Are Eastside development battles finally going to be brought to a close? The San Francisco Planning Department’s draft Eastern Neighborhoods Environmental Impact Report (600 pages) was approved for release Saturday. Decisions about zoning in these four neighborhoods – the Mission, Showplace Square/Potrero Hill, East SoMa and Central Waterfront – have been years in the making. In fact, the process started in the dot-com boom days and seems to have progressed though a full economic cycle in the meantime.

The plan aims to support long-term Planning Department goals such as greater density and housing affordability, and particularly attempts to better define zoning uses, especially for Production, Distribution, and Repair (PDR). The plan sets out three specific plan options. According to the report “…Implementation of any one of the proposed project options would result in more housing options and a broader range of housing prices and rents, compared to conditions under the No-Project scenario.” There are already several housing developments being held up for the completion of this report.

The period of public comment is June 30, 2007 through August 31, 2007 with a public hearing August 9, 2007. If any plugged-in readers have strong opinions, let them be known. Oh, and for those who don’t want to read all 600 pages there is a good 60-page summary as well.

Comments from Plugged-In Readers

  1. Posted by Jordan

    It’s hard to imagine 600 pages of less inviting text.

  2. Posted by Jesse

    This is the stuff developer’s dreams are made of. Sadly.

  3. Posted by zzzzzzzz

    Wait and see. The net result of this will be to preserve abandoned, blighted industrial land into all eternity. “Progress” in the upside-down world of San Francisco planning consists of pickling the city and putting in a museum.

  4. Posted by fizzandpop

    No Jordan, on page 467 there’s a picture of a unicorn.

  5. Posted by anon

    Nothing like some good zoning for gold mines in the hopes of finding gold!

  6. Posted by Bill

    Last time I checked, there are 22M SF of industrial space in SF and 1.65M SF are vacant. PDR businesses have been leaving the City for some time due to the high business taxes and the high cost of labor. Preserving PDR space or creating more will not bring them back.
    [Editor’s note: The report acknowledges the decrease in demand for PDR space and advocates a reduction of PDR zoned space while more rigidly defining PDR and pushing for more intensive use of available PDR zoned space. According to the report a fair number of residents of these four neighborhoods still work in these industries, though obviously the numbers must be shrinking at least in Production.]

  7. Posted by zzzzzzzz

    Here’s how SF makes housing affordable:
    1. Place 50 some-odd residential developments in the affected areas on indefinite hold while the study is completed. The delay, of course, will inevitably add to the costs
    2. Of those that are ultimately permitted (some won’t), impose substantial impact assessments on the developers, which of course will ultimately be passed on to the future buyers and renters
    Wonder why housing in SF is expensive? Look no further.

  8. Posted by Miles

    It’s more like 19.4 million square feet of industrial space with 426,000 square feet (2.2%) available (per BT Commercial 1st qtr 2007)) – which is essentially nothing available when you take into account that some of the supply is not functional. To give you an idea of how little industrial space there is in the city, the supply of office space is 82.5 million square feet. Millions of square feet of industrial space has already been converted to dot-com offices, residential lofts, or more often just demolished so a new 4 story residential building can be constructed in its place. The large warehousing tenants moved to cheaper locations in the Bay Area decades ago and now most of the industrial and service commercial uses in SF need to be located here as adding a 30-60 minute commute each way from the East Bay to serve their customers in SF is not workable. 2.2% vacancy means there is a very high demand for this basic commercial space which encompasses a lot of different economic activity. Everyone talks about how SF is becoming just a playground for rich yuppies living in million dollar condos – well, the point of this new-zoning is to keep some semblance of a diversified economy around here. So why don’t we wait for a little professional opinion on this huge document/proposed policy before proclaiming it an anti-development work of liberal politicos.

  9. Posted by Jordan

    Anyone know how much it costs to rent/buy industrial land down there in $ per sq. foot?
    I’ll hazard a guess that is a small fraction of what commercial and residential go for…

  10. Posted by Jamie

    I respect that the SoMa neighborhoods are trying to put together a plan for the area rather than allowing a cluster pocket of this and that go up.
    For “Western SoMa,” they had a decent sized community meeting last week seeking input about how residents and business owners would like to see their neighborhood develop over the next several years. While there were a few folks wanting to hold on to “blue collar” jobs in the area, most folks seemed to want a mixed use with service businesses on ground floors to promote foot traffic and 4-6 story building size limits. The alley ways with residential make the Western SoMa area interesting.
    Read more:

  11. Posted by SFhighrise

    I personally think its ridiculous to even be discussing trying to preserve old industrial neighborhoods. As stated before, a good portion of the space is not used. Its honestly too expensive in this city to have this type of land remain vacant and underused. I honestly think people need to think of SF as Manhattan and the suburbs as the other burroughs. How much industrial space is around in Manhattan? Why not utilize the east bay and other less expensive areas and free up this space for the badly needed housing that is required for the city?

  12. Posted by Brutus

    Couldn’t have put it better myself. There is a ton of vacant industrial land in West Oakland and even on the peninsula. Both of those areas are well-served by BART and Caltrain if the thought is that we need blue collar folks to remain in the city – they can commute to the first BART stop in the East Bay or a multitude of Caltrain stops. But, I’m like you – it’s ridiculous to think of SF as a standalone city – compare SF to Manhattan.

  13. Posted by Jordan

    Well, whatever you do, don’t ever compare SF to Chicago on this website…

  14. Posted by Jamie

    In all fairness, there’s a lot of vacant property in SoMa right now because property owners cleared out tenants in the hopes of selling/redeveloping their properties only to be halted by the City a year or two ago.

  15. Posted by zzzzzzz

    Well, at least the Armory was preserved for “industrial” uses and “saved” from housing development. A triump of good planning, one that no doubt will be repeated throughout the eastern neighborhoods.

  16. Posted by SFhighrise

    Good point about the fact that the city supervisors sometimes get in the way of badly needed housing developments. However, we need to look more broadly than this and not focus the emphasis on little tit for tat battles over existing proposed developments. Rather, we should think of the big picture and how we need to shape San Francisco long term (say a 50 year horizon). With that in mind, infill projects in SOMA will not suffice for all of the city’s housing needs. Other areas of the city must be included as well.

  17. Posted by Henry

    zzzz — Nice. This area could become San Fernando Valley North
    highrise — I just don’t know how effective our city / county is in this kind of long term planning. What ends up happening is these planners get a lot of political pressure from various special interest groups, which results in us getting lot of what the market doesn’t want and not enough of what the market does want.

  18. Posted by Morgan

    Highrise, I agree that more infill projects should be allowed throughout the city, not just SOMA. I still have this crazy fantasy of Geary Blvd. becoming a corridor lined not only with shops, but dense housing above, and trams down a parkway in the center that would end up at the Pacific. Why couldn’t Van Ness be more like Lake Shore Drive or Wilshire Blvd. with a corridor of attractive high rise housing. Every new tower does not need to be 60 stories, there are plenty of opportunities for other types of density also.

  19. Posted by Brutus

    I would love something like Paris for Geary, Mission, maybe Third, 19th, Lombard, and Van Ness. Eight to ten story buildings the entire length with shops below. Double the population without touching any Victorians, etc. And of course, hopefully lower the cost of housing and build some beautiful buildings as well – but alas, we’re too in love with our cars to build a city like that…

  20. Posted by Jamie

    I kept hearing Paris mentioned at the Western SoMa meeting last week.. though the consensus was limiting buildings to 4-6 stories. (shrug)

  21. Posted by anon2

    Ahh Paris. San Francisco has always had a “thing” for Paris. One local real estate firm still has their listings both in English and Francais!, as if we have a huge french speaking population? I guess it makes their listings more “chic”. Why can’t some of these neighborhoods where planning is being reviewed have new housing without it being designed to look like Miami/San Diego? Why not some industrial area infill housing projects more like Venice (down in L.A.) or parts of the Seattle waterfront? Buildings with designs and materials that call more to the industrial heritage and less to what I feel in the case of Radiance is “resort” architecture. Maybe I am living in the wrong city, maybe Radiance is what San Franciscan’s want now.

  22. Posted by zzzzzzzz

    Check out this letter to the editor in today’s Chron. It pretty much says it all:
    “Re-zoning fight
    Editor — Your July 2 article portrays the Mission/Eastern Neighborhoods re-zoning as developers vs. neighborhood advocates (“Developers await verdict on planned residential units”). Actually, the well-financed pressure on the Planning Department to redline our neighborhood comes from so-called nonprofit development interests, who want us to forfeit our land at absurdly low prices. It’s a corrupt con game and shakedown, plain and simple.
    Longtime residents, property owners and businesses in the Mission are fiercely opposed to this latest plan, and are deeply disturbed by the distorted half-truths of “PDR jobs” and “displacement” that some political operatives and their supporters in government and media present as fact. We have real data for anyone who is interested in the facts.
    This whole taking of property — an accurate description of this process — and the absurd theories about preserving non-existent 19th-century jobs, may very well end up in court.
    After all, my own small block, with more than 25 residential units (mine was built in 1888) and 75 residents, is slated for rigid industrial re-zoning, while industrial land targeted by the nonprofit mafia is slated for a switch to residential. Can you think of any more sure-fire path to litigation that that?
    Mission United S.F.
    (Representing the largest coalition
    of neighborhood groups, residents
    and businesses in the Mission.)

  23. Posted by Edward

    Great, not only will we get more industrial space (just what the new economy city needs!) but lots of empty streets for rapists and muggers to loiter on. The gangs couldn’t have written better legislation themselves!

  24. Posted by Jamie

    Gangs may be in good shape anyway … see the headline about the City owing about $4.9 billion for retiree healthcare benefits at the moment? And then there’s the notion of banning handguns, reducing the risks that criminals take in mugging folks.

  25. Posted by Anti Candy Stripes

    If it was not for the natural beauty of the Bay Area and the hard work of generations past to create a dynamic metropolis (Bridges, towers, etc.), this city would have died from the political views that run it. People posted about Paris, but Paris has changed a lot more than people think over the years as even they were not ready to put their “city under glass” the way some planners seem to want to do with much of San Francisco. I still would bet that if there were not the bridges we have today, they would be fought against with passion as they would bring CARS! and people into our private kingdom. What has happened to the Armory says it all.

  26. Posted by Candy checker

    It all depends on what you want – anti-candy. If we didn’t have the bridges, this likely still would be more of a standalone working city, rather than just a piece of a metro.

  27. Posted by anon3

    If we didn’t have bridges, there would be no city here any more. The “anti-car” mania is beyond hysterical in this city. The FACT is, whether hybrid, electric, hydrogen, or whatever, people will continue to want and need personal transportation vehicles. Not everyone works in the financial district and lives in Noe Valley. This city does not have the public infrastructure to allow you to get from one end to the other (ONLY SEVEN MILES) in less than TWO HOURS! TRY IT! Anti-car people remind me of renters who hope for a real estate collapse as a way of teaching property owners “a lesson”.
    Get over it.

  28. Posted by anon3 checker

    Good to know that you know exactly what would have happened had there been no bridges. I wasn’t even saying anything REMOTELY anti-car. I just said that this would be more of a city on it’s own instead of part of a metro. Everything would be COMPLETELY different. But send another “Everyone needs a car to do everything!” rants at me. Thanks chump.

  29. Posted by thielges

    anon3 says “The FACT is, whether hybrid, electric, hydrogen, or whatever, people will continue to want and need personal transportation vehicles.”
    This isn’t much of a fact. Sure, many people want a car though hardly anyone needs one. There are many thriving, prosperous, lively, fun cities where very few people get around in a personal car. Although some powerful oil, auto, and road building interests would have you think so, a car is *not* a requirement for life. Not even close.
    One of the key reasons why public transportation in the SF area is so lame is because we invest so little in its infrastructure vs. such huge sums to subsidize personal auto transport.
    We could have a comprehensive transportation system that allowed almost everyone to get around without a car. This is not rocket science. All we need is enough political will to want it.

  30. Posted by Abe

    Has this re-zoning been finalized yet? If something is zoned “pdr”, does that mean that no new residential (or live/work) development is allowed?

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