On March 24th, the San Francisco Housing Action Coalition’s (SFHAC) Regulatory Committee heard from the Planning Department’s Steve Wertheim. Wertheim is the department lead on the Central SOMA Area Plan, a City effort to rezone a part of the neighborhood. Wertheim said the goal of the Plan is to create an economically, socially, and environmentally sustainable neighborhood by accommodating growth, providing public benefits, and respecting and enhancing the neighborhood character.
Wertheim provided SFHAC members a view into the plan’s implementation that will occur over the next 20 years. Effectively executed, the plan strives to maintain what is great about the neighborhood (diversity of residents and jobs, well served by transit, etc.) while finding areas to improve (inefficient land use, pedestrian experiences, etc.).
Central to the conversation is the plan’s jobs/housing balance. Wertheim explained that there is already a jobs/housing balance in the City’s existing and foreseeable zoning (i.e., space for 185,000 workers and 180,000 jobs). In that context, the Planning Department wants Central SOMA to be primarily a jobs-oriented area, given its regionally-connected location. Wertheim conveyed that the growth in the neighborhood is expected to be approximately 40,000 workers and 7,800 housing units. SFHAC believes that the jobs/housing balance can be improved.
When asked how to add more housing potential, Wertheim pointed out that the requirement for lots larger than 30,000 square feet were committed to be at least two-thirds nonresidential, and that amending that ceiling (e.g., to 40,000 square feet) would add housing potential. The change wouldn’t be significant in the grand scheme, but does provide a bit more housing. SFHAC suggests this change be made. While many will call for a more even balance, the area is so well-connected to regional transit and SFHAC believes it’s one of the best (if not the best) place for high density job numbers. A well-coordinated regional housing, jobs, and transportation plan is really the best way prepare for the next generation’s Bay Area. In the meantime, the Central SoMa neighborhood will do its part to help manage regional demand while not losing what makes the neighborhood special.