denied and that the owner, who has been warned repeatedly about unpermitted short-term rentals, be told to follow the law.
If the application is approved, it could pave the way for hundreds of other landlords to seek to turn their properties into hotel rooms.
Moto Guild is a cool business, the kind of shop that ought to have a place in San Francisco. It’s a small operation in 6,000-square-foot warehouse that allows motorcycle owners a friendly and helpful place to store, fix, and learn about their machines.
I am a believer in the Robert Pirsig philosophy of technology – people ought to be able to understand how the equipment that they use in their lives actually works. That’s especially important for motorcycles, which are inherently dangerous and require a connection between rider and bike that includes a comprehension of what might be going wrong when something sounds funny or wiggles or flashes.
At Moto Guild, you can take a class that teaches you how to change a tire – or how to strip and overhaul your engine. You can work on your bike with their tools for $15 an hour, or leave the broken “project” in the shop for as long as you need for $175 a month (way less than the cost of a garage.)
The place caters to locals, of course – people don’t go long distances to work on their bikes. And now it’s going to have to move to the East Bay.
And now a developer is seeking a permit to demolish the building, on DeHaro St. near the Anchor Steam brewery, and construct a 40-foot-tall building with 17 units, 15 of them two-bedrooms and the others one-bedroom. There will be no affordable housing onsite; instead, the developer will pay the statutory fees to support low-cost housing someplace else.
The owners of Moto Guild didn’t respond to my request for comment on the project. I am told they knew when they signed their lease three years ago that they might be displaced for housing at any time. They are moving to operation to Berkeley, where they will need a new customer base: Nobody drives across the bridge for this kind of neighborhood-based service.
The zoning allows for housing. The laws allow a building owner to evict an industrial tenant, demo the place, and build condos or apartments. But isn’t this the kind of place we ought to want to save in San Francisco? Isn’t the ongoing loss of industrial space (there was nowhere else in the city for Moto Guild to go) something the Planning Commission ought to think about?
Maybe not: This item is on the “consent calendar.” It can be approved along with a bunch of other items that are considered “routine,” with no discussion or debate.
Just another little piece of San Francisco, tossed out of town because it’s disposable. Happy New Year.
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