Trinity Plaza Apartments Moving Forward

by Casey Mills on July 13, 2006

A proposal to build approximately 1,900 units of rental housing on the corner of 8th and Market will face its final hurdles in the coming weeks, as developers of Trinity Plaza Apartments seek final project approval at the Planning Commission on August 3. The project then heads to the Board of Supervisors. Seen as a key to the revitalization of the Mid-Market neighborhood, Trinity Plaza has moved forward while progress on other major developments in San Francisco has slowed. All eyes will likely turn to Trinity now, with observers looking to the project both as a bellwether for future development in the city and as a possible template for striking agreement between community concerns and developer desires.

The battle over Trinity Plaza began more than three years ago, when developer Angelo Sangiacamo declared his intent to demolish the current apartment complex on the site and build condos on top of it. A fight to stop the demolition ensued, which included a contentious ballot measure, heavy community organizing surrounding the issue, a series of protests and a fight at the Board of Supervisors.

The stand-off was finally resolved when Sangiacamo reached a plan for the site that everyone could agree on. The current building will be demolished and replaced with up to 1,900 units. However, 360 of those units will be affordable, rent-controlled housing, and all Trinity Plaza tenants will maintain their current rents in the new building. In addition, twelve percent of the remaining units will also be affordable. The new Trinity Plaza will also include 51,883 net square feet of retail uses at street level, as well as 63,000 square feet of usable open space.

The Planning Commission already approved the project’s Environmental Impact Report, and will now decide whether to approve the development agreement for the site and to issue final approval for the project. Should they grant it, Trinity Plaza will move on to the Board of Supervisors, which must approve the development agreement between Sangiacamo and the city for construction on the project to finally began.

The development community has undergone a downturn in recent months, and observers are speculating that many approved projects will not be built in San Francisco over the next few years. The fact that a massive development like Trinity is moving forward, however, is an exception to this trend, though since Trinity owner Angelo Sangiacomo is 82 years old, delay may not have been an option.

Building Trinity Plaza would also represent an extremely rare instance when a developer, community and tenants manage to strike accord on an issue so contentious. Their final agreement, which creates more than twice the number of affordable units required by city law, could become a guide for future projects.

Finally, Trinity would arrive in the Mid-Market neighborhood as debate surrounding the area’s future continues. Some argue that Mid-Market should become a redevelopment area, claiming the neighborhood is blighted and has a bleak future without Redevelopment Agency help. Opponents point to projects like Trinity Plaza as proof that the neighborhood is already on the upswing, and a Redevelopment Agency would merely rob the city of funds and the Mid-Market community of the power it exercised when negotiating with Sangiacamo.

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