Bay Area/ San Francisco/ Real Estate & Development
Published on May 13, 2020
COVID-19 won't delay housing at Haight McDonald's, but interim use remains up in the airPhotos: Camden Avery/Hoodline

After two years of standing vacant, the former McDonald's restaurant that stood at the Haight Street entrance to Golden Gate Park for five decades was finally demolished last month.

Currently paved and painted as a parking lot, the plot of land is ultimately destined to become a 100% affordable housing development that serves the surrounding neighborhoods.

But with that project still years away, it's still up in the air as to what it might be used for in the meantime. 

Maximilian Barnes, a spokesperson for the Mayor's Office of Housing and Community Development — the agency responsible for coordinating the development — said that the timeline for getting the affordable housing project underway remains the same despite COVID-19: "about two years."

The development process will include selecting an architect, coming up with a design, undergoing community review and feedback, and ultimately securing approval from the Planning Department. 

Barnes said that the project's co-developers, the Chinatown Community Development Center and the Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corporation, will be selecting an architect in the next few weeks.

Photo: Camden Avery/Hoodline

During that two-year wait, the site is still being considered for an interim use — a saga that's been unfolding since 2018. 

That's when the city requested proposals for making temporary use of the site, and got two major ones: an Off the Grid-run food truck park, and a center for homeless and at-risk youth overseen by the Coalition for Complete Community (CCC) — a group originally launched by neighbors to help steer development standards for the site.

But the city put the brakes on both proposals last summer, saying that it couldn't make the decision until after voters weighed in on Proposition A, a $600 million affordable housing bond that ultimately passed in November.

Its argument was that the additional funding would speed up the timeline for development from five to two years — a sea change to applicants' financial plans for using the site in the meantime. 

Earlier this year, the city restarted the interim use application process, and the CCC recommenced work on its proposal for a mixed community recreation and at-risk youth services site, said CCC steering committee co-chair Tes Welborn. (Off The Grid declined to comment on its continued interest in the site.)

But now, Barnes said that interim use applications have once again been put on pause by COVID-19, as the city scrambles to determine what additional emergency measures need to be implemented.

"MOHCD is holding on any final decisions at city-owned sites under its jurisdiction until the full scope of COVID-19 related needs have been identified and executed," Barnes said. 

In response to the COVID-19 crisis, the city is considering making 730 Stanyan a safe sleeping site for unhoused campers, allowing them to socially distance their tents and have access to bathroom facilities, meals and service providers. 

The city is now allowing homeless people to shelter in tents, but living conditions in dense encampments are a risk. | Photo: Jessica Park/Hoodline

The CCC has already written a letter in support of using either the McDonald's site or nearby Kezar Pavilion as a safe sleeping site, Welborn said.

"Since the Mayor refuses to house more than a handful of homeless citizens," Welborn said, "it is better to use this site to somewhat more safely support unhoused neighbors for the short term."

The CCC's letter of support for a safe sleeping site largely dovetails with the plan proposed by District 5 Supervisor Dean Preston. It calls for a camp of socially distanced tents with on-site sanitation services, basic medical support and meals. Enrollment would be entirely voluntary. 

The CCC's recommendation is that the site be administered by the Homeless Youth Alliance (HYA) and neighborhood volunteers, and that it dissolve operations after the city's shelter-in-place order is lifted.

But with that order currently set to lift in two and a half weeks, on May 31, it's unclear whether the safe sleeping site would be able to get up and running in time.

We'll continue to follow the path for that project, and for the eventual interim use and development of the McDonald's site after the shelter-in-place ends.