NOTES FROM CORBETT HEIGHTS MEETING - APRIL 26, 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.
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.
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.
Increased traffic congestion, decreased air quality, decreased mid block open space, diminished general quality of life and livability.
Increased congestion, parking will be even WORSE.
Increased density does NOT increase ridership.
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.
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!