Sunday, January 30, 2005

Market and Octavia Plan: Template and terminator

In case anyone thinks I'm exaggerating, here's chapter and verse from The Market and Octavia Neighborhood Plan to show that, if adopted as part of the General Plan, will not only destroy targeted neighborhoods in the city but the city itself as we know it. On page 40 in Chapter Two, which is entitled "Housing People," (as opposed to what, housing animals?) the plan tells us what the Planning Dept., under the leadership of a progressive board of supervisors, has in store for the Market/Octavia neighborhood and, eventually, the whole city. 

Under current zoning, what Planning calls a "full build out" of the area's physical capacity would mean 11,439 new housing units in the neighborhood. Think that's a scary number? Under the new, improved Market Octavia Plan's zoning rules, the full build out would be 22,582 new housing units for that one unfortunate neighborhood! Okay, even the we-need-housing zealots in Planning think the actual number of units built in the neighborhood will probably be considerably less than the last figure:

In terms of the area's physical capacity for new development, there will be potential for 7,500 to 13,000 new housing units under the controls proposed by this plan---an increase of 20 to 45 percent over the potential under the existing zoning. These figures do not reflect the number of units likely to be produced, however. That figure is a product of what share of the city's overall housing growth can be expected to take place in the Market and Octavia neighborhood. Over the next 20 years, the Market and Octavia neighborhood's share of the city's housing growth is expected to be up to 4,500 to 5,300 units (Market and Octavia Neighborhood Plan: Draft for Public Review, page 40).

4000-5000 new housing units in that neighborhood will, of course, make it a completely different place. And recall that there are already thousands of housing units on the drawing board right now for the old freeway parcels on Octavia Blvd.

The notion of each city neighborhood having a "share of the city's overall housing growth" is an interesting one. If a projection has been made for the Market/Octavia neighborhood, presumably it has been made for other city neighborhoods. If so, will they tell us exactly what is expected of all the city's other neighborhoods? Don't hold your breath. And sometimes getting documents from Planning is like pulling teeth.

Keep in mind, too, that the Planning Dept. seems to think San Francisco has an obligation to address not only our own perceived housing shortages, but also regional housing shortages (on page 5 of "A Policy Guide to Considering Reuse of the University of California Berkeley Extension Laguna Street Campus," Dec. 2004).

Now that developers are in an unholy alliance with city progressives (that's why Joe O'Donoghue supported Matt Gonzalez against Gavin Newsom), this political juggernaut is planning to "improve" city neighborhoods---especially neighborhoods unfortunate enough to be near "transit corridors"---by in effect destroying them with housing overdevelopment. 

Some, like Supervisor Mirkarimi, seem to think the grotesque UC plan to put 424 new housing units on the old UC Extension site is an aberration, as opposed to the allegedly "visionary" Octavia Blvd "template" so lovingly depicted in architectural drawings and by John King in the SF Chronicle. But it's important to understand that the UC plan is a logical extension of the principles in the Market/Octavia Plan, which essentially involve waiving height, density, and parking space limitations for housing developers.

You can be sure that those who draw up UC's imperial plans to steamroll neighborhoods and whole communities (see UC's current plans for Berkeley) knew very well what the city's Planning Dept. would allow---would even facilitate---on the UC extension parcel, and they tailored their greedy trip accordingly. 

The sky's now the limit for housing developers in SF! (Almost literally true in the case of the 35- and 40-story Rincon Towers project). It's now fashionable for progressives to give a green light to projects that previously wouldn't have been seriously considered, because---all together one more time---"We Need Housing," and our neighborhoods must, inexplicably, be sacrificed to achieve this end.

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At 11:16 AM, Blogger JJ said...

While it is refreshing to see a SF blog that is even remotely critical of the "faux"gressive regime currently gripping SF politcs, its very disappointing to see such anti housing bias.
I dont follow at all how the housing crisis is being manufactured in SF - or how SF has no requirement to provide housing for the greater bay area. The less housing that is being built in the bay area cities - the more farmland disappears and the more the valley sprawls.
SF has built a minute fraction of the amount of housing needed to sustain JUST its current population. How can anyone argue that our current housing crisis is manufactured when we have studio condos in bad neighborhoods going for 400k?
Do you want to live in a city that is fluid - that grows and evolves, or do you want to live in a museum where everything stays the same?

At 8:36 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

I'm not anti-housing, whatever that means. Of course there's a housing crisis in SF. I first moved here in 1961, and people were complaining about housing costs then, too. What I think is completely misguided is the way we're going about it. When you read The Housing Element, and the Market/Octavia Plan, what Planning is doing is simply waiving height, density, and parking requirements for neighborhoods, encouraging developers to propose projects like the UC Extension proposal, which is way too big for any neighborhood in the city, let alone that one. It's a clumsy, one-size fits all approach. I think we have to grow and develop much more carefully than, for example, the Rincon Towers approach, which, rather than Manhattanize downtown, is Manhattanizing a neighborhood. And who is going to buy the condos in those four towers? Not low-income people already living in the city. Rather, it will be rich people moving in from other areas. And it's particularly stupid to not make developers provide a parking space for each unit they build. The Bike Nazis are behind that movement. Well-off people buying condos and/or renting apartments in the city are going to have cars, so it's dumb to pretend otherwise and not plan for that eventuality. And, no, I don't think we have an obligaton to trash our neighborhoods to provide housing for "the greater bay area." This city is too small a geographic area to Manhattanize---or, more fashionable, Vancouverize its neighborhoods. Of course the city is going to grow and evolve, but it's clear to me that the people in Planning and the collection of dim bulbs on the Planning Commission are going about it in the wrong way.


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