CFAH

401 Grove Street Revised Design
First approved for development in 2008, acquired out of foreclosure in 2010, and then unanimously re-approved by Planning in 2011 to include 63 dwelling units (versus 61 as first approved), a dispute with Planning over seven parking spaces is holding up the permits for the building of 401 Grove Street to begin.
The perspective of the project sponsors:

Our project is being brought back to the Commission [on] January 12, 2012 due to an oversight concerning parking spaces in the original Staff Report.

Seven of our parking spaces were shown on our planning submission as tandem spaces but specific findings were not made by Staff to obtain approval for the extra spaces in each tandem spot, so our site permit submission was held up. Planning staff never expressed concern about these parking spots, but they were not properly documented in the Staff Report, forcing us to come back to the Planning Commission to complete our entitlements.

From the perspective of the Planning Department:

On July 13, 2011, the Planning Commission approved a Conditional Use Authorization for a project to demolish an existing surface parking lot and construct a new mixed-use project containing 63 dwelling units (including nine on-site inclusionary housing units), 5,000 square feet of ground floor commercial uses, 32 off-street residential parking spaces, three commercial parking spaces, and two car-share parking spaces. The plans presented to the Commission included tables and graphics depicting seven of the residential parking spaces in a tandem configuration, which would result in a total of 39 residential parking spaces.

401 Grove Parking Plan

However, the written application indicated that the project was proposing parking in an amount which is principally permitted by the Planning Code. The Planning Code principally permits a maximum of 32 residential parking spaces for the project, at a ratio of one space for each two dwelling units. Accordingly, the conditions of approval limited the total number of parking spaces in an amount that did not account for the seven additional parking spaces that would result from the tandem configurations.

This week the Planning Commission will review a request to amend the project’s approval to include the seven additional spaces, an amendment the Planning Department opposes and the value of which the project sponsors estimate to be $300,000 in “an environment where financing and equity are extremely difficult to put together.”
As the site currently appears (and offers parking for more than 32):
401 Grove Site
401 Grove: Three More Weeks To Get Its Planning Groove On [SocketSite]
401 Grove Street: The Revised Designs And Density [SocketSite]

Comments from Plugged-In Readers

  1. Posted by conifer

    Here we have another example of the embodiment of evil in developers. Imagine asking for seven additional (albeit tandem) parking spaces! We all know that each parking space is another concession to greed and indeed Satan himself.
    Where are our saviors of righteousness? Where are Peskin and Daly now that we need them? At least we still have Olague, Moore and Sugaya, comrades all.
    Do the developers not realize that this parcel is only a few blocks from the Holy Tenderloin, where any sign of the other great evil of gentrification could result in reducing housing for drug dealers and prostitutes, who need a place to live as much as anyone. Remember when Daly bravely stopped people from planting trees to prevent gentrification.
    We must not allow this to happen. There must be a great demonstration of strength of all those opposed to seven tandem parking spaces. To arms! To arms!

  2. Posted by Jack

    Why does planning limit parking spaces to one per two dwelling units? Ie what’s the rationale? Seems like one per dwelling unit would be logical and desirable from a planning perspective…
    Conifer:yawn

  3. Posted by BobN

    Planning is insane. Parking in this area is already horrible and, the department’s delusional wishes notwithstanding, people own cars.

  4. Posted by anon.ed

    The 1.5 to 1 thing is down to Mirkarimi and yes it makes development problematic in Hayes Valley, intentionally so.

  5. Posted by Dubocian

    @Jack: The Market and Octavia Plan, adopted a couple of years ago, rezoned a wide swatch of central SF with new zoning controls, including new limitations on parking: .5:1 park ratio (one space for every two units) with a maximum of .75:1 ratio with a conditional use permit (basically a variance, which the Planning Commission and the Planning Department have been loathe to approve or recommend for approval, respectively.)
    The idea is apparently that if you don’t give people parking spaces, then they won’t own cars, because everyone apparently knows that cars are evil.
    Myself, I’m pretty skeptical that there are lots of folks with the means to purchase $600,000 condos who are not going to want a car, now or in the future. I think the long-term result of this policy will be even more competition for existing street parking. But I must not be progressive-thinking enough to see the light. I do think that car sharing is a great tool to solve the need for a car for some people – but it won’t work for plenty of other people.
    Wait until they build the thousands of new units that are slated along upper Market, all with inadequate (and in some cases, NO parking) and all the proud new condo owners without parking spaces start trying to park their cars.

  6. Posted by anon.ed

    Err 1.5 spots per 2 units, as opposed to 1 to 1

  7. Posted by Brahma (incensed renter)

    “Planning” doesn’t come up with these constraints on their own. See the area plan/planning code and more importantly, the process that produced it.
    If you think parking is undersubsidized, lobby your supervisor.

  8. Posted by The Milkshake of Despair

    Do y’all really think that planning limits parking because “cars are evil”? Their rationale is protect the streets from becoming overly congested once the neighborhood is built out to the zoned heights and usages. The full build-out will take decades to complete so observations of the state of the street today are not very relevant.
    This addition of parking beyond the zoned limits is simply the developer asking for a handout from the people of SF. The developer is asking to create an asset that has value (they even estimate it: “the value of which the project sponsors estimate to be $300,000”) and in return the people of SF get more congested streets.
    Why should the current and future residents of SF give the developer this freebie when all they get in return is degraded street quality?
    People complain all the time that the city isn’t thinking long term. And here planning is looking into the future and trying to protect the quality of life. So what happens? People complain.

  9. Posted by No Parking No Alternative

    I agree re: Yawn. Everyone knows the haps with parking and planners. Heck when I was in Planning School a century ago we were taught the gospel according the Jane Jacobs…cars are evil. I have zero problem with limiting the ratio PROVIDED there are alternatives for everyone. Seniors, couples with young kids cannot be locked out of the MUNI equation. When I turn 80 no way am I going to get on Muni and have rely a driver who was never taught about smooth starts and stops. Residential density is one thing but you gotta have a world class transit. Clean, safe on time with capacity. Muni is not that.

  10. Posted by development fan

    the problem Planning faces is that they’ve basically held the line at 50% parking for all of the other development approved within the new Market/Octavia plan area. If they allow the Grove Street project an additional 7 cars over 50% what is stopping all other developers previously approved or coming before the commission for approvals in the future from asking for the same?

  11. Posted by BobN

    “Their rationale is protect the streets from becoming overly congested once the neighborhood is built out to the zoned heights and usages.”
    But their policies congest the streets and make street-parking spaces so valuable they can never, ever be taken for, say, a bus lane. It’s insane.
    The congestion in this neighborhood comes from OUTSIDE the ‘hood.

  12. Posted by Delancey

    BobN is the first commenter to get it. This neighborhood is a double-crossroads for four arterials: Franklin, Gough, Fell, and Oak. We (the rest of the city) don’t want this neighborhood getting any more car-congested than it already is, because that would add to our travel times. Sucks for the neighborhood and yep, it’s selfish, but this is not a new condition and the developers knew of it before they started.

  13. Posted by tipster

    They should just designate the 7 tandem spaces as parking for private bus drivers, and tout it to the city as a transit-oriented feature.
    Then, when no one cares, they become tandem parking spots for cars.

  14. Posted by Alai

    make street-parking spaces so valuable they can never, ever be taken for, say, a bus lane
    And if they allowed (or demanded) that every new development had extra parking, no one would care about the street parking and we could easily remove it? That seems extremely dubious.

  15. Posted by BobN

    That seems extremely dubious.
    Why are cities in Europe spending millions to bury parking under squares and boulevards?
    Look at the HUGE fight over removing just a couple parking spaces along Fell and Oak to put in better left-turn lanes at Masonic. What should be the decision of a junior planner turned into a huge issue, complete with public hearings. It’s absurd.
    If you want to restrict car use, restrict car use, not car storage.

  16. Posted by Jack

    Promoting public transportation by limiting parking spaces seems to get things a.. backwards to me. The key to promoting public transportation, which is obviously a laudable goal…is better and cheaper public transportation.
    What SF needs is more subway lines, instead of crappy and slow on-grade light rail and limited parking spaces. I walk three times as far to ride Bart when I go downtown just to avoid riding the J which is a block or so from my front door…
    I hate to admit it but the limited parking probably does work to some extent. The guy I am buying my car from is selling it because parking is so godawful where he lives. But he sure hates Muni!

  17. Posted by Brahma (incensed renter)

    BobN, I’m waiting with baited breath (like I just got back from the Gilroy garlic festival) waiting for your sophisticated exegesis on how The City can restrict car use.

  18. Posted by lyqwyd

    For decades, and still in many neighborhoods, there were parking minimums per unit. That was much more of a deterrent to development than a cap on parking units. as mentioned above, there are thousands of units coming under the current criteria, many of which have no parking at all. Before the number of units available for human occupancy was limited by the amount of space that could be dedicated to car parking. I’m glad to see this hurdle to development removed in a few parts of the city.
    I see it no more unreasonable to have parking maximums than it is to have minimums, and I’m glad to see planning fighting to keep parking down in the areas where it’s been determined to be in the best interests of the neighborhood and city.

  19. Posted by Bingo

    The city does “restrict” car use by making driving difficult. It’s so frustrating to park a car (ever try parking near Polk St. in the evening) that many people like me have given up any ambition of owning motorized wheels. I don’t see why anyone would put up with the frustration if they lived in the central city. Unless they commute to the South Bay or something.
    I don’t see what the fuss over 7 spaces is. If someone wants a car badly enough they’re willing to park tandem, let them. Just the thought of having to extract a car from behind another one in a cramped underground garage makes me cringe. I’ll use the ZipCar next door, thank you very much.

  20. Posted by The Milkshake of Despair

    “The congestion in this neighborhood comes from OUTSIDE the ‘hood.”
    It really doesn’t matter that pass-through traffic generates significant congestion here. Almost every neighborhood has pass-through traffic and every neighborhood generates pass-through traffic elsewhere. Planners have to balance and manage congestion from all sources including new trip generators like the parking in this building.
    The decisions that are made to control congestion aren’t put into place all at once. It happens incrementally over time. The creation of new buildings is always a good opportunity to fine tune the parameters that affect congestion.
    If the city decides to reconfigure its major arterial street network then planners have another option to ease congestion here without using parking minimums as a tool. I don’t see any major street network redesign on the horizon though.
    ———-
    “I don’t see what the fuss over 7 spaces is.”
    If it were just seven spaces then there would be no fuss. But this is just one building of hundreds and any extension of the parking minimum here could be multiplied by hundreds of future projects.

  21. Posted by BobN

    BobN, I’m waiting with baited breath (like I just got back from the Gilroy garlic festival) waiting for your sophisticated exegesis on how The City can restrict car use.
    Oh, come on. Close streets. Toll-access districts. Stuff that gets talked about here all the time. Heck, restrict parking downtown and in commercial areas. Just don’t keep people from being able to put away their cars in their own homes.

  22. Posted by kathleen

    Less than 1 parking space per unit is silly.
    The code should call for two sapces per unit, not less than one, so onwers with no or one car can rent out the extra off street spaces.
    This will get more cars out of street parking, and stop the needless cruising around burning gas looking for street parking spaces that do not exist and settle them safely into off street garage spaces.
    Every park should have underground neighborhoood stickered parking.
    People should not have to spend 30 minutes looking for a place to park near their home
    after spending ata minium half a million on a home.
    They will just move to another town and stop buying property here.

  23. Posted by Brahma (incensed renter)

    BobN, taking the last point first, restricting parking downtown and in commercial areas is a complete non-starter in California. In the post Prop-13 world we live in, municipalities depend heavily on sales and other taxes generated by commercial areas in order to fund general services and things such as public transit. If you restrict the customers ability to park, then you’re restricting the ability of the patronized business to realize revenue, and that reduces the stream of taxes used to fund city services.
    Several studies have concluded that something close to a third of the traffic in downtown areas is made up of people circling the block around their destination, looking for an open parking spot, and that’s with parking meters in place in the areas studied.
    Look, I’m the least Libertarian person regularly commenting here, and even I’d have to say that your emphasis on restricting certain modes of transit and allowing or even incentivizing others is a little weird. Not allowing the seven parking spots for the above-posted project is better than arbitrary restrictions because should the new buyers want those seven spots, they can always pay to park elsewhere. In other words, no one is preventing people from being able to put their car underneath their own home; the planning code is just exposing the home owner to more of the cost of doing so.
    Similarly, a more market-oriented solution to throttling parking demand in commercial areas is demand-pricing of parking, which is what SFpark smart parking metering is trying to do. Maybe that’s one of the things you were referring to when you mentioned “toll-access districts”, or perhaps you meant full-on congestion pricing for driving, which is something that deserves its own discussion.

  24. Posted by BobN

    I’d have to say that your emphasis on restricting certain modes of transit and allowing or even incentivizing others is a little weird.
    Who bloody cares what the libertarian view of things is? If you want to libertarian planning carried out, go to Somalia.
    In real cities with real “transit first” policies, they close streets to traffic. You can do so without restricting parking (if you want to), you just institute sticker-access. (Note, I’m not advocating that for downtown because residents downtown hardly ever park on the streets and certainly not during the day.)
    My point is that pretending that people don’t own cars is just that, pretending. Better they should have a place to store them underground.
    And your suggestion that people just pay to park in this neighborhood is fine, except that rates were already over $350/mo pre-recession. That is absurd.

  25. Posted by NoeValleyJim


    The code should call for two sapces per unit, not less than one, so onwers with no or one car can rent out the extra off street spaces.

    Forcing developers and non-car drivers to subsidize parking like that is just silly. Especially when driving is such an anti-social activity in the first place.
    MoD you are a saint. I don’t know how you can have the patience to explain this issue over and over again. Hats off to you!

  26. Posted by David Baker

    As the architect for this project, and a bicycle advocate and car-free person, this whole issue makes me cringe. I agree with, and have personally promoted, the current policy of maximum limits versus minimum requirements. And I dearly wish cities where we work, such as San Jose, would not require 1.8 parking spaces per studio unit! In this project there is one individually accessible space per 2 units, a standard that the rest of the Bay Area, much less the USA, regards as insane. The tandem spaces were approved twice on the drawings, but not in the findings written by the Planning Department. There are no “additional” or “added” spaces, more like a mis-communication. Too bad, because these are developers trying to do the right thing at every turn, which is getting hit at this late date. They had the “revenue” figured in, and now have to make an adjustment somewhere, probably through “value engineering”. That’s where you cut the really fun extra stuff out. Ouch!

  27. Posted by The Milkshake of Despair

    Could the space allocated to the disputed parking be utilized/monetized other ways? For example it seems as if they could be easily converted into enlarged “resident storage”. Perhaps there are other ways to extract value from this space. Otherwise it seems as if the developer is attempting to cash in on eternal street congestion credits by limiting the use to parking.
    And yes San Jose has a long way to go. These days many residents will freak out if someone parks on the street in front of their home. It’s “their spot” after all.

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