Thursday, April 16, 2009

Public comment on the Market Street monstrosity

FROM:
Mary Miles (SB #230395)
Attorney at Law
Coalition for Adequate Review

TO:
President Ron Miguel and Members of the
San Francisco Planning Commission
1650 Mission St., Suite 400
San Francisco, CA 94103

DATE: April 16, 2009

BY E-MAIL and HAND DELIVERY.

PUBLIC COMMENT
on 1960-1998 Market Street, Case No. 2006.1431
Item 11. Appeal of Preliminary Negative Declaration (2006.1431E)
Item 12a. Consideration of Adoption of CEQA Findings and Request for Conditional Use Authorization (2006.1431ECV)
Item 12b. Variances on Rear Yard, Usable Open Space, and Exposure (2006.1431ECV)

San Francisco Planning Commission Agenda of April 16, 2009

This is Public Comment on the proposed development at 1960-1998 Market Street (hereinafter “the Project”) including the Appeal of the Preliminary Mitigated Negative Declaration (“PMND”), the proposed adoption of CEQA Findings and Request for Conditional Use Authorization, and all proposed variances, including those on rear yard, usable open space, and exposure. This proposed Project will clearly have significant direct, indirect, and cumulative impacts on the environment that the PMND fails to identify, analyze and mitigate. The Project's on the environment require analysis and mitigation in a full Environmental Impact Report (“EIR”) before any action may be taken to approve “conditional uses,” “variances” or any other form of implementation. Failing to identify and mitigate the Project’s significant impacts, including its impacts on land use and neighborhood character, aesthetic and historic resources, views, air, light, transit, traffic, parking, adverse growth impacts, and cumulative impacts, is an abuse of discretion and failure to proceed as required by law in violation of the California Environmental Quality Act (“CEQA”), Pub. Res. Code §§21100 et seq.

We support the Appeal of the San Francisco Building and Construction Trades Council (“the Appeal”) and oppose the proposed Project, including any proposed approvals of the Preliminary Negative Declaration, CEQA Findings, the Request for Conditional Use Authorization, the Variances on rear yard, usable open space, and exposure, and every other aspect of the proposed Project. We support and reassert the reasons given in the Appeal for rejecting the PMND. This Project clearly requires an EIR for the reasons given in the Appeal of the Building and Construction Trades, and for other reasons, including but not limited to the following:

1. The PMND fails to identify, analyze and mitigate the Project’s direct, indirect and cumulative impacts on aesthetic resources, open space, air, and light. The proposed 9-story massive monolith will be only 11 feet away from the windows of adjacent residential buildings that it abuts, completely eliminating their views, air and light. The PMND, pp.33-35, fails to identify, analyze, and mitigate the impacts of the proposed Project’s elimination of open space and open views, lack of rear yard, setbacks, and direct impacts on the character of the neighborhood behind the proposed massive, block-long structure, and the cumulative impacts of the “street wall” it will form in combination with other proposed nearby structures, including the proposed 8-story building at 1844 Market Street, and the Market Octavia Area Plan proposal for building a huge, street wall structure at the current Safeway Market site, as well as other proposed high rise structures up to 400 feet high on both sides of Market Street from Van Ness Avenue to Gough Street.

CEQA mandates a state policy protecting existing visual character and the quality of a site and its surroundings. Thus, courts have recognized recognized that aesthetic issues must be evaluated in an EIR to assess and mitigate the impacts of a project. (E.g., Pocket Protectors v. City of Sacramento (2004) 124 Cal.App. 4th 903, 937.) The impacts from “excessive massing of housing with insufficient front, rear, and side yard setbacks” are sufficient to raise a significant impact from the proposed Project requiring an EIR. (Id.)

The Project is jarringly incompatible with the surrounding and adjacent buildings, in size, mass, density, and height, as well as in architectural style. The Project will dwarf and degrade the character of nearby older, smaller buildings of architectural and historical merit, and will dominate the site with a glowing, reflective, hard-edged modern structure with no connection or identity with its surroundings.

The PMND claims that “the proposed new building would not extend above existing buildings north of the project site fronting on Hermann Street,” a pointless comparison, since the building's huge mass and height would equal and exceed the height of buildings on top of Mint Hill, creating a visual leveling effect in direct conflict with City’s urban design guidelines requiring buildings to step down with slope. From every vantage point, the Project is the largest structure in the area, walling and walling out the surrounding buildings, open space, landmarks, and visual character of the immediate and distant surroundings.

More importantly, the massive Project will completely obliterate the views of every building and public space behind it. Due to the defective design with no rear yard or open space, and because it is higher, bulkier and denser than any existing structure in the area, it will have severe impacts on light, air, views and privacy of existing structures and the people who live in them, some only 11 feet from the proposed bulky structure. Incredibly, the PMND concludes, “[I]t is reasonable to conclude that the project would not have a substantial, demonstrable negative aesthetic effect on visual resources on-site, or within the immediate visual setting.” (PMND, p. 33) There is no foundation for this statement in the PMND, and there is substantial evidence supporting a fair argument to the contrary.

The PMND (p. 33) admits that "the project may interrupt or alter some private southerly and westward views over the existing site, particularly from the six apartment buildings north of the project site." The PMND then dismisses those significant impacts on both public and private views, open space, air, and privacy, with the unsupported conclusion: "While this change could be considered undesirable by the affected residents...it would not be considered a significant environmental impact on visual quality under CEQA in the densely built urban environment of San Francisco." This statement is false, unsupported, misleading, and is an abuse of discretion and failure to proceed under the law under CEQA. The Project's significant impacts on the environment must be identified, analyzed and mitigated in an EIR, and the Planning Commission may not lawfully approve this Project without an EIR.

2. The PMND fails to identify, analyze and mitigate the Project’s direct, indirect, and cumulative impacts on land use and neighborhood character. The building and the “street wall” concept itself will have significant direct, indirect and cumulative impacts that will degrade the entire area behind the “street wall” and encourage demolition, displacement, and growth that will alter and degrade the entire area. The size and sheer bulk of the Project will dominate the entire landscape both in the immediate vicinity and from distant views.

3. The PMND fails to identify, analyze and mitigate the Project’s direct, indirect, and cumulative impacts on historic resources and their significance. The Project will completely block public views of the United States Mint, a unique, monumental structure of enduring character and prominence adjacent to the proposed development on Mint Hill at 155 Hermann Street. The Mint is on the National Register of Historic Places (No.1988-02-18) and is a designated a local landmark in the San Francisco General Plan, which is a local register for CEQA purposes. (Preservation Bulletin No. 16, March 31, 2008; Pub. Res. Code §5020.1(k).) The proposed development will adulterate or obliterate all public views of the Mint, from the south and east, substantially impairing its aesthetic and historic significance. Incredibly, the PMND claims that the development will not block views of the Mint. However, even the DPR 523A form for the unfinished Market-Octavia historic survey clearly shows the contrary. The Mint lies immediately north/west of the existing one-story gas station. All public views of the Mint will obviously be blocked by any structure that is more than one or two stories in height. The proposed 9-story structure will also abut and completely remove all light, air and views from other structures of historic and architectural merit around the Mint and the neighboring area.

Combined with plans for 10-story “street wall” box structures and the large condominium development proposed by the Project on the adjacent Safeway site, views of the historic Mint will be completely blocked from every public vantage point to the south, west and east.

Even if it had properly analyzed impacts on the Mint, the PMND fails to identify baseline historic resources in the immediate and cumulative area, and the PMND contains no analysis or mitigation of the proposed Project’s impacts on those resources.

4. The PMND fails to use the correct baseline for analyzing the Project’s impacts. The PMND incorrectly claims that zoning is the baseline for determining the Project’s land use impacts, including impacts on height, bulk, density, massing, and neighborhood character. (E.g., PMND, p. 32.) The baseline from which impacts must be analyzed in an EIR is not what could be built, but the actual physical conditions that are there on the ground. [1] (E.g., 14 Cal.Code Regs. [“Guidelines”] §§15125(a); §15126.2(a); Save Our Peninsula Committee v. Monterey County Board of Supervisors (2001) 87 Cal.app.4th 99, 119; County of Amador v. El Dorado County Water agency (1999) 76 Cal.App.4th 931, 952; San Joaquin Raptor/Wildlife Rescue Center v. County of Stanislaus (1994) 27 Cal. App. 4th 713, 724-726. )

5. The PMND fails to identify, analyze and mitigate the Project’s direct, indirect and cumulative impacts on traffic and transit.

6. The PMND fails to identify, analyze and mitigate the Project’s direct, indirect, and cumulative impacts on parking. The PMND recites the incorrect rote statement that parking is not “considered” an impact in San Francisco, a statement that City improperly uses to excuse itself from identifying, analyzing, and mitigating the direct, indirect, and cumulative parking impacts from every project in San Francisco. The PMND admits the Project will cause impacts on parking, and those impacts must be analyzed and mitigated in an EIR.

7. The PMND fails to identify, analyze and mitigate the Project’s direct, indirect, and cumulative impacts on open space, community services, and emergency services.

8. The PMND fails to identify, analyze and mitigate the Project’s direct, indirect, and cumulative impacts on water, sewers and other infrastructure.

9. The PMND fails to identify, analyze and mitigate the Project’s direct, indirect, and cumulative growth impacts.

10. The PMND fails to identify, analyze and mitigate the Project’s direct, indirect, and cumulative glare impacts. The Project’s huge mass and glass-walled design creates glare that will dominate and contrast with the softer existing light of surrounding and neighborhood structures altering the night views and environment of the entire area. In the daytime, the Project will cause sharp reflection, another impact the PMND fails to identity, analyze and mitigate.

11. The PMND also fails to identify, analyze and mitigate the Project's shadow impacts. The Project’s excessive height and bulk will cast shadows on surrounding adjacent structures.

CONCLUSION

For the foregoing and other reasons, the Commission should sustain the Appeal, disapprove the Preliminary Mitigated Negative Declaration, and require an EIR on the Project. Under no circumstances should the Commission grant the conditional use authorization(s); nor should the Planning Commission or the Zoning Administrator grant the requested variances on rear yard, usable open space, and exposure, since those conditional use authorizations and variances will themselves cause significant direct, indirect, and cumulative impacts on the enviroment that the Negative Declaration fails to address.

DATED: April 16, 2009

Mary Miles

[1] It is unclear whether the PMND is claiming the Project falls under the Market and Octavia Area Plan re-zoning, which is under court challenge, or whether the PMND is claiming the Project falls under prior zoning. Either way, the baseline (existing conditions) from which impacts are measured is not speculative possibility but actual existing physical conditions.

See the proposed project here:

Labels:

3 Comments:

At 8:30 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

How did things go at the Planning Commission?

 
At 12:30 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

The matter was continued until May 21.

 
At 3:04 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is hysterics to the nth degree.
Explain to me how a 8.5 story building at the bottom of a hill is taller than a 7 story building at the top of a hill.
Also, I would like to know how exactly a new building would "remove all of the air" from all of the buildings around it?
Will it be a giant bubble? sounds like people might DIE if this gets built.

 

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home