Sunday, March 09, 2008

The Market/Octavia fiasco continues

The two documents below in italics show that, after eight long years, the Planning Department's Market/Octavia Plan is still being challenged and changed. Like he did with UC's land-grab on lower Haight Street, Supervisor Mirkarimi is trying to reduce the whole poorly-conceived and botched Market/Octavia Plan to nothing but a matter of affordable housing. The 10% increase in the development fee Mirkarimi advocates---referred to in the op-ed below---for affordable housing will in fact go into the black hole of the Mayor's Housing Office, not to build affordable housing in the Market/Octavia area.

Since public comment on the M/O EIR ended way back in 2005, the Planning Dept. has continued to add hundreds of pages of changes to the EIR. According to the California Environmental Protection Act (CEQA), if significant changes are made to a Project after the public comment period ends, the EIR should be recirculated so the public can comment on those changes. Planning of course refuses to do that, even as the ongoing M/O fiasco unfolds and the Plan mutates.

The way people are talking about the Market/Octavia Plan, you would think that it's about nothing but affordable housing and parking. Readers of this blog know that it's a lot more, since it will rezone thousands of parcels in the middle of the city to encourage 6,000 new housing units---almost all market-rate units, by the way---and increase the population density in the area with 10,000 new residents. The Plan includes an undetermined number of 40-story highrises in the Market/Van Ness area to join those earlier mistakes by Planning---the white monolith at 100 Van Ness and the hideous highrise at Fox Plaza. (These issues are analyzed in some detail in a public comment on the Plan by attorney Mary Miles.)

Party line progressive Calvin Welch muddies the waters in the current HANC Voice. Welch thinks that if the M/O Plan doesn't retain its draconian anti-parking element it will have a negative effect on Muni service to the upper Haight:

"Those amendments will be voted on Tuesday, March 4th. If they fail chances are great that here in the Haight-Ashbury we will continue to see a decline in Muni service as it backs up at AM and PM commute hours with the high level of cars in the Market/Octavia area." (Haight-Ashbury Voice, March, 2008)

If there's any noticeable effect on Muni service to the upper Haight-Ashbury neighborhood, it's only because the new Octavia Blvd. expressway now carries much of the traffic that used to go over the neighborhood on the Central Freeway overpass. But all good progressives voted to tear that overpass down after the 1989 earthquake, which meant that inevitably a lot of that traffic---now 45,000 cars a day according to DPT---was going to end up on the surface streets of the Hayes Valley neighborhood.

Progressives want to have it both ways: they want to congratulate themselves for getting rid of the wicked freeway and to complain about the increased traffic in the area. If traffic is a serious concern---and it should be, since the M/O EIR has no serious traffic analysis---Welch and city progressives should oppose both the M/O Plan and the UC/Evans proposal to turn the old extension property into a massive housing development. These two projects are going to make traffic in that area, already gridlocked for much of the day, a whole lot worse.

Groups opposed to plan
Letter to the Editor, SF Examiner,
March 6, 2008

Contrary to the misleading statements made in the March 3 Viewpoints piece regarding the Market/Octavia Plan, many neighbohood organizations are opposed to the amendments approved by the Board of Supervisors Land Use Committee. The authors of that article do not speak for the neighborhood.

Among those organizations that urged the Planning Commission to increase the allowable parking ratios are the Eureka Valley Promotion Association, which is the oldest neighborhood group in San Francisco; the Castro/Upper Market Community Benefits District, whose members include primarily small property owners along Market Street from Octavia Boulevard to Castro Street; and the Merchants of Upper Market and Castro, which represents mainly small businesses in the area.

All three organizations urged the Planning Commission to increase the originally proposed parkign ratios and were delighted that the commissioners validated these concerns by overridign the recommendations of the Planning Department. Representatives from all three organizations spoke against the amendments during public testimony before the Land Use Committee.

Gustavo Serina
Vice President
Castro/Upper Market
Community Benefit District

Market and Octavia plan needs a neighborhood perspective
by Peter Cohen, Dennis Richards, Jason Henderson and Paul Olsen
op-ed, SF Examiner, March 3, 2008

After eight years of workshops, meetings, and public hearings, the Market and Octavia Better Neighborhoods Plan is before the Board of Supervisors. But this version does not reflect the years of work our neighborhoods have put into this plan, despite our best efforts.

In 2007 the Planning Commission recommended a version of the plan that undermines the original goals of maintaining neighborhood character and diversity in incomes, race, sexual orientation and lifestyle choices, and that provides less affordable housing for working families. We have asked the Board of Supervisors to amend the plan to reflect the original plan's spirit of diversity, affordability and smart growth.

A critical objective of the plan was that absorbing a substantial share of The City's housing needs should not be accompanied by overwhelming traffic and housing that is available only to the wealthy. One way to achieve this is to reduce parking in new development, and the original 2002 Market and Octavia Plan did this. Our neighborhoods happily supported reduced parking allowances because we recognized that it brought new affordable housing but with less traffic.

But the community planning process was ignored by the Planning Commission and more parking was added to the plan. We asked the Board of Supervisors to reinstall the original 2002 version of the parking requirements in the Market and Octavia Plan---the version that had community buy-in. Our neighborhoods have about one parking space for every two housing units, and all we are asking is that this be maintained. We are not asking for a radical change, just the status quo on parking.

A proposed $10 affordable housing fee also reflects the goals of the Market and Octavia Plan. Everyone knows that the area is one of the most desirable locations in The City and that condo prices and rents are sky-high. Developers are lining up to exploit the work of the plan's advocates and make huge profits. If they have their way, only the wealthy will be able to live here.

The Board of Supervisors recognized this in 2007 and unanimously adopted a resolution reiterating the General Plan policy that 64 percent of all new housing production needs to be at various levels of affordability for the very low all the way up to moderate-income households. No one expects that level of substantial need to be achieved in any single plan, but the expectation is for a very serious and creative attempt to reach as high as practicable. The amendment to increase the impact fee by $10 is a modest acknowledgement of the official Board of Supervisors policy on housing.

The proposed impact fee will add little to the overall price of market-rate housing in the area. The Planning Department had Seifel Associates analyze the absorption of the Market and Octavia affordable housing fee which could be in land value, in unit sale price, in developer margin or in some combination of all. The analysis showed that if 100 percent of the fee were absorbed in the land value, it would decrease by 9 percent. If the fee were entirely absorbed in unit sale price, it would increase by 1.4 percent. And if the fee were absorbed in the developer margin, it would decrease by 1.4 percent. On a $600,000 condo, this does not amount to much burden.

Of all the vocal neighborhoods in The City, ours have welcomed new housing and new residents. We are doing our part. All we are asking is that we be allowed to it in a dignified and thoughtful way. The amendments proposed to the Market and Octavia Plan on reduced parking and affordable housing reflect our neighborhood values.

Paul Olsen is president of the Hayes Valley Neighborhood Association. Jason Henderson is chairman of the Transportation and Planning Committee of the Hayes Valley Neighborhood Association. Dennis Richards is president of the Duboce Triangle Neighborhood Association. Peter Cohen is co-chairman of the Land Use Committee of the Duboce Triangle Neighborhood Association.

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