CFAH

San Francisco’s Planning Commission voted three to two against certifying 555 Washington‘s Environmental Impact Report (EIR).

Commissioners Hisashi Sugaya, Kathrin Moore and Christina Olague voted against certification, Bill Lee and Ron Miguel opposed the motion against certification, and Michael Antonini and Gwyneth Borden were absent from the vote.

Luckily, or perhaps unluckily depending upon one’s perspective, four votes are required to carry a motion. And as such, the project will be back up for debate and round two on March 18. Should a motion against certifying the EIR carry, a reworking of the EIR could easily consume another year.

And with that, we head to our corner for the long weekend.

Comments from Plugged-In Readers

  1. Posted by Louis

    How much time and money will be wasted on this project is hard to figure. If it manages to win at the commission, it is fairly clear it will go to the supervisors and lose there.

  2. Posted by Conifer

    The troika, lead by Comrade Kathrin, can be counted on to oppose development. Her votes are based on ideology. C.O. votes in line with a tired uncritical 1960s liberalism, almost always following her leader. H.S. seems to base his decisions on personal comparisons.
    The deciding vote will be Borden’s.

  3. Posted by Gil

    I agree about it losing in an appeal to the Supes. One way or another this project will be KO’d and not built.
    Hopefully the devloper will see the proverbial handwriting and withdraw the project.

  4. Posted by snark17

    What a shame– it’s a great looking building.

  5. Posted by jamie

    Interesting take on who is the biggest influencer among the Board of Supervisor’s 3 appointees …. I always thought Christine was the most influential when it came down to actual votes although Kathrin is clearly the most critical thinker on the Commission. I believe Kathrin and Hisashi are the two with practical experience as architects (if my memory is working well after 4 hours of sleep .. I may be wrong). The Mayor’s appointees are, let’s see, a dentist, an airport operations guy, a neighborhood advocate (no disrespect there …. a good pick on the Mayor’s part and the most reasonable voice on the Commission), and I believe Gwyneth works for big blue (IBM) as a manager.

  6. Posted by Spitpalm

    It’s sad that this little city is controlled by a few selfish and wealthy people who don’t want anyone or anything to change or interfer with their luxurious lives upon the hill. They act as if they founded and built SF with their bare hands.

  7. Posted by rubber_chicken

    I’m all for smart and beautiful modern development, but these guys went out on a limb with this one: doubling the allowable height, grabbing an alley to make the FAR work, and double-dipping on the park concession from the original Pyramid deal.
    The proposal offers nothing progressive or civic in its program for politicians to embrace; and it is a clumsy late-comer to the current trend of twisting towers.
    It is not worthy of a pyrrhic victory that will galvanize opposition to future projects of greater merit.

  8. Posted by stucco-sux

    Late comer? If you try to build anything except subsidized housing in this town you can expect a process of many years. Everything that gets built here, in this respect, could be called a late comer. Give me a break.

  9. Posted by Conifer

    The dentist, Dr Antonini is the most thoughtful and probably the most intelligent member of the commission. What is notable about the commission is how many members (on both sides) have trouble articulating their position; some of them occasionally say they do not have the words. Antonini should run for supervisor to bring some common sense to the board.

  10. Posted by OneEyedMan

    I guess one must admire the sf buearocrats for a magnificent display of their inimitable ability: TO DO NOTHING!!
    How far down the road can this can be kicked? I’ll have to watch this meeting if it’s on TV later. Did commenters at the meeting comment on the EIR or on the project? In Santa Barbara, which models itself on the sf no growth/no change policy, at least the planning commission makes people stick to commenting on the EIR and not the subject project.

  11. Posted by flaneur

    Absolutely, Antonini should run so we can get a feel of whether his ideads are in touch with San Franciscans.

  12. Posted by d.o.

    @ flaneur: Antonini wouldn’t have to have ideals in touch with San Franciscans, just those of the neighborhood he runs in.

  13. Posted by jamie

    Right on d.o. …. is their a District that would elect a Republican?

  14. Posted by louis

    I like Mike A too but he would have to move 30 miles east to have a shot getting elected. until citywide comes back here you can forget about it. you have elsbernd thats it.

  15. Posted by Kazee

    M Antonini is great, really enjoy listening to his comments.

  16. Posted by Kazee

    Christina Olague is the Vice Pres.? thats not good, she is a nightmare; just finished listening to her comments.

  17. Posted by grrr

    This is a great building that would be an awesome addition to the area. A vast improvement from the crumbling structure that currently exists. It would bring tax money to the city. Jobs for construction, Jobs after it’s built.Commissioners Hisashi Sugaya, Kathrin Moore and Christina Olague are nothing but ideological criminals and extortionists. They are depriving this city of tax money and jobs. They should be put on trial. Perhaps we can form a commission to decide if THEY are taller than they should be, or perhaps they shade the park when they walk by. Obstructionist extortion, pure and simple.

  18. Posted by flaneur

    Mike A(ntonini) (…) would have to move 30 miles east to have a shot getting elected
    30 miles east wouldn’t be enough. Richard Pombo lost his incumbent seat in Manteca, 75 miles east.

  19. Posted by NoeValleyJim

    … are nothing but ideological criminals and extortionists. […] They should be put on trial. Perhaps we can form a commission to decide if THEY are taller than they should be, or perhaps they shade the park when they walk by. Obstructionist extortion, pure and simple.
    This sounds exactly like a rant you might encounter in the Street Sheet or other lefty rag. You should have called them running dogs, too, just to complete the drooling at the mouth troika.

  20. Posted by flaneur

    The question is can we afford to have a zoning code when the city badly needs tax revenue and so many badly need jobs?

  21. Posted by diemos

    The city doesn’t have a revenue problem, it has a spending problem.
    $3600/resident/year of general fund revenue is plenty of money for our politicians to play with.

  22. Posted by sacdomc

    Yikes – $3600 per resident per year? And our streets are still decrepit & filled with potholes. Why does SF feel it should undertake countless social causes but not provide basic government services? This town is f%cked, and it’s no wonder people move to the suburbs where their tax dollars might actually result in a nicer place to live. And yes, I still live & own in SF, but am considering whether to cut my losses on this town before it gets any worse.

  23. Posted by Seriously?

    Fun fact: homeowners pay much more in taxes to this city than renters.
    Other fun fact: renters are much more defended by this city than homeowners.
    As a renter and a taxpayer, this is an equation I do like very much. As a responsible citizen this troubles me because this means beggars ARE choosers in this f@@ked up city.

  24. Posted by anonee

    perversely enough, this dynamic (rc, prop 13 and pandering politicians)also creates a housing shortage which hugely benefits us owners. unless you mean to imply that beggars choose artificially high rents…

  25. Posted by anon_for_reason

    Actually, the best combination is to establish residency in Nevada, rent in San Francisco and order electronics gear (my only major purchase) from companies without a California presence. That way, you pay no state income taxes, not much in sales tax, and minimal pass-through property taxes (rent is low due to rent control). I’m assuming you can work remotely as a consultant as opposed to being salaried and that don’t need a car–cars cause all sorts of problems because you can’t lie to the insurance company. I’m also assuming you don’t need health insurance–again, you don’t want to lie to the insurance company. Finally, you have to be careful about ATM withdrawals, since that would be one way for the tax board to detect California residence. I load up on cash every few months in Reno myself.

  26. Posted by Gil

    You can do it legally by actually living in Nevada for 6 months plus 1 day. If you can afford Tahoe that is not a burden – living there 6 months out of the year.
    I have a contractor friend who recently did this. He kept his SF condo but bought in Incline and will live there at least 6 months. His company is fine with this as they have folks telecommuting from all over the US.
    Washington state also does not have an income tax and if you live in southern Washington you can cross the river to Portland and make a lot of purchases and escape sales tax – except on big ticket items like a car.
    I know of a person going the Washington state route. Had been employed in SV. Kept their condo but relocated to Washington. It’s a longer distance and they can’t/don’t get back as much as you can from Reno. Unlike Reno, the Portlan/Vancouver area is much larger and offers more of a variety of activities so coming back frequently is not as pressing an issue for my friend.

  27. Posted by Seriously?

    anonee,
    The equation depends on whether you’re a long time renter or not. Same goes for when you did become a landlord. Both go in lockstep: new landlords have higher costs but can also collect higher rent. Long term landlords with long term renters have prop 13 to help them. Long term landlords with new today’s rates: that’s a business model that will work. Are you among the lucky few?
    SF is a city of 60% renters and politicians and bending over backwards for them. The most vocal of these renters are those who have most to gain for keeping the status-quo: in short they are subsidized by their landlords who are themselves subsidized by recent buyers through the injustice of prop 13.
    The worst position right now is to pay current prices for a residence or a rental investment. High purchase costs, high taxes, many many restrictions. You’re milked by everyone: the long timers who sold you the million-dollar wooden box, the city who has no one to turn to (getting anything permitted is extremely expensive), the professionals who are playing the game the best they can and entitlement renters who want a forever free ride (and will probably get it until the last landlord has left).

  28. Posted by anonee

    having been a local landlord for close to 2 decades i can tell you that despite the contrary hype, its a great biz. i’ll give you some reasons why: rent control keeps rents high and higher;everyone comes to sf,nobody stays, turnover averages 3 years; every time i improve my units they pay me back within a few months; if you offer a good product and are cool with your clients you will fare very well (history of over 200 happy tenants can’t be wrong) prop 13, depreciation and ridiculously low interest rates combined with a high barrier to entry make it seriously profitable without breaking much of a sweat-plus its enjoyable! for sure it was easier when stuff was so much cheaper. but every few years there’s some sort of shakeout and luck rewards the prepared.
    that’s why this site is a bit of a chuckle b/c its all bear perspective by non owners who want to feel better about missing out. if you are interested in sf re you would be more likely to focus on taking advantage of other people’s over reach (lembi puke) and other people’s inability to secure financing. from that point of view things look more positive.

  29. Posted by Seriously?

    Nice. A high turnover definitely makes this a good business in this environment. It keeps your rents aligned with current market. I know 2 landlords who are getting 1/2 the rent they should because their renters are glued to their units for more than 15 years.
    Lembi’s buildings are pretty interesting in $/sf, if you’re into this kind of size/location. I am not sure about ROI for large buildings with long-term tenants in the Tenderloin, though.

  30. Posted by ex SF-er

    anonee:
    interesting perspective.
    However, I have to wonder if your business plan would work as well today compared to when you bought (clearly you bought pre double bubble?)
    a lot of things/investments were way easier a long time ago. almost anybody who bought in the 1980s/early 1990s looks like a genius now. But part of that is due to some major macroeconomic shifts that are unlikely to be repeated/repeatable.
    I don’t begrudge you your success, nor doubt the veracity (in fact, I highly believe it). I only wonder if the same technique will work going forward.
    As example, it reminds me of the “Dogs of the Dow” trading strategy employed very well throughout the 1990’s. it returned big bucks. part of that was due to the macroeconomic climate of the mid to late 1990’s. if you continued that strategy anew in the 2000’s you got your butt handed to you, because the macroeconomic climate changed very much.
    or it’s like being a Google employee. Sure, if you joined in the early 2000’s you made huge bucks. If you join now… not so much. (good money but nothing special).
    is the same true for RE?

  31. Posted by anonee

    seriously?ex-sfer,
    most of the factors for success are still intact, including high rents, young workers seeking apts,low interest rates, favorable tax treatment,falling prices for buildings/materials/tools,scarcity of new supply,high barriers to entry and clients seeking cool landlords, just to name a few.
    yes, you need to pick the right neighbourhoods,tenants,properties,financing. no its not much fun trying to fight the tide of entrenched tenants or non-gentrification. yes, i’ve been able to apply the same gameplan over the years though there was some selling (but more recent buying as the tide has turned.
    the keys to success are common sense and an ability to anticipate what your target market wants. i personally prefer old buildings with charm and light. i don’t like dark or smelly or carpeted places with plastic bathrooms and kitchens. i like free washers and dryers and extra storage and tenants paying their own utilities. stuff like this works. chasing low cap rates does not.
    admittedly, i can’t say i’ve seen lots of good deals out there…yet. but knowing the good from
    the bad makes it easier to jump when one does.

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