Zoning Controls or Environmental Mitigation?
by Fred Snyder, resident & business owner in the NEMIZ

Senior staff of City Planning presented a new round of Interim Controls to the Planning Commission in February, intended to hold off any further construction projects that might conflict with the yet-to-be-determined new zoning. By State law, “interim” zoning controls are only allowed for 2 years, but most of the mixed-use neighborhoods of South of Market,  NE Mission and Showplace Square have had an endless string of moratoriums and interim controls since April 1999.

Unable to craft a Rezoning Plan with adequate neighborhood support, and unable to get the Planning Commission to enact further controls, the Board of Supervisors took real estate development of the Eastern Neighborhoods squarely into their own hands on March 16.  Supervisors overruled a technical report by the Environmental Review Division of City Planning, which essentially created a moratorium on all new housing in the Eastern Neighborhoods for the indefinite future.

 All new, privately financed housing will need to wait for the environmental analysis of the entire rezoning study before any new housing is approved. The Supervisors have asserted that the loss of any more PDR (industrial) space would create a negative impact on the physical environment, by increasing rents in the surrounding area, and causing displacement of established tenants.

 Whoever is pushing this anti-housing agenda, will need to claim that replacing dangerous old buildings with safe new ones, and introducing modern, clean industries, that can pay higher rents would create a significant and negative impact on the physical environment in the surrounding neighborhood.

 In fact, nothing could be more backwards. Leaving old buildings to sink in the mud, until public funds are found to replace them, is not an environmentally sound policy in earthquake country. New residential units will trigger more open space and create new tax revenues to support the needed transportation and infrastructure improvements that everyone wants. The SF PUC, in charge of our water system, is counting on big hook-up fees for new buildings to help fund their massive upgrade program to this key system.

The Eastern Neighborhoods could be a showcase of new sustainable building technologies, with incentives for new “green buildings” which tread more lightly on the land than previous industry.


Planning Commission Echos Neighborhood Concerns

Commissioner Shelly Bradford Bell pointed out confusion to both the public and to the Commissioners, when at this late stage, the Long Range Planning director comes asking for approval of 1) an entirely new set of zoning classifications and 2) a different proposed land use map, that no one has seen before. 

Even a spokesman for the main group who had pushed for strict controls, the Mission Anti-displacement Coalition, also expressed outrage that the Department had entirely changed their agenda at this late stage. For those of us who have been trying to work with City staff on these planning efforts since 1992, it is becoming frustrating, to say the least.

Specific concerns expressed by commissioners and the public include:

Database Errors used to inform planning decisions, never get corrected (like omissions of PUBLIC property)

Non-conforming uses created by the new zoning, (existing housing becomes a conflicting use)

Floor Area Ratio of 2 : 1 for PDR space is too high. (Example: To tear down 10,000 sq.ft. of PDR space, requires replacement with 20,000 sqft);

Spot zoning targets individual properties, creating “islands” out of sync with adjacent neighbors;

Social Economic Demands are requested as a new Zoning Code amendment, yet will not be defined for another 6-8 months.

Parking We need to find an acceptable site for a public parking garage in the neighborhood, funded by contributions from new projects, which in turn allows the new buildings to have more productive space on the ground level instead of parking.

Question - How can the Planning Dept keep repeating over and over, the same errors and misinformation brought to their attention during the process, and still never addressed?  So much of the basic data that went into the analyses was in dispute, that what confidence can we have in the conclusions reached? The amount and location of City owned property should be correctly identified at least, since these sites are exempt from any land use zoning controls forever into the future.  Check out the new Federal Bldg on 7th St.

Who Decides What Gets Built in the Mission?, By Fred Snyder, resident and property owner

The existing residents and property owners of the land proposed to be rezoned this year, have been entirely left out of the process - again.

This year’s workshops with City Planning are supposed to address “Community Benefits” to be funded with development fees from new projects and local property taxes.  Notification of the workshops went out to all residents and tenants of the Mission, but again not to the property owners who would be funding the “benefits” in question.  Now we are informed that yet another consultant has been hired to prepare another study to evaluate the scope and funding strategy for some Community Benefits concept our political leaders have in mind. Do you think they will ever ask the people from the area affected? I doubt it.

 The written reports from  City Planning state that community stakeholders, through open workshops, have already reached agreement on a zoning plan, and that “the Mission Anti-Displacement Coalition (founded by Supervisor Daly before his election) and the Mission Planning Council would represent the views of the larger Mission community, and speak for those who disagreed with the organic development of the neighborhood”.

 Who does speak for the NEMIZ?

 The first set of Zoning Workshops in 2002 were advertised as sponsored by the DCP and a subsidized housing developer (Mission Housing). This would have been fine, if they had invited all the stakeholders in the effected community.  But notices went out to non-profit tenants instead of businesses or property owners in the affected area of the NEMIZ.  By the third workshop, most of the real stakeholders had been notified, but attendees were told that the community had already made decisions at the first workshop as to what the priorities for the NEMIZ would be, and it would not be revisited.  This is called “community-based planning”.

 Requests to DCP for their files developed during the 2002 workshops (made under procedures of the Sunshine Ordinance) have entirely vanished from the Department’s computer and paper records.

Why are there so many vacant lots and homeless encampments in the NE Mission?

Most of San Francisco’s eastside warehouse districts were designated as industrial zoning, in the 1970s which used to permit nearly every commercial business imaginable, but not housing. As the old style manufacturing concerns leave the city center for more economical settings, very large parcels of land are left as “opportunity sites”, where new buildings with different uses can have big impacts on a neighborhood very quickly. It takes deep pockets to develop these lots and much is at stake.

New housing, which brings new faces to the City, is portrayed as a threat to an existing way of life from endless angles.  Many diverse and powerful factions are in sync with the efforts to prevent new market-rate housing. Homeownership is nearly made a crime here.

The obstacles in front of new construction are mind-boggling. Some poor dude from Texas is trying to build new condos across from Mission Bay, next to the Caltrans railroad tracks at 16th & 7th Streets. City Planning has now identified the site for new open space, instead of using the parcels a couple blocks away owned by the City. Welcome to San Francisco!

Since it is increasingly hard to justify the housing moratoriums we have had since 1999, a new “Benefits Package” has been proposed from our district Supervisors to impose new fees on new projects and direct taxes on the immediate neighborhood. All designed to prevenet anything from happening here or in Showplace Square, without the explicit blessing of our local home-boys. Power corrupts.

 No one likes change, but whoever is making decisions for us right now obviously, is not located in these old industrial areas, which are polluted, vacant and dangerous at night. The streets are crawling with prostitutes and gangsters and no woman in her right mind would walk alone from Bryant St. to Valencia along 16th or 17th Streets after midnight. City planners say they want to set this area aside for future commercial expansion some day. Simultaneously, they are lower the building height limits around Franklin Square, where a few tall buildings could be tolerated. 

We desperately need more people here at night. I don’t care where they came from. Some of the most affordable housing available in the City is in the Mission flats built around the time of the 1906 Quake and Fire, but owners are required to add a new parking space for every new residential unit created, even if only involves subdividing the existing floor area. Subdividing these beautiful family sized homes would be the smartest way to help low income families buy a small piece of real estate. Instead, we are told by the Bay Guardian we should look to the big government run corporations to build “affordable housing” for an endless subsidized rental lifestyle.

Government owned property is of course, exempt from all zoning, fees and taxes. Take a look at the new Federal Bldg going up at 7th Street and Mission. Try to build that at Frankin Park! Check out the Public Benefits of Chris Daly’s new alliance with the Residential Builders Assoc. located at 4th and Townsend, who he swore to defeat in his district election campaign. No one I know will run against him for Supervisor. He doesn’t play by anyone’s rules, and too many of us remember the tragic years of violence during the height of the invasion when loft buildings under construction were torched. (New Mission News Nov 1999)

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