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!

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.
& A Long Sad Story about Overdevelopment in
San Francisco

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

Planning Department Changes that Impact Neighbors

Dear Neighbor

San Francisco's Planning Department has recently made process "improvements" in May 2018.  The Board of Corbett Heights Neighbors feels that these changes make it even more difficult for neighbors to be involved in the planning process.   We feel it's important to be involved to protect the character of our neighborhood and to protect the adjacent properties for negative impact.  If you agree, please send a letter to the Planning Commission like the draft below.

The Planning Commission meets next week so please email them by Tuesday May 29 

To: richhillissf@gmail.commyrna.melgar@sfgov.orgplanning@rodneyfong.commilicent.johnson@sfgov.orgjoel.koppel@sfgov.orgkathrin.moore@sfgov.orgDennis.Richards@sfgov.org
CC: commissions.secretary@sfgov.org
Subject: Opposition to proposed Process Improvement by Planning Staff
President Hillis and Members of the Planning Commission:
I am writing to convey my deepest concerns regarding the proposed Process Improvement as introduced by the Planning staff on May 17.
While I am very supportive of the Planning Department's objective of improving the planning processes, I am opposed to the proposed changes and disappointed by the total lack of community outreach and unwillingness to elicit or listen to neighborhoods. The recurring theme is the unwillingness to encourage citizen participation and the net result is further erosion of public trust in the Planning Department. Consequently, neighborhoods end up pursuing other options such as approaching Supervisors.
Among the problems with the staff's proposal for Process Improvement I can cite the following issues:
  • Reducing neighborhood notification period to 20 days is a significant step in removing public from the process. It is hard enough to understand the impact of a project and plan the course of action to oppose it in 30 days. Reducing this period to ONLY 20 days will seriously undermine public participation in the process.
  • Replacing the current packet of notification material with postcards will not serve the public. Not everyone has access to computers and even if they do, they don't have the necessary training to navigate through the Planning applications to download the plans.
  • Issuing over-the-counter permits with no neighborhood notifications for pop outs will encourage serial permitting and will conceal the true impact of a project on the surrounding neighbors. Nowadays, pop outs are almost always part of large alteration or demolition projects. This change will enable developers to hide the true scope of their out-of-scale projects from the neighbors because they'd be able to obtain permits for the last portion of such projects over the counter with no notifications to the neighbors. The anticipated 2 FTE savings will be more than overshadowed by the time spent handling complaints and appeals.
That is why I respectfully request that the Planning Department be directed to initiate community outreach before finalizing any proposal for Process Improvement.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018



The meeting was called to order at 7:05PM.

Many thanks for the folks who helped distribute the fliers for the meeting: Ted Teipel, Kathy & Hank Flanders, Kazumi Matsuyama, Bill Prince, Janice Low, Rick Johnson, Kevin Dunn, Grace Gellerman, Phil Byland, Nancy Peoples, Bill Holtzman and Pat Hufford.

Garrett Robertson, our Parks Coordinator, gave us some updates on the state of 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'll send out a notice alerting you ahead of time to which one will be spruced up.

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!

Corbett Slope: DPW agreed to host a meeting to discuss the current status of The Slope. It was on April 5th, and was held at the Randall Museum. We sent a notice around and others were posted onsite.

The purpose was to clarify the project, explain delays, confirm support for the future stairway and warn us of some pretty major upcoming sidewalk work about to take place.

Here's a bit of a breakdown:

As you know, the city works at a dead snail's pace. It's been a year since they finally installed the planter and the upper concrete platform. A month or so ago soil and mulch was delivered. The soil only filled up about half of the boxes. More should be delivered in the coming weeks - or months. They've also agreed to provide a bunch of new California native plants. Almost all of the dozens of plants that are now thriving on The Slope were donated by Slope neighbor and horticulturist Jake Shogren who grew them from seed or cuttings.

At this point we cannot plant anything until DPW's work is complete and they hand it over.

Everyone in attendance at the meeting was in full support of the stairway that will connect Corbett to Market. It's been a very long process. In all of the years of discussing the stairway, we've encountered almost unanimous support for this project. It is slated for this year's budget.

The sidewalk issue is pretty serious. Many decades ago there were 2 houses at the west end of The Slope - both were moved to Mars St. The foundations are still visible. When they replaced the sidewalk last year, they realized that without the homes' support, the old sidewalks were just floating in air. The replacements on the western half are temporary. The plan is to bury at least 12 pilings - each 20 feet deep and a few feet in diameter - to support a new sidewalk.

Of course, no-parking signs will be posted for much longer than necessary. The work is supposed to go on for less than a month - we'll see.

More on this as soon as we have dates.

I explained at the beginning of the meeting that our Board's intention was to have each of the assumed 2 frontrunners in the Mayoral campaign address Corbett Heights Neighbors. Mark Leno spoke in January. It became clear that both London Breed and Jane Kim were part of what is now a three-way race. As it turned out, a forum was scheduled in Golden Gate Park at exactly the same time as our meeting. Jane Kim's office responded several times saying that she would attempt to race over to the meeting afterwards. London Breed's office never responded to several attempts to communicate.

Our first speaker was Supervisor Jeff Sheehy.

Supervisor Sheehy was appointed by Mayor Ed Lee to fill out Scott Wiener's term when he was elected to the Senate. Supervisor Sheehy is in a tight race with Rafael Mandelman for this June's election. The two will likely run for a full term this November.

One of his first accomplishments as Supervisor was to make our Interim Zoning Controls permanent by sponsoring the Corona Heights Large Residence Special Use District (SUD). As you've heard me say several times, this has become the envy of every other neighborhood.

He's also co-sponsored Prop D which would tax large businesses, ultimately reaping $1 Billion over the next 10 years. The goal if passed would have $450 Million go towards getting the 23,000 homeless off the streets; $350 Million for middle income housing; $100 Million for low income housing for seniors; and $90 Million for homeless youth programs.

He's also sponsored bike chop shop legislation, and worked on immigration legal assistance.

Someone in the room mentioned not having seen a police cruiser in Corbett Heights for a very long time. The supervisor said he'd check on that.

Senate Bill 827 (Wiener) was brought up. This bill, described later, was loved by housing advocates and real estate interests, and despised by just about everyone else. On April 3rd there was to be a non-binding vote by the Board of Supervisors to support or oppose the bill. I worked with a huge group of neighborhood advocates in an attempt to lobby Supervisors to vote to oppose this bill. A vote to oppose would follow in the footsteps of Los Angeles and a great number of other jurisdictions and organizations across the State. As it turned out the Board did vote to oppose. Unfortunately Supervisor Sheehy was one of 3 who voted to support the bill.

Our next speaker was Former Mayor Art Agnos.

Mayor Agnos last addressed Corbett Heights Neighbors in January of 2014. He's now 80 years old, and, after open heart surgery 2 years ago is still going strong. He was Mayor from 1988 - 1992. He's best remembered as the one who pushed for the Embarcadero to come down, although that was one of many accomplishments during his term.

He stressed the importance of the upcoming election, saying that the results will determine the type of San Francisco we will have in the future. He very strongly supports Mark Leno for Mayor, pointing out his strength, courage, experience and care for San Francisco.

Art moved to San Francisco in his early 20s. Growing up in Springfield, MA, the son of Greek immigrants, his family was always considered low class, and due to their lack of familiarity with the English language they were constantly discriminated against (sound familiar?) He arrived here with hopes of experiencing the freedom and opportunity that he lacked in his home town.

He bought a 2-unit building on Potrero Hill in 1976 for an outlandish $55,000. His 35-year-old son still lives in the 2nd unit, He pointed out that a Mayor's son cannot afford his own place to live in San Francisco.

He strongly feels that we should be building more housing that could benefit our existing residents, pointing out 2 projects in the Mission Bay/AT&T Park area that will provide thousands of additional units, 30-40% of which will be BMR (below market rate) - more than double the required rate.

He discussed the homeless issue that existed back during his administration. He said there were between 500 - 900 homeless at the time. In 1988 two Multi-Service Centers (similar to today's Navigation Centers) were opened. The Loma Prieta Earthquake slowed down the process, as a large number of SROs in SOMA were no longer habitable. They ended up providing shelter to the 500 homeless on an old Navy ship for two weeks.

He then proceeded to tell his Mother Theresa story as told in January, 2014:

Former Mayor Art Agnos and Mother Teresa:

Since we usually start a few minutes late to allow for latecomers, or parking diffculties, Mayor Agnos, who arrived promptly at 7 decided to tell a story - completely unrelated to the topic he was there to discuss. (This, I must admit, was the best part of the meeting!)

During his time as mayor, when he and his wife, Sherry, were living on Twin Peaks, he was always accompanied by bodyguards. One Sunday evening around 8:30PM, Mr. Agnos went out to the corner store, and when he returned his wife greeted him at the door and said: "Mother Teresa is upstairs!!!" He of course thought she was joking, but when he got to the living room there was Mother Teresa and 3 nuns waiting for him to return. He asked to what he owed the honor and she told him that he needed to get the city to give a particular building to her Missionaries of Charity as a homeless shelter. It was a brick building on the corner of Fillmore and Turk, it was owned by the city and it was vacant.
She would only be in SF until the next morning, so they needed to go then - at 8:30 on Sunday night - to check out the building.
He called for his bodyguards since Sherry wanted to go along and help. When they arrived at the building there were no markings or obvious points of entry so they walked around to the back of the building. Since the neighborhood was pretty sketchy back then, and it was nighttime, they were a bit concerned when they came upon 8 or 9 homeless African American guys standing around a fire they made to keep warm. When they cautioned Mother Teresa about the potential danger she said: "Don't worry, God will protect us". As they approached the men instantly recognized Mother Teresa. She gave them each a medal and blessed them. Mayor Agnos told them they were hoping to set up a homeless shelter there.
Since the building was in great disrepair they ended up converting another building nearby.
When they arrived back at the car and were saying goodbyes, the Mayor asked Mother Teresa:
"Do you often go to other mayors' homes at 8:30 on a Sunday night and ask for a city building for a homeless shelter?" Mother Teresa responded: "The last mayor was Mayor Koch of NYC.
He has a much nicer house than you do!" (The NYC mayor traditionally lives in Gracie Mansion, the huge estate built in 1799.)
Mayor Agnos then told her: "you know, Mother, I don't do these things for free - I need a favor back. My wife Sherry is working on a project with mothers who are addicted to crack cocaine - trying to get them off crack. Now it's 10PM. I called the hospital to let them know I'll be arriving soon with Mother Teresa to see the new born babies. She blessed the babies and then proceeded to the AIDS ward. By this time everyone in the hospital knew that the mayor was in the hospital with Mother Teresa. They were so excited to see her, that a crowd of about 100 formed around them. Mother Teresa told them all: "When you all die and go to heaven, God will be there waiting for you". Of course, with a majority of the people who work at the hospital being Catholic, this had quite an impact.
She left for Latin America the following morning, but continued to visit once or twice a year.

Upper Terrace/Roosevelt/17th Street Project:

The Environmental Review, after about 2 years, is supposed to be released this week. The instability of the hillside is likely the primary reason that this has taken so long. To repeat, other issues being addressed in the review are:

- Noise during construction would exceed allowable levels;

- Dust is said to contain toxic levels of silica which would be blown around the neighborhood during construction;

- Danger of structural damage to adjacent buildings.

They've reduced the square footage by a slight fraction - mostly on the 2-unit structure on Upper Terrace which must remain rent-controlled.

A Planning Commission hearing date will likely be in late fall.

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.

48 Saturn:

The same developers who have built an alarming number dismaying projects in our neighborhood were at it again with this proposal. As you are going east on Saturn from Temple Street, just before the bend when the street becomes Lower Terrace, you will see an astoundingly steep rock and dirt hill on your left. There is - to everyone's surprise - a vacant lot there. It's only 53' deep - straight up. The plan was for 4 stories above garage - totaling 4100 square feet. The five-story stucture would be 50' tall in a 40' zone. They said that this top floor would be allowed due to the fact that the fifth floor would be no more than 40' above the grade up the hill. The Planning Commission rejected it and asked that they do two things: add a second unit, and work with the neighbors to try and come up with a plan that could be supported. After many backs and forth, they agreed

to remove the top floor and add a second unit. The Commission approved the new plan.

17 Temple:

Built in 1890, this 900+ square foot cottage was sold a few years ago. The new owner - big surprise - wanted to expand it astromonically. We fought this and after several meetings the owner agreed to reduce the scale to a level that all neighbors could accept. But the permit requested was for a "remodel". You've seen these remodels all over town. A once attractive old building is expanded beyond recognition - leaving a few scraps of wood somewhere unnoticed.

The problem with the system is that since the demolition process can add a year to a project and tens of thousands of dollars, most developers opt to remodel. Very generally this means that half of the vertical and half of the horizontal must remain.

But once construction is about to begin, the Dept. of Building Instpection (DBI) comes along and, using its own conflicting code book, orders a whole bunch of changes. This happens after neighborhood input, after the Planning Dept. and Commission has signed off on it.

In this case, DBI said that the orignal 2X4 joists, not only weren't waterproofed, but needed to be 2X6s in order to support the additional floors. So they removed the front and back for horizontal expansion in both directions, removed the floor because they were excavating, removed the ceiling/roof since they were expanding vertically, and then proceeded to remove most of the side walls since they weren't in compliance with DBI's codes.

This project - along with several other ostensible demolitions - are being used as examples of what must change.

First, both departments MUST abide by the same guidelines. Second, the guidelines MUST be much stricter. And third, as existing homes are 30-40% less expensive than new homes, these guidelines MUST protect current and future tenants from continuing to be priced out of their homes.

I'm involved in a group called the San Francisco Land Use Coalition which includes neighborhood leaders from across the city. Demolition is one of the main issue we're working on.

Scott Wiener's Senate Bills 827 & 828 - introduced in January 2018.

The following pair of bills, sponsored by Senator Wiener declare war on neighborhood input on housing projects, and despite its attempt to dramatically increase housing in San Francisco and throughout the state, there is no provision for increasing funding for infrastructure: no addional money for schools, police, parks, public transit - just to name a few. So if thousands of $2 Million homes appear, what is the likelihood that the people who buy them will take the 24 Divisadero, or the 22 Fillmore, or squeeze into the underground during rush hour? We will see a doubling of Uber and Lyft on our streets. 

We're safe for now as SB 827 was soundly rejected. But it will be back. Following is a more intensive description of what we would have experienced had the bill passed.

A UCLA Anderson School of Management reported that a 20% increase in the number of homes will result in 10% reduction in price.

We have ~ 360K dwellings;

20% increase means adding 72,000 new homes.

Adding 72,000 new homes will only bring down price by 10%.

Translation: At best, a $2 Million home would/could be $1.8 Million.


Greater use of land means more value to land;

More value of land means homes on that land will be more expensive;

More expensive land also means diminshed ability for the City to finance Affordable Housing Projects;

Upzoning Eastern neighborhoods (allowing for more units per lot/greater density) did NOT result in lower home prices.

SB 827 requires or provides NO funding for increased demand on infrastructure: water, sewer, utilities, public transit systems, schools, police, fire, other emergency services, emergency medical response.

    Environmental impact:

  • Increased traffic congestion, decreased air quality, decreased mid block open space, diminished general quality of life and livability.

    Transit Impact:

  • Increased congestion, parking will be even WORSE.

  • Increased density does NOT increase ridership.

    Tenant Impact:

  • More to gain from the land translates into greater incentive to do away with pesky tenants: Renovations, buyouts, Ellis Act evictions, higher rents.

The State Density Bonus passed last year drastically increases allowable square footage per lot with no requirement to add additional BMR (Below Market Rate) units. This is yet another gift to developers.

No limit to number of dwellings they can squeeze into the building envelope - - one massive single family house or 100 shoe boxes.

No design guidelines;

No judgment by a public official (Planning Dept or Commission cannot pipe in);

No neighborhood input.

What will disappear: 40' height limit, mass limit, number of units per lot limit, minimum parking requirements. Prohibits enforcement of any design standard that restricts the applicant's ability to construct the maximum number of units.

SB 828:

RHNA: All California cities have quotas for new home construction called Regional Housing Needs Allocation.

San Francisco exceeds the RHNA quota for market rate, but not BMR.

If RHNA goals are not met:

Wiener's new law that took effect 1/18 forces any city that doesn't meet its RHNA goals to allow ALL construction to become "by-right".

By-right development is the right to build what you want and where you want it. Deregulates housing aproval process and takes away the public's right to weigh in on development projects.

No CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act); no design review, no neighborhood notification, no ability to request Discretionary Review.

If 828 were to pass:

By-right development for the entire city;

Carte blanche to anyone who wants to build anything anywhere;

No Environmental Reviews; No Residential Guidelines (a critical document referenced in every project before Planning); No Special Use Districts (SUDs);

Our new Corona Heights Special Use District would disappear;

Inability to weigh in on projects next door;

Silences the voice of the neighborhood.

And last, at our next meeting on July 26 we will be holding CHN Board elections. If you have an interest in participating more in your community, please let me know!

Thank you for your interest in the neighborhood!

Wednesday, April 11, 2018


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Controls are possible in the near future - with your help.


My apologies for sending out a second email on the same day - but it appears that we're being bombarded with either bad legislation or very bad actors in the Planning Department and the Department of Building Inspection.

My earlier email about SB 827 & 828 goes before the Senate Housing Committee NEXT TUESDAY, APRIL 17th! If it fails to pass at that time, it may be a while before it's brought back to life in another bill or in another form.

But this email is about demolition, and the lack of any real protection or prevention. 
As I mentioned recently, developers of 17 Temple Street, a very small cottage built in 1890 received entitlements to "remodel" the structure four years ago.  The Planning Department's definition of demolition - very generally - is that half of the structure would be removed. 

After noticing that all but parts of two walls remained, I communicated with several members, in several capacities, within both Planning and Building Inspection.  All said that it didn't meet the criteria for demolition.  Then, when the south wall was also removed, I was sure they would change their determination.  Even after one small section of one small wall remains - and is surrounded by all new material - they are still trying to convince the public that it's not a demolition. 
For another project elsewhere in the city, a neighborhood advocate was told that a similar situation didn't amount to being considered a demolition, but merely a "building removal". 

I've been meeting with several neighborhood leaders and Supervisors of Districts 1 and 3 to try and come up with ideas on how to change the current system.  At our last general membership meeting in January, Mark Leno discussed rebuilding the two departments from scratch.

A very rare event is taking place this coming Thursday, April 12th, starting at 10AM in Room 400, City Hall.  It is a Joint Hearing of the City Planning Commission AND the Building Inspection Commission.  The reason this is happening is that there has been unprecedented public outrage and an enormous amount of press coverage about these demolitions.  Attend if you're able.  We should probably each get 2 minutes to speak.

Below are before and after photos of 17 Temple.  You may not feel that this is a very special home - despite its age.  But this is only a recent example of what is happening throughout the city to some breathtaking examples of homes that ordinarily make you feel proud to be a San Franciscan.

Gary Weiss
Corbett Heights Neighbors

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