Bay Area/ San Francisco/ Real Estate & Development
Published on January 31, 2020
Upper Haight McDonald's finally set for demolition after 2 years, but site's future remains unclearThe McDonald's lot, viewed from above. | Photo: Camden Avery/Hoodline

It's been two years since the city first announced that the Upper Haight McDonald's would be closing — and that its site, purchased by the city for $15.5 million, would be razed for a 100% affordable housing complex.

The McDonald's building closed its doors permanently in March 2018, with the terms of the sale dictating that the restaurant should be demolished within 90 days of the purchase being finalized. 

But a year and a half on from that deadline, the building still stands, blocked off by graffiti-covered gates and plywood barriers.

"Are we a fan of it?" said Tony Green, manager of neighboring Amoeba Music. "No, we are hecka not. It's a big old eyesore, it's ugly as. And it's a disincentive [for shoppers]."

"We're not happy" with the delay, agreed Calvin Welch, from the Coalition for Complete Community (CCC), one of the groups that was vying to temporarily take over the site for another use as it awaited construction.

"Clearly, a parking lot and a fence is not an answer for the community."

The McDonald's site (pictured earlier this month) has become a magnet for graffiti and trash. | Photo: Camden Avery/Hoodline

Last summer, a spokesperson for the Mayor's Office of Housing and Community Development (MOHCD) — the agency responsible for developing the property — said the McDonald's would be demolished just after Labor Day of 2019. But that deadline also came and went.  

So what's taking so long? 

MOHCD communications director Maximilian Barnes said last week that unexpected delays in PG&E’s utility shut-off schedule were to blame.

The utility had to conduct "comprehensive capping of the electrical and gas service lines before demolition of the existing structure could begin," he said.

The CCC's Welch speculated that the MOHCD has an even bigger problem at the moment: "The mayor's office has been acquiring [affordable housing] sites at a pretty good clip," he said, "and it has more than it knows how to handle."

But a demolition is finally on the schedule, Barnes said. It's slated to commence the first week of February, and run through April.

As of this week, work crews have moved into the lot to prepare for the structure's demolition.

Photo: Camden Avery/Hoodline

Even after the McDonald's building is finally demolished, it's still unclear when construction will begin. It was originally set to start in 2022, as the city underwent the necessary environmental reviews and raised the funds needed for construction.

That lengthy wait meant the site needed an interim use, and several groups applied for the opportunity — including the CCC, which wanted to create a temporary center for homeless and at-risk youth, and Off the Grid, which wanted to temporarily turn the site into a food truck park.

Except for periodic uses as a public parking lot, the McDonald's site has been inactive for almost two years. | Photo: Camden Avery/Hoodline

But the city put those proposals on ice in June, arguing that if Proposition A, the $600 million housing bond, passed in November, construction on the housing development could start as soon as summer 2021.

The short lease, according to an aide for then-Supervisor Vallie Brown at the time, wouldn't make a temporary use worthwhile.

Proposition A did indeed pass, and Barnes said a chunk of the $600 million will be dedicated to speeding up the McDonald's development. But it's still unclear when construction will commence. 

The building's protective fencing, pictured two years ago. It's long since been defaced, and is now mostly graffiti. | Photo: Camden Avery/Hoodline

Barnes confirmed that an interim use tenant will once again be sought by the site's newly announced developers: the Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corporation and the Chinatown Community Development Center, who were selected last week. They'll oversee the selection process for a temporary operator, with the MOHCD granting final approval.

Off the Grid declined to comment on its continued interest in the site, but Welch said the CCC was "still committed" to its original plan to bring in health and support services for the Haight's homeless.

However, even with the structure gone, it appears that the McDonald's lot will remain vacant for a while yet. 

"I assume that the better part of 2020 will be devoted to [deciding] interim uses and then coming up with an actual proposal," the CCC's Welch said. 

We'll keep you posted on which groups will once again vie to temporarily use the site — and when construction on the permanent housing development will eventually get going.