The Market-Octavia mess - Page 2

A remarkable thing is happening in the area surrounding Market and Octavia streets

But they also agree that the plan on the table today does little to meet the needs of the community or the city as a whole. They're proposing a very modest new fee of $10 a square foot — money the developers can absolutely afford — to help the city meet a small portion of the affordability burden.

That supervisors need to approve that fee. Without it, the plan is a farce.

•<\!s>Parking and transportation. This is supposed to be a transit-first plan, and in the early drafts it was. Now, at the final stages, the Planning Department has changed it to add a lot more parking.

That creates two problems: Obviously, it encourages car use (and makes it more likely that the units will be sold to commuters who see San Francisco as a bedroom community). It also drives up the price of housing: building garage space for cars can add as much as $150,000 per unit to the construction costs — and frankly, condos with parking cost more than condos without parking.

In a lot of neighborhood development battles, the current residents are the ones demanding more off-street parking. In this case, the neighborhood groups totally get it: they have asked that parking be strictly limited, with only one parking space allowed for every four units in some areas (and as much as three spaces for every four units under some conditions in other areas). The Planning Commission wants much more parking — in fact, the department's proposal would allow one space for every two-bedroom unit. That's supposed to help families — but in many cases, those second bedrooms will become home offices for the wealthy, who will drive their cars to work.

That makes no economic or political sense. (In fact, less than half the housing units in the neighborhood today have off-street parking.) The supervisors should go with the neighborhood option.

The board also needs to mandate that the actual public transit infrastructure that's needed gets built out as the new housing is constructed.

<\!s>Street-level environmental impacts. The plan envisions 400-foot residential towers in the area closer to Van Ness and Market — and that part of town already has serious problems with high-rise-driven wind gusts. The federal government had a chance to build its new office building at 10th and Market streets, but refused the site because its wind studies showed the gusts would actually be a physical hazard to people walking to the building. The city needs to do a real study of how shadows and wind affect people on the street before it approves any more high-rises.

<\!s>Jobs for the community. The plan needs to include written mandates that the developers offer construction jobs to local residents, particularly to unemployed San Franciscans in the eastern neighborhoods. This is the sort of thing that project sponsors always promise and rarely deliver; it needs to be codified in law.

The Market-Octavia plan could be a tremendous success, a way to take land that was once in the shadow of a freeway and turn it into a thriving, sustainable community. But the supervisors first have to fix the mess that the Planning Department created by adopting Mirkarimi's amendments — and if they can't do that, this entire thing needs to be put on hold and rewritten.