February 28, 2014 Housing Action Coalition
Last night in a highly unusual decision, and by a 4-0 vote, the SF Board of Appeals reversed their December 2013 decision to remove a floor on the 1050 Valencia Street development. The Board of Appeals added back the fifth floor, bringing the project back to a total of 12 dwellings which will include two on-site inclusionary units. While it might seem odd to a lot of folks that so much attention and energy has been focused on such a small project, the Board’s decision was quite noteworthy.
A novel legal argument introduced by supporters of the project changed the Board’s decision in spite of vociferous opposition from local neighbors. Under the California “Housing Accountability Act”, for a local agency to condition approval of a housing project on reducing its density to less than that allowed by law, the agency must make findings that the project would have a “specific adverse impact on public health and safety” unless the density is reduced. This argument has apparently only been invoked in California seven times before and this was the first time it was used in San Francisco.
A persuasive argument used last night stated that, “the Housing Accountability Act was adopted because the lack of housing in California has become a critical problem threatening the economic, environmental and social quality of life. This lack of housing is partially caused by activities of many local governments that limit approval of housing projects.”
The Board of Appeals mandated setback conditions to the fifth floor that will require the project sponsor to submit new designs to the SF Planning Department. This probably isn’t the last time there will be public hearings for this project.
Kudos to SFHAC’s members, Andrew Junius and Steve Vettel, the legal whizzes who found, suggested and crafted the application of this statute to the project.
The project, begun in 2006, replaces a 1970s-era one-story restaurant and is located in the new “Neighborhood Commercial – Transit” (NCT) zone;
Originally 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);
An earlier design was scaled back from 16 units to 12 in an attempt to placate neighborhood opposition.
The 1050 Valencia Street project is the first significant challenge to the ENP.
For further information contact the SF Housing Action Coalition at (415) 541-9001 or Tim Colen at email@example.com. Housing Accountability Act