Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Notes from the Corbett Heights Neighborhood Ass'n Meeting

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Dear Neighbors, Friends:
Dear Neighbors,
For our first meeting as Corbett Heights Neighborhood Association we had over 40 people in attendance.  The meeting lasted a bit over 90 minutes.
First – many thanks to the people who helped distribute meeting notices:  Jennifer Creelman, Janice Low, Grace Gellerman, Philip Byland, Nancy Peoples, Dirk Aguilar, Barbara Pletz and Scott Pluta.  It's a great way to get the word out about the meeting.
District 8 Supervisor Rafael Mandelman addressed the group first. 
  • He spoke of convening a much-needed MUNI task force.
  • He worked to pass SB 1045: Mental Health Conservatorship Bill which expands the City's discretion on treating its most severely mentally ill homeless population.
  • He emphasized that a huge chunk of those suffering from psychoses and mental illness are in this state due to methamphetamine abuse.
  • He also spoke about rezoning for Upper Market small businesses, protecting the character of alleyways and creating new opportunities to create ADUs (Accessory Dwelling Units) to increase our housing supply.
Former San Francisco Police Commissioner Suzy Loftus spoke next.  She is running to replace the departing George Gascon as our next District Attorney.  She currently serves as the San Francisco Sheriff's legal counsel.
After describing her upbringing, growing up in San Francisco, she answered a few questions:
  • She feels the 3-Strikes-Law needs to be gotten rid of entirely;
  • She feels that "money-bail" is unfair and discriminatory;
  • Only the most extreme cases of sexual offense should be subject to a registry; and
  • She does not want to prosecute the mentally ill, and supports several programs that she feels would work better than those currently in effect.
Ozzie Rohm, co-founder of Noe Neighborhood Council joined me to discuss Scott Wiener's SB 50 – The More Homes Act – legislation. 
  • It would eliminate the ability of San Francisco residents and the Planning Department to have a say on whether new construction is appropriate.
  • It would allow height increases up to 55 feet, and in some cases more than doubling the number of units allowed along "transit corridors".The problem is that there is no requirement to improve or increase MUNI's ability to handle the increase in residents who would need to use the service.
  • It would act as an incentive to evict tenants, since having the ability to build larger increases the value of property.There is what is called a "7-year look-back" whereby property owners would not be allowed expansion permits if a tenant lived on the property during the last 7 years.The problem is that San Francisco has no "Rental Registry", meaning that it has no way to know which homes have renters.There is no requirement to report this.59% of residents of the Castro are renters.
We also touched on the ill-fated Demolition Legislation.  I've worked with Aaron Peskin's office for the last 2 years on what began as a simple redefining of the word Demolition, and ended up morphing into a solve-all legislation that found opponents in several arenas.  Supervisor Peskin accepts this and plans to keep it to: redefining demolition and ensuring that there is sufficient enforcement.
Dirk Aguilar and Barbara Taylor spoke about the proposal to expand 42 Ord Court, a 2-unit 1860 square foot, older home into a 4855 square foot, 4 story building.  Ord Court, being an extremely narrow cul-de-sac contains mostly 1 and 2-story buildings.  This home, if approved would tower over existing structures.  The Planning Commission hearing has been continued twice already.  It's currently scheduled for August 22.  More to come on this.
29-31 Hattie Street is currently under construction.  It was a much smaller, 2-unit building that was accidentally or deliberately set on fire by squatters a few years ago.  The Planning Commission approved a substantial vertical and horizontal expansion, despite the fact that the lot is quite small.  Once it was demolished, the owner was able to follow the plans for the expanded home.  Some neighbors are not happy about the new, large scale.
3198 Market is a small, "land-locked" parcel adjacent to the old Miller-Joost house (formerly the "pink mansion"), at the bottom of what used to be Al's Park, and behind the Market Street retaining wall with the big mural.  What is actually a somewhat modest-sized 2-family home appears to tower over Market Street since it has no nearby neighbors. 
As soon as it passes inspection the owners have promised to meet with residents of the neighborhood to plan the re-creation of Al's Park. 
Many of our Corbett Heights green spaces are in need of some TLC.  If you'd like to help with a garden cleanup of any of the spaces, PLEASE let me know!
Thank you for your interest in the neighborhood!
  • Gary
Following is my own editorial on the current building approval process - which I call Frantic Planning.

If you were an urban planner and wanted to build a city from scratch, you'd want to make sure there was enough water to serve the population, and roads in and out to deliver goods, etc.
Aside from that, you'd determine, based on the size, how many people would/could live there and based on that figure you'd know how many dwellings and offices to build.  There would be smaller, more affordable units, middle class housing and market rate.  You'd plan a transit system capable of moving the population around.  You'd build enough schools, police and fire stations and parks. 
Ideally, any increase in housing would be accompanied by increases in all of the other services.
What's happening now in SF and elsewhere, is that there is a tremendous shortage of affordable housing.  In response our elected officials are trying to do everything they can to increase the supply.  The problem is that they're not increasing the infrastructure that needs to accompany this increase. 
Scott Wiener's SB 50 – the More Homes Act – would dramatically increase development around rail lines, for example, also eliminating the city's ability to intercede.  Take the N-Judah line, for example: this bill would bring thousands of new residents to an already cripplingly deficient line.  If approved, there is absolutely no requirement to deal with the shortage of MUNI cars.  As it is people wait while several full cars pass by before one will stop for them on the way to work.
Take the Salesforce tower as an example.  It brought tens of thousands of jobs to SF.  But there is no requirement for a developer or occupying tenant to take any responsibility in housing any of these new employees.  The problem continues to worsen.
Take the Central SOMA plan as a 2nd example:  The Board of Supervisors approved a plan last year that would allow development that would create around 35,000 new jobs in an area from 2nd to 6th, and Mission to Townsend, but only 7,000 new dwellings.  Those figures may have changed slightly just prior to approval.   Here's another way the city is allowing the problem to worsen.
And last, as of 2015 there were 30,000 vacant units in SF.  Why?  You've heard of foreign investment.  When some of the new residential towers are being built, whole floors are often sold for cash to foreign investors.  A lot of these properties are bought with cash, sight-unseen; 1000 shares of Apple, property in SF….  There is no requirement that investors reveal nationality, so there is no way to get accurate data of who these investors are.  And there is no penalty for not leasing any of these homes.  So, they just sit empty.
Why do we allow this to continue?  We have some amazing people in office in SF – our district Supervisor, for example.  But if elected officials continue to have the only say in what gets approved, and under what circumstances, and if those officials remain affected by which industries contributed most to their election, and if urban planners are completely left out of the picture, we're sunk.

- Gary Weiss
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