Saturday, February 9, 2019

SF Demolition Controls

SF Demolition Controls

Dear Neighbors,
There are a surprising number of housing-related pieces of legislation in the pipeline now – some local, some regional and some statewide.
The most talked about are:
  • Phil Ting's ADA (Accessory Dwelling Unit) legislation;
  • Scott Wiener's SB 50;
  • The Housing Accountability Act; and
  • The CASA Compact.
The primary goal is to increase the housing supply.  There are some good things that can result if these are passed. 
The criticisms are:
  • Not enough emphasis on affordable housing;
  • Elimination of local control over land use;
  • Enormous reduction - in the ADA legislation - of required rear yards;
  • Upzoning, meaning that more units per lot will be allowed;
  • Elimination of affordable housing when expansions occur.
We'll discuss these in the coming months, but I really want to bring you up to speed on what's being called:
Controls on Residential Demolition, Merger, Conversion, and Alteration.
Or, Demolition Control.
You've read about illegal demolitions going on all over town.  You've seen virtual demolitions in the name of remodels – or remolitions – become rampant.  Most of the demolitions that take place are actually legal!  Here's why:
The City and County of San Francisco has 2 enormous departments that deal with building - remodeling, demolishing, altering, monitoring and penalizing.  They are the Planning Department and the Department of Building Inspection.  Each has its own set of rules, requirements and definitions.  Because of this, as was the case with 17 Temple that I spoke about so much last year, one hand doesn't talk to the other. 
So when the Planning Commission approves a project, it has no idea what DBI will say about it once they have a look.
For the last year-and-a-half I've worked with others  and Supervisor Peskin's office in an attempt to come up with a solution.  Lee Hepner, Supervisor Peskin's aide took the lead on this work.  I invited him to speak to us at our neighborhood meeting last fall. 
Once many of us gave input on what we felt was most needed, Lee then had to go out and sell it.  Over the last several months he's appealed to other Supervisors (6 have agreed to co-sponsor), the Residential Builders Association, tenants groups, members of the Planning Department, DBI and everyone else who wanted a say in how the problem should be fixed.
I've heard from a few of you about some of the provisions that are a bit questionable.  Many of those who worked on this agree.  We'll continue to work with Lee until it's at a point when all interest groups can support – or at least tolerate it.  It's critical that we pass something like this as soon as possible. 
Here are some of the goals:
  • Preserving existing homes which are as much as 40% more affordable;
  • Preserving facades and scale of older homes;
  • Having both departments approve a project before permits are issued;
  • Eliminating illegal demolitions;
  • Reducing the allowable expansion potential on existing homes;
  • Ensuring that the elimination of affordable housing will cease.
  • Severely increasing penalties;
  • Redefining the term Demolition.
Nothing in this legislation would prevent remodels or expansions that reasonably conform to neighboring homes.  And there are incentives when a project sponsor is adding an additional unit.  Something has to be done or pretty soon your house will be the only one on your block that you recognize!
Please let me know if you'd like more information on any of this.  I've even created a kind of Cliff Notes version if you're interested.
Thanks for your interest!

- Gary

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Corbett Heights: Mt. Olympus Project Vote #2

Mt. Olympus
Upper Terrace/Roosevelt/17th St. Project

Dear Corbett Heights Members:
Apologies for asking again about the Mt. Olympus project.  

It was clear that almost everyone supported accepting Dawson & Clinton's  "final" offer to reduce the unit size to an average of 3600'.  Not only was the reduction considerable, but it removes the need to fight the developers, as well as the Planning Commission and ultimately the Board of Supervisors.

The reason for this second email is that there is another part of the deal that was discussed.  Since the final figure is still short of what we had hoped for, I discussed with them the possibility of offering some form of a Community Benefit to Corbett Heights to make accepting their large footprint in our neighborhood more tolerable. 

Dawson & Clinton has offered to hold $50,000 in an account to be used for improvements to our parks, and/or anything to make the experience of enduring the construction and excavation more tolerable for the residents immediately surrounding the site.  Invoices would be sent to D&C who promised to pay them within a week.

This is a decision that is too large and too important to be made solely by our Board.  There are a few people who fear this will appear as though we've settled for cash.  The final square footage that D&C has offered would be the same whether or not we accepted the funds.  In addition, Supervisor Mandelman pointed out that almost no large project in San Francisco ever passes without some giveback to the community.  Sometimes it's in the form of a park, or increased affordable housing.  In this case it would allow us to make substantial improvements to our green spaces.





Thursday, November 1, 2018

Notes From Corbett Heights Neighbors' Meeting

Corbett Heights Meeting Notes - October 25, 2018

 The meeting was called to order at 7:05PM.  Close to 50 people attended!

Many thanks for the folks who helped distribute the fliers for the meeting:  Ted Teipel, Kathy & Hank Flanders, Desiree Roldan, Jennifer Creelman, Janice Low, Rick Johnson, Kevin Dunn, Grace Gellerman, Martin Burbidge, Bill Prince, Barbara Presta, Bill Holtzman and Neal Wood.

Corbett Heights Green Spaces:
After about a year of repeatedly asking for plants for the Corbett Slope and other parks, Dept. of Public Works delivered 30 a couple of months ago, with the balance of about 50 having been delivered today!  In addition, we now have functioning, although limited water for the Slope as well as for Corbett/Ord Triangle and Merritt Parks.
Public Works is also working on a sign for the Corbett Slope – at long last!

Lee Hepner, legislative aide to Supervisor Aaron Peskin, spoke about the new Demolition Reform legislation that the Supervisor will be sponsoring.  There are many reasons that these reforms are critical:
  • No one in the Planning Dept or Dept of Building Inspection has a clear understanding on how to interpret the existing codes as they relate to demolition;
  • Planning and DBI have contradictory definitions of what constitutes a demolition;
  • Enforcement is next to impossible;
  • Distinctions between demolition, alteration, expansion and merger need clarification;
  • Structural engineers need to determine whether a vertical expansion of a property is possible without demolishing it BEFORE the project is approved;
  • Massive expansions of single-family dwellings need to be discouraged unless housing density is added;
  • Tenants need to be protected from eviction when speculators seek to expand existing, more affordable units for greater profit;
  • Among other reasons…..
Corbett Heights Neighbors has been involved in the process and will provide updates on this legislation as it evolves.

There are glaring examples of demolitions that have taken place during the last several years under the guise of remodels.  Following is an example of one that can knock you out of your chair:
In 2014, Troon Pacific developers paid $4.5 Million for a registered landmark, Willis-Polk home at 950 Lombard St – just below the Crookedest St. – and proceeded to gut it and basically demolish it.  They were fined $400,000 by the City for "work exceeding the scope of the permit."  Now, a few years later, the new 9500 square foot home is on the market as of last week for $45 million.  The $400,000 fine was barely equivalent to a slap on the wrist.

Proposition C: Our City, Our Home:
Lauren Hill from the Prop C campaign spoke to us about the importance of passing this legislation.  She brought up the most publicized criticism – lack of accountability before it was asked.  Her response to this is that the City will be in control of any funds raised.  It won't be a bunch of people deciding how to spend $300 million per year.  Existing housing/homelessness departments will decide what goes where.
The City has agreed to build 1,000 units that would accommodate the homeless.  The problem: there's no money to build them.
A question was asked about whether businesses will leave San Francisco rather than pay this tax.  Tech employees want to live and work in San Francisco.  This is why almost all of the largest tech companies have been gobbling up office space here.  As it is, in order to do this, they are paying the highest price per foot of anywhere in the country.  Is it likely that due to a .5% tax, that  businesses will choose to leave?  Possible, of course, but how likely?

Kyle Smeallie, aide to Supervisor Mandelman, discussed some of the arguments against Prop C, but mentioned in all honesty that he is a big proponent of the measure.
He also spoke about what their office is working on and which are the biggest issues for District 8 residents.  Homelessness, safety and car break-ins are high on the list, but the number one complaint revolves around our street trees.  When the City reclaimed responsibility for our street trees after a vote a couple of years ago, people have been calling in with questions and requests about the trees on their block.
There will be a meeting at City Hall on November 14 if you'd like to provide input.

Mark Ryser, CHN Board Member described our suggested amendments to our Bylaws.  There was no opposition, and the amendments are approved.

Mt. Olympus Project (271, 301-303 Upper Terrace/Roosevelt/17th St):
After four years, this project will be heard by the Planning Commission on November 29th.  An appeal of the Environmental Review will be heard simultaneously. The appeal relates mostly to the Review's apparent lack of consideration of all the silica dust that will be circulating during the entire buildout. 
The project began as five single-family homes that were over 10,000 square feet each.  After many directives from both the Planning Dept. and RDAT (Residential Design Advisory Team), it morphed into ten homes on five lots, each averaging 5300 square feet, each with lap pools.  A year or two later it was down to 4600 square feet average.  Then a bit over 4000.  According to our Corona Heights Special Use District legislation, anything exceeding 3000 square feet for the lot, meaning 1500 square feet each for two units, requires CUA (Conditional Use Authorization).  4000 square feet was still too large for us to accept.
As of last week, Dawson & Clinton offered to shave another 10% off the overall size, having the average unit, including any common space be 3600 square feet.  Our Board is now discussing our options.
At the very least the project has diminished in size considerably from the beginning.  It's still far from the average square footage of an average dwelling in Corbett Heights: 1164 square feet.

Corbett Heights Green Spaces (part 2):  Our neighborhood has been blessed with an abundance of green spaces.  Whereas in general they are pleasing to the eye, and appreciated by everyone, they are, in many cases desperate for some TLC.  We do have a handful of volunteers who come to help out on Garden Cleanup Days, but they are desperate for more help.  If you would like to help out in any way at any time please let us know!

Thank you for your interest in the neighborhood!