SAN FRANCISCO-The San Francisco Planning Commission approved overall plans for a 64-unit loft development here that has been blasted by slow-growth and housing activists as the largest yet in the Mission District. The project–on a block bounded by 16th, Alhambra, Harrison and 17th streets–is one of a handful of live-work loft developments approved by the city this year.

The approval was handed down late last week despite complaints from Mission District residents and slow-growth activists that lofts do not belong on the site, which sits in an area reserved by the city for industrial businesses. The 153,333-sf development calls for four-story buildings that will have a maximum of nine ground-level retail spaces.

Housing activists contend that the project is just another form of expensive housing and a back door way to creating additional office space in a city limited by 1986′s Proposition M, which restricts the amount of office space developed annually. Locals say that despite its intended use, residential living, the lofts will actually be used by businesses.

The Planning Commission responded by saying that the area is ripe for development and needed in a city hampered by limited space and skyrocketing rents. “I’ve watched this site for years, and I’m still amazed it hasn’t been put to productive use,” says commissioner Hector Chinchilla. he recounted how he spent his youth growing up in the Mission. “We would have killed for projects like this when I was a kid.”

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