Potrero Terrace and Annex Site as Proposed

A 586-page summary of the comments received on the master plan for redeveloping the 33-acre public housing development atop Potrero Hill and the Planning Department’s responses to said comments was released this morning.

The comments generally range from “it’s too dense and tall” to “it’s not nearly dense nor tall enough.”  And of course, transit, traffic and parking are all common concerns.  Feel free to peruse and excerpt the full summary as you see fit.

The public hearing to certify the Environmental Impact Report for the Potrero HOPE Master Plan is currently scheduled for October 22.  And if the project’s EIR and Master Plan are approved, the 1,700-unit redevelopment would occur in three phases, beginning in 2015 and spanning around 10 years in order to minimize disruption to existing residents.

Comments from Plugged-In Readers

  1. Posted by mas

    They’ve been talking about this project for a long time, is it finally going to happen?

  2. Posted by Jon S @ SFBARF

    Can they ask for the new affordable housing bonus and get 3 more floors?

  3. Posted by Miah

    It must be built! it needs to be built. God forbid a group of self-serving NIMBYs oppose it for fear that their property values go down. Of course, they will probably go up, considering the integrative model of the design, and heightened density. This is a bravo moment for SF Planning, for once.

    • Posted by ostrich

      Miah…while I agree you sound just a tad desperate. Just this one or that response to any development?

    • Posted by Samuel Janovici

      Any self-serving NIMBY would know that inner city development always causes prices to rise. What makes this particular development problematic is transportation. The area is fed by a series of residential street and roads (one lane each way) The whole Potrero Hill area is about to get 200,000 new residents and no one is thinking about transportation issues.

  4. Posted by RAGING BEAR

    They could fit way more people into that space. Of course, residential towers are a terrible idea for public housing, just ask Chicago.

    In any case, this does not strike me as the best use of that land, particularly if the residents that currently reside in that project are the same who live in the new buildings.

    • Posted by Serge

      Or go ask St. Louis (Pruitt Igoe). Heck, don’t even need to go far, we just need to look back at the Geneva Towers.

      • Posted by matteo

        I used to live in St L. during the Pruitt–Igoe housing project times….there was so much crime it was scary and dangerous!

    • Posted by Dixon Hill

      @RAGING BEAR–“In any case, this does not strike me as the best use of that land, particularly if the residents that currently reside in that project are the same who live in the new buildings.”
      Uh…would that be because poor people don’t need homes?

      • Posted by RAGING BEAR

        @Dixon Hill

        Uh… no because I knew people would deliberately construe my words so as to reach an absurd and erroneous conclusion.

        • Posted by OtherDan

          It is a confusing sentence. Can you elaborate?

    • Posted by cfb

      Why ask Chicago? SF had it’s own public housing towers that were overrun with drug dealers and notoriously crime-ridden and dangerous, and then demolished: bernal dwellings in the mission, yerba buena plaza and plaza east in the fillmore, the Geneva towers in vis valley (the first public housing in the US to get forclosed upon by HUD, due to unsafe living conditions), which were torn down in the 1980s and 1990s. Cops wouldn’t go to them without backup, and would often get shot at and have heavy objects like tv’s and even a dead body thrown at them. A part of recent SF history that many people know absolutely nothing about.

      • Posted by sf

        Reminds me of living in the dorms on the 7th floor at USF and getting notices “Please do not throw your TVs and computer monitors put the windows. The neighbors are complaining.”

      • Posted by BobN

        And yet identical buildings still exist in the Fillmore providing decent housing for the elderly and disabled. It’s not the building height that’s the problem.

        • Posted by curmudgeon

          Yes, some of those buildings in the Fillmore were changed from general low income to low income senior. The problem is young men, and the things young men do, obviously.

        • Posted by cfb

          yeah as curmudgeon said, and from what i seem to remember, some (or all?) of the remaining public housing high rises in the fillmore were converted to senior housing, around the same time that demolition of the other towers was occurring, as part of the attempt to fight high crime rates in the city’s public housing.

          • Posted by BobN

            They were already senior housing, IIRC, and didn’t have the problems of the torn down towers. And it isn’t just young men.

            I believe the City said they couldn’t rehab the towers and use them for more senior housing because they were so deteriorated by years of abuse (from tenants) and neglect (from the City). Frankly, I find that very, very hard to believe.

    • Posted by curmudgeon

      The plan intends to replace all of the public housing units, but then add density adding both affordable and market rate units resulting in a mixed income community overall. So, in short, the intention is that all the existing tenants will have a home, but there will be many many more people there.

      • Posted by formidable doer of the nasty

        And with Section 8 residents next door, “market rate” may actually be just as affordable as the “affordable” units.

        • Posted by anon

          Yeah, because places next to literal crack houses in the Mission are super cheap.

      • Posted by anon

        All good, except adding another 5000+ new units should be happening at the same time. This is crazy underbuilding.

        • Posted by Futurist

          Of course you would say that. because you don’t get that unlimited density can and will negatively affect the quality of life in OUR city.

          And, to be clear, there IS other housing being added to our neighborhoods all the time.

          • Posted by TribTowerViews

            5000 more units = unlimited density, apparently.

          • Posted by anon

            We’re building a neighborhood from scratch. We should be building it at a density that can support itself.

        • Posted by Orland

          This is largely in keeping with the existing neighborhood and entirety appropriate.

          • Posted by anon

            You’re assuming that “existing” and “ideal” are somehow related.

    • Posted by Samuel Janovici

      This whole thing will look like any of the low-rise public housing projects built in Los Angeles in a year. San Francisco will need to build a new police station nearby . . .

    • Posted by Samuel Janovici

      Just look at public housing in Los Angeles and you can see this area’s future.

  5. Posted by Blairterrace

    I am hopeful Bridge Housing can break ground on this as soon as possible. The location is prime real estate with excellent weather and access to freeways and MUNI. This project will create enough population mass so that retail and restaurants will actually locate on the south side of Potrero Hill. I also think the Yellow Cab lot would make for an excellent shopping center site and another transit hub for MUNI and CALTRAIN.

    • Posted by curmudgeon

      I would argue with the “excellent access to Muni”. There are a number of muni lines that serve the projects there, but they are meandering cross town lines. The area is actually pretty geographically isolated from much of San Francisco (like downtown) and it is certainly not quick to move around via transit. Perhaps not surprisingly there are a LOT of cars parked at the projects.

      • Posted by formidable doer of the nasty

        For many of those cars, the rightful owners don’t actually know they are parked there.

  6. Posted by Serge

    Residents are able to return to the units once they are built, are they not? Assuming they are law abiding members of society, there should be no quarrels with it. Such projects have worked successfully (for example, North Beach Place, Valencia Gardens) to integrate public housing with mixed-income units.

    • Posted by gribble

      I believe they have the option to return. From what I have gleaned the lease is with the new management company, not the City, and the new management company is much better about kicking out tenants for illegal activities. The City had leases that did not give them the option to remove trouble tenants.

      • Posted by JR "Bob" Dobbs

        This process has been pretty good with other SF public housing that was torn down and rebuilt. In these places, over time all sorts of residents get “added” who are not on the lease and not entitled to live there. This process of moving residents out and back in has been a good tool to more effectively screen those moving back in to ensure they, in fact, are the individuals permitted to live there.

        In addition, since (I believe) the mid-90s, there has been a “one strike you’re out” policy in public housing where the entire household is evicted if a single household member – or even a guest or visitor – is convicted of a violent or drug crime. This has been effective as “innocent” household members can no longer passively let a drug dealer live there with no consequences.

        With these two policies in place, SF public housing is far, far better and safer than it was a decade or two ago. I have a friend (disabled Vietnam vet) who has lived in Valencia Gardens for eons. It used to be a hellhole war zone. It is by no means “nice” now, but he feels perfectly safe and comfortable there.

    • Posted by BobN

      They did the same thing, supposedly screening returning residents, in the public housing in the Western Addition when they tore down what was there and rebuilt. Certainly not as bad as it once was, but “law abiding” is a stretch.

      • Posted by Adam

        The “redevelopment” of the Western Addition is one of the most ignominious periods of San Francisco history. The destruction of Japantown, the displacement of African-American residents… This new form of public housing, with a mix of incomes and increased density on a restored grid is a huge improvement over anything that came before, but it cannot erase the damage that has been done.

        • Posted by Serge

          Don’t forget the loss of thousands of Victorians. Urban Renewal is generally a failure. Sure the buildings that were torn down weren’t in the best of shape (I assume most were even condemned or in a highly neglected state), but once they are torn down you can’t easily replace them.

      • Posted by Jeff

        I lived at Divis and Turk for the last 14 years. There have been six homicides within two blocks of my front door over that period. All young black men and women who lived in those projects. That area, Protrero, and the Bayview, have the highest level of gun violence in San Francisco. Public housing, putting all the dysfunction in one place, is a failed policy and no plan that incorporates that basic idea will ever produce a different result.

    • Posted by Zig

      I understand those they want mostly come back and many others are too messed up and disorganized to get back. Maybe they end up in Vallejo

  7. Posted by Frisco

    The best part is reconnecting it to the street grid. It also matched the convention of SF rowhouses, which is appropriate for this neighborhood. Seems like a good, pragmatic plan.

  8. Posted by Elitist Pig

    Too dense and too tall while not being dense or tall enough.

  9. Posted by John

    Can we increase the heights but decrease the tallness?

  10. Posted by Dave

    The grid pattern is why SF has arguably among the most unattractive neighborhoods of any medium sized US city. I know, it was a massive mistake and the fault lies with folks a century plus more ago. Greed, as, IMO, we are seeing with so much of the not-friendly -to-people architecture blanketing SF.

    • Posted by Fishchum


      • Posted by Dave

        The Suset for starters. The tiny fronts cemented over and many used for parking. A eyesore. If you ever have a friend visit here for the first time, as I have had several, they will love the Bridge, the views but drive them through most, not all, SF neighborhoods and check their reaction.

        • Posted by Frisco

          It’s not the grid that does that. Tiny fronts, lack of street trees, and dreary gray skies have nothing to do with whether the streets are on a grid.

          • Posted by Dave

            Lack of greenery is a huge factor. lack of dispersed parks. I am told Kruschev (sp?), long ago, said SF could never be a great City because of the aforementioned.

            The skies are maybe a factor but I have lived for years in the Northwest and the street level intimacy, trees, greenery in general, over came that.

            So yes, it is not totally the grid.

          • Posted by moto mayhem

            i heard Kruschev said Oakland was the bomb!

          • Posted by Jake

            shame the sunset wasn’t built-out with krushchyovka. Probably why we lost the Cold War.

          • Posted by formidable doer of the nasty

            In Soviet Russia, grid builds you.

          • Posted by Orland

            @Dave, funny that Gorbachev has written unstintingly in his admiration for SF.

          • Posted by Serge

            @Orland I believe Gorbachev lived in the Presidio at one point?

        • Posted by Elitist Pig

          This has nothing to do with the grid, this is people choosing to pave over green space. What kind of grid would prevent that? Parisian? Quick, someone get Haussmann on the phone!

    • Posted by cfb

      Lol what? You do realize that the vast majority of North American cities are built on a grid right? It’s not an “SF thing”, and SF’s grid actually has a lot of clashing angles and variety, unlike many other cities. I’ve heard more than one visitor actually compliment the way that SF’s grid flows over the hilly terrain.

    • Posted by cfb

      Also, SF is one of the largest cities and metropolitan areas in North America…its not “medium sized”. It’s deluded people like you that have been restricting development over the decades, holding SF back and leading to the housing crisis.

      • Posted by Dave

        SF is a medium sized city – La, SJ and SD are larger and that is just California,
        Yes, the Bay Area as a whole is one of the larger US metro areas (5/6) but just 10% or soof the Bay Area population lives in SF.

        • Posted by formidable doer of the nasty

          That’s only because of the (arbitrary) county line. DC is the only other major city that has same issue so I guess that’s medium-sized as well. Show me a 7×7-mile piece of LA, SJ or SD that has 800,000 inhabitants. Doesn’t exist. The organic size of a city includes its attached suburban sprawl and by that definition, SF is at least 3 million people, including the suburb of Oakland.

        • Posted by anon

          City limits are a terrible way to measure population size. SF by metro is one of the five largest in the US. You can arguably put NY and LA on a different scale, but SF, DC, and Chicago are all in the same ballpark for size.

          • Posted by Zig

            Not disputing the spirit of your thesis but Chicago has to be in tier 1

            What about Houston?

          • Posted by anon

            Sticking by my numbers: Combined Statistical Areas

            Chicago is substantially smaller than LA (half the size), and could potentially be passed by the DC metro in another 15 years or so.

            Dallas, Philly, and Houston would be the next tier down.

    • Posted by cmak

      at this point I’m pretty positive Dave’s a parody account

      • Posted by Turin

        I sure hope so. It’s troubling to think that someone can actually be this delusional and misinformed about virtually everything upon which they comment.

        • Posted by formidable doer of the nasty

          Isn’t that just called “being a Republican”?

          • Posted by Chuckles

            I’m pretty sure most delusional, misinformed folks in SF are still liberals. Not that I disagree in general, but in this city specifically, the Repubs in that category are a rounding error. Our supervisors weren’t elected by republicans. Just saying.

    • Posted by Orland

      The grid uncompromisingly imposed on the rest of Potrero ‘ s topography is why it is one of the most visually striking neighborhoods on Earth.

    • Posted by Zig

      Street grids make cities very walkable. Streets grids are pretty traditional unless you go way back in places like Boston

  11. Posted by Jim

    “Street Grid”

    “The original street survey…organized the city into a rectangular street grid. Ignoring the topography, subsequent surveys extended the grid to the west and south using the same concept, altering block size to suit the prevailing patterns of residential and commercial development. The surveys made a pragmatic framework of blocks and parcels of land that could be sold and transferred.

    “The grid of streets runs relentlessly up and down hills and valleys and from edge to edge. It offers travelers multiple choices of routes instead of channeling all movement onto a few high-traffic, high congestion streets. Every street carries every kind of traffic. Pedestrians, cars, bicycles, trucks and public transit all share street space.

    “The street pattern provides visual access to the Bay, the ocean, and, unexpectedly, the openness that complements and completes the dense urban environment. The grid rules!” …

    “Planners since Burnham’s visit in 1905 have worked not to change the magic, but to enhance its effect.”

    source: Vision of a Place: a guide to the San Francisco General Plan. SPUR. 2002. p. 8.

  12. Posted by j_blu

    Why isn’t a new surface rail line connecting 22nd St Caltrain to 24th St BART through this project part of the proposal?

    • Posted by Chuckles

      Just to pay for 1 station, you’d need 10x density. Interestingly, there is an existing rail tunnel under Potrero hill. Possible that it’s large enough bore to allow an express bus through.

  13. Posted by RobBob

    Can they regrade the streets to make it more bike-able? Some of those streets have some killer hills for biking and for walking.

    • Posted by The Milkshake of Despair

      Unfortunately regrading would be very expensive. It would also not change the amount of effort required to walk up the hills, just redistribute the steepness. There’s no avoiding the total amount of height to climb.

      For bicycling, you can get a bike with very low “granny” gears. It takes a while to wind up a steep slope but the amount of effort is low. There are also electric assist bikes now.

  14. Posted by ProgressNotProgressives

    Build it!

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