Developers Back Out of Approved San Francisco Projects

A recent report from the San Francisco Chronicle revealed a hair-raising fact: thousands of homes that got a green light to be built are idling on untouched land.

Experts NBC Bay Area talked to said it cannot all be explained by higher costs and a lack of labor. A look at the sun-kissed skyscrapers in San Francisco's South of Market area and you may think new housing projects are popping up all over the city. Don't be fooled.

"Why are we only seeing ultra-luxury projects get built? Because those are the only things that developers currently can make any money on," said Todd David, executive director for the San Francisco Housing Action Coalition.

David said projects like 181 Fremont and The Avery benefit from their rare height and price-per-square foot, but also not being burdened by unattainable demands. David said The Axis development in San Francisco's Mission -- now fenced off and for sale -- could not be built profitably with the demand that 27 percent of its units be classified as affordable.

Sam Moss with the non-profit Mission Housing said higher construction costs and labor shortages helped lead to The Axis' demise. But when asked about the San Francisco Chronicle's recent report that nearly 7,000 units approved for building are "languishing," Moss pointed to developers having to wait a decade, or more, to get through city red tape. And that's a problem.

"It's hard to conceive of a reality where a bank or a financing entity is going to just stay there waiting, especially when the costs just keep going higher, and higher, and higher," Moss said.

And that gets to the perfect storm -- developers cannot be paying interest on loans just waiting for projects to be approved. It is really expensive.

NBC Bay Area attempted to speak with Mayor London Breed and supervisors on Monday to talk about the permitting process, but were not successful.

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