Monthly Archives: July 2013

Resisting urban growth in my own backyard

The NYC real estate company that owns my building has been trying to construct another building on the lot since I moved in five years ago.  However, with certain sectors of the economy starting to thaw after the global recession, they are now back on track pursuing the plan more aggressively.

When people ask where I live, for convenience I tell them Japantown, but really I live on Cathedral Hill, a small neighborhood at the intersection of Lower Pacific Heights, Western Addition, and Japantown named after St. Mary’s Cathderal.  Aside from the beautiful cathedral, it’s mostly an eyesore of “Urban Renewal,” namely 1960s International Style high rises surrounding the nauseating Geary Expressway, a car-centric artery running all the way to Ocean Beach.  Earthquakes have given SF unusual chances to reform neighborhoods, as they have knocked down highway overpasses.  I don’t know if they will eventually topple any of the high rises, but I would glad if they did, with more modest buildings replacing them.

Instead, the owners of my building want to add a 416 feet tall building, 20 feet taller than The Sequoias, which is already so tall to be out of place, even among the tall, ugly buildings that dominate the area.  The building would be built in the open space between The Sequoias on the left and my building on the right.

As you might expect in SF, there is organized opposition to this construction on a variety of issues.  I read the very detailed Initial Study document and submitted a public comment reprinted below.  It was interesting to hear about all the various ballot referendums and other policies and plan documents that weigh in on a project in SF.  For example, did you know that showers are limited to one head for water conservation?  I didn’t.  I learned about these and many other tidbits.

I’ll keep you posted on the next steps.  The company has to prepare an Environmental Impact Report and I think that can take quite awhile.

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Comment RE: 2005.0679E 1333 Gough St / 1481 Post St Project

 

I am a resident of 1333 Gough St. and have lived there for the past five years.  After reviewing the Initial Study, I have a few comments about the proposed project that I wanted to share with the Planning Department.

 

  • Parking. As you know, parking is a challenge in San Francisco. I choose to not own a car but all the other residents I know in 1333 Gough do own cars.  Given the high rent in San Francisco, one bedroom apartments are frequently rented by couples.  In spite of the challenge of parking, the majority of the couples I know who live in the building each own a car.  Since 1333 Gough only has one space per unit, they are forced to park their second car on the street which reduces the available street parking for others.  I recently read a study that projected that Bay Area car ownership rates will remain unchanged over the next 30 years.  Therefore, I can only conclude that the garage parking will be inadequate for the number of cars that will actually exist in 1481 Post and this will put an undue strain on existing street parking.  Personally, I also feel that a large new building should provide not only enough parking for its tenants using realistic ownership rates but also leasable spaces for non-residents to use to provide a net positive effect on the local parking situation.

  • Public Transit.  When I first moved into 1333 Gough, there were four bus routes along it.  However, budget cuts caused one of these lines to be closed.  When I ride any of these buses during peak commute times (8:00-9:30am), it is extremely crowded.  I am worried that the influx of passengers from the 1481 Post building will make this situation worse and will result in more people opting instead to drive to work.  It will also make the situation more uncomfortable for those who choose to not drive, even when public transit is not a pleasant experience.  If this is true, it runs counter to the City’s Transit First policy.  Two buildings of this size owned by one company should be capable of offering shuttle service to take commuters to popular destinations (e.g. BART station).  This would alleviate the added strain on public transit this building’s 597 new residents will bring without encouraging use of private automobiles.

  • Car Sharing.  Because I choose not to have my own car, I often use the ZipCar car sharing service. Currently, the closest available vehicles are at Corillon Tower, two blocks south of 1333 Gough.  There are five cars and one cargo van for use here.  On weekends, they are frequently rented out during normal hours (except the van).  Based on this observation, the current car sharing supply is too low for the existing community.  Adding 597 residents and only four additional car sharing spaces would make this problem worse, not better.  I would suggest talking with City Car Share and ZipCar to get market information to see how many spaces they feel the new building would use.  This would be an effective way to discourage excessive car ownership and help with the aforementioned parking issues.

  • Alternatives.  Although there a few aspects of the project that I feel would greatly benefit the neighborhood, such as the commercial space, landscaped gardens, and pedestrian access, I still would personally prefer a no project option.  However, if a project must be built, the project sponsors should consider changing their plan to include some of the following:

    • Japanese stylistic elements, to fit with the Japantown neighborhood

    • LEED certified construction, to help reduce its environmental impact

    • A height lower than surrounding structures to signify a return to less dense housing

    • BMR units in the building to encourage a diverse population

    • Not just adequate but plentiful Car sharing spots with the majority of these mandated to be plug-in electric vehicles, to make it easier to live without a personal vehicle

    • Garage spaces for 1.5 cars per unit (or a realistic ratio) including plug-in electric vehicle spots

    • Commuter shuttle service to BART station, the Financial District during peak times

Thank you for reading my comments and allowing me to provide additional information to this ongoing proposal process.  You can contact me using the information above if you have any questions about any of these comments.