1088 Howard Street Site

A developer recently met with San Francisco’s Planning Department to discuss the potential for an eight-story building with up to 22 condos to rise behind the existing façade of the vacant two-story City Paints building at 1088 Howard Street and to convert the Western SoMa building’s parking lot into a temporary food truck court.

The stated goal of the meeting was for the development team “to gain a detailed understanding of the [Planning Department’s] plans and goals for new developments in the neighborhood so [the team could] devise a thoughtful development proposal and work through entitlement stages as efficiently as possible.” And the developer’s estimated time to secure approvals for the development as envisioned: 30 months.

But a formal proposal for the parcel has yet to be drafted. And an offering memorandum for the 1088 Howard Street parcel is now making the rounds without a set asking price and calling for offers at the end of the month.

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Comments from “Plugged-In” Readers

  1. Posted by The Milkshake of Despair

    Shooting for eight to create negotiation room because they will settle for six. They’ll end up with five.

    [Editor’s Note: The site is zoned for 85 feet in height.]

  2. Posted by Foghornsf

    Build it.. Need all the housing we can get.

    • Posted by Sabbie

      Meh. All this new market rate housing just makes the city more expensive and crowded in the short term, with very minor effect on regional prices in the long term. UC Berkeley’s Urban Displacement Project latest research says:

      “…the effectiveness of market-rate housing in mitigating displacement seems to diminish as more market-rate housing is built in a subsequent decade…this result suggests that over time, the construction of market-rate housing may have a catalytic effect on a neighborhood, increasing attractiveness to upper-income residents, rather than a protective effect of filtering.

      Filtering of market-rate units cannot address our current housing crisis, as it takes many years for these units to “filter down” to middle- and low-income households (approximately 50 years for households making 50% of median income), and even once middle- and low-income households can access these units, they may not be habitable or affordable to them.

      Though it may reduce displacement at the regional level, new development has little impact on displacement at the local or neighborhood level, again providing strong evidence that “production alone cannot solve the displacement problem”.

      • Posted by Joe

        so what is your solution to the housing crisis if adding more housing just makes things worse?

        • Posted by Sabbie

          The solution totally depends on what your goal is. Exactly who wins, who loses, and to what end?

          Just know the facts, building more mid rise luxury condos will do nothing to make SF affordable for the average person in the near term. The authors of the report say the solution to that particular problem is subsidized housing, which is a conclusion I agree with, but I don’t personally support.

          I say go ahead with building market rate housing to current density limits. But for those who want to blow out the density limits, you are stealing from the existing residents who paid a premium for their property based on the density at the time.

          In the big picture, I think the solution to make housing Bay Area more affordable across the board is probably to build very dense transit village type development around certain BART and Caltrain stations, including parts of SF. But at the same time, we need to make it contingent on transportation infrastructure upgrades.

          • Posted by Stakes Is High

            I think the “dense transit village” you talk about is called a city. SF is supposed to be that place.

          • Posted by Sabbie

            That’s why I included “parts of SF”.

          • Posted by Thatguynotthatotherguy

            This is some hyperbole: “for those who want to blow out the density limits, you are stealing from the existing residents who paid a premium for their property based on the density at the time.”

            Density is never a given and never static. Even zoning and height restrictions, by their nature, are subject to change. Anybody who bought in based on those restrictions knew that they were implemented through a bureaucratic or statutory process that could equally make the restrictions go away.

            There is certainly some outer limit on what the existing owners might reasonably expect, but this project doesn’t even approach it. Here, the proposed eight-stories would presumably be within the 85-foot zoning. It’s not remotely “stealing” from existing property owners to allow a building to be built to the already-existing height limit!

          • Posted by Brian M

            The real “solution” is the upcoming crash in the tech industry and a flood of employers leaving the Bay Area for cheaper places.

            Or a major earthquake.

            A solution with undesirable side effects, but there you go.

          • Posted by SFRealist

            But since there isn’t going to be a crash, it’s futile to rely on it to save us.

          • Posted by Sabbie

            “In the ruin of all collapsed booms is to be found the work of men who bought property at prices they knew perfectly well were fictitious, but who were willing to pay such prices simply because they knew that some still greater fool could be depended on to take the property off their hands and leave them with a profit.” – Chicago Tribune, 1890

          • Posted by SFRealist

            Great quote from 1890! It’s so relevant to today! That’s why surely housing prices are about to collapse here, along with Palo Alto, Los Gatos, etc. etc.

          • Posted by Sabbie

            It’s highly relevant because human nature never changes. And while it’s relevant to housing, it’s even more relevant to the bubble in startup funding that’s driving these housing prices, whereas the late round investors are left holding the bag.

            Both Janet Yellen and Larry Summers have recently talked about the possibility of the Fed directly buying stocks to prop up the economy. Why would they do this now, when the stock market is basically at all time highs? Is there something we should be worried about?

  3. Posted by Orland

    The implication is that the developer intends (would be willing to if necessary?) preserve/incorporate the facade of the existing building. If architectural merit/”character” is the factor in play, hardly seems worth the bother. Is there some historical aspect to the property?

    • Posted by Metroliner

      Yes! They sold more lead-based paint than any other store in 1926. There should be a plaque along with an interpretive full-scale diorama of the working store in 1926 in the lobby of the new building.

  4. Posted by Foghornsf

    Here is a fun fact. If the city builds housing to support the growing population, rent remain flat or even go down. If we maintain our current regulation of limiting residential prices go up. Simple economics.

    • Posted by Sabbie

      Economic folklore.

      • Posted by Anon

        It actually works, but not everybody wants a growing population – “if you don’t build it, they won’t come”.

        • Posted by Sabbie

          Actually building fancy new condos makes that area more desirable, and so drives up the prices as the new demand outpaces the new supply. It’s been studied. Not necessarily a bad thing, but contrary to the theory posted above.

          • Posted by Anon

            So back to “if you build it they will come”. They have to come from somewhere though, and most likely in the Bayarea – so you will get less demand in Berkeley, Santa Clara or elsewhere.

          • Posted by SFRealist

            Except that new units are coming online….and prices are not going up.

          • Posted by Orland

            Correct. In fact, prices are going down all over town as would be EXPECTED. “Sabbie” doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

          • Posted by Sabbie

            Except that thousands of new units have been coming online for years, and prices are not coming down.

            They will come down soon, but not for the reasons you think.

          • Posted by moto mayhem

            are you serious? way more people have come in than new units built. if there are 100,000 people moving in and 10,000 units built, what do you think will happen? saying thousands of units are being built without taking into account the number of new people is just misleading.

          • Posted by Sabbie

            So you’re saying prices will come down as long as we build more new units than we have people moving in?

          • Posted by Brad

            Building more condos does not make an area more desirable—it just adds inventory. You can build all the condos you want on 6th St, but the area won’t become ‘desirable’ unless you tear down the entire stretch and start over. Also, desirability depends on a number of factors: availability of transport, restaurants, bars, culture, safety, etc. Simply adding inventory does not affect all other factors of desirability.

          • Posted by Sabbie

            Funny you mention Sixth Street because that borders one of the areas of the UC study that illustrates the concept.

          • Posted by Anon

            “So you’re saying prices will come down as long as we build more new units than we have people moving in?”

            Well, yes.

  5. Posted by Foghornsf

    Sabbie… It is simple economics, if you build enough housing to support the amount of people moving in prices stabilize. You can blame, the planning department and the board of supervisors for the high prices that we pay. It takes two years for a property to be approved in San Francisco. It takes another two years to build. So in total it takes 4 years for a project to be beginning to the end. The city’s version to solve the problem is to add more regulation and 25% affordability which will lessen the amount of units that we have which means prices stay high if not go higher.

    • Posted by Sabbie

      Yes, based on your simplistic economic view, building enough units for each new resident would stabilize prices. Not bring them down, stabilize. So let’s review, you’re talking about building enough housing for about 10,000 new residents every single year in perpetuity, plus catching up to the years you built less. Do you think that is even realistic, and do you think it might lead to just a few problems with traffic and overcrowding? You people are fixated on this weird idea that building more housing will somehow make it affordable, it’s just a pie in the sky fantasy sorry! Never going to happen, nor should it.

      • Posted by Anon

        So your issue is that you don’t want that many new units in San Francisco – not that it wouldn’t bring down prices. It is a legit opinion, and pricing will decide who can live in SF and who have to move to Oakland or further inland…

      • Posted by Anon

        Got it, you don’t want an increase in population. That’s understandable, but that doesn’t at all negate the fact that increasing supply does have a downward effect on prices (all else being equal).

  6. Posted by TideGoesOut

    SOLD FOR $3,000,000! More housing coming whether we like it or not…good for SF and this neighborhood.

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