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News + PoliticsThe Agenda, Aug. 31 to Sept. 7: Tech office...

The Agenda, Aug. 31 to Sept. 7: Tech office creep in the Mission …

… another Wall on the Waterfront, and how, exactly, is the city going to roust all the homeless  for the Super Bowl?

The 75 Howard building would be the tallest in its part of the waterfront. Image courtesy of Rincon Hill Neighbors Association
The 75 Howard building would be the tallest in its part of the waterfront. Image courtesy of Rincon Hill Neighbors Association

By Tim Redmond

AUGUST 31, 2015 — I am, like a lot of other people in this town, intrigued by Mayor Lee’s assertion that homeless people “will have to leave” to make room for the Super Bowl party in January.

Not only are we talking cruel and inhumane, but seriously: How’s that going to work?

The Super Bowl party will be on public space at the lower end of Market Street. You can’t kick people out of public space just because they don’t have a place to live. How will the police know which people are homeless and which are party-goers who have been drinking heavily for three days (and may very well be driven to piss on the street or fall asleep on a bench)?

The event will be free; anyone can go in. With there be a “homeless checkpoint?” Will we demand ID that shows a permanent place of abode?

And where will all the people who don’t fit in existing shelters and supportive housing go – to Airbnb? (Actually, the sidewalk in front of Airbnb’s office might be one place they wind up.)

I am with Tom Ammiano on this: If there’s a police roundup of homeless people, why don’t we all go down there and “Occupy the Super Bowl?” Would mass protests and mass arrests make the city look any better on national TV?


The Board of Supes isn’t back in session until next week, but the Planning in Commission meets Sept. 3, and there are two complicated – and possibly precedent-setting –projects on the agenda.

First comes 17th and Mission, where we are seeing among the first legal efforts at tech-office creep in the residential and neighborhood-commercial area.

For decades, general office use has been banned in most of the Mission. Doctors offices, dental offices, optometrists, and tax-preparers are allowed because they’re distinctly customer-service businesses. But other than a few sites (like the old BayView Bank Building), general office use – for example, tech offices, which don’t directly serve walk-in customers – are prohibited.

Of course, that hasn’t stopped a few landlords from renting to tech companies anyway, and so far, the Planning Department hasn’t done anything about it.

Now the owner of the 17th and Mission building that houses Thrift Town (and the endangered artist colony known as Studio 17) wants to convert some of the upstairs space to administrative offices. Read: Tech offices. For PlanGrid, CrowdFlower, and another company yet to be named. The Planning Department freely admits this is office use, and says it should count against the city’s annual limit on office space and pay the normal fees for office conversion.

But it’s fair to ask if we really want to see Mission Street become a new tech-office hub. I think the message of mid-Market is pretty clear: Tech offices drive up rents and drive out nonprofits, community-serving businesses, and non-rich renters.

You allow a few, and pretty soon landlords all along Mission will say: Who needs a Spanish-speaking, community-serving dentist or chiropractor when we can have high-paying tech offices instead?

Is that really a good idea?


Next up is 75 Howard, which is currently a parking garage and will, if the developer has its way, soon be a 200-plus-foot-tall condo complex. The project has been delayed a few times, and is going to face significant community opposition. There’s the shadow issue (the Sierra Club lays it out here).There’s the fact that it’s taller even that 8 Washington, which was called the Wall on the Waterfront.

Then, as the Rincon Point Neighbors Association points out, the building has no setbacks, defies the Urban Design Plan’s call for “low” buildings on the waterfront, and will contribute only the mandatory minimum to the city’s affordable housing fund.

Oh, and it would cause, according to City Planning Department studies, “…traffic increases that would cause levels of service to deteriorate to unacceptable levels at the intersection of Spear and Howard streets.” As if that area weren’t a mess already.

The commissioners will also hear an informational presentation about the mammoth project at Fifth and Mission, which will be one of the next fronts in the city’s development wars. (More on that project tomorrow.)



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Tim Redmond
Tim Redmond
Tim Redmond has been a political and investigative reporter in San Francisco for more than 30 years. He spent much of that time as executive editor of the Bay Guardian. He is the founder of 48hills.

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