Planning Raises Questions Over Hotel's Plan To Convert Rent-Controlled Housing

Back in March, SoMa's Mosser Hotel at 54 4th St. (near Jessie St. between Market and Mission) filed plans to convert 77 residential hotel rooms into tourist rooms.

Now, saying that "this housing type represents an affordable option particularly for low-income, elderly, and disabled populations," the San Francisco Planning Department has raised questions over the proposal to convert the rent-controlled residences into hotel rooms.

The eight-story hotel, which first opened in 1913, currently has 81 residential guest rooms and 87 rooms for tourists to rent. Four of the residential units are permanently occupied, and property owner Mosser Hotel of Victorian Arts and Music has proposed retaining those four and converting the other 77 into more tourist rooms.

The proposal would increase the number of hotel rooms by 88.5 percent, for a total of 164 rooms. The property is surrounded by nearby hotels, including the 1,362-room Marriott Marquis across the street, the 202-room Hotel Zelos next door, and the 116-room Hotel Zetta around the corner.  

A room inside the Mosser Hotel. | Photo: Rickey G./Yelp

City code requires any residential hotel rooms to be replaced on a one-for-one basis. The developer can construct the same amount of new housing available at similar rates, build new housing available to vulnerable populations such as the elderly or disabled or transitional housing at a lower ratio, or pay a fee to the city or another public, non-profit organization.

In lieu of constructing new housing, Mosser has proposed to pay the fee, which must be equal to 80 percent of the cost to build an equal number of affordable units,plus the cost of acquiring a site.

Despite Mosser's willingness to pay the fee, Planning expressed concerns over the conversion of housing stock in its preliminary project assessment.

“Considering the current lack of available affordable housing options in San Francisco," Planning wrote, "the Department has serious concerns about the loss of this housing stock, and may have difficulty supporting such a proposal.” 

“The Department would strongly prefer the one-for-one replacement of residential guest rooms with comparable units prior to the conversion to tourist use,” Planning added. 

Photo: The Mosser 

According to Mosser's application, the four residential rooms being retained on-site are all less than 200 square feet. The smallest is only 116 square feet in size.

Planning also said the proposal to convert residential units to tourist hotel rooms conflicts with two objectives of the San Francisco Downtown Area Plan, which call for a restriction on the demolition of housing in commercial areas and the preservation of existing residential hotels. 

If the project is approved as proposed, it would require a new conditional use authorization to allow the the expansion of tourist hotel rooms on the property, along with completing all the required environmental, historical and transportation reviews. 

The proposed development’s environmental review application, conditional use authorization form and permit to convert applications must be submitted before December 19, 2018 to be valid under the current preliminary project assessment.

We reached out to Mosser for more details, but did not receive a response.

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Planning raises questions over hotel s plan to convert rent controlled housing