February 5, 2013

Plans For Six Stories And 42 New SRO Units On Folsom Street

1178 Folsom%20Street%20Site.jpg

According to a plugged-in tipster, David Baker + Partners has been quietly working on the designs for a six-story building that could be built at 1174-1178 Folsom Street with fronts on both Folsom and Clementina Streets.

The proposed project would demolish the two 25-foot buildings on the site, merge the two lots, and result in a 65-foot tall building with 42 single-room occupancy (SRO) units on floors three through six with office space on the second floor, ground level retail, and 27 parking spaces in a basement level garage.

As always, we’ll keep you posted and plugged-in.

First Published: February 5, 2013 6:00 PM

Comments from "Plugged In" Readers

Wow ... rents are going to go down finally in SF with all the new units getting built. Could this be the end of three dudes renting a home at $1800/month each and a return to 1-bed and 2-bed living?

Posted by: tom at February 5, 2013 7:10 PM

Does SRO = market rate studio?

If this is more government housing - just say no. Invite other neighborhoods to support these different communities. Amassing social services in SOMA is not a good thing. There is vast housing here for these populations. I support the programs and have seen great examples mixed in to the neighborhoods. Mix it up -- stop clustering social services in one place.

Posted by: Invented at February 5, 2013 9:30 PM

@tom,

Is there any evidence that building new units, or increasing density causes lower rents? I hear that cited so often as a basic truth, or an answer to housing crises. It makes sense in theory, but it just doesn't seem to work that way.

Just look at Manhattan, or Tokyo. or here. Higher density/population just increases land values, and may have lots of positive effects (in terms of a city's culture and power as an economic center). But the magic equilibrium point where supply meets demand... seems like it only happens is the economy collapses or the population flees (like in the mid-20th century)

Am I wrong?

Posted by: tom at February 6, 2013 12:16 AM

I doubt we will ever see decreasing rents barring a major earthquake or dotcom collapse. Increasing the supply of apts would at least take of some of the pressure of increasing rents though. Like the post last week, I think we have hit a "ceiling" on rent increases, at least temporarily, after the rapid increase the last couple years.

SRO=Single Room Occupancy, and they will probably be run by some non-profit group with government assistance.

Posted by: frshmn at February 6, 2013 1:56 AM

Are these SRO units being built to replace units that will be lost elsewhere, as required by city ordinance?

Posted by: Dan at February 6, 2013 7:52 AM

Why are SRO's even allowed? Take a look at the Tenderloin and the Market & 6th Street area to see what effect SRO's have on a neighborhood.

Posted by: Fishchum at February 6, 2013 8:39 AM

How can I protest this development?!?

My unit is around the corner and I do not believe SROs are in anyway positive for this neighborhood.

Posted by: NoSROs at February 6, 2013 9:35 AM

The SRO's, as well as many of the services and NPO's that live off of our city government's massive largess, exist because the Progressive Industrial Complex wants them to exist. The only way to change that would be a pretty radical shift in city government, which is very unlikely.

For me the biggest thing about SRO's is how they're managed. If they're not managed by a well funded group they can really easily become hives of drug distribution and prostitution. That's how you wind up with the problems surrounding the Tenderloin, 6th & Market, 16th & Mission etc. It's not only terrible for the surrounding neighborhood, it's also terrible for the people who are unfortunate enough to live in the SROs themselves.

On the flip side, well managed SRO's can be great- they can be the kind of places that well-meaning progressives dream they can be, where struggling people can find a foothold in a difficult world. The problem is that during boom times SRO's get built out, but then during bust times they're at risk to have their management get defunded, at which point they become problem spots.

I'd much rather see the city take any $$ it has earmarked for SRO development and see it spend that on expanding the management and oversight of existing SRO's.

Posted by: TJ at February 6, 2013 9:36 AM

SROs in SF are usually managed under the "Care not Cash" program. The person housed in SROs gives up much of the monthly welfare check in exchange for a room in a residential hotel. Hotel owners have no choice.

They filled them all up a few years back and everyone was happy, kinda. The issue is that more homeless are minted by the minute, which is why they need to create more SROs.

As long as more people flock in here with no real marketable skills and they are not told to go back to fail in their hometown, we'll have to mitigate the homeless problem.

Posted by: lol at February 6, 2013 9:47 AM

The problem is that during boom times SRO's get built out, but then during bust times they're at risk to have their management get defunded, at which point they become problem spots.

The vast majority of the SROs in the city date from the 20s and 30s. Does that count as the last "boom time"?

Posted by: anon at February 6, 2013 9:48 AM

doesn't single resident occupancy just means that it's a studio without certain amenities? i don't see why socketsite's describing this as an sro means that it's a homeless shelter. there are market sros in sf and it's possible that this is one of them.

Posted by: david m at February 6, 2013 10:09 AM

What anon wrote. The idea that "the problems surrounding the Tenderloin" are due to the presence of SROs is laughable and only could be proposed by someone fairly new to S.F. The SROs have been around forever; the prevalence of "drug distribution and prostitution" have only been problematic since the 1960's.

lol is misinformed. The City spends a lot of money giving people who are homeless and without substantial ties to S.F. bus tickets to other cities, and has been since at least the Newsom administration.

Every other city in California that has reasonable weather also has "a homeless problem"; when the data from the last homeless census is released, it'll be interesting to see if it's even higher in S.F. on a per capita basis than certain cities in Southern California.

San Francisco has decided to not try to turn the homeless in Soylent Green, and it doesn't hurt that Federal and State law pretty much mandates that San Francisco not attempt to do so. The marketplace offers no solutions for those without substantial household incomes. Until either or both of those facts changes, and the Lanterman-Petris-Short Act is repealed, S.F. will have a homeless problem.

Posted by: Brahma (incensed renter) at February 6, 2013 10:18 AM

The proposal is for market rate micro-units, retail, and office. That said, we've designed affordable buildings with similar sized units that serve their social goals well as well as being beneficial to the neighborhood. An example would be Richardson Apartments at Gough and Fulton, where I'm typing this email at the excellent bakery/cafe which is also a training center for formerly homeless. Compassion folks, it's good to respect all people.

Posted by: David Baker at February 6, 2013 10:24 AM

@anon

the majority will always be decades past since once they are built they are around for decades, but TJ is correct that most get built during boom times, as that's when the funding is available, but that's also true for market rate housing as well.

Posted by: lyqwyd at February 6, 2013 10:25 AM

@lyqwyd - my point is that SROs are products of a bygone era, not something that is built in boomtimes then allowed to degrade later. It hasn't been legal to build SROs as we know them for decades. This building is not what most folks think of when they think SRO - it has individual bathrooms per each living area, etc. This is basically just housing without full kitchens per unit (something I don't recall being built in any boomtimes since the 30s).

The term "SRO" is associated with drug addicts, etc, but that has nothing to do with the building type, and everything to do with other city policies.

Posted by: anon at February 6, 2013 10:35 AM

@Brahma

Every other city in California that has reasonable weather also has "a homeless problem"

Sure weather is a factor, but to say SF's situation is the same as all other cities is ridiculous. Only LA competes with us in California for the level of the homelessness problem. Just about every other city in CA has a much smaller level of homelessness. Very few other cities compete, and most of them have quite severe weather, so weather is likely a minor factor.

This article (from 2009) states:

"In San Francisco, estimates put the number between 7,000-15,000, which is the highest per capita rate of homelessness in any major American city."

Posted by: lyqwyd at February 6, 2013 10:42 AM

@anon

Got it, that makes sense. Thanks for clarifying!

Posted by: lyqwyd at February 6, 2013 10:44 AM

What lol got correct is that in the case where homeless people are drawing from one or more of various forms of public assistance, it's far, far better from a humanness perspective for them to have a certain percentage of that "income" extracted and applied toward housing, than for them to be subsisting on the street or in a homeless encampment and have all of those funds on hand for procuring alcoholic beverages and/or drugs from the local scumbag drug dealers. So "care not cash" was and is an improvement over what was going on before it was (partially) instituted.

And the hotel owners get "heads in beds" as they say in the industry.

Posted by: Brahma (incensed renter) at February 6, 2013 10:44 AM

Privately owned & well-managed market rate SRO buildings can be interesting projects for developing smart-growth density in communities like SOMA.

Just for a point of reference of how interesting these units can be... check out this gizmodo.com video:

http://gizmodo.com/5967622/the-tiny-transforming-apartment-that-packs-six-rooms-into-350-square-feet

That video is of a NYC guy that setup a 350 sqft SRO in a really modern and unique way... Today's SRO's are more about smart & efficient living.

Posted by: erik at February 6, 2013 10:54 AM

Definitely agree care not cash is a big improvement over simply giving cash. The biggest problem I see with how we handle homelessness is that we are all carrot, and no stick. If somebody wants to continue to use drugs and live on the street we basically do nothing. The most the cops ever do is move them along.

But it sounds like these units are not actually SROs so the homelessness debate is a bit unrelated to the topic of this story.

Posted by: lyqwyd at February 6, 2013 11:06 AM

Hey people chill out -- SRO is just a housing typology (ie really small studios below a certain size) and doesn't necessarily mean low-income, non-profit, etc etc. These could just as well be for high-income twitterites.

Posted by: intheknow at February 6, 2013 12:12 PM

SRO are generally not studios, they almost never have kitchens, and usually do not have a bathroom. The bathrooms are usually shared per floor. An SRO is almost identical to a dormitory, but typically not for students.

A studio on the other hand generally has a kitchen and bathroom in the unit, although the kitchen is often quite small, it has at least a cooktop, sink, and refrigerator.

Posted by: lyqwyd at February 6, 2013 12:40 PM

The architect for this project has already posted on this thread that these will be market rate micro-units, which I assume means small studio apartments, each with their own kitchen and bath.

Posted by: Dan at February 6, 2013 12:59 PM

I need more details but if this is bringing more of the type of people that occupy the corner of Howard & 8th, I'm against it. This little stretch of Folsom is a nice break from the undesirables you can find a block away in any direction. The 12 years I've lived here, the neighborhood has been steadily improving. This might be a turn in the wrong direction.

Posted by: FolsomaGary at February 6, 2013 1:22 PM

I am speaking to the 50% of you that are so [discriminatory in your comments] against poor people. The term SRO brings out your hate and greed.

The story said nothing about gov funding or city
housing. People have the right to build any type of housing
as long as it is zoned for such.

And yes i do live in a SRO that has very few if any problems on clay st. My rent is 600$ and i pay 370$ to park my MBZ in a city lot.

My income is limited and i do not want to spend my saving. In the 90s i was wealthy now i am poor.

Posted by: mark at February 6, 2013 3:29 PM

The term SRO brings out your hate and greed.

It brings out my desire to not see this area turn into 6th street because it's my neighborhood and I live here.

As I said, I'll wait for the details before I get my pitchfork out.

Posted by: FolsomaGary at February 6, 2013 6:49 PM

I was trying to figure out why someone would want to build anything as SRO units: there are lots of restrictions, and you can still build small rooms with shared baths and kitchens without the restrictions by going with a "group housing" designation instead.

The reason could be that building SROs allows them to avoid the "rear yard" requirement of the SF Planning Code, i.e., to build on 100% of the lot instead of 75%.

From code Section 134(a)(1) regarding this district:
"... the required rear yard of SRO buildings not exceeding a height of 65 feet shall be reduced in specific situations as described in Subsection (c) below."

And subsection C:
"Rear yards shall be provided at the lowest story containing a dwelling unit, and at each succeeding level or story of the building."

(n.b. this lot is zoned SLR, and thus is part of the the SoMa Mixed Use District per code section 802.5)

Since SROs do not meet the definition of a "dwelling unit" per code section 102.7, there is no rear yard requirement, allowing the developer to build on 100% of the lot instead of 75%.

Posted by: latemodel at February 6, 2013 8:39 PM

I think the architect already dispelled the notion that these are SRO units, didn't he?

Have there been dwellings constructed expressly to be SROs since the 1910s? Some of them are Victorian era flop/rooming houses, but most are converted hotels from generations ago (1920s-40s)

But even if this was an SRO, it wouldn't contain the "undesirables" that elicit such hysteria. Anything that: a. is market rate; b. is new; c. contains parking (presumably for residents) and ground floor retail; d. is designed by a name brand architect... is not going to be accessible to that demographic.

The feared SROs in SF are generally priced to accommodate and SSI-level income, either via subsidy (by the City or nonprofits), or are privately operated in pure squalor by true slumlords... No one is constructing new versions of those.

I'd be curious to see what the market rate for one of these units will be. Most likely more than your entry-level Deco-era studio in SF... being newer/nicer? More just in rent than the entire income of someone on public assistance, most likely.

Posted by: hugh at February 6, 2013 9:19 PM

Mark- I empathize with your financial hardships, but if your rent is $600, wouldn't it make sense to forgo owning a MBZ and paying $370 per month on parking? Just sayin'.

As for this project, relax folks. These are market rate micro apartments for hipsters. No for profit builder in their right mind would build an SRO bldg. in SF, unless its a donation, or they built so many high end condos they decided to pack in their BMR requirements in a smaller, separate building, which would be funky anyhow. This shouldn't be a detriment to the area. FWIW, I think these micro apartments are trendy; let's see if anyone wants to live in them 10 years from now. (Of course, if they turn out to be total duds, that could have a negative effect on the neighborhood!) go figure.

Posted by: 49yo hipster at February 6, 2013 11:31 PM

Happy belated birthday hipster!

Posted by: The Milkshake of Despair at February 7, 2013 9:08 AM

@David Baker

"The proposal is for market rate micro-units, retail, and office"

Thank you for the clarification. I assume these units will be normal micro apartments with kitchens and bathrooms? Do you have a layout that you can share?

Posted by: NoSROs at February 7, 2013 10:22 AM

Thx MOD :)

Glad this site has served both the ups and downs of the market, with all the interesting comments.

As for these micro apartments, they seem *really* trendy. Are hip young people really going to flock to these 10 years from now? Or will these buildings get run down and undesirable, lowering the tenant quality profile? Remember, this is new construction, not a low income housing project. I'm wondering if the developer is shooting themselves in the foot? These are for long term rental, I assume? Sure, they will optimize their rent per square foot today, but like I said, will these be desirable in the future???

Posted by: 49yo hipster at February 7, 2013 4:49 PM

^My assumption is that they only get undesirable if the city as a whole gets undesirable. 100 year old tiny units in Pacific Heights are still kept up and quite nice and rent for tidy sums, even now.

The reasons for SROs in the Tenderloin and other places remaining seedy have to do with city policies that keep them that way, not because they're "undesirable" in size, etc. This, coupled with the fact that SF did see a decline in desirability (though smaller than many other cities) during the late 50's through early 80's that allowed the area to decline are really the only reasons.

My first apartment in SF was a 300 square foot studio at California and Pierce in a 1909 building. For $1600 in 2003.

Posted by: anon at February 7, 2013 5:12 PM

So how has Cubix fared? Is that a valid reference to compare this project against?

Posted by: The Milkshake of Despair at February 7, 2013 5:36 PM

^ that's what I was thinking as a comparison too, cubix. Those units were kind of dorm room-y.

Posted by: 49yo hipster at February 7, 2013 11:29 PM

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