901 16th Street Rendering

Approved by San Francisco’s Planning Commission last year, the 395-unit development designed to rise up to six stories in height at 16th and Mississippi, and up to four stories along 17th Street, in Lower Potrero Hill, with a total of 25,000 square feet of retail space and parking for 388 cars, has been locked in a legal battle ever since. And it’s a battle that shouldn’t catch any plugged-in readers by surprise.

While an appeal of the project’s approval was subsequently denied by San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors, a Petition for Writ of Mandate was filed in San Francisco Superior Court by Save the Hill and Grow Potrero Responsibly, seeking to overturn the City’s certification of the project’s environmental impact report and approval.

On Tuesday, the Honorable Cynthia Ming-mei Lee denied the petition in its entirety. But the battle likely isn’t over. And in fact, it could take years to resolve.

If the Superior Court’s judgment is appealed, which is expected, it’s likely to take nearly two years for the Court of Appeal to hear the case and rule. And following said ruling, should any of the parties seek review by the California Supreme Court, it would take another few months for the Supreme Court to determine whether it would hear the case. And if the California Supreme Court decided to hear the case, it could then take three more years to reach a final decision, which would be over five years from today.

On the positive side, San Francisco’s Zoning Administration has recently ruled that the project’s three year window to break ground following its approval or lose its entitlement to build, which is currently slated to expire in 2019, is eligible to be extended until the legal battle is resolved.

As always, we’ll keep you posted and plugged-in.

51 thoughts on “Big Development Prevails but Battle Isn’t Over”
    1. Blighted in what sense? I walk through this intersection a lot and it doesn’t strike me as blighted so much as a badly planned conglomeration of pedestrians, cars and trains – traffic lights, railroad no-crossings, etc. And getting worse every day as more foot traffic arrives with the David Baker project across the street selling units and getting restaurant leases and the ever rising Mission Bay.

        1. What shall we do? Design this intersection better, that’s what. I see pedestrians regularly getting narrowly missed by cars here. I’ve seen the train hit a car here. I’ve seen grandmothers pushing baby carriages j-walking across the Mission bay side of 16th street because there’s no pedestrian crosswalk.

          1. these sound like reasonable demands to leverage on the developer — not reasons to oppose the development. it is extremely typical for projects like this to improve adjacent intersections. in fact, without projects like this, intersections will never be improved.

          2. Where in my comments do you read me opposing this development? I’m all for it, but I hardly agree with the assessment that this corner is one of the most blighted in SF. There’s plenty of blight all over this city. In any event, the Baker developers did nothing to improve this intersection, nor have the folks currently building the big thing on the other side of the freeway from this proposal. Once the stadium is completed this intersection will be even more of a nightmare.

          3. @Orland – blighted, ugly – sure easy to say. Whatever, maybe you are currently making some money and can have such an attitude about people who are, like you, trying to make a go of it. I don’t find fellow humans who are struggling and living on the streets ugly – they are like me, struggling in these crazy times.

          4. What in the World are you talking about? I said nothing about people but only referred to the derelict condition of the buildings and shabby Corovan operation on that site.

      1. i don’t really know what you’re trying to say, but i assume it’s in defense of the hill-dwelling home-owners. what would constitute “give” on the developer’s part? losing a story? losing 2 stories? not sure how that would make anything better. it would just be another example of an under-built block.

        the developer can make meaningful concessions by 1) promising a decent percentage of affordable units and 2) promising a decent amount of ground floor mixed-use and street improvements. god forbid 16th street gets some trees and real crosswalks.

        1. Look, at this point, i would rather the appeals be abandoned and the project simply proceed as proposed.

          I’m just not convinced we need necessarily have reached this unenviable point.

          The suggested alternative would have made a helluva (probably award winning) project in its own right.

        2. Maybe the residents on the Hill have no trust that the City can adequately address the needs of the neighborhood in general, and this corner in particular. And so maybe the opposition is not just about the ugly, uninspired proposed building, but the City’s ineptitude at bringing much needed services to this area.

          1. Services like ‘PDR space’ and ‘open space on top of garages’?? I’d argue that housing is the main factor that needs addressing, followed by things like local-serving (in terms of the immediate area, not the implied interests of a few who live up the hill) amenities and commercial space to help keep people out of their cars. You know, create a mixed use and mixed economy space on half of a city block in an otherwise run down and ailing industrial area, near two highways, two train lines, two schools, a hospital and a soonish to be East-West arterial thoroughfare.

            Aside from taste, the organization (and the lawyers) that are trying to block developments like this (which sounds like it adheres to regulation and meets requirements for the area) are obviously more interested in playing activitist and self-serving idealist than they are able to offer viable, progressive, community-serving development solutions—that or they’re doing a terrible job explaining what’s actually wrong with what’s being proposed.

      2. The developer has already given plenty by proposing this tiny low-rise thing to comply with the snob zoning in the area, instead of a more appropriate 15-20 story tower. It’s never enough for the privileged homeowners who don’t want to share their neighborhood.

          1. Exactly, the NIMBY busybodies already got something shorter and that will bring far fewer people. It’s never enough for them.

          2. It is absurd to characterize them as “NIMBYs” given the trouble and expense they went to to present a very reasonable alternative which appears to have been simply kicked to the curb.

          3. Newsflash: going to “trouble and expense” to oppose dense housing is exactly the definition of a NIMBY. The so-called alternative is half the unit count of the proposal which, again, has already been shrunk far below the Kaiser proposal, and is maybe one quarter of what the site could and should accommodate. We should be talking 1200 units in a high-rise here, not 400.

          4. @Orland Just because someone put together an alternative concept it doesn’t mean it makes them an authority, let alone possess some unseen insight into needs of the neighborhood or surrounding community.

            And to be clear, I’m not sure what you imagine the standards are for “award winning” but that mess of a design is clunky, full of likely unused spaces and buzz worthy, feel good includes. It’s cute, but not viable.

          5. more than what scott f said, a residential building that’s 50ft hight on 100×50 ft site would yield less than 100 units. it would be a disaster. the proposal is not feasible. also, who would go to a giant food court there? and with no parking? sorry Orland, but that proposal is not only unrealistic, but it also makes concerns of residents worse.

            ALSO WE SHOULD NOT FORGET — demanding a property owner build whatever some community dwellers want is not american. it’s not communist, it’s not socialist, it’s not fascist. i have no idea what it is, other than totally unprecedented and fantasy land. it’s like telling the developer next door to me to build a skate park instead of housing because i like to skate board.

            the hill dwellers should be talking CONCESSIONS like crosswalks, mixed-used, and street trees, not half-baked developments (srsly, who put that drawing set together? certainly not an architect or planner or anyone familiar with proposing feasible developments)

          6. It is a superb example of resourceful adaptive reusage sensitive both to the neighborhood and community as a whole elements of which could have been incorporated into the project if not used in whole. It also is an initial one-off attempt before review and input from peers and stakeholders. How many times has Prado “refined” it’s proposal?

            I wish the developer and City had not been so stubborn in rejecting the opponents’ position. At the same time, I wish they would now drop their appeal if there is no further give and take.

            Maybe a lesson learned though I doubt it in the ongoing “development wars.”

          7. trump has united this country in this way :: everyone is now entirely partisan, no matter the issue. agreement, concession, negotiation. this is how progress gets done. no lead-footed appeals with development proposals that make no sense.

        1. it is too low as currently proposed. maybe 15 story wouldn’t be appropriate, but certainly 7-8 stories would be approporate here

          1. Potrero Hill is one of the most visually striking neighborhoods on Earth primarily because of the views form it. Anything which would noticeably impact that feature would be sheer civic idiocy.

            In this case, I don’t think the new development should change the current situation and retention of the rooflines of the metal sheds accomplishes that desired result.

          2. There are about 6 neighborhoods in SF with more striking views, so is hard to believe these re the best in the world. The view from Potrero is of a downtown and bridge. I don’t think a 7 story building will block the views from 20th street

          3. ^I suspect you have trouble discriminating between “boootiful” and striking. What is so special about PH is that it has a fantastic vantage of some of the most unique urban vistas you will see anywhere with its own dramatic streetscapes in the foreground.

            The heart of the district is the 18th Street commercial corridor and the project being appealed would adversely impact.

            Besides, the alternative proposal is just so much better visually, contextually and in its multiple uses than the schlock these developers are trying to foist upon the neighborhood.

      3. Just a hunch, but I suspect the alternative proposed by the opponents is not financially feasible given the land costs on a central city site.

        1. the alternative proposal is idiotic and the fact that a community group hired an architect to design an alternative to fit their NIMBYism is also ridicuoud. this is the worst formy of NIMBYism shakedown

    1. “Save the Hill” and “Grow Potrero Responsibly” (gag!) are exactly that. 100% certifiable dyed-in-the-wool NIMBYs. Residents can and should be legitimately concerned about the traffic impacts, but a reasonable approach is to engage the city on mitigation strategies. The neighborhood is underserved in several respects compared to neighborhoods of similar density to what Potrero Hill is about to be: mass transit, street sanitation, parking enforcement, traffic calming (the new crosswalks on 16th are death traps), etc. Lots of opportunities for a proper adult negotiation with the city on these issues.

      I remember the early neighborhood meetings on 1601 Mariposa. GPR’s official position was that the lot should be a park. They wouldn’t entertain any compromise, and so they alienated all neighbors who aren’t delusional reactionaries. They also lost big, as the concessions made by the developer are negligible.

      Obviously they’ve changed their tactic on this project, but make no mistake about their counter-proposal being anything other than a shell game. They are not going to back it up with constructive dialog on the issues. It will be a Trumpian litigious campaign until they have finally exhausted all options and are left with nothing. But by then, they will have found plenty of new projects to bleat about.

      1. If these people are “NIMBYs” you’re just a developer’s flunky.

        This is a unique situation where the neighbors of a piece of property, having very justifiably warded off a totally inappropriate proposed use of that property, have come up with a proposed alternative seriously far superior to the suggested alternate use. It combines a dense, needed residential component with a clever repurposing of a historic element in keeping with the area’s past.

        Way more interesting and widely engaging to the public at large than the boring two blocks of sterile boxes that would be constructed after leveling the current premises. And yes, preserving the views of hill dwellers and visitors so fundamentally a natural part of Potrero Hill. I hope they litigate to the max and ultimately, actually prevail. Would be worth the wait for such a rich addition to an emerging part of the City.

        1. I should add that I say that while sharing your criticism of the opponents to David Baker’s wonderful project at 1601 Mariposa which is thankfully finally under way in earnest.

        2. Nonsense. It’s not a proposed alternative unless they have a plan to fund it and build it. Redesigning someone else’s proposal is just trolling.

        3. Everything you said is entirely subjective (e.g. ‘ alternative seriously far superior’, etc). And yea they are NIMBYs. By definition. How is that not clear?

          Stifling a housing-focused development that could benefit hundreds in trade for the narrow, self-serving gripes of a few adjacent and comfortably settled homeowners is bad form, 100%. No one here is implying or toting that any/all feedback is bad, or that if someone came up with an argument that actually addressed the need for housing AND some traffic, safety issues that it shouldn’t be heard. But that’s not what we’re getting, just more of the same old “not in my backyard / not on my hill” BS.

          1. Subjective? Okay, all I can say is I do not want to live in what offer as an idea of a “city.”

  1. That corner currently consists of dilapidated warehouses and homeless camps. Car break-ins and vandalism are rampant. Maintaining the status quo is neither responsible nor does it save the hill in any shape or form.

  2. GR must have a flying machine in proto-type stage, and will be either flying, tele-commuting or uber/lyft/googling to work each day.

    He calls us all nimby’s yet he ignores the actual issues of the area. (politics as usual…)

    1. i really have no idea what your argument is. but if it’s something about “traffic being bad” — maybe GR could BIKE OR WALK to work every day. ever think of that? this place has the best weather in the country. get out of your car and stop complaining about traffic. i frequent CCA weekly and am in full support of this development.

  3. I’m not so sure the appellate schedule set forth by Socketsite above is accurate. Generally, the Court of Appeals review of a denial of an extraordinary writ does not call for a full-blown review of the case but is subject to summary denial.

    1. In reviewing some of the online pleadings (Case No. CPF – 16 – 515238), as expected, the opponents’ argument is largely grounded upon CEQA. It probably sets out a starutorily prescribed appellate schedule which I’m sure Socketsite is well familiar with. Therefore, the likely delay upon further appeal is probably as described.

      While I don’t expect them to ultimately prevail at any level, the real back-breaker is the need for the DCA to provide full review of the extensive record and hold a hearing. I hope the parties instead engage to work something out as that property cries out for upgrade.

  4. Wow. The length of time to navigate the appeal process is ridiculous. The corner is currently a dilapidated mess. Hopefully the people filing suit are liabile for paying damages if and when they lose.

  5. Not sure why anyone would want to live there except as a satellite apartment that allows easy access to the highway, which, if they bring down is going to be another few years of construction outside the window.

    1. ummm, *raises hand* … i work in downtown. 20 min bike to work with no hills — dream-come-true status. close to institutions, restaurants, parks… this neighborhood is very desirable to many people. not everyone is trying to get in a car every day.

    2. archiwha? nailed it. This is also directly across the freeway from Dropbox’s massive new office complex where 4-5,000 people will work, and a rare excellent bike/walk/Scoot commute to the tech offices that already line Brannan and Townsend and are poorly connected to the rest of the city’s transit system.

      Hopefully they designed it so a hallway faces the freeway, buffering the actual apartments from noise and air pollution like Potrero 1010 did. If not, the apartments that face the freeway won’t be great, but, well, they’ll naturally be a little more affordable.

  6. I like the location as well – 18th Street is close by, you’ll be able to walk to the new Warriors arena and everything that’s going to come with it, it’s close to the Mission and SoMa, it’s an easy trip if you work downtown……

  7. this is an example where the mayor and governor need to step in to get this done. This is ridiculous to stop this. it is a low rise building in a blighted warehouse district.

    1. This property is a blighted warehouse in a district that is gradually (but too slowly) becoming attractive. But if you ask my neighbors here on Pot Hill, they just love that good ol’ rusted corrugated iron.

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