Oak and Van Ness project shows stunning failures in city traffic analysis

Supes will vote on whether to allow a luxury condo project to go forward despite serious transportation impacts -- because the developer needs parking to make money

The San Francisco supes will vote September 5 on the future of one of the city’s most critical intersections, Market and Van Ness — and the decision will impact tens of thousands of bike riders, riders. and pedestrians who pass through the crowded, windy corner every day.

The project as issue is called One Oak, a 39-story, 304-unit luxury condo complex that is set to replace a small building with a cafe on that corner.

All luxury, all fancy, with a swimming pool and everything — but the developer needs parking to make enough profit

The building would have 139 parking spaces, and no on-site affordable housing. The existing rules would allow only 73 parking spaces.

The Planning Commission approved the building June 15, but Jason Henderson, a professor at SF State and a neighborhood resident and activist, has appealed. 

He argues that the environmental impact report on the project failed to consider, among other things, the congestion that will be caused by new residents driving, taking Uber and Lyft vehicles, and getting deliveries in an area that has no street parking most of the time.

In his appeal, Henderson shines a light on a list of serious problems that plague the environmental review not just of this project but of developments all over the city.

For starters, the city admits in Planning Dept. documents that it has no idea how many Uber and Lyft drivers are picking up and dropping off passengers — so the impact of those rides was ignored in the .

We know there are at least 45,000 of these cars in the city, and they are picking up thousands of passengers. But the Planning Department completely ignores that huge traffic impact:

Thus, based on the information currently available it is currently difficult, if not impossible, to document how transportation network company operations quantitatively influence overall travel conditions in San Francisco or elsewhere. Thus, for the above reasons, the effects of for-hire vehicles as it relates to transportation network companies on VMT is not currently estimated.

This is rather stunning. We know there’s a major traffic impact by Uber and Lyft. And we are choosing — in every one of the city’s environmental studies — to utterly ignore it.

 

The bigger issue here is not just One Oak. There are as many as 7,200 new housing units proposed for the area within a few blocks of Market and Van Ness.

It’s an area with a huge amount of transit, Henderson notes: 

Nine important bus lines, five light rail lines, and one streetcar line traverse the corridor, carrying almost 14,000 passengers in the weekday am peak hour and 13,500 in the weekday pm peak hour. Every weekday there are thousands of cyclists using Market Street, with 1,400 in the two- hour pm peak period alone.

The city used very old data and inaccurate models in analyzing the transportation impacts, Henderson notes. The notes that it bases traffic demand models on 1990 census data — and that the city plans to update its transportation planning protocols in 2018.

But this is 2017, and we are relying for an analysis of transportation impacts data from when San Francisco was a very different city. The One Oak transportation study “used 1990 data [that] does not reflect two tech booms and the internet economy to the south of the city,” the appeal notes.

In fact, since 1990:

o The Central Freeway was removed in 2003

o Private commuter buses have proliferated since 2005

o Uber and Lyft have proliferated since 2011

o The City has adopted a new Bicycle Plan in 2009

o The City adopted Vision Zero goals in 2014

o New patterns of e-commerce delivery have emerged instead of storefront retail

o Mid-Market and Market and Octavia have added housing for thousands of new

residents

o 5,469 new parking spaces have been, or might be built in the Hub [surrounding the Oak and Market area].

The analysis of how this new building would impact transportation in the area was based on a regional model developed by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission that deals with a term called “Vehicle Miles Traveled.”

And here we get one of the most amazing parts of how s discuss the impacts of new projects.

The average VMT in the entire Bay Area is 17.2 miles a day. In San Francisco, it’s 14.6 miles a day, according to the Planning Department’s adjustments. 

That means if a project won’t likely increase regional VMT to more than 14.6 miles, there is by definition no significant impact.

So take a look at Market and Van Ness. That’s an area that, Henderson notes:

Up until 2015 this TAZ, like the Market and Octavia Better Neighborhoods Plan area, has been characterized by mostly older, pre-automobile era buildings and rental housing. There are very low rates of car ownership and buildings with litte to no parking. In this part of the market and octavia area plan, per capita daily VMT is roughly four miles.

Just bringing traffic up to the city’s average — to where the planners think there’s a significant impact — would “be a substantial increase in traffic,” the appeal notes. I’d say that’s an understatement.

Henderson also asks why there are so many parking spaces when the surrounding buildings will add more than 500 parking spots to an area “where the tolerance for more Vehicle Mile Trips is zero.”

Oh, and since 1990, something else new has happened in the transportation and traffic world: e-commerce and deliveries. Put 304 condos in an already congested intersection, and guess how many times a day people will get UPS and FedEx packages, Postmates deliveries, Eaze deliveries, and other similar services? Think 700 wealthy residents. I would guess at least 100 deliveries to the site every day. Each one involves a truck or private car, and there is no — zero — available parking, so every one will involve a double-parked vehicle.

I don’t know what the answer to this is, but the city needs to look at it.

 

Then there’s the wind.

Anyone who walks through that area on a regular basis knows that it’s a wind tunnel. If you ride your bike on Market Street, as I often do, you sometimes get walloped by huge gusts as you pass that intersection. The wind whips down Van Ness and — as it is, with the existing buildings — can almost blow you off your bike.

But as Henderson notes,

One Oak contains an extensive discussion of potential impacts of wind on pedestrians and public transit passengers waiting for buses at nearby bus stops. It completely omits analysis of the impact of wind on the thousands of cyclists using Market and other nearby streets. Because the does not study wind impacts on bicycling, appropriate mitigation is omitted. 

Again: I don’t know if you can mitigate the wind. But I do know that more tall buildings on that corner could direct more gusts onto an area where we are currently as a city trying to get more people onto bicycles.

 

The developer, Build Inc., has been very clear about the reasons why it wants to build as much parking as possible and put the affordable housing offsite: The project won’t make as much money without parking.

This is not a middle-class development, it’s all high-end condos, with a pool and concierge services, and the buyers are going to want a parking space. 

“If they can’t make a condo project work without this much parking, maybe they should do rentals,” Henderson said.

The Hayes Valley Neighborhood Association and the Haight Ashbury Neighborhood Council have signed on to the appeal.

When it comes to the Board of Supes, London Breed will be in the hot seat: This is her district. She can’t comment in advance, of course, and will have to vote on the merits of the appeal.

But the real issue on the table here is a critical one: Is the city going to make a decision based on what’s most profitable for a developer (one who isn’t ever going to allow affordable housing on site) — or will the supes take a stand and say that what the city needs is more important than how much money a developer can make?

And how are we going to look at the traffic impacts on one of the city’s major hubs at a time when technology has made it ever-more likely that the residents are going to use Uber, Lyft, and delivery services in an area that has, as Henderson notes, zero room for any more cars or trucks?

Henderson told me he is not against the project; he just thinks that the city needs to do a much better job of figuring out what the real impacts will be, and how to address them. Using 27-year-old data and an analysis that ignores everything that’s happened in the tech world in recent years won’t help.

Here are Henderson’s suggestions for the supes:

• Set the parking ratio of One Oak to 0.25:1 as required by Planning Code, Market and Octavia Better Neighborhoods Plan.

• Discourage condominium residents from driving to work – and adding traffic – during peak hours by restricting parking valet operation on weekdays from 7am-10am and 4pm-7pm.

On a larger level, he suggests that the entire way the city compiles data on these types of projects needs an overhaul:

In addition to changing the General Plan Amendment, the Board should direct Planning to:

• Study traffic impacts of current e-commerce delivery patterns and the shift from retail storefront to truck delivery to residence.

• Study the explosion of TNCs like Uber and Lyft. Update traffic analysis to understand potential mitigations such as regulating curb and off-site loading zones.

• Study the traffic impacts of private commuter buses, such as “Google buses” travelling on Van Ness and nearby streets.

• Conduct deeper traffic and transportation impacts analysis in the Hub regardless of the adopted threshold of significance for VMT.

• Study wind impacts on cyclists in all future environmental impact analysis in San Francisco including how sudden gusts might push cyclists into traffic.

Or: Just say the developer needs money, and let it all go. Bets?

  • lunartree

    Sounds like 48Hills can't fathom the concept that a lot of people in the city get around just fine without a car.

    • Me

      If that's the case, why does the condo need 139 parking spaces?

      • FunnyBecauseItsTrue

        Because the bonds the developer is floating to build get a more favorable rate if the parking ratio is increased as the bonds will be able to be packaged into a tranch of similar bonds with outher buildings of like .5 spots/unit, right now the ratio is so low enough to be "unique" such that the bonds can't be bundled because there aren't other buildings with such low parking ratios, size, etc. it has nothing to do with the city planning.

        • Rosemarg

          I understand the info in the article, I was responding to lunartree's comment. Thanks for the info though. I work in Commercial Property so development works very differently.

      • Shawkd

        Because there are large set of buyers out there who will pass over a building that doesn't have a parking spot for their car. It's called reality, folks.

        • Ragazzu

          Then what's the pressing need to build luxury housing for car owners?

    • Don Sebastopol

      I think only around 30% get to work by transit. But I suppose there a "lot" who can but most do not.

      • Why not house that 30% near a transit hub, then?

        • Don Sebastopol

          That was for the City. The need for a car depends on where you live and where you work. In more densely populated neighborhoods a higher percent use transit. But there is also more automobile density in those neighborhoods; a smaller percent but a larger number. In that neighborhood, Van Ness and Market, 57% use transit and 20% walk. So if you live there it is possible to get by without a car unless you don't work downtown. Higher income people can also afford to use a car service. The issue was that 80% of owner occupied units in that neighborhood have a car so there is a need for parking even if they leave their car parked most of the time.

          • Yes, I know that was for the city. We're talking about brand new housing here, and why not target the people who don't need or want a car, given the location right atop a transit hub, surrounded by even more transit?

          • Don Sebastopol

            I don’t know what target means but you can’t exclude people who own cars. In any case, I presume because of its location, it will attract those who don’t “need” a car. That does not mean they won’t want a car. Purchasers of high end condos will want cars even if they can walk to the Opera etc. I would also guess there will be some who have these units as a pied-a-terre and those who have weekend homes in the country. They will have a car and want parking.

            According the article the project won’t make as much money without parking. I am assuming they need to get top dollar for the condos to pay for the BMR units that will be built offsite.

            As pointed out if these were rentals rather than ownership, there would be more people without cars. At least that is true for renters versus owners who currently live in the area. I think about 80% of the renter households don't have a car. But 80% of the owners do.

          • You "can't exclude" phrase suggests that providing accommodations for cars (at the expense of people) is simply self-evident reality, that roads and garages grow from the Earth itself and building anything but parking is, by contrast, a deliberate action against the natural order of things.

            The opposite is what's true.

          • Don Sebastopol

            It is a financial reality. The cars are for people.

          • curiousKulak

            Good pt. But if Build Inc doesn't want to build that, then where are you going to find someone to do that?

            And I would assume, that since they proposed plans that conform to Market-Octavia etc, that the supposedly-decreased-value of that parcel, built the way you and Tim want, should be reimbursed by the new developers who are going to construct for MUNI riders.

            I do think that Planning ought to do a remake on their data. And that with all the proposed construction, there needs to be improvements in inferstructure not just MUNI, but sewer/water/parks/schools etc. Saying "its on a major transit line" has gotten kinda old over the last 20yrs.

      • lunartree
        • Don Sebastopol

          That makes sense as population density increases; Solo drivers are increasing slower than transit riders. More job development and residential development downtown should have that effect. But there are also other trends. Millennials are aging and are starting to move to the suburbs, and the number of reverse commuters, those that leave the City to get to work, is increasing. I am assuming those who work downtown will be attracted to the Van Ness and Market building. But that does not mean they won't want a car, even if it is parked much of the time.

        • Don Sebastopol

          I just looked at the 2015 sample data. It shows 33% not 40% using transit. Also, this is based on a question did you work last week. A 16 year old that worked one hour that week would be counted in the data. If you look at those with earnings over the past two quarters you get a smaller population of those with steady employment. A greater percent of them reverse commute, which would increase the percent of those who get to work by car.

          https://factfinder.census.gov/faces/tableservices/jsf/pages/productview.xhtml?src=CF

  • FunnyBecauseItsTrue

    Tim revealing his true colors once again. Rabble rousing about parking and wind, sounds like the traditional nimby clap trap. He could care less about an affordable city, he just wants to turn the clock back to 1980.

    • playland

      Well there is zero displacement and you can't even claim that it will affect culturally vulnerable neighborhoods nearby. So they have to go down the list–next up is wind and traffic.

      Apparently there are no shadow issues or they would be using that also. Peskin loves to say that a park six blocks away will be 'rendered useless' because it will incur a shadow for a few minutes a day, seasonally.

      I do like the Uber/Lyft thing. Now we shouldn't build because the residents will use car services.

      • pantherblue

        When the Never Build Anything Anywhere Anytime crowd runs out of the displacement, wind, shadow, traffic, deliveries arguments they turn to…toilets. Yes, a neighborhood "activist" in NOPA is now criticizing a new building to replace an ugly gas station on Divis with the "Oh my God, there will so many more toilets flushing!"

    • The article is about moving the clock up from 1990 to 2017, actually.

      • Kraus

        Actually, it's more like Tim would like to set the clock back to the 70's.

        • Except of course what he wrote is not that, it is moving the clock up from 1990 to 2017. You see, when commenting on an article it is customary to have read the article and respond to it, not to some dialogue going on inside your own head.

          • Kraus

            His "writing" is about coming up with all sorts of reasons to thwart the production of housing (since, you know, housing developers are all evil)– which is an attitude with its roots in the 70's. He's basically a reactionary masquerading as a "progressive".

  • Don Sebastopol

    If these will be higher income owners, they will have cars even if they leave them parked most of the time. In the census tract now, 80% of the owner occupied units have at least one car. The reverse is true for renters. Of those with steady jobs, 39% leave the City to get to work. I suppose some will use Google type buses but most will drive.

    • SF Sunset Guy

      They'll all be driving, all the time? 75% of SF households have at least one vehicle, and Muni isn't improving. That is the problem.

  • mx

    Thank you Tim for saying this. I live in the neighborhood. I want One Oak. I also think they're well on their way to creating a significant traffic problem. I've seen the proposed plans with, what, maybe four loading spaces surrounded by one-way and divided streets with turn restrictions? When every Lyft/Uber trip is going to both begin and end with a trip around the block to approach/leave the building the right way and Oak St. (supposedly a pedestrian-friendly shared steet) filled up with idling vehicles for car services and delivery, this just isn't going to work. We should learn from what happens every day on 10th St. at NEMA and Van Ness at 100 Van Ness: hundreds of deliveries and Uber/Lyft stops, many double-parked in the middle of major arteries. Reduce the number of parking spaces, figure out a real plan for loading/unloading that won't worsen congestion, and do a real wind analysis.

    Or maybe Sonja Trauss can spend the rest of her life personally directing traffic and shielding people from the wind. That would be helpful.

    • sfsquirrel

      A much better use of Sonja Trauss's time than what she does with it now! Lets get her an day-glow vest and some investors!

    • Ragazzu

      Sounds like arguments against One Oak. Why would you want this hulking mass in your neighborhood?

      • playland

        <blockquote>Why would you want this hulking mass in your neighborhood?</blockquote>Not in my back yard!

  • SF Sunset Guy

    We know there are at least 45,000 of these cars in the city, and they are picking up thousands of passengers.

    This is sheer nonsense. There may have been 45,000 Lyft and or Uber drivers that have worked in the city, but they're not all here at once with all their cars simultaneously. At most at any one time, there are 6800 ride share vehicles in or on the streets of San Francisco at any one time.

    • verso2

      SF Sunset Guy: I'm not disbelieving you, but could you provide us with a source for your 6800 figure? Thanks.

  • goodmaab

    Like the real estate motto "locationx3" we need to change the planners and politicians mindsets to include the mantra "infrastructurex10" to provide the systems to move the people… not wait till its too late… but build the systems needed now…. in advance of the population crush… or at least take some more serious steps to solving the areas transit. Example: all four corners expect development, in addition to the SOTA site… perhaps a transit development tax to build the BRT out to the Mission or Cesar Chavez and around to Potrero or the T-Line…? or perhaps back up Van Ness linking the system on the F-line and extending out to the Presidio… make the systems work, dont wait for the clock to turn back to 1980, build the systems we need now and demand sufficient transit capacity, and infrastructure build-out as part of the build-UP!

    • FunnyBecauseItsTrue

      Infra is already in progress:

      BRT on van ness
      "Better market street" project
      Central subway
      Upgrades to the muni subway itself.

      It's going to be at least 6 years until anyone lives in these buildings, probably more

      • goodmaab

        Insufficient for the population. Muni and Bart are stuffed and van ness (van-mess) won't fix issues unless linked further to get people out of cars by extending to areas where more people drive towards downtown ex: mission excelsior / sunset and presidio.) central subway milks money from other areas across the city and these people are here already and transit is at max capacity. If u ride during rush hours you know outbound muni trains don't have any breathing room sim with buses on van ness… Get on the bus and feel the pressures

      • BRT on Van Ness – To be impeded by cars going to One Oak.
        Better Market Street – To be impeded by cars going to One Oak.
        Upgrades to the Muni subway – Obviates the need for cars going to One Oak.

  • sfsquirrel

    The more the pro-dev. trolls dismiss real concerns just because they come from Tim Redmond or any progressive, the more they show that they are zealots immune to logic.

    • Eyesocket Kabarbabar

      stop pretending NIMBYism is progressive. It's manipulation of the planning system by homeowners to increase the profit in their investment in their home at the expense of everyone less wealthy

      • Don Sebastopol

        Homeowners can't profit unless they leave the City. For most their home is not an investment but a place to live. And most desire to keep it a nice place to live by opposing over-development.

        • playland

          <blockquote>Homeowners can't profit unless they leave the City.</blockquote>Actually for a lot of people the strategy is to sell and downsize when they reach the empty nest stage. The difference between their house and a smaller condo is supposed to fund much of their retirement. The condo may be in the East Bay but many people don't consider that to be leaving the city as if they were moving hundreds or thousands of miles away.

          • Don Sebastopol

            That's true. My last remaining relative in the City, a cousin, recently retired and sold his house and moved to the delta. But not to a condo; to a larger house on a few acres. I know other life long residents that sold their SF homes and moved to bigger nicer homes in Sonoma County. Most are very happy they left. There was a time 30 years ago you could get twice the house and land for half the price in Western Sonoma. Lately you can only get twice the house for the same price. The point is that most buy a house in for security and the lifestyle. Their motivation for opposing over development is not profit but to maintain their quality of life.

        • Eyesocket Kabarbabar

          Keeping it a nice place to live is the same argument used 60 years ago by racist segregtionists. That's because opposing so called over development is segregation, not of race but of class.

          • Don Sebastopol

            Quality of life is generally determined by zoning which is not racist and not necessarily related to class. In SF, there are nice lower density single-family owner-occupied neighborhoods that are racially diverse and range from middle to upper-class. For example, there are two nice upper middle-class neighborhoods, Forest Hill and St. Francis Wood that are 49% and 51% White non-Hispanic. Half of the residents are minorities. There are also single-family neighborhoods in the southeast part of the City that are more middle-class. Overbuilding these neighborhoods would negatively impact the quality of life there. It would reduce the number of homes for families with school-age children, also related to quality of life.

          • Eyesocket Kabarbabar

            Zoning isn't intended to be racist or classist today as it once was, but it often still has that outcome. The neighborhoods you reference, look up the prices of homes for sale there and you'll find the lowest they generally are is $750k. Most are above $1 million. They may be racially diverse now, because at one time it probably was an affordable neighborhood or a lot of wealthy minorities decided to live there. it is clear that they are not affordable now and by keeping them as low zoned as they are, the only people that are benefiting are the current homeowners who will make even more money when they decide to sell their homes, and the wealthy who can now move into another neighborhood where no poor people live. Your claim about less school age children is completely bogus too. As areas become wealthier and more expensive, the population becomes wealthier, older, and less likely to have school age children. The number of families with school age children will only decrease unless you upzone. And I'm not talking about upzoning for super high density highrises. I'm saying upzone for low and mid rise residential buildings of 3-7 stories.

          • Don Sebastopol

            The race discrimination in the past was restrictive covenants not zoning. Those covenants were ruled illegal in 1960. Before then,
            upper middle class Black people created enclaves like in Miraloma Park and middle class in the Ingleside where there were no covenants.
            The motivation to keep neighborhoods lower density is the quality of life not to make money. Homeowners can’t really benefit financially unless
            the leave the City. Which many do for an even better quality of life.

            Up zoning will mean fewer families with school age children. As density increases families with school age children decrease. It is the highest in single-family owner-occupied neighborhoods and the lowest in neighborhoods with buildings with 20 or more units.

            And it is not related to income. One of least affordable neighborhoods, Seacliff, has as many families with children and as many children (percent) as more affordable neighborhoods such as the Bayview. Forest Hill Extension has more children than Crocker Amazon or Portola, Balboa and Ingleside Terraces more than the outer Mission.

            As the prices in these upscale neighborhoods have increased the percent of White non-Hispanics has decreased. It it not minorities that bought in the past and are still there. However, it is true that Black homeowners in the Bayview have been selling out and moving to the suburbs. Due race discrimination they did not have that option in the past.

            It is true higher income people generally want to move where there are no poor people. They will buy in the best neighborhood they can afford.

            But poor people also don't want to move to poor neighborhoods and leave when the can afford to. On the other hand, there are high income people that move to poor neighborhoods; they are called gentrifiers.

      • sfsquirrel

        Stop pretending that YIMBYism is anything but a bunch of highly paid right-wingers whose main agenda is deregulation.

        • Kraus

          All "sfsquirrel" has in their quiver is name-calling combined with the occasional ad-hominem.

          The absolute lowest tiers in Graham's "Heirachy of Disagreement":

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_Graham_(computer_programmer)

          http://www.paulgraham.com/disagree.html

          • sfsquirrel

            Nope. It's just that it gets tiring providing counterpoints to the same old talking points put forth by the YIMBY's. In fact, Kraus, weren't you called out for cutting and pasting about a year ago? Bye-bye. I got other things to do.

          • Kraus

            Q.E.D.

        • Eyesocket Kabarbabar

          Regulations should be for the purpose of protecting the health, safety, and or wellbeing of workers, consumers, and the environment. I agree that the right wing's deregulation spree since the 80s has cut regulations that fit this definition and made our environment worse off and increased income inequality as a result. The thing is deregulation isn't a bad thing, in fact it's a very good thing, if the regulations being cut do not serve the purpose of protection of the health/safety/well being of worker, consumers, or the environment. A large percentage of zoning regulations do not serve this purpose, they serve the purpose of keeping out new housing. They actually hurt the environment and the poor by pushing new housing out to being sprawl. YIMBYism is not a right wing movement, it's progressive left wing movement that wants to make our cities welcoming to all who want to come live in them.

  • verso2

    Does anyone know of any studies of SF's luxo condo boom–particularly, what proportion are actually occupied, versus being held off-market or rarely used pied-a-terres? Reporting from New York and London details very high vacancy rates with such units being used as investment vehicles. If so, building such projects wastes space that could be used to build units that would actually be lived in, and does not in fact help solve our housing shortage problem. But it would be useful to get actual figures for the City.

    • Don Sebastopol

      The census can give you some idea. Not very many are for investments being held off-market. But for at least 50 years higher end condos or Co-ops have been purchased as Pied-a-terres. Or for use during the work-week for those who have a primary home farther away. There are census tracks like in SOMA where 30% of the units are for occasional use. I had a boss (45 years ago) who had a Co-op unit on Nob Hill where the Astor's keep a unit or two and a Rolls in the garage. Staying at a hotel is so déclassé! My boss had a sheep ranch in the Sierra Foothills where he lived on the weekends. The building was more than half empty during the week. Around 25% were full time residents generally elderly. the Co-op had an in-house chef and dining room but meals were also delivered to the units.

    • curiousKulak

      But if they remain vacant, then we don't have the Uber/Lyft/delivery problem.

      More people – more congestion.

      And even vacant units pay parcel & RE taxes (though they don't use as many services).

      • verso2

        My point is that buildings with empty units use up space that could otherwise be occupied (in New York there are entire buildings put up as investment vehicles with little or no actual occupancy). Construction of more luxo units, although profitable for the developers, does not do much for our city's housing problems.

        • curiousKulak

          Well, in this particular case, the new bldg will be replacing … no, not existing residents, no, not artists and creatives, and no, not even campers. It will be replacing a DONUT SHOP (and a pretty greasy one at that). So, even one additional resident is a net-possitive (envelope to contain over 300+ units, with additional off-site construction of another several score more).

          Add to that – increasing the amt of housing where there is none now – the issue of unplanned and possibly grid-lock producing congestion on not only a major transit hub but also Hy 101 and the largest main st in the City is being used as the rationale. GRIDLOCK!

          Of course, those charges turn out to be not exactly true. And that is what a lot of the push-back is about. Sure we have a 'housing crisis' – as most urban areas do (and especially CA). And we have traffic congestion. But I don't see among the 10-worst aspects of this project as "vacant lux housing' (well, maybe five worst; but then just py for the problem to go away already – because empty units don't produce traffic congestion, don't require new schools, and don't require even additional sewer capacity in reality).

          • playland

            How many years has that donut shop been there? I bet that if this were Peskin's district he would be seeking historic preservation status for it.

            The vacancy thing is mostly a red herring. When you read about the vacant apartments in NYC they are $5 million and up, often $20 million and up.

            The apartments in this building purchased as investments would likely be rented (sans rent control) so that the owner doesn't have to pay over $50k a year in re taxes, HOA and insurance to sustain their investment.

  • Kraus

    Oh brother.

    "The building would have 139 parking spaces, and no on-site affordable housing. The existing rules would allow only 73 parking spaces."

    These two sentences are, of course, entirely misleading.

    There's already a 60-car surface parking lot on the site, and Tim points out that the project is permitted, by right, to have 73 parking spaces.

    (Actually, I believe it's permitted to have 76 spaces, since the baseline ratio is 1 parking space for every 4 dwelling units — but, nevermind.)

    Nevertheless, 60 + 73 = 133, so asking for 139 total spaces (in an underground garage to boot) doesn't seem like the big deal that Tim and Jason are attempting to make it out to be.

    BTW, the "existing rules" of the Market-Octavia Plan would allow, via the Conditional Use process, up to 152 parking spaces — a ratio of 2 parking spaces for every 4 dwelling units so the developer isn't even asking for the max. allowable.

    Most critically, the developer is paying for the land and over a hundred units of affordable housing on the nearby Octavia Blvd. Parcels R, S & U — including 30 units of housing for at-risk transitional age youth (TAY) coming out of the foster system.

    That's an affordable percentage of over 30%.

    The Planning Dept. has been evaluating this site for over 10 years.

    The Planning Commission passed the project 5 to 1.

    Jason Henderson appealing this to the BOS, is demonstrative of what's fundamentally wrong with the endless "process" of housing development in this City.

    At best, a classic example of the perfect-as-enemy-of-the-good.

    Give it a rest.

    • playland

      <blockquote>Most critically, Build Inc. is paying for the land and over a hundred units of affordable housing on the nearby Octavia Blvd. Parcels R, S & U — including 30 units of housing for at-risk transitional age youth (TAY) coming out of the foster system.</blockquote>See, that is where Tim Redmond really goes over the line towards outright propaganda. He twice emphasized that there was no affordable housing on site. But what about the affordable housing they are paying for just a short distance away?

      If Tim doesn't want to talk about the affordable housing aspect of this project then don't talk about it. But don't carefully tell just the part of the story that benefits your side. You can't try to pass yourself off as a journalist if you only tell a fraction of the true story.

  • EVG

    We live in the neighborhood and walk by that intersection twice a day.

    1. Uber/Lyft/etc. are not going away, but planning can design turnouts (maybe in combination with bulbouts) that any vehicle doing drop off/pick up could use. SFPD can enforce double-parking (which many vehicles not just Uber/Lyft are guilty of).
    2. We all need places to live. Even if these are high-end apartments, that reduces pressure on demand for other apartments. How is this bad for all of us? Supply and demand…
    3. It's smack on-top of MUNI, so give the people who might live there some credit. If MUNI goes to where they need to go, why wouldn't they hop on MUNI instead of driving?
    4. We can argue about whether or not a developer paying for off-site BMR housing is good or bad, but why is there no reference in the article to the BMR units the developer is paying into along Octavia?
    5. Yes, people order online like crazy. Again, that's a separate debate, but it's happening and increasing. The City just upped the size of the recycling bin and the cost because of it. If stopped delivery trucks are a problem, make sure there is a loading dock (or similar) to alleviate impact on traffic.

  • KOinSF

    Why can't they design the building so it includes a designated area to pick up and drop off and have a loading dock for deliveries? I am also unsure how many more high end condos the city needs, are their not plenty for sale now? What we need is homes for those who are not rich!

    • Kraus

      The building does have designated areas to pick up and drop off and a loading dock/delivery/service area with multiple spaces.
      This 304-unit project is funding over a 100 homes for those who are not rich.

      • KOinSF

        Over 100 units? Where exactly?

        • FunnyBecauseItsTrue

          the offsite in lieu of fee is paying for affordable housing to be built on land the city owns in hayes valley IIRC

          • Kraus

            Slight correction: Build Inc. controls Parcels R & S and is essentially buying U from the City — in order to donate all of them back to the City and then provide the necessary funds to build 100% affordable housing (+ a spectrum of supportive services) on all 3 Parcels .

        • Kraus

          Just a few blocks away on Parcels R, S & U — the vacant lots on the east side of Octavia Blvd. from Haight to Oak.)

    • Don Sebastopol

      Without high end condos there would be no below market rate units. One pays for the other. I am not sure who "we" is that needs.

      • KOinSF

        We is the people that live in SF. Even if you are lucky enough to be well off enough to buy a luxury home here, not everyone is. How many of the currently built luxury condos are vacant investments? This is a number we need to understand as well in our housing crisis.

        • Don Sebastopol

          If you already live in SF what do you need? Do you have a crisis? I agree, not everyone can afford what they desire or find acceptable in San Francisco. That includes rich people. In general you can get more for your money outside the City. That has been true for decades and is nothing new. Higher income workers are more likely to commute than lower income workers.

          There are many luxury condos for occasional use; weekend or workweek residents, and some seasonal residents. That is nothing new either. But there are not many keep vacant as investments; those are generally rented out. The neighborhoods where 30% or more of the homes/condos are for occasional use are Nob Hill (East), Van Ness/Civic Center, Mission Bay, North Beach, Pacific Heights, Russian Hill, and Telegraph Hill.

          • KOinSF

            I think you are wrong with saying higher income commute more. And with your attitude, you better be wrong, or all the minimum wage jobs we have here in SF will be empty when no one can afford to commute from far suburbs to work here. I mean, plenty of minimum wage jobs in the burbs too. Who will pour your coffee, make and serve your food or drinks? If SF is only for the wealthy, the city would die.
            And you and I have no idea what is happening with all the high end homes bought by investors. We do not track it yet, so spare me your opinion.

          • Don Sebastopol

            The higher the income the higher the percent that commute. You can check that out for yourself.

            https://onthemap.ces.census.gov/

            Of course, lower wage workers tend to be young singles or immigrants and are generally not the only wage earner in the household.

            For 50 years I have been hearing that only the rich will be living in SF with no one to serve them; It hasn’t happened yet. Nor am I aware of anyplace else it has happened. Without the rich there would be no service jobs. But what is true that the rich areas pay more for services. The cost of everything is higher.

            We do have some idea what is happening with high-end homes. The census collects data the includes vacancies and reason for the vacancies. It is not an opinion.

          • KOinSF

            2010 SF census showed over 31,000 VACANT units or 8.3%! I would expect that is an under count, and it is higher today. That is not an insignificant number. But all those empty units should pay a tax to just have them sit there empty. Discourage high end RE buys to sit empty.

            Talk to some business owners who cannot find help for their stores and tell me how SF's prices are not destroying the city's ability to run as it should.

          • Don Sebastopol

            The 2015 survey shows 30,308 vacant units or 7.9%. But with the sampling error there is really no difference from 2010. Most of those are temporarily vacant: 56% are vacant for sale, for rent, sold or rented but not yet occupied. 17.9% are for occasional use. 26% other; being renovated etc. Among that 26% other could be truly vacant units. That would amount to maybe 1% of all units. And that percent may not have changed all that much over the years and not contributing much to the supply problem.

            However, some of the occupied units may also be vacant for occasional use. When the census was taken the unit may have been occupied that week. If the census were take a week earlier or later, it may have been counted as vacant. But the reverse would also be true and maybe balances out.

            In my single-family neighborhood, around 14% of the homes that are owed by someone with second home in the country or even another state. They are there part time. In some upper-income neighborhood the vacant for occasional use can be from 30% to 40%. I would guess the Van Ness building will have around that percent occasional use.

            You can talk to business owners anywhere in the Bay Area, from San Jose to Santa Rosa who cannot find help for their stores or restaurants. That includes Bay Area cities with comparatively lower housing prices. The problem is the good economy with a low unemployment rate. San Francisco is not unique.

          • EVG

            Yeah, facts!