San Francisco approves Mt. Sutro housing development


The steep slope below a dirt road is where someday soon 34 new homes will stand. Called "San Francisco Overlook," its renderings show how 24 duplexes and 10 townhomes should blend into the hillside.

The views will be spectacular -- looking northwest across Golden Gate Park, out to the ocean.

The lot on the western slope of Mt. Sutro has been zoned for housing since the 1960s, but was never developed in part because of neighborhood opposition.

Michael Ostrovski's house sits alone at the end of Crestmont Drive, right above where the homes and a new road for them will be built.

"When we bought it we were so happy, we were in like a paradise. Now they want to destroy it," said Michael Ostrovski.

Many homeowners here are worried about emergency access on their narrow street and development on what has historically been an unstable hillside. But the developer says the new road will be up to code and the hillside will be more stable when they're done with it.

"A big part of our structural design is around that and also bringing it right down to bedrock to lock everything down," said Developer Gary Testa.

There is virtually no land left to develop on the west side of the city and the Association of Bay Area Governments projects population growth from the current 812,000 to 964,000 by 2035, requiring more than 92,000 new housing units -- a fact not lost on the commission.

"There is a need for more housing in the city and I think it's actually important to have new housing on the west side and not just concentrate all the development on the east side," said Cindy Wu.

Opponents have already spent tens of thousands of dollars on lawyers and after Thursday's approval by the planning commission, they might be spending more.

"We have retained an attorney who has looked at the proposal and looked at our legal stance and we are prepared to go to court," said Crestmont Drive homeowner Paul Gorman.

Testa says the project should be built in about two-and-a-half years. Prices will be in the range of $1 million and up.

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