By J.K. Dineen, San Francisco Chronicle, October 17, 2014:
San Francisco’s west side may finally getting a piece of the city’s residential building boom.
A longtime Inner Sunset property owner is proposing to build the largest residential development the Inner Sunset has ever seen, a 460-unit project nestled into the hillside on 6.3 acres below Mount Sutro.
San Mateo builder Westlake Urban has filed an application to tear down the Kirkham Heights apartment complex, an 86-unit row of structures built in 1950 at Fifth Avenue and Kirkham Street that has been popular with UCSF staff and students from the nearby Parnassus campus. A mix of condos and rental units would replace them.
Gaye Quinn, Westlake Urban’s managing partner, said the new project would include 86 rent-controlled apartments to match what is currently on the site. Another 12 percent of the apartmentswould be below market rate. Westlake Urban has owned the property for 40 years.
“We have maintained it well over the years, but like any property owner, there comes a time when you have to evaluate what you are going to do and how best to invest in the future,” she said. “We wanted to take a fresh look in the context of the housing needs throughout the city.”
The project would have a series of small plazas connected with a network of paths and staircases with overlooks offering views of the Golden Gate Bridge. The network will be tied into the Mount Sutro trail network.
Located on a steep, dead-end street with no sidewalks, few San Franciscans are aware the complex exists, Quinn said.
She added that the planning process would take several years. The project would be phased so that existing residents could be moved into new buildings as they are built. The owners have talked to “eight or 10” renters so far and would eventually meet with all current tenants.
“There has been a mix of reaction,” she said. “We don’t expect everyone to be happy with the plan but several tenants were excited about the idea of living in a brand new unit.”
Chris Duderstadt, an Inner Sunset Neighborhood Association board member and local resident, said he had not heard about the project. “I am not immediately offended by the idea but I know there are people who are going to be offended by any change,” he said.
Housing Action Coalition Executive Director Tim Colen said he welcomes more density west of Twin Peaks, where new housing proposals have regularly been met with opposition.
“I love west side projects, and I live out there,” he said. “It’s not going to win me friends or influence among my peeps, but we have a situation where 80 percent of the development is happening on 20 percent of the land on the east side of town. The west side can step up and take their fair share once in a while.”
Skip Hewlett, who lives up the hill from the proposed project, said “I don’t think it’s an appropriate place to have that much density, but as long as the heights are not excessive, it would not impact uphill neighbors.”