Forge Development Again Tweaks Plan for SF Housing Tower – The Real Deal

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Forge Development Partners has once again revised a plan to bulldoze a 94-year-old church in San Francisco’s Tenderloin to make way for more homes in a highrise.

The locally based developer filed new plans to build a 20-story tower with 299 apartments at 450 O’Farrell Street, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. It would replace the church and a commercial storefront.

The fourth revision to the project comes after the developer swapped a controversial group-housing proposal last spring with plans to build a 17-story, 261-unit building.

It also comes during a protracted legal battle over Forge’s earlier plan to construct a 13-story building with 316 microunits with 632 beds, sparking a lawsuit after it was rejected by the Board of Supervisors. The plan also spurred new legislation on group housing.

The latest plan for 450 O’Farrell Street calls for a tower with 299 apartments, with the 38 additional units allowed by a state density bonus law. Of those, 38 units would be affordable.

The number of affordable apartments didn’t increase because the city temporarily lowered its affordable housing requirements for new and proposed projects last year to encourage development.

The new plan would presumably include the 8,900-square-foot replacement church to house the property owner, the Fifth Church of Christ Scientist, and 1,700 square feet of ground-floor shops or restaurants outlined in the last revision.

Forge requested administrative approval of the taller project, which would skirt public review because the modified plan doesn’t significantly increase the building’s floor area.

The supervisors had earlier rejected the group housing proposal, saying the units were too small and didn’t fit a neighborhood in need of family housing.

In the summer of 2021, the city’s Planning Commission had approved the micro-units if Forge would include more apartments larger than 500 square feet.

The Tenderloin Housing Clinic appealed, saying the area already has many residential hotel units, couldn’t absorb a “micro-unit” complex and would benefit instead from larger units for families who need affordable housing. The units were to be rented for more than $3,000 a month.

In October 2021, the supervisors unanimously voted to nix the project, saying the units would become “tech dorms” for transient workers.

The rejection sparked a lawsuit by the church and Forge the following year that accused the supervisors of violating federal laws, including civil rights granted to the church by the First Amendment and the Fair Housing Act and California’s Housing Accountability Act. The parties last year agreed to a settlement.

Last week, Superior Court Judge Charles Haines presided over a separate lawsuit filed by YIMBY Law alleging the city systemically delays housing projects at multiple stages, with a focus on the 450 O’Farrell group housing project, according to the Chronicle.

But the judge had trouble sorting the project’s multiple iterations.  

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YIMBY Law, an Oakland-based nonprofit advocate for more housing, for two years has sought a court ruling that San Francisco’s rejection of Forge’s group housing project was illegal.  

But because Forge appears to have moved on from the group housing project after winning approval for the 17-story residential tower last year, Haines delivered a tentative ruling calling the case moot, despite the objection of a YIMBY Law attorney.

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