Sunday, June 01, 2008

The project no one wants to talk about

The Market Octavia Plan

The Market and Octavia Better Neighborhoods Plan rezones more than 4,000 properties on 376 acres in the heart of San Francisco; it okays four 40-story highrises at Market and Van Ness; it will encourage 6,000 new housing units and 10,000 new residents in the area; the traffic studies in the project's EIR don't account for the former Central Freeway traffic---45,000 cars a day, according to DPT---now coming through the heart of Hayes Valley on Octavia Blvd. As the Plan itself makes clear, its primary purpose is to encourage housing density in that area by changing the zoning on setbacks, backyards, height limits, parking, and density.

Given the ambitious scope of the Project area---it extends to Turk St. in the North, Scott St. on the West, 17th St. in the South, and Howard St. in the East---you would think it would be the subject of much discussion in both the mainstream media and the so-called alternative media. You would be wrong. There are usually only indirect references to a Project that will radically change the heart of San Francisco. 

Matt Smith in the current SF Weekly provides the latest example:

Even when well-meaning planners attempt to improve this condition, they fail. Along Octavia Boulevard, site of a torn-down freeway off-ramp, planners have tried to create a dense transit-friendly neighborhood by making it easier to approve apartment projects according to an area-wide plan amenable to neighbors.

No specific mention of the Market/Octavia Plan here, though that's what Smith is referring to. This is similar to Smith's approach to the Bicycle Plan a while back. Instead of informing himself about that Plan and the litigation that forced the city to do an environmental impact report on a proposal to redesign city streets on behalf of the bike zealots, Smith attacked me and the lawyer who worked on the successful litigation.

But Smith is not alone, since none of the local print media---including the Bay Guardian---has done any in-depth reporting on this boon for developers. The more units developers can cram into a parcel the bigger the profits. The Market/Octavia Plan could have been written by a housing developer, but it was written by our Planning Dept. and okayed by our "progressive" Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors, including of course the Green Party's Ross Mirkarimi. 

The Bay Guardian puts one of its few reporters, Steve Jones, on the bike beat, because bikes are more important to city progressives than the impending destruction of the heart of San Francisco.

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At 9:09 PM, Anonymous those dudes said...

Isn't affordable housing one of the key goals of the Market/Octavia Plan?
The more units crammed into a parcel means the more affordable units can be. And not providing parking along with every one of those units is also key to affordability. I'm not suggesting this plan will solve the City's housing crisis, but it is part of a larger effort that may start to put a dent in the problem. Of course anti-change zealots such as yourself are against it. But the City is smart to ignore such nuts as you and move forward with plans that allow more housing to be built.

At 10:40 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Thanks for yet another fact-free comment, dudes. You've never shown any specific knowledge of the Bicycle Plan or the litigation against the city, so why should I expect you to have any knowledge of the M/O Plan? In fact, the M/O Plan is almost entirely about market-rate housing, except for the former freeway parcels. Of course Mirkarimi made a lot of noise about affordable housing in this plan, but as I've pointed out in earlier posts the whole "affordable" issue is mostly a shell game (,as Section 315 in the zoning code allows developers to satisfy the affordable requirement by promising to build it somewhere else in the city or just contributing some money to the Mayors Office of Housing. In short, the affordable requirement will only be met on a project-by-project basis, as each project moves forward. How many affordable units will not be determined by what city officials say now but what is done---or not done---at the time each project is proposed.

I'm an "anti-change zealot" for opposing this plan? As the EIR for the M/O Plan tells us, without the Plan we can expect 2,255 new housing units to be built in that area by 2025; with the Plan, there will be 9,875. Why isn't the first number enough? And of course the Plan includes four 40-story highrises in the Market/Van Ness area. There's natural, incremental, prudent change and then there's reckless experimenting with the future of San Francisco, which is what the M/O Plan represents.

At 12:34 PM, Anonymous Tebby said...

High rises at Market/Van Ness are EXACTLY what that intersection needs.

I would prefer, however, that they be limited to that immediate area.

At 1:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"without the Plan we can expect 2,255 new housing units to be built in that area by 2025; with the Plan, there will be 9,875. Why isn't the first number enough?"

The first number isn't enough because it will do little to expand supply in a City desperately in need of more supply.

At 10:37 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

The first number will expand the amount of housing in the M/O area by 2,255 units. Still not clear why that isn't enough. The M/O Plan includes a lot of zoning changes that affect population and housing density---on setbacks, backyards, height, and parking. Now why do you think the city sets these zoning limits in the first place? Because allowing a radical increase in population density can lead to degrading the quality of life for a neighborhood. The M/O Plan is also based on the fallacious Transit Corridors theory, that the city can build as much housing as it wants in any part of town as long as there's a Muni line nearby. The corollary to that fallacy is to restrict the amount of parking in the new projects, since all those new residents can ride bikes or an already maxed-out Muni system! As I say, this is a radical experiment in social engineering that will be impossible to reverse once it's done.


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