After 10 years of planning and a lengthy legal battle waged against local activists, the $1 billion, 5M mixed-use development has started construction, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.
Developers Brookfield Properties and Hearst, which owns the Chronicle, will build a 288-unit residential building with 57 units below market rate, a 400-unit residential building and a 630,000-square-foot office building. While no contractors have yet been confirmed, the project is slated to create more than 1,200 construction jobs, and developers have agreed to a $76 million package of public benefits that will include money for affordable housing, transit projects, the arts and other community initiatives. The Chronicle reports that the package helped the controversial project, for which Sitelab Urban Studio provided the master plan, originally win approval.
The city approved 5M in 2015, but community activists tried to block it by filing a lawsuit the following year that claimed the development would lead to gentrification and would displace those who couldn't afford to live in the neighborhood after the buildings were complete.
Just because developers offer jobs and economic benefits doesn't mean projects are slam dunks, particularly if there are local activist groups or residents that make some noise. Developers can count on resistance if their projects are expected to drive up the price of housing; in San Francisco and other communities with abundant tech-related jobs, this is a common occurrence — high-paid workers move in to new upscale apartments and condos and low-income residents move out of the neighborhoods.
And sometimes the protest over a big construction project centers around quality of life. In Chicago, for example, residents of the 2nd Ward won significant changes to Sterling Bay's $6 billion Lincoln Yards development because of concerns that the project would have a negative impact on the character and flow of the neighborhood.
Originally, Sterling Bay planned to build its massive mixed-use project with a soccer stadium and Live Nation concert and entertainment complex at its core. After going through the city’s approval process, which allows one alderman in a single ward to nix a project on behalf of its residents, Sterling Bay deleted the stadium and Live Nation components and added a significant amount of park space, one of a few concessions. The developer also committed to higher minority hiring goals than the city originally asked for.
A $7 billion development proposed by Related Midwest also underwent a similar grilling as part of Chicago's ward-based approval system. The developer ended up making big concessions to its master plan as well.