The pre-application has finally been filed for a 50-story mixed-use tower at 2700 Sloat Boulevard in San Francisco’s Outer Sunset District. The increased plan, first hinted at last month, is a remarkable change from prior versions. Nevada-based CH Planning LLC is the project sponsor. Speaking with YIMBY, the founder of CH Planning explains why this proposal should be approved.
Plans for the skyscraper in the Outer Sunset were first revealed on March 29th, when CH Planning LLC’s founder, Raelynn Hickey, shared their intent to submit plans for a 560-foot tower with 646 units to Sarah Klearman of the San Francisco Business Times. Two weeks later and now in writing, the plan has further increased in scale with 712 apartments.
The 589-foot tall structure will yield around 616,180 square feet with 506,790 square feet for its 712 apartments, 15,300 square feet for retail, and 94,090 square feet for the 212-car basement garage. Additional parking will be included for 327 bicycles. Unit sizes will vary, with 344 studios, 184 one-bedrooms, 114 two-bedrooms, and 80 three-bedroom apartments.
Speaking with J.K. Dineen for the San Francisco Chronicle, the city’s Planning Director, Rich Hillis, shared that “a residential project on this west side site next to the street car is exactly what we envisioned in the housing element.” He continued to say, “unfortunately, the developer misrepresents what’s allowed by the planning code and state density bonus.”
In response, the executive director of YIMBY Law, Sonja Trauss, told me, “What allows them to build this tower is the State Density Bonus program. Their plan is to waive the height limit.” Specifically regarding the base zoning project, Trauss shared why she and the project team believe the city is wrong. As Trauss explains, the city says “their code is silent on whether you’re allowed to have more than one tower rising from the base, and therefore it is not allowed. That is not how zoning works.
“If zoning is silent on something, that means you can do it. Like, sorry, too late… They never explicitly prohibited multiple towers because nobody has ever proposed it before. If they want to pass a new rule or ordinance to prohibit more than one tower, then they can do that. But they don’t have that rule right now.”
Of the 712 residences, 115 will be designated as affordable for low-income households earning around 80% of the Area Median Income. By including affordable housing, CH Planning can use the 50% State Density Bonus program, Senate Bill 330, and the recently-passed San Francisco Automotive Uses to Housing Uses Ordinance enacted in December last year. Half of the 0.87-acre lot is surface parking, while the single-story Sloat Garden Center occupies the other half.
The podium base will align to an incline across the property, with the garage entrance on 46th Avenue being a full level lower than the retail shops along 45th Avenue. Next to the residential lobby on Sloat, a commercial gym will have its own lobby at the corner of 46th and Sloat, where members can access the 31,070-square-foot commercial fitness center. On the opposite side, two-story retail spaces will wrap around the streetscape along 45th and Wawona Street.
The third-floor amenity deck will include an indoor community facility and private space surrounded by an expansive open-air terrace and dog run. Beyond that, the amenity programming has not yet been finalized. Across stories four to 49, each level will be occupied by apartments. The crowning 50th floor includes a public community facility.
Solomon Cordwell Buenz is listed as the project architect. The firm has been responsible for many of the region’s tallest proposals, and in keeping with tradition, their initial filing does not provide us with much detail about exterior design. This happened with 395 3rd Street, 620 Folsom Street, 636 4th Street, and 655 4th Street. For the first two filings, we now see SCB remain as an executive architect while separate design architects have provided architecturally unique plans. While specific details have not yet been released for the tower facade of 2700 Sloat Boulevard, the initial plans include a useful diagram explaining the evolution of the massing and its overall height.
The illustration starts with the 12-story base zoning plan and the 50% density bonus plan. The dense project has sheer walls rising from the property line upward. SCB writes this iteration creates a “wall on Wawona and Sloat” and what they describe as “undesirable units that face directly onto one another.” Consolidation to a single 37-story tower on a podium solves the issue of units looking into each other. The next iteration raises the height to “maximize ocean views” for each unit. Finally, aerodynamic sculpting creates more visual interest. The result is the 50-story massing we see depicted in these preliminary illustrations.
Confluence is responsible for landscape architecture. The firm will oversee the design of new trees and planters on the whole block. The greenery will culminate with a new public plaza by the residential lobby at the corner of Sloat Boulevard and 45th Avenue. Public seating further down the avenue will help produce a natural gathering space for the public while encouraging foot traffic by the prospective shops. Yee Fung Construction Engineering LTD is listed as a consultant on engineering for the garage.
The project will use drilled piers for its foundation. City staff writes that it will require 50-foot deep piers, though an environmental review will determine what is required for a strong foundation. The structural engineer has not yet been enlisted.
When reached for comment about how they plan to gain approval from the city, Raelynn Hickey provided the following statement:
The City will need to approve the project, and they know it. The proposed project at 2700 Sloat is 100% Code compliant (both city and state), including the base density calculation. The project is processing under the SDBL and HAA. It’s really very simple, and we will see it through. The city needs to supply the Outer Sunset area with 11,000 new housing units in just over 7.5 years, and approval of hundreds of small projects is not going to get them anywhere near that state requirement…
The Planning Department has a huge task of motivating Outer Sunset land owners and investors to demolish existing buildings along designated streets to make room for the required 11,000 new housing units. If they try to reduce the housing opportunity on the best development site in the area, that would be broadcasting a message that says our motto is “our way or no way,” and we think that would be the worst message Planning could put out there at this time.
When asked about herself, Hickey provided the following details:
I am a minority woman business owner. My family are immigrants from the Philippines who worked hard to create a business that included a lot of housing occupied by a lot of minority and immigrant people. I worked with my family in that business most of my life. I started CH Planning to invest in community housing projects that would provide significant amounts of affordable housing. I understand the need for these community resources and appreciate the opportunity to be a part of the solution. I currently have other projects in our internal pipeline that will add to the amount of affordable housing needed by the city of San Francisco and I look forward to working with others that share the goal of providing as many affordable housing opportunities as we can.
If built as proposed today, 2700 Sloat Boulevard would be the 12th tallest building in the city, just ten feet shorter than Salesforce West and 101 California Street. There are seven other projects in San Francisco’s pipeline taller, all of which are in Downtown, SoMa, and the Civic Center.
Whether or not one believes this project is likely to happen or well positioned, one has to hand it to the developer, this is bold. This is the tallest proposal to be floated in the Bay Area this year and would be the tallest on the city’s west side. Not to mention, if built today, 2700 Sloat would be the tallest structure in the Bay Area constructed so far this decade. These projects include 50 Main Street (992′), the stalled Oceanwide Center (910′), Parcel F (806′), 620 Folsom Street (640′), 415 20th Street in Oakland (622′), 10 South Van Ness Avenue (610′), and 45-53 3rd Street (600′). The current tallest building under construction, 30 Van Ness Avenue, is expected to reach a 540′ peak, nearly fifty feet shorter than 2700 Sloat.
CH Planning LLC was founded in February 2021. Both registered agents connected to the LLC include Raelynn Hicky and Rochelle Menikheim, who have addresses connected to Reno and San Francisco. John Hickey, who works with Lifetime Affordable Housing, is a consultant for the project.
The property is a predominantly residential neighborhood, with apartments and single-family homes to the north, and the San Francisco View to the south. The project is also just two blocks from Ocean Beach and the Pacific Ocean. As Raelynn shared with us, the neighborhood is undergoing a $90 million renovation of the MUNI Light Rail L Traval Line, improving access. As well, two cross-town bus lines stop right near the site.
Construction is expected to last around 20 months from groundbreaking, with an estimated cost of $134 million. That figure is not inclusive of all development costs.