December 12, 2013 Eric Tuvel

Breaking News: Ominous vote on 1050 Valencia Street project

Last night (Wed, Dec 11th), the Board of Appeals voted to reduce the 1050 Valencia Street project from five stories to four. Proposed as a 12-unit, 55-foot tall development, with 2 on-site affordable homes, no car parking and 1:1 bike parking, it complies with every requirement of the 2008 Eastern Neighborhoods Plan (ENP). Nevertheless, the BoA determined it was “out of scale and out of character with the neighborhood.”  Because last night’s vote reduced the unit count from 12 to nine, it also resulted in the elimination of the project’s affordable housing obligation.
The SFHAC is alarmed at this decision for what it suggests about San Francisco’s ability or determination to respond to a brutal housing affordability crisis directly caused by our lack of new supply. When new housing developments finally start being built in the ENP neighborhoods, a commitment from the City to support its own plan appears lacking.  Worse, this emboldens some residents in the ENP areas to oppose both its implementation and the new housing we so badly need.
It is probably not an exaggeration to say that a successful response to improving housing affordability requires that projects like 1050 Valencia be replicated hundreds of times throughout the City’s neighborhoods without taking six years to entitle.  If our elected and appointed leaders cannot support modestly scaled projects that comply with our adopted area plans, then our chances of reducing the enormous imbalance between demand for housing and our chronically inadequate supply are doubtful indeed.
  • The project, begun in 2006, would replace a 1970s-era one-story restaurant and is located in the new “Neighborhood Commercial – Transit” (NCT) zone.
  • An earlier design was scaled back from 16 units to 12 in an attempt to placate neighborhood opposition.
  • Last night’s decision followed a recent, surprisingly close Board of Supervisors 6-5 vote in favor of the project on a CEQA appeal. Supervisors objecting to the project (Campos, Avalos, Kim, Mar, Cohen) complained about its lack of parking or stated that this type of housing “gentrified” the neighborhood.
The ENP was a major re-zoning of many of the City’s former industrial areas that required hundreds of community meetings and public hearings over a decade before it was adopted. The SFHAC was a major participant in the process over the years and supported the passage of the ENP.  Like many consensus decisions, it wasn’t perfect; compromises were made on all sides. The SFHAC would have preferred an approach that allowed somewhat more intensive uses of the land. It is therefore alarming that even this compromise appears threatened.
The SFHAC — a member-based coalition — will focus its energy in 2014 on full implementation of the Eastern Neighborhoods Plan as it was adopted – no backtracking on its vision. We will keep you abreast of developments like this, ask for your guidance on the best ways to get our City leaders on board, and keep you posted as we push to make San Francisco a pro-housing city.

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