Wednesday, June 27, 2007

San Franciscans for Livable Neighborhoods

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

City of San Francisco Rebuffed for Refusing to Prepare Environmental Impact Report

San Francisco, California – June 25, 2007

San Franciscans for Livable Neighborhoods (SFLN), an alliance of fourteen San Francisco neighborhood organizations, won a State of California Court of Appeal decision which requires the City and County of San Francisco to prepare an environmental impact report to analyze all potential significant adverse effects of amendments to the City’s General Plan Housing Element. The amendments call for significant changes in neighborhood zoning to permit higher density, loss of open space and reduced parking requirements in residential construction projects.

Every five years, the City is required by the State to update the City’s General Plan Housing Element, which sets forth the City’s policies and objectives for housing development.

The Court of Appeal held that the combined effect of the changes to the City’s General Plan Housing Element “reflect a shift away from preserving existing housing density and a movement toward allowing denser housing development, and decreased off-street parking, which in turn could lead to increased traffic congestion, air pollution, and noise, as well as a change in the aesthetic quality of City neighborhoods.” (Slip Op. p. 19)

The Court also faulted the City for failing to analyze “the potential environmental effects of eliminating the policy of increasing the housing supply ‘without overcrowding or adversely affecting the prevailing character of existing neighborhoods’.” (Slip Op. p. 22)

The Court stated that under the City’s amendments, “developers would be able to argue that taller buildings are consistent with the City’s general plan,” “the proponent of any new zoning ordinance that calls for denser developments would be able to argue that the ordinance was consistent with the Housing Element” and “any future housing promoters could argue that a high density development was compatible with the revised Housing Element.” (Slip Op. p. 23, 20)

The Court of Appeal cited with approval the testimony of the neighborhood organization’s expert witness, the former planning director of Concord, that “the revisions could lead to ‘high-density, bulky, potentially 50-foot tall buildings in neighborhood commercial areas and along transit corridors throughout the City [which] could cause myriad environmental effects,’ including incompatibility with neighborhood character, and a transformation of San Francisco’s unique neighborhoods into ‘high-walled canyons.’” (Slip Op. p. 23)

The Court of Appeal issued its opinion on June 22, 2007 in case number A112987.

Before commencing suit, SFLN unsuccessfully appealed to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors to reverse the Planning Commission’s decision to proceed without requiring an environmental impact report. At the June 29, 2004 hearing, Supervisors Alioto-Pier, Hall, Ma and Peskin voted to require an environmental impact report, but Supervisors Ammiano, Daly, Dufty, Gonzalez, Maxwell and McGoldrick voted to the contrary.

The neighborhood organizations which comprise SFLN consist of the Cow Hollow Association, the Francisco Heights Civic Association, the Greater West Portal Neighborhood Association, the Jordan Park Improvement Association, the Lakeshore Acres Improvement Club, the Laurel Heights Improvement Association of San Francisco, Inc., the Marina-Cow Hollow Neighbors & Merchants, the Miraloma Park Improvement Club, the Pacific Heights Residents Association, the Presidio Heights Association of Neighbors, the Russian Hill Neighbors, the St. Francis Homes Association, the Sunset-Parkside Education and Action Committee, Inc., and the Westwood Highlands Association.

Contact:

Kathryn Devincenzi
22 Iris Avenue
San Francisco, CA 94118
Telephone: (415) 221-4700


Tuesday, June 26, 2007 (SF Chronicle)
Neighborhoods win against housing plan in an appeals ruling

Bob Egelko, Chronicle Staff Writer

The housing blueprint that San Francisco adopted three years ago could lead to increased neighborhood density, more traffic and extra pollution, and is invalid because the city failed to study the environmental consequences, a state appeals court has ruled.

The decision Friday by the First District Court of Appeal in SanFrancisco was a victory for neighborhood organizations, mostly in the western part of the city, that formed San Franciscans for Livable Neighborhoods to challenge the housing element of the city's general plan. They argued that the proposal would concentrate development in their areas and cause overcrowding. The city Planning Commission approved the document in May 2004, which was 14 years after it was previously updated. It outlines plans for accommodating growth projected by the Association of Bay Area Governments: a population increase in San Francisco of 32,500 by 2010, to 809,200, and a need for about 2,700 new housing units each year.

City officials said the plan contained only minor differences from the 1990 revision and did not require an environmental impact report, a conclusion that a Superior Court judge accepted in December 2005. The appeals court disagreed. Some provisions of the 2004 document "reflect a shift away from preserving existing housing density and a movement toward allowing denser housing development and decreased off-street parking," the three-judge panel said. That, in turn, could lead to increased traffic congestion, airpollution and noise and a change in the "aesthetic quality" of neighborhoods, the court said.

The judges ordered the city to prepare an environmental report that would analyze the changes, discuss alternatives and solicit public comment. The city could go through that process for the 2004 plan or set that document aside and conduct an environmental report for an updated plan that is due in 2009, Deputy City Attorney Audrey Pearson said Monday. She said the city could also appeal the ruling to the state Supreme Court.

Kathy Devincenzi, the lawyer for the plaintiffs, said the process of pulling together an environmental impact report would bring "all the adverse consequences (of the housing plan) to light." Those consequences include denser neighborhoods, scarcer parking and a more difficult climate for local businesses, she said.

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2 Comments:

At 9:03 PM, Anonymous A Good Neighbor said...

These San Francisco Neighbors for Livable Neighborhoods are about anything but creating good Neighbors!

Being a good neighbor when I found an antique ring on the sidewalk near my house, I put up a sign saying I had found a ring and included my phone number. I thought I was doing a good deed helping someone who had lost something of clear value and possibly of sentimental importance.

But these "San Francisco Neighbors for Livable Neighborhoods" didn't see this as a neighborly thing to do. Instead they have decided to sue me for "installing a mini-billboard" (it's just a one page handwritten sign taped to a phone pole) that is "a trespass and harmful misuse, incompatible with community goals and aesthetic standards, and recognized by law as a public nuisance". The suit goes on to say that "your sign is not just illegal: it is more damaging, wasteful and intrusive than junk mail or Internet spam."

Clearly "San Franciscans for Livable Neighborhoods" have somewhere along the way lost track of how real neighbors treat each other.

 
At 10:21 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

I'd like to learn more about this. Do you have any emailable documents or snail-mailable docs to verify the incident?

 

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