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When Community Opposition Is The Norm

When Community Opposition Is The Norm

Update: 2019-11-15
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The City of San Francisco continues to be one of the most sought after places to live in the nation, and also boasts some of the least affordable places to live.


San Francisco is a notoriously difficult place to have any project approved. The process allows for community input on virtually any application.


San Francisco’s general plan makes new development difficult. Approximately 74% of the land is zoned for no more than three-unit homes, with the majority dedicated to one- or two-unit homes. Most of the city has a maximum 40-foot height limit for all new development.


Unfortunately, even the city’s general plan downplays the difficulty of building in the city. The ever-proliferating bureaucratic documents underpinning this plan muddy whatever potential clarities developers could glean from the plan itself. A typical example is the Planning Department’s area East and South of Market Street. This has been a rough area for years. The city drafted a neighborhood plan back in 2008. The plan lays out 42 separate “objectives” the city wants to achieve through development in the area, with no ability to rank them in case they conflict, as many clearly do. Now somehow there has been some redevelopment, but it hasn’t been easy.


Developers Prado Group and SKS Partners first submitted their proposal close to five years ago.


The developers originally aimed for 558 homes and an office component that was since axed to make room for the senior housing,


After years of planning — and battling neighborhood opposition — a proposal to build 744 homes on California St. in San Francisco is finally moving forward.


Earlier this week, the city’s Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday evening to approve the project, which represents the largest new home development in the city’s northwest quadrant in decades. There are so many competing interests, that every project has to have features that will satisfy every special interest group that wants to have a voice at the table, even though they have no cash invested in the project. It’s amazing that people with no ownership get to dictate what happens on a property.


The project includes 186 homes for low-income seniors, a childcare center, five acres of public open space and 35,000 square feet of retail.


Even after the approval, the ground breaking is still more than a year away in 2021 and complete the first phases of homes two years later. Overall, the project will cost more than $600 million.


During a three-and-a-half hour hearing on Tuesday, opponents said the project’s environmental impact report was flawed.


Many speakers opposed a plan to cut down existing trees on the site and destroy what they called a swath of natural open space.


The trees became a point of contention.


One special interest group claimed that the city doesn’t have enough senior housing. So now the project includes a senior housing component.


If you are contemplating undertaking a project that requires community input, make sure you understand the process that you might be subjected to. The process on paper might only be a few months. But the process in reality can stretch into years if the community opposes your project.

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When Community Opposition Is The Norm

When Community Opposition Is The Norm

Victor Menasce