Friday, September 16, 2005

Ross Mirkarimi: "We do need more housing"


What makes you think we disagree on the need for more affordable housing? Of course I agree. I just don't think the Better Neighborhoods Program---which involves making wide swaths of the city into free-fire zones for developers---is the way to go about it. Note that, except for the housing planned for the old freeway parcels, there's nothing in the Market/Octavia Plan that guarantees that more than 12% of those 4440 units will be affordable. "Open space boulevard"? All the city has done is bring the freeway traffic down to street level in the neighborhood, while planting trees in between the lanes. What "open space"? The Hayes Green? Pretty pathetic little patch of green at the end of the street-level freeway, aka Octavia Blvd. Assuming a motorist on the Octavia Freeway wants to stop and shop at the cutesy boutiques on Hayes St., where will he/she park? The Hayes Valley merchants want people to shop in the area, but the Planning Dept. and your bike fanatic friends are going to make sure that there's little parking in the area: "The Plan proposes to limit the amount of required on-site parking and discourage new parking facilities, recognizing that they generate traffic, consume space that could be devoted to housing, increase housing costs, and have an overall negative effect on the neighborhood." (M/O DEIR, page 3-27)

Rob Anderson

Reply: The Market/Octavia Template
Date: Wed, 14 Sep 2005
From: Ross Mirkarimi
Rob, A quick response. The template that I am inferring encompasses the following: low income housing affordability quotient; open space/greenspace; density calculations for increased housing and senior housing (we do need more housing---below market rate and affordable so we disagree there, but I agree that we may not the proscribed quantity); road reconstruction to accommodate autos, bikes, and hopefully peds (i'm not convinced that more couldn't have been done on this front); replacing the freeway with an open space boulevard model will invariably promote our merchant corridors and increase attraction to the Hayes Valley area; and more. I share your concerns in particular the high-rise effect which I don't believe will occur and the 15k units that the mayor wants to build since I believe that the city's westside should incur more rental/owner stock and not assign it all to the east side.

I hope you are well.
From: Rob Anderson
You keep referring to the Market and Octavia Neighborhood Plan as a "template" to be used in other parts of the city. What do you mean by that? What is it about the M/O Plan that you like?
Here's some of what I don't like about it:

It means encouraging a lot more housing (up to 4440 new units by 2025) in a densely populated part of town that is already coping with the new, unimproved Octavia Blvd---six lanes of traffic in the middle of the Hayes Valley neighborhood, with thousands of cars, trucks, and buses that used to be carried by the Central Freeway pouring through that area.

It means encouraging an unknown number of residential highrises up to 40 stories high in the Van Ness/Market St. area.

What the Better Neighborhoods Program essentially means for Market/Octavia---and the other targeted areas of the city under the program---is the waiving of height, density, and parking requirements for new housing to encourage developers. Why is the Planning Dept. trying to put all that new housing in one part of the city? Because of its untested, radical Transit Corridors theory---that just being near a major transit corridor supposedly means an area can absorb large amounts of new housing without causing a decline in its quality of life. This is not good planning; it's a radical experiment in social engineering. Once it's done we won't be able to undo it.
And don't forget that there are already 900 units planned for the old freeway parcels in that area.
You must understand by now that the city's Planning Dept. is aggressively pro-development. They think they are going to make neighborhoods "better" by jamming them full of more housing and more people. According to the M/O DEIR, they even think they can create whole new neighborhoods in SF. I don't know of a single bit of evidence to support either of these beliefs. It should be clear to all by now that the Rincon Hill deal is a fiasco for the city. Condos for the rich are not the kind of housing we need. Nor should the city be aggressively pushing the gentrification process, which will mean higher housing prices for everyone. You can't really mitigate a project that's going to take up 12 square blocks. Rincon Hill will be a political issue for years to come. The M/O Plan contains the same elements as the Rincon Hill plan: a reckless densification of the area, including residential highrises. According to the DEIR, 90% of the new units planned for M/O are going to be market-rate housing. I won't even get into the goofy idea of not making developers provide adequate parking for all these new housing units. Your friends in the cycling community are particularly enthusiastic about that, as they are about anything that makes it hard for people to drive in the city. Based on what I've seen at Rincon Hill and Market/Octavia, what the city needs now is a "Leave the Neighborhoods Alone Program."
Rob Anderson

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