Sunday, October 30, 2011

"Smart Growth" comes to Van Ness and Clay


Anonymous writes:

Rob,

As a reader of SFStreetsblog, at first I was infuriated by your action against the city's bike lanes, but on learning more I came to the conclusion that you are as much entitled to your position as I am mine, and even though I still do not agree with your action, I do not dispute your right to take it, and given the nature of conversation in committees at the time, I might well have done the same if I shared your viewpoint. But I do not wish to discuss that now, I merely mention it as a reference point.

I'm writing to ask you for some suggestions. I know you are a successful activist, and you might even have some interest in this subject since it involves prospective delays to Muni bus route 1, which I'm sure you are aware is an extremely busy commuter route.

An 8-story, 90-100 apartment, mixed-use building development including street-level businesses, is planned for the corner of 1800 Van Ness and Clay St on the site of a former Kinko's building which is now being used as the campaign office by David Chiu.

Residents in the area strongly oppose this development for several reasons, the strongest of which is that it will block a splendid view of Nob Hill rooftops. For some of the aged residents, this view is the brightest feature of their day. Of course the planning commission expresses sympathy but otherwise ignores this and other objections raised, and has given a negative declaration, thus circumventing the lengthy EIR process.

The only thing I can think of that could be used to force an EIR is that the new building will frequently result in disruption to a busy bus route and slow transit times.

Immediately across the road from 1800 Van Ness Ave. on Clay St. is an elementary school in St Luke's church, and the next building down on Clay St is a child's day care center. Every morning during the week, the west end of the Clay St block gets congested by the people coming from Pacific Heights in their SUV's to drop off their children at the school or day care facility. I have attached a couple of photos to illustrate this. The additional morning traffic related to the street level businesses at 1800 Van Ness will, on occasion, make it very difficult for buses to pass and it will create a backlog of buses.

Do you think we'd get any traction with this? It was mentioned to the planning commission along with many other objections, but they didn't even address it in their comments. They want the building to go ahead.

Any suggestions would be welcome.

Rob's response:

Does the plan for the building include parking for the housing units?

Traffic in general is a CEQA issue, not just delaying Muni lines. (After all, the Bicycle Plan is going to delay Muni lines, but the city doesn't care.) If they did an EIR, traffic caused by the project would have to be discussed in detail in the report. Views---the "viewscape"---are also a CEQA issue.

The problem with the Planning Dept. and City Hall on issues like this is that they're completely sold on the notion that SF can allow almost unlimited development along major traffic corridors---the "Transit Corridors" theory. Even though SF is already the second most densely populated city in the country after New York City. I think it's nuts and degrades our quality of life.

Look what the city wants to do at the Market and Van Ness intersection.

The city really should do a complete EIR on this project, but you'll have to get a lawyer to take them to court to get them to do it. Once the Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors okay a project, litigation is the only option you have.

Did the Planning Commission okay the project? If so has anyone appealed that decision to the Board of Supervisors? That would be the next step. After you've exhausted your administrative remedies---and the BOS is the last step---litigation is the only thing you can do.

Anonymous responds:

Thank you for your prompt and very helpful response. I am cc'ing others in my group. The plan includes parking for the housing units, although the lot on which the building is proposed currently provides approximately 40 parking spaces which will disappear and these cars will have to find alternative parking space.

The planning commission has OK'd the project but it has not yet been appealed. I believe we have 14 days from the time of the most recent hearing to lodge an appeal. I am not confident of BOS support of any appeal, because David Chiu, in whose district the building is planned, is using the existing building (a perfectly good building that will be demolished) for his campaign office. However, I consider an appeal as something we should do if for no other reason that it will demonstrate to a judge that we have exhausted all other options before going to court.

Thank you for your offer to post the information on your blog. I have attached a summary sheet for factual purposes. Also there is a link to the televised public hearing (complete with an earthquake that struck at the time I was commenting on the failure of the public record to have noted public opposition to this plan in previous meetings)...

Rob responds:

You need to get a lawyer to see if you have a case.

Labels: ,

7 Comments:

At 8:23 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You live in a city. Buildings get built. What's the confusion?

 
At 12:06 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

The confusion is yours, since you evidently didn't read the links in the post.

 
At 11:00 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

The question is, Why allow an 8-story building here? What's wrong with a traditional 3-story or 4-story building? That's where City Hall's delusional "transit corridors" assumption comes into play. City Hall's present approach to developlment in SF threatens every neighborhood in the city anywhere near a busy street.

 
At 6:41 AM, Anonymous Will said...

Such a great article which Residents in the area strongly oppose this development for several reasons, the strongest of which is that it will block a splendid view of Nob Hill rooftops. For some of the aged residents, this view is the brightest feature of their day. Of course the planning commission expresses sympathy but otherwise ignores this and other objections raised, and has given a negative declaration, thus circumventing the lengthy EIR process.
The only thing It can think of that could be used to force an EIR is that the new building will frequently result in disruption to a busy bus route and slow transit times. Thanks for sharing this article.

 
At 10:06 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

The Planning Commission, the Planning Dept., and the Board of Supervisors are enthralled by a trendy, dumb "smart growth," dense development theory based on the assumption that SF can build an unlimited amount of new housing along busy streets that are also have major Muni bus lines. Planners used to believe that over-populating neighborhoods degraded the quality of life. Now it's fashionable in planning circles to think the opposite, that we can build taller buildings packed with more people with no ill effects.

More traffic? Underfunded Muni system? Don't worry about it; people can ride bikes! This development is a small step in implementing the dense development, transit corridors theory in San Francisco (see also Treasure Island, Parkmerced, the Market/Octavia Plan---40-story highrises at Market and Van Ness!---and UC's massive housing development on the old extension property on lower Haight Street).

This project also raises the suspicion that the future Van Ness BRT project will be green light for taller buildings and much denser development along Van Ness Avenue. The Smart Growth theory/fad seems to be nothing but a front for developers, to the detriment of any city neighborhood near a major Muni line.

By the way, obstructing a "viewshed" is an environmental issue that can be litigated, but City Hall housing policy---like their attempt to rush the Bicycle Plan through the process illegally---is based on the assumption that no one will challenge it in court. Of course it's expensive to do that, and success in court is far from certain.

 
At 6:25 AM, Anonymous Linda said...

Nice post which Residents in the area strongly oppose this development for several reasons, the strongest of which is that it will block a splendid view of Nob Hill rooftops. For some of the aged residents, this view is the brightest feature of their day. Of course the planning commission expresses sympathy but otherwise ignores this and other objections raised, and has given a negative declaration, thus circumventing the lengthy EIR process. Thanks a lot for posting this article.

 
At 11:53 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

There's no good reason to make this building so tall, except for the dumb, dense development, "Smart Growth" theory the city is putting into practice. The building should have been only three stories high.

 

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home