Excelsior housing development scrapped after Safeway backs out

The former planned housing development on the Safeway site. | Photo: Courtesy Emerald Fund 
By Nathan Falstreau - Published on September 17, 2018.

Plans to construct 253 units of housing and a new neighborhood grocery store in the Excelsior have been quashed after a deal between Safeway and the property owner fell through, according to the Chronicle

Sources familiar with the negotiation told the Chronicle that the supermarket chain had been attempting to negotiate a five-year rent-free agreement should the project have moved forward.  

As we've reported previously, the project was a collaboration between nonprofit housing developer Bridge and market-rate developer Emerald Fund.

Original plans called for the construction to span two existing parcels. At 4850 Mission St., plans included the razing of the current Safeway store, with Emerald Fund constructing 253 market-rate units in its stead. The patch of land is owned by the National Electrical Benefit Fund union pension fund.

175 units of affordable housing, a full-service grocery store and a 10,000-square-foot space for the Mission Neighborhood Health Center (MNHC) were slated for neighboring 4840 Mission St., the current site of the shuttered Valente Marini Perata & Co. funeral home.

"It proved difficult to negotiate an agreement that worked for both Safeway and for the project," Emerald Fund chairman Oz Erickson told the Chronicle. "We are very disappointed."

Bridge Housing plans to move forward with its part of the project, which will still include affordable units and space for the health clinic. However, the total number of affordable units may be downsized from 175 to a yet-to-be-determined amount, as 72 of the units were being paid for by Emerald Fund. 

4840 Mission St. | Photo: Google Maps

"We understand the dire need for affordable housing in the Excelsior, and we value the community input we’ve received to date," Bridge spokesperson Lyn Hikida told Hoodline.  "With Safeway and Emerald Fund no longer involved, we’re looking at creative ways to maximize affordable housing on the site ... Creating a new home for the [MNHC] clinic remains an essential part of the development program."

While the prospect of new affordable housing units in the neighborhood have been welcomed, the market-rate portion of the project has left some residents concerned that the project would exacerbate displacement and further contribute to gentrification. 

4850 Mission St. | Photo: Google Maps

In August, youth from San Francisco's District 11 — which includes Cayuga Terrace, Crocker Amazon, and the Outer Mission — gathered on the site to protest the planned mixed-use development and demanded 100 percent of the project to be marked affordable. 

"Our communities never signed up for the Safeway luxury housing project, which would have been inaccessible to the vast majority of our residents and a force of gentrification in our neighborhood," Carlo Sciammas, of community nonprofit Poder, told Hoodline. 

"The community has been waiting desperately for the affordable housing project to move forward, and it is now more than two years behind schedule," he added. 

District 11 Supervisor Asha Safaí blamed Safeway, which maintains a long-term lease at the site, for the project's failure.  

“We negotiated a deal with 41 percent affordable [housing] and a beautiful grocery store and health center,” Safaí said. “Unfortunately, Safeway has reneged on their portion of the deal ... This was purely Safeway continuously moving the ball in negotiations. This was all about Safeway’s bottom line and them going back on their word.”

In a statement provided to the Chronicle, Safeway responded by saying it "has been proudly serving San Francisco since 1926, and we look forward to continue serving the Excelsior neighborhood." 

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