Construction is moving forward quickly for the Ventana Residences at 99 Ocean Avenue in Balboa Park, San Francisco. The team is expecting to open the site by March of 2023, becoming the largest HOME-SF Project built in the city. Speaking with YIMBY, Presidio Bay Ventures Managing Director Cyrus Sanandaji shared how the firm achieved this and why Ventana could not be repeated now.
The 65-foot structure will yield 190,400 square feet, of which 153,800 square feet will be for residential use, 5,970 square feet will be made for a 75-student large Wu Yee Children’s Services, 26,000 square feet for 75 parking spaces, and 6,012 square feet for amenities and the main lobby. From the 193 units, 47 will be studios, 67 one-bedrooms, 57 two-bedrooms, and 22 three-bedrooms. The unit sizes are larger than typical projects, responsive to that since the district has the highest percentage of households with children in San Francisco.
A total of 48 units will be priced as affordable housing, which is triple the number of new affordable units created in District 11 since 2009. Presidio Bay will partner with local groups and the Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community to provide workshops for prospective tenants to learn about how to apply for the affordable housing lottery system.
San Francisco-based RG Architecture is responsible for the design. Residents will have access to a rooftop terrace and an expansive central courtyard with lounge chairs and landscaping. Specific units will come with private balconies.
The crew broke ground in January of 2021 after Presidio landed $120 million in financing from TDA Investment Group and ALF-CIO Housing Investment Trust. Align Residential will be the property manager once the building is complete. James Roberts-Obayashi Corporation is the project’s general contractor.
YIMBY in bold. Cyrus Sanandaji in Italics.
Could you describe Ventana Residences?
It’s a really unique offering from an apartment standpoint in San Francisco, in that it’s both designed for the workforce and for families with a pretty sizable number of three-bedrooms and two-bedrooms.
It is the largest HOME-SF project entitled and built. The fact that we’ve taken absolutely zero government subsidy of any form, whether equity or tax credits or otherwise, and delivered a 25% affordable project, I think, is something we wouldn’t be able to pull off today.
How was it getting the proposal from the planning department to reality?
We started the project in 2016, and it won’t deliver until March of 2023. We were moving on a pretty rapid pace, on a relative basis for San Francisco, particularly given that we broke ground in late 2020 at the height of the pandemic when every headline was saying rent was dropping in San Francisco and there was a mass exodus.
So to think about the fact that procedurally speaking, even leveraging a supposed expedited density program that the city has been promoting, HOME-SF, it’s taken from 2016 to 2023 to deliver 193 units, it shows you how problematic the housing production environment has become in the City and County of San Francisco. And it’s completely self-inflicted.
What were some of the challenges you experienced working through the HOME-SF Program?
HOME-SF, specifically as a program, actually opens you up to one extra avenue of appeal relative to a non-HOME-SF project. Unlike State Density programs that seek to eliminate discretionary review, HOME-SF not only maintains discretionary review but also provides opponents with an additional route for appeal. There wasn’t much expediting at all.
It’s unfortunate that this can’t really serve as a model going forward because the cost environment in terms of rate and hard costs just would not make a 25% affordable project with no subsidies at all feasible.
What was unique about working in District 11 for you?
It’s certainly a beautiful and diverse district. There are a lot of different influences, and the history is rich and steeped in San Francisco’s growth over the last 150 years. The district, as a result, has a lot of viewpoints and community groups that are very active. It was great working with the community… It’s no secret that the project was appealed, but the narrative in 2016 was very different from where the narrative is today.
We were forced to scale back the project’s height, even though we were entitled. We probably could have gotten another 20 or 30 more units, which is a missed opportunity. It’s not just policies and planning procedures. It’s also the political will to take advantage of an opportunity.
I have to give a lot of credit to the District Supervisor, Supervisor Ahsha Safaí, who really advocated and championed the project housing production, and the primary goal of his was to help bridge the gap between a lot of the different interest groups that were there.”
Will Presidio Bay take on any new housing projects in the city?
The conditions of which housing is approved here would need to substantially change in order to make the conditions appropriate to pursue new investment in San Francisco. I think, unfortunately, housing is such a politicized issue that unless we pursue programs that the state has implemented to bypass the local jurisdiction, it’s not compelling at present to build housing in San Francisco.
We’d never say we’re done, but we’re extremely cautious in today’s environment.”
Have you looked into the Builder’s Remedy?
Yes, we have looked at it. Certain individuals in the City and County of San Francisco believe that their discretion can’t get bypassed and that there’s ultimately still a means for them to reject projects. But clearly, Santa Monica is a perfect example of how that can be leveraged. We, unfortunately, don’t have any projects or sites at the moment that we’d be able to pursue a builder’s remedy application. We have actively started searching all the jurisdictions in California using the state’s website to check for city compliance status to determine if there’s any opportunity there to pursue a fast-track approval.
Of the various projects you’re involved with in Presidio Bay, which one are you most excited about?
That’s like asking someone who their favorite child is! You can’t really have a favorite child. I’ll say this, though. I’m extremely excited about the opportunity that true high-density mixed-use development offers within the context of the RHNA goals that have been set for each one of these jurisdictions. And so to be able to find large sites, like six plus acre sites, that are transit-oriented in jurisdictions that have meaningful housing element goals, and using that to build something like Springline where you have the true live-work-play components all integrated into a larger community, we’re really excited about that as a model going forward for the next ten-plus years.
The new website for Ventana Residences has now been released. See here for more details about the project and to join the waitlist for leasing.
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Love the look of the place and the location generally but it’s unfortunate they have to share the block with an autobody shop considering the transit-friendly neighborhood.
That’s not a body shop — it’s a tire and muffler shop.
Thank you for the Ventana Residences with more housing. In an extremely rich public transit area ,Why was cost and space wasted on “26,000 square feet for 75 parking spaces”?.
It was interesting to see on their website a beer garden where the Midas shop is. Hopefully they’re hinting at something in the works or pipeline there. The Outer Mission/Excelsior Mission Street corridor is a great existing g business corridor that hasn’t been getting the attention it deserves. Hopefully all the new residential developments attract more interest to the area.
Good question regarding the “75 parking spaces”.
I would imagine, however, that in order to get the necessary “premium” rents on some of the units in order to make the whole effort pencil out in a very challenging environment of daunting governmental regulations and processes , exorbitant fees, escalating construction costs, escalating financing %’s and so forth, parking (as an essential amenity) was necessary.
This is unfortunate, but it is less about the project sponsor “hanging on to old ways” and very likely more about the City’s various exactions — such as very high inclusionary requirements (25%), “impact fees” that have reached outrageous proportions (e.g. $168K/unit) etc. and so forth.
Going forward, there needs to be a wholesale rethinking of untenable inclusionary requirements and governmental fees. Both of those, now further exacerbated by soaring construction and financing costs in the context of a severely weakened post-Covid market is the reason that the much-noted “pipeline” of Planning-approved housing projects has stalled out.