The West Cork Hotel renovates and tries to reopen with tourist rooms taking up most of the hotel. THC argues that new tourist hotels are banned in that area.
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Tenderloin Hotel Loses Tourist Trade
Now it’s permanent residents only
Tourists looking for budget rooms in San Francisco may have lost the West Cork Hotel as lodgings, but the city has gained a renovated building whose rooms are affordable to working people at the bottom of the economic ladder.
In a recent decision hailed by housing activists as a “huge deal,” and decried by the hotel as “bad law and bad policy,” the San Francisco Board of Appeals said the West Cork must rent all of its 88 rooms to permanent residents.
The building at 144 Eddy St., formerly known as the Empress Hotel, was forced to close its doors in 1981 when the city declared it an “imminent and substantial hazard to the life, health or safety of occupants.”
It reopened last year, renovated top to bottom, and touting its same-day laundry valet service,
access to an indoor heated pool and proximity to Union Square.
But in a 3-to-2 vote, the board upheld an earlier decision by a city zoning administrator, who said the hotel had long ago forfeited the right to rent to tourists.
Construction of new tourist hotels is banned in the area where the West Cork is located, according to a 2001 determination by zoning administrator Lawrence Badiner.
Existing tourist hotels may continue operating, Badiner said, but if a hotel abandons the business for “a continuous period of three years,” it loses the right to re-establish tourist lodgings.
Randy Shaw, executive director of the Tenderloin Housing Clinic, led the fight to claim all of the rooms for permanent residents.
He called the ruling a “huge deal” in San Francisco, which has lost hundreds of residential hotel rooms to fires in recent years.
Shaw said the West Cork could offer a “step up to higher-quality housing” for people who couldn’t afford studios or apartments in the city’s high-priced rental market.
Residential rooms at the hotel cost $200 to $250 a week.
“Market-rate rents at the West Cork wouldn’t be affordable to people living on Supplemental Security Income (federal payments to disable people), but they would be affordable to working people making $25,000 a year,” Shaw said.
Attorney Andrew Zazks who represents hotel owner Vijay Patel, decried the decision as “bad law and bad policy,” and has asked the Board of Appeals to reconsider its decision.
Zacks said the city never revoked a permit allowing Patel to rent 58 rooms to tourists and 30 rooms to permanent residents.
Together, Patel and West Cork LLC, a company formed to renovate and manage to hotel, spent more than $3 million to fix up the dilapidated building.
Attorney Philip Ward, who represents West Cork LLC, said the company had signed a long-term lease assuming the hotel could rent tourists and residents.
Ward said it was an economic mix designed to generate enough revenue to cover costs, recover its investment — and, it was hoped, make a profit.
“There is no way the revenue stream coming out of a residential hotel is going to be able to feed all of those numbers,” Ward said.