Supes to radically change notice requirements on development

By Tim Redmond : 48hills – excerpt

The Board of Supes will vote Tuesday/19 on a piece of legislation that would change the way planners give the public notice of upcoming projects. Nobody’s paid much attention to this, but neighborhood advocates say it’s a very big deal…

This matter was continued till June 26, to give the public more time to comment on the various suggestions for speeding up the public review process. Please stay tuned for updates on this legislation, and that “it also eviscerates some of the public notice requirements for commercial projects, including eliminating the requirement that notices be published in a newspaper.”

The legislation, Hestor says, “assumes everyone has computer” – when in fact about 100,000 San Francisco residents lack Internet access. “The legislation assumes that everyone has a printer that can print 11×17 plans. Many, many architects do plans with important details in color, which is expensive to print out.”…

Sup. Aaron Peskin asked for a delay in the Planning Commission’s consideration, saying that most of the public had no idea what this would really do. The commission passed it anyway. So did the supes Land Use and Transportation Committee.

I asked Peskin about Hestor’s concerns that this is a bad piece of legislation, and he said: “I absolutely agree.”

These are significant changes in the Planning Code that have slid by with little public input. The Yimby folks are big supporters. Worth watching, among other things, what Mayor-elect London Breed does on this.

If she supported a continuance, this could get delayed until after Farrell is out of office, she is the mayor, the new D8 supe, Rafael Mandelman, is in office, and her replacement in D5 has been sworn in.

Or she could let it go through as is, to the delight of her Yimby supporters…(more)

 

Achieving Better Architecture in the Eastern Neighborhoods

by Annie Fryman : sfhac – excerpt

One thing was clear at the New Challenges for Eastern Neighborhoods forum: everyone is begging for better architecture in the Eastern Neighborhoods.

The 2009 Eastern Neighborhoods Plan carefully rezoned the Mission, Potrero Hill, Dogpatch, and parts of Soma with more liberal height and bulk restrictions, but architectural design standards were never addressed. Residential development elsewhere in San Francisco must abide by residential design guidelines, which are (to some, overly) strict prescriptions intended to maintain the architectural rhythm and historicism of the early and mid-20th century.

On Wednesday night, the Potrero Boosters Neighborhood Association teamed up with an eager collection of architects, planners, and neighborhood leaders to collaborate on developing thoughtful guidelines for the quickly changing district. Ron Miguel, a veteran Planning Commissioner, Potrero neighborhood activist, and early member of SFHAC, so succinctly put it: “The Eastern Neighborhoods are the last frontier for creating an inspiring architectural spirit in San Francisco.

Stanley Saitowitz (Natoma Architects) brought an intriguing slideshow of urban buildings from other international, historic cities, emphasizing the need to re-empower the architect in a place where it’s tough to build. “World-class architects come from outside and see this city with immense clarity, but they don’t have the stamina to see their visions through. The forces against architects are enormous.”

These forces against architects were a common thread throughout the forum, attributed at points to everything from the Planning Department, to state mandates like CEQA, to scattered neighborhood inputs and internal reviews watering down design vision. And, in response, the forces against neighbors were also addressed. Fears about developers not considering the communities they’re entering; fears about the city enabling development at scales not fit for neighborhood character. Saitowitz, however, politely responded that “We need to face the fact that we are building a city now – we can’t continue just building little houses on little lots.”

Although a clear set of residential design guidelines was not decided by the end of the evening, the conversation between neighbors and architects was an actionable start to what will likely be a long dialogue. Here are some key conclusions:

Community can – and should! – offer design inspiration…
A team of inspired designers should lead Eastern Neighborhoods guidelines…
Design guidelines can, however, be prescriptive in ground-floor programming…
Neighborhood input should happen as early in design process as possible…
(more)

Codebreakers: The City Attempts to Streamline Its Epic Planning Rules. Hilarity Ensues.

Codebreakers: The City Attempts to Streamline Its Epic Planning Rules. Hilarity Ensues.

By Joe Eskenazi : sfweekly – excerpt

The Planning Department’s ongoing effort to condense the codes governing building and development in this city has spanned 18 months. So far. The overall goal, says city planner Aaron Starr, is “to make it easier to use.” A new, user-friendly document weighs in at a svelte 468 pages. This is merely the ordinance amending the actual Planning Code, which stretches to nearly three times that length.

“Easier” is a relative term.

Concerned neighborhood groups, who exist in a perpetual state of concern, are concerned about who, exactly, will have it “easier.” A consortium raised red flags and marched into last week’s Planning Commission meeting with grave concerns over a specific clause within the 468 pages of arcana…

Stoking neighborhood groups’ fears was language they interpreted to shift conversion of a structure into student housing from a feat requiring a “conditional use” hearing to an activity that was “principally permitted.” The pernicious specter of sweeping up ever more American Spirit butts from one’s stoop sent a shudder through the neighborhood activists’ collective spine.

How surprised they were to learn, on the cusp of last week’s Planning Commission meeting, that the language in question regarding student housing wasn’t new at all — but codified via city ordinance all the way back in 2012. “It slipped through,” bemoans neighborhood activist Doug Engmann, a former Planning Commission president.

And yet, claims Starr, the Academy of Art still cannot legally infiltrate your neighborhood: Language in other sections of the nebulous Planning Code expressly forbids conversions of residential units into student housing. There is one caveat, he notes: An educational institution could indeed purchase an apartment and convert it into student housing — if it serves as a convent…

Engmann worries the city’s efforts to render the Planning Code less confusing have actually had the opposite effect. Starr disagrees. Cantankerous neighborhood activists, he says, “are finally able to see what is permitted in their neighborhoods. … And they may not be happy.”

No, they may not be.

“So, in that respect,” Starr says, “It’s a success already.”… (more)

 

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