“Beast on Bryant” Beats Appeal, Giant Condo Cleared For Construction

The appeals process is now as exhausted as some affordable-housing advocates.

The so-called “Beast on Bryant,” one of the most massive Mission District condominium complexes ever proposed in the current tech boom, just cleared its last hurdle, and looks likely to break ground in the next six months.

The luxury housing complex proposed at 2000-2070 Bryant Street, a graffiti-coated building between 18th and 19th streets that has long been a popular Mission District arts and performance space, got the final green light necessary to tear down the existing building and put up 336 units of housing instead. The San Francisco Board of Appeals unanimously denied the final appeal challenging the project at a meeting Wednesday night, just one night after the city’s Board of Supervisors unanimously voted to approve the plans for 194 fancy condo units with 136 below market-rate units.

“For me, the benefit is the 136 units of affordable housing which this city desperately, desperately needs,” Board of Appeals commissioner Rick Swig said before the board voted unanimously to deny the last-gasp appeal. “My greatest concern is the low-income housing.”

The Nick Podell Company, the developer behind the project, sweetened the proposal by adding nearly 100 more low-income units than the 44 affordable units originally proposed in 2014. “If we do turn [this project] down, there won’t be any affordable housing,” said commissioner Ann Lazarus during the appeal’s discussion.

You may know this building better by the name Inner Mission, an arts and performance space established in 2012. Before that, the place was known as CELLspace, which won Best Community Arts Center award in the SF Weekly’s Best Of S.F. awards in 2006.

Even Supervisor David Campos, who himself introduced the 2015 Mission moratorium legislation that would have halted the construction of any new market-rate housing in the neighborhood, approved the 2000 Bryant project. “The question for me is: Can we afford to say no to as many as 139 units of affordable housing?,” Campos said at Tuesday night’s Board meeting. “I don’t believe we can.”

Wednesday’s appeal of this matter lasted more than an hour, and opponents of the development knew it was their last shot. “The Mission is under siege, as we all know, “ community member Magick Altman said to the Appeals board. “There are so many developments in the pipeline right now, that has to be looked at.”

“There is no legal teeth to make them build that affordable housing,” she pointed out.

And that’s the real flaw in this plan, according Mission residents who oppose the enormous development. The Nick Podell Company did indeed hand over much of the land to the city in order to win approval for the project. But there is no guarantee that the promised affordable housing will ever actually get built.

Indeed, one can point to the Vida condominium at 21st and Mission streets, whose market-rate condos have been open for more than a year while the corresponding affordable units have not even broken ground. (In Vida and the City Hall’s defense, a number of fires have complicated these units’ construction.)

To their credit, activists who opposed the Beast on Bryant have won a series of major concessions in their two-year fight to stall or prevent the development. Podell added arts and industrial space to the ground floor of the proposed project, so something similar to Inner Mission or CELLspace may sprout up there. And the company added a significant number of low-income units to the project, albeit without guarantees these units will materialize.

“The large, market-rate units seem to be prioritized here,” Board of Appeals president Darryl Honda said during Wednesday’s meeting. “There’s enough things in place that the affordable housing aspect will be honored and go forward. And if it doesn’t, we will deal with it at that time.”

But the fancy condo aspect is definitely going forward, with construction slated to begin in early 2017 and an opening as early as 2019.

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