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A Long-delayed Ocean Avenue Development Proposal Resurfaces

SIA Consulting's initial rendering of the project.

In April, TJ Development and their design team, SIA Consulting, introduced plans for a four-story mixed-use building on Ocean Avenue in the heart of Ingleside with 54 housing units, four ground-floor retail spaces and 27 parking spaces.

Residents and business owners crowded Ingleside Branch Library’s Community Room April 10 to hear the proposal for the pre application meeting, which is mandated by the Planning Department before plans are formally submitted. A conditional use authorization is required to merge the four parcels that currently house four buildings with eight businesses and a church in 1601 to 1633 Ocean Ave.

A range of concerns were raised, including the prospect that long-time tenants would be displaced, such as The Ave bar and A-1 Shoe Repair, and replace them with chain stores to increased parking congestion to the design of the building.

Brian Bauer, a project manager for TJ Development, would not promise to offer the new spaces to current commercial tenants and argued that the new development would bring more people and foot traffic to the corridor, providing more customers for Ocean Avenue businesses.

“We’re earnestly trying to work with you. All those extra units are extra business, those are [people] that service the retail stores,” Bauer said, adding that many of the current businesses were “anemic.”

SIA Consulting architect Reza Khoshnevisan said that the project proposal had already been reconfigured to include three three-bedroom units and more ground-floor storefronts as a result of two private meetings with District 7 Supervisor Norman Yee. This information seemed to surprise and concern many attendees.

“Shouldn’t the supervisor first wait for the community’s feedback so he can represent their views?” said Miles Escobedo, owner of Ocean Ale House, after the meeting.

“Developers contact my office with their projects at various stages of their process. Some come in the beginning of their process similar to 1601 Ocean, others come almost after someone appeals City Planning decisions,” Yee wrote, adding that he had not indicated support or opposition for the project in the meetings.

Project History

The proposal is only the latest plan for the block. Since 2005, a series of developers have proposed mixed-use developments.

In 2005, a developer filed plans for a mixed-use development with 18 housing units. In 2009, Willart, LLC proposed to build 36 residential units, 11,250 square feet of ground-floor retail, and 41 below-grade parking spaces.

As the proposal moved through the planning process, Willart sold the project to TJ Development for $6.7 million in November 2014, according to the Chronicle.

Small Businesses

Years of development proposals have caused uncertainty for the commercial tenants who may be displaced if development plans move forward.

In 2014, the Ocean Avenue Association surveyed them about how they felt about receiving relocation assistance from the city or the developer.

While the commercial tenants would welcome relocation assistance, most said they would only consider returning to the new development after two to three years of construction if the commercial spaces were a similar size to the current spaces.

Ocean Avenue

When asked about how he would like the proposed development to look, Daniel Weaver, the OAA’s executive director, urged the developers to provide a variety of small commercial spaces with well-designed residential units above.

“New buildings should be designed to the environmental conditions of Ocean Avenue, provide advanced building technologies, include urban pedestrian street furniture and public art in appropriate locations and be well-landscaped,” Weaver said.

Two days after the initial community meeting at the library, SIA Consulting’s Amir Afifi presented their plans to the OAA’s Street Life Committee.

The Committee, which dealt with the project’s previous version in 2014, had sent its requests for all new buildings on the corridor to the developer in advance. They are to include a ventilation shaft for a stove to allow the use of a restaurant; follow the Balboa Park Station Area Plan, work with small businesses; and respect the neighborhood character.

Light publisher Alexander Mullaney chairs the committee. He was surprised none of those requests had been respected in the plans but was glad Afifi seemed receptive to the committee’s feedback. However concerns lingered.

“As proposed, the trade-offs are no good,” Mullaney said. “The developer thinks they’re doing the corridor a favor by simply adding 54 units but they’re also reducing the ground-floor commercial space by 60 percent, eliminating all second floor office space and displacing eight small businesses. The community will lose jobs and neighborhood character. We deserve more.”

The design team will be incorporating the community’s feedback in their next design.

“It’s been a tough project,” TJ Development Executive Vice President Chris Lim said. “The profit margin is narrow and the costs have gone up.”

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