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Sunday, May 22, 2022

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Home Featured What’s at stake for big condo project at Van Ness and Market

What’s at stake for big condo project at Van Ness and Market

Appeal delayed a week so the parties can talk -- but there is a whole lot more than this project on the table

The Board of Supes put off for a week a decision on the environmental review of the One Oak project after a series of speakers noted that the city gave the developer additional parking without seriously reviewing the traffic and transportation impacts.

Sup. London Breed said she had been meeting with the appellant, Jason Henderson, the developer, and the Planning Department to see if there’s a negotiated solution.

One Oak, at Van Ness and Market, will set the tone for huge new developments in the congested area

If that happens, Henderson told the board, it should include a requirement that developers build no more than one asking space for every four housing units in the entire “Hub” area around the congested Market and Van Ness.

Henderson also said the supervisors should direct the city planners to develop workable metrics to discuss the impacts on the transportation network of Uber and Lyft vehicles and the impact of e-commerce deliveries.

Those are the key elements of Henderson’s appeal.

Other speakers talked about how limited the developer’s affordable housing contribution is. Affordable housing activist Calvin Welch noted that the city is already producing more than 220 percent of the luxury housing it needs and less than 25 percent of the affordable housing, particularly for families with children. Most of the affordable units the developer wants to build are “postage-stamp efficiencies” suitable only for one person, he said.


Todd David, director of the Housing Action Coalition, tried to turn this into a question of whether housing is more important that a fight over the number of parking spaces. “This has nothing to do with the environmental impact report,” he said. “This about 60 parking spaces versus 950 people getting a place to live. There is no connection between parking spaces and EIRs.”

David and his group support pretty much all new housing, but his statement is stunning: Parking — and the impact of more cars on the city’s transit system — is and always has been a relevant issue for environmental review.

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As Marc Solomon, a Soma resident, pointed out, surface transit — that is, Muni buses and trains — serving all parts of the city pass through the Market-Van Ness corridor. The more cars and congestion in that area, the slower Muni gets, and the more people decide to use private cars, making the congestion citywide even worse still.

It’s kind of crazy to be watching two of the worst hurricanes in this century, following one after another, hitting the Gulf Coast, the Caribbean and Florida, and and arguing that increased use of private cars  — among the greatest sources of greenhouse gases and climate change — isn’t an environmental impact.

And David is flat-out wrong that this is just about how many parking spaces the developer gets. The rule for that part of town is one space for every four units; the developer asked for twice that much, and the Planning Commission granted a conditional use to allow it.

But Breed pointed out that the CU has not been appealed — and Hendserson’s lawyer, Sue Hestor, noted that they are going to try to find a solution here.

What’s at stake, Hestor said, is how the city does environmental reviews of Uber and Lyft vehicles, transportation, and affordable housing.

The city planners have said that they don’t have any clear data on Uber and Lyft, so they simply ignore the impact those 45,000 or so cars have on traffic in the city. 


And there are several other large housing developments slated for the Hub area, all of which might apply for conditional use parking additions, all of which will attract Uber and Lift and delivery vehicles, and the point of environmental review is to get a handle on those issues in advance.

That way, when the developer building housing on the old Honda dealership across the street asks for double the normal amount of parking, the planners can say: Sorry, but it’s clear that your building will already create substantial congestion, and slow down Muni service all over the city. So no more parking.

And you know what? The developers will build anyway. Maybe the One Oak project, with less parking, will have to become rentals, not luxury condos. That is not the city’s problem.

This is an unusual appeal, in that the developer can come to the table with an offer — most likely, more affordable housing. But City Planning also has to be there, and has to agree to a different type and level of environmental review. 

Build Inc. can’t eliminate CUs for additional parking in the Hub. Build Inc can’t start counting Uber and Left vehicles (and sue the companies for the necessary data).

That’s the City Planning Department. We shall see how this proceeds.


  1. Oh geeze, what an idiotic thing to write. You SHOULD be concerned about the shitstorm of constant traffic delays in this major intersection. Tim wrote nothing about opposing this building or the housing.

  2. "The rule for that part of town is one space for every four units; the developer asked for twice that much, and the Planning Commission granted a conditional use to allow it."

    Once again, Tim is describing the facts of the matter in very misleading ways.
    The Planning Code (PC) and Market-Octavia Plan (MOP) is very clear on how much parking is permitted and allowed and the Build Inc. proposal is exactly in line with these regulations and procedures.

    Both the PC and MOP permit a minimum of 1 space per 4 units (a ratio of 0.25) and allow up to 2 spaces per 4 units (a ratio of 0.50) via the Conditional Use process — which is a standard procedure that is written into both the PC and MOP.

    Build Inc. is not asking for "twice that much". They are asking for a ratio of 0.45 — which is less than the maximum allowed (0.50). Their project is 100% Code-compliant.

    David Todd of the Housing Coalition is also correct in that the appellant in this case, Mr. Henderson, is attempting to hold hundreds of units of housing (304 market-rate and over a 100 below-market-rate) because he has a "bee-in-his-bonnet" over 36 parking spaces — and there's already a 49-car surface parking lot on the site!

  3. Restaurants all over the Bay Area a struggling even where rents are lower. It is not clear SF restaurants have any greater problems. Of course, in SF the increase in high-wage workers has increased demand and the number of restaurant workers needed.

    The more likely to commute comment was for those who work in SF. 62% of all SF workers don’t live in SF but commute. For the lowest wage workers 57% commute and for higher wage workers 64% commute. For restaurant workers along Valencia only 35% commute. Those jobs have allowed some of them to stay in the City.

    The reverse commuters, those who leave the City to get to work, has a similar pattern. The housing for high wage workers is housing that is already here. In my single-family neighborhood around 48% leave the City to get to work. Some of them must commute because their employer moved out of the City. Some are heading to Alameda County not Silicon Valley. And many have an employed spouse that works in the City or in the opposite direction. Building more housing of any kind, low or high end, will increase the number of workers that work in the City and leave the City for to get to work.

  4. Restaurants are struggling to find staff where rents are too high. This is relatively new in SF and a symptom of the tech-boom gentrification that has been taking place here.

    If it is true that 80 percent of jobs in the Bay Area are outside of SF, and higher wage workers are more likely to commute, then all the more reason to stop burdening SF with housing those high wage workers. But Wiener refuses to exempt SF from SB35, which means developers will keep building here to get the highest return on investment and our freeways will continue to be clogged with commuters. High-wagers heading out to Silicon Valley, and low-wagers commuting here as more and more get replaced. More carbon emissions, more inequality, more climate change.

  5. Numerous court cases have resulted in the current Planning Code definition of a "family" and in its simplest understanding, it includes up to 5 unrelated persons.

    However, there is a caveat, that if a larger group of unrelated persons "functions'" as a "family", it will also be considered a family.

    Interestingly, therefore, there is actually no way to legally restrict/prohibit the number of unrelated persons that can live in dwelling unit from a Planning Code perspective.

    However, there are limitations on maximum occupancy in the Housing and Building Codes.

    Accordingly, such a restriction/tax as you are suggesting would be illegal and is neither workable or (I believe) desirable.

  6. "Some of those homes now have secondary units or are rented by a group of unrelated individuals due to the demand by young and or single people. "

    Seems like one fix – for families – would be to make it either illegal or prohibitively expensive via tax – to rent to a group of people who are not related. So, a 3BR home which might rent for $8000 to roomies would rent for, maybe, $4500 to a family.

    Of course, at those rates, well, that might take some kind of Rent Registration system (to assure compliance). And we definitely don't need that.

  7. SF Planning's own data reflects that we have exceeded production of market rate/luxury housing by 220%, and that SF has only built 23% of affordable housing for families. Planning is required to provide monthly reports which include the data on projects built with regard to different inclome levels. We have a glut of market rate housing.

  8. Restaurants are struggling to find staff all over the Bay Area from San Jose to Santa Rosa, even in cities with lower price housing. San Francisco in not unique.

    Everyone, at all income levels must accept less space and less "desirable" surroundings to live in the City. It is a choice. Higher-wage workers are more likely to commute than lower-wage workers.

    However, that may not apply to some cities down the peninsula. Compared some of those cities, SF is a bargain. Also, over 40% of SF residents with a steady job, leave the City to get to work and the number is growing. Over 80% of the jobs in the Bay Area are not in San Francisco.

    Most people who leave the City are not being "displaced." But they are being replaced by higher income people.

  9. Calvin Welch noted that we need housing for families with children, but the developer wants to build postage-stamp efficiencies not suitable for families. However, those small units can increase the supply of homes for families with children by taking pressure off homes that families desire.

    Most families with school-age children prefer single-family homes with at least 3 bedrooms and a yard (if they have a choice). Some of those homes now have secondary units or are rented by a group of unrelated individuals due to the demand by young and or single people. If they had an alternative it would free up those homes for families. It is already occurring in my neighborhood where secondary units are being removed to accommodate families.

    It is possible that if they built more 3 and 4-bedroom units, more families with children would live there. But that is currently not the case. Very few families with school age children are found in buildings with 20 or more units. I am wondering how many families with children would want to live on Van Ness and Market? The nearest playground is over a half mile away with dangerous intersections along the way. And the neighborhood is congested, noisy and polluted.

    How many of you lived in large multi unit buildings when you were growing up? I was born in a small one-bedroom apartment but we moved to a larger flat after I started school.

  10. that means he opposes about 95% of the housing being proposed (anything that isn't 100% affordable) and he also opposes the type of housing that almost everyone who visits this site lives in (market rate). Seems adequate to deem nimby to me.

  11. That this has to do simply with what low and middle income people find desirable or acceptable is absurd. People are being displaced to a degree that is unsustainable. That's why we have many Uber drivers commuting in from as far as Fresno. That's why restaurants and cafes are struggling to find staff.

  12. The vast majority of residents don't have a need. They are already here.

    Few at any income level can afford what they desire or find acceptable in the City. The City has not been affordable for several decades.

  13. What is sold and what the city needs is not the same thing. There is a crisis of affordability, not of housing that is not affordable to the vast majority of residents here. But I'd love to know how you know that 100% of luxury housing is sold. That is quite a claim.

  14. No, the final arbiter for what the city needs were those who voted for Prop K in 2014. There is something called the Housing Balance Report that the Planning Dept. puts out to track how the City is doing toward meeting those numbers. Look it up.

  15. Clearly the demand exceeds the supply or they would not sell. But demand is not the same thing as a need. He not saying there is not a demand. "Need" is a value judgement. I guess the question is who needs. I don't need.

  16. I think the operative term here is "needs". Calvin Welch is the final arbiter of what the city "needs" and has made his decision known to the rest of us.

  17. "Calvin Welch noted that the city is already producing more than 220 percent of the luxury housing it needs and less than 25 percent of the affordable housing,"

    This is a clear lie, as 100% of luxury housing is sold so there is not over supply. I think he's just grabbing numbers from the air

  18. LOL. Tim, tell us again how you're not a NIMBY, even though you always come up with the most ridiculous reasons to oppose new housing?

Comments are closed.