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!

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Corbett Heights Neighbors Meeting Notes - July 26, 2018

The meeting was called to order at 7:05PM. Close to 40 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, Philip Byland, Nancy Peoples and new member in new section of Corbett Heights - Barbara Pletz.
Corbett Heights has adopted a new block: the 500 block of Corbett and the 3300 block of Market. Check out our website at corbettheights.org and click on the MAP tab to view a map of our boundaries.
Membership unanimously approved our slate of Board positions:
President: Gary Weiss, Mars Street
Vice-President: Maryann Dresner, Ord Court
Secretary: Rotating
Treasurer: Leslie Koelsch, Corbett Avenue
Other Board Members:
Dirk Aguilar, Ord Street
Kevin Dunn, Corbett Avenue
Grace Gellerman, Vulcan Steps
Bill Holtzman, Lower Terrace
Rick Johnson, Corbett Avenue
Brad Lyman, Corbett Avenue
Desiree Roldan, 17th Street
Mark Ryser, Ord Street
Thank you!
Our first guest was Captain Una Bailey of Park Station. First she gave some Park District statistics for June, 2018:
0 Homicides (1 YTD)
5 Aggravated Assaults (44 YTD / -8% YTD Change)
7 Robbery (28 YTD / -35% YTD Change)
36 Burglary (174 YTD / -14% YTD Change)
24 Vehicle Theft (126 YTD / -31% YTD Change)
97 Theft from Vehicle (519 YTD / -47% YTD Change)
Captain Bailey said that Park District is a safe place to be, compared with other parts of the City. There have been decreases in every category of crime. This, of course, does not help knowing if you have recently been burglarized.

The community is vital to preventing crimes. If you see a crime in progress call 911. Taking a video of a crime in progress is helpful to the police, but Captain Bailey stressed that you should call 911 FIRST. The police non-emergency number is: 415-553-0123. Park Station's number is: 415-242-3000. And, if you'd like to discuss a particular issue with Capt. Bailey, her email is: una.bailey@sfgov.org

She offered the following recommendations for preventing burglaries:

Contact SAFE (Safety Awareness for Everyone - sfsafe.org). It's a great a program that offers a free walk through of your home and gives tips to preventing burglaries.  We've had them present at a Corbett Heights meeting twice in the past. Several people contacted them and set up SAFE blocks.

Install cameras: A video of the same criminals committing multiple crimes enables the police to build a case and attach suspects to other crimes. This helps to lead to convictions.

Skateboarders on Corbett: There was a lengthy discussion with Captain Bailey about the ongoing problem with skateboarders on Corbett. She said that skateboarding is not a crime but when these individuals threaten neighbors, vandalize property, run stop signs, board MUNI without paying... then the police can write tickets. She found the information provided by neighbors to be helpful. She'll review the reports that have already been filed and send officers out on a few different days between 3 PM and 5 PM to try and catch the skateboarders in the act.

Interestingly enough, homelessness never came up in our discussion with the Captain.

Rafael Mandelman is our newly elected Supervisor of District 8.
Our meeting was the 3rd of 5 that he was scheduled to attend - he ended up staying about 40 minutes.

He discussed his 3 aides:

Kyle Smeallie – His former campaign manager will be his point person on land use and planning. He was present for the whole meeting. kyle.smeallie@sfgov.org

Erin Mundy – Mark Leno's former campaign manager. She'll handle Corbett Heights issues, homeless issues. erin.mundy@sfgov.org

Tom Temprano - College Board Member.  He'll deal with issues in the Castro and Mission.  tom.temprano@sfgov.org

According to our discussion with him, homelessness is the most important issue in the district. As other parts of the City are being swept for tents/encampments, homeless people are being pushed from these areas into the Castro and Upper Market. Vacant commercial space makes the Castro attractive. He also said we need to work on the number of beds at SF General for treatment of those in crisis (substance abuse/mental illness). The current system prioritizes housing based on length of time on the street; he said that at this rate you'd have to be on the street 21 years to qualify for housing. The best successes have been with the newly homeless. The most effective program has been reunification of homeless individuals with friends/family. He's looking to have strategic meetings at City Hall to improve the overall problem vs. just responding to each individual incident.

A question that came up was - what can be done about the increase in traffic/speeding on Mars (also Uranus/Deming) due to Waze and the new no left turn sign at Clayton/17th Street? He asked his aid, Kyle, to research what has been done to date and then follow up.  (I'll let you know what is suggested after discussing this with him in a week or two.)

Traffic: There were questions about the possibility of regulating Uber and Lyft – Supervisor Mandelman explained that these ride-hailing services are regulated by the State so they can't be regulated on a local level. This is frustrating to SFMTA. One way to deal with the problems they cause is to enforce the local traffic laws (double parking, picking up in crosswalks, etc…) but the City has very few traffic officers – there are approximately 8 (of 37 total) on duty on any given day - in the whole city.

Complaints about dirty sidewalks: He said that San Francisco is spending a lot of money on sidewalk/street cleaning and the budget will increase by $700K. We can clean the sidewalks more but that's not really a solution to the larger issues.

Excessive retail vacancy in the area: He plans to meet with property owners in the district about vacant retail space and encourage them to lower the rents to fill the space. Supports a vacancy tax but said that it would require staff to monitor. One possible solution may be to raise the existing vacancy fee.

Of the dozens of emails he receives daily, Supervisor Mandelman said the top issues in our district are the homeless/homeless encampments, street cleanliness and street trees. He offered his mobile number: 415-516-7761. Call or text him with your questions and concerns.  rafael.mandelman@sfgov.org

I asked whether legislation could be possible that would require that NO new market-rate development can take place without simultaneous improvement to MUNI, potholes, schools, police, water, sewer....... Kyle will report back


Garrett Robertson, our Parks Coordinator, gave us some updates on our parks. He's spearheaded the monthly street park cleanups in our neighborhood. Usually on the 2nd Saturday of each month, they focus on a different park each time - we have about 12 in all. We'll send out a notice alerting you ahead of time to which one will be spruced up.

WE NEED NEIGHBORS to help, though. Few volunteers have showed up on Garden Days. We usually provide water, snacks, gloves and tools. Come by and pull a weed!

If you have an interest in helping out, please let me know - I'll forward your contact into to Garrett. Even if you don't lend a hand, please stop by and say hello!  info@corbettheights.org

Our next park cleanup will be in Merritt Park on Sunday, August 12, from 10AM - 1PM. This event is in collaboration with the Castro CBD who will be sending volunteers to help. For more information, please contact us at info@corbettheights.org.

Corbett Slope: On Saturday, August 4th dozens of new native plants will be delivered to the Corbett Slope. Please come by and help plant. info@corbettheights.org.

Also, Public Works has agreed to create a park sign for Corbett Slope. Once we get a design idea to them, work should begin on that.

In the very near future Public Works will be replacing the sidewalk after doing some serious reinforcement. This should take at the very least 2 months during which time parking will be unavailable between 315 - 341 Corbett.

Corbett/Ord Triangle: The water access line to this park is currently broken beneath the sidewalk on the Ord Street side. When the water is turned on it shoots up through the sidewalk. This and the irrigation lines should be (?) repaired in the coming weeks. This garden is now impossibly dry. We've been pushing for the water to be repaired for almost a year.

Mars Park: This park had some erosion during the winter after all the invasive ivy was removed. Jonathan Deason, owner of 75 Mars has generously offered to let us use his water to irrigate the park. Garrett and I went to the Urban Farmer store last Friday and purchased the materials for a new system. We should be installing it within the next week. Once some new plants begin getting regular watering they will begin covering the bare soil and help prevent further erosion.

WE HAVE MONEY FOR THE CORBETT HEIGHTS PARK NEAR YOU!  If you and 4 or so others would like to improve the green space near you, please go to our website: www.corbettheights.org, and click on "Parks Fund Request". The funds cannot be used for hiring outside help, but is specifically for improving the space.

Upper Terrace/Roosevelt/17th Street Project:
After waiting for more than 2 years, the Environmental Review was released a few months ago. As predicted, the outcome was pretty nice for Dawson & Clinton, the architects/project sponsors. One big concern by everyone in the immediate area was the fact that toxic silica dust WILL be released into the air during excavation. Even a small amount of airborne silica dust can create a health hazard - small amounts have been known to cause lung disease and lung cancer according to CalOSHA.

The means by which Dawson & Clinton will be managing the site is, according to many who are knowledgable about this issue, is insufficient. In May this Environmental Review was appealed by a neighbor in Corbett Heights. I'll let you know how this progresses.

Of all of the people who will be affected by this project, some were more concerned about the safety of their property during construction, some were concerned with their views. Since the other issues were being dealt with, we focused on how we could protect neighborhood character and honor the Corona Heights Large Residence Special Use District CHLRSUD) ordinance by restricting the size of the project. By possibly tripling the size of the average home in Corbett Heights, this project will have an enormous impact on the affordability and character of our neighborhood.  So far we haven't been quite as successful as some other interest groups. The average unit started out as 5300 square feet each for 10 units, plus a lap pool for each. Now the average is 4100 square feet. And, they've scratched the lap pools .
Also, the 2-unit structure on Upper Terrace must remain rent-controlled. But considering the fact that all of these units will all be sold, it's not terribly likely that rent-control will ever take place.

In a separate notice I'll be sending a request for you to submit letters to the Planning Department expressing your support or opposition to this project.

143 Corbett: This one is one big mess.

Back in the 90s the owners at the time had a 3-level deck constructed - with no permit. Not an uncommon thing. About 10 years later the same owners enclosed one floor of the deck on the main level to create a breakfast nook. This was also done with a permit or any sort of inspection.

In 2014 the building was sold. The new, current owner hired a - questionable - contractor. They ended up expanding the breakfast nook out farther into the backyard, an expanding it out in either direction right up to the property line. They walled in what had been large windows on this nook which now extends farther out into the tiny rear yard than any other house on the block. And they built out into two lightwells. None of this was done with permits, inspections or neighborhood notification. Then the excavation began. I don't know the exact amount of soil that was removed, but it went on month after month. There had been an inlaw unit in the basement level but it was considerably shorter than what is allowed. So they dug down on that level, and then at the backyard level they excavated out what had been a storage area. The space is now large enough for a good sized 2 level, 2 Bedroom, 2 Bath unit. All of this, including the excavation was done without permits or inspections. The work was stopped for a year. A new contractor coame along - blamed everything bad that had happened on the previous contractor, and began to try and make things right.

Somehow - - at the Planning Commission hearing in June, despite all of this egregious stuff that had been done, including damaging the neighbors' foundation, despite the fact that it considerably exceeded the limits of the CHLRSUD, and without issuing any citations or even fines, the Commission basically legitimized everything.
For more reasons than I care to go into now, we submitted an appeal which will be heard by the full Board of Supervisors.

Both the owner and the contractor told us that they have no intention of ever renting this new legalized unit. The owner would like to have a place to stay when he comes up to the city to visit his not yet conceived grandchild. He lives down the peninsula.
CONSTRUCTION ALERTS
& A Long Sad Story about Overdevelopment in
San Francisco
 


CONSTRUCTION ALERTS!
97 States Street is not in Corbett Heights but is within the boundaries of the Corona Heights SUD. This project proposal is to "remodel" an 898 square foot cottage into a 4,905 square foot behemoth.
Pre-application meeting will take place onsite on Monday, August 6th, from 6-7PM.
4480 17th Street is the 2nd house down from the little bamboo grove on the NE corner of 17th and Roosevelt. This would be an outright demolition. The existing house is 2836 square feet. The proposal is to turn it into 4281 square feet.
Pre-application meeting will take place onsite on Tuesday, August 7th, from 6-7PM.
37 Saturn is a beautiful little Victorian - 1587 square feel. The proposal is to almost double the size - to 2824 square feet.
Pre-application meeting will take place onsite - also on Tuesday, August 7th, from 6-7PM.
SF Overdevelopment: Developers are trying various tools to increase their ability to build in San Francisco, and to diminish the city's or residents' ability to have a say in what they do. They are now getting some serious help from legislators to assist them.
Two tools: Upzoning and By-Right Development. Upzoning allows more units than what is currently prescribed for different parts of San Francisco. By-right development receives automatic approval regardless of existing zoning, and removes the public's current right to weigh in. No CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act), no design review, no neighborhood input, no Discretionary Reviews.
At the last meeting we discussed Senator Wiener's SB 827 and how it would have removed all local control over development in San Francisco. This bill failed due to broad-based opposition across the entire state.
And now it's ADUs (Accessory Dwelling Units). They are referred to as "backdoor upzoning".
Currently with this recent legislation, you are able to convert a garage or any portion of a house within the existing envelope into one rent-controlled unit.
Supervisor Tang proposed allowing more than one, and allowing structures including garden sheds to become a legal unit - without needing to notifying neighbors.
Phil Ting went a few steps further by requiring larger sizes among other things.
All California cities now have quotas for new home construction called Regional Housing Needs Allocation or RHNA for short. San Francisco currently meets and exceeds its RHNA quota for market-rate BUT NOT for below-market-rate housing.
Thanks to Senator Wiener's new legislation, since the city's affordable housing allocation has not been met, ALL construction projects in San Francisco would become By-right (explained earlier).
So what does this all do? There's increased demand on infrastructure: water, sewer, utilities, police, firefighting, emergency services, schools. More traffic congestion, worse MUNI, more displaced tenants, less affordability.
Tenants: If there are more units on the land, there are more profits to be had. With the promise of more profit, there are more incentives to do away with tenants. There are what are called "renovictions", buyouts, Ellis Act evictions and higher rents. All of those generally occur long before the application for a permit is filed. Planning does not check to see whether or not an address was previously occupied by tenants. We have no inventory of our rental units and no way of identifying tenant occupied housing. So --- we are unable to accurately protect tenant housing since we don't even know for sure how many there are.
Only 10% of residents of San Francisco can afford to buy the new homes being built here. A family of 4 earning up to $117,400 is considered by the Federal Gov't to be low income (NY Times, June 2018). Workers earning above $100K make up the majority of new workers; However, in SF, workers earning less than $75K are still the majority.
Example: In 2014, a speculator bought a 1220 square foot home for $1.1M. Spent $598K remodeling it into a 3785sf home. In 2016 they sold it for $4.9M. Profit of $2-3M.
There's not as much of a housing crisis as there is an affordability crisis.
Thank you for your interest in the neighborhood!




143 Corbett

Conditional Use Appeal by Corbett Heights Neighbors

143 Corbett Ave

 


We are informing our membership that Corbett Heights Neighbors will be appealing the Conditional Use Authorization, that has recently been granted to the construction project at 143 Corbett Avenue.

Over the past 4 years over 15 permits were obtained without planning or neighborhood involvement: Instead of trying to obtain permission for a large job, the owners asked for permission to undergo numerous tasks by breaking up the project into small portions. Two floors have been excavated without soils engineering, resulting in water damage to one of our neighbors. In addition, an illegal deck was enclosed, although it already exceeded the rear yard coverage line and had originally been built without a variance.

In October 2016 the City issued a Notice of Violation and requested that all over-the-counter permits be consolidated. Because the structure exceeds 55% of lot coverage, the owners had to obtain a Conditional Use Authorization. On June 21 the Planning Commission heard the case, criticized the illegal construction but then allowed the illegally enclosed deck to be grand-fathered in.

Corbett Heights Neighbors is appealing the Planning Commission decision to the Board of Supervisors to ensure due process and prevent bad precedent in our Special Use District. Without a proper review, adjoining properties have increased risk levels for water, foundation, fire and other damage.

If you wish to learn more about this case, or if you wish to support our efforts, please contact Jennifer Creelman at drcreelman@cfdds.com or at (415) 244-9932. We are specifically looking for signatures from owners whose properties are located inside or touch the yellow circle on the below map. Thank you for your time.

Corbett Heights Neighbors