Clubs vs. condos - Page 2

Can new housing coexist with nightlife in western SoMa? A rezoning debate around the 11th Street Corridor heats up

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"The purple building" at 340 11th Street could be the last housing allowed on that club-heavy block.
GUARDIAN PHOTO BY MIKE KOOZMIN

Goldman said he understands the concern and "my client is considering alternatives to housing." While he was a little frustrated that it wasn't until November that they first heard about a proposal to ban residential projects on the block, "We've definitely heard the concerns of the nightlife entertainment folks...No decision has been made yet, but it's the goal of my client to decide fairly soon."

A ban on housing is just one of the changes that Alan and other members of the California Music And Culture Association (CMAC) are pushing the supervisors to make to the plan, provisions he was unable to get into the plan as a member of the Western SoMa Task Force for four years before resigning in frustration.

"The task force was made up of people primarily interested in residential development," Alan told us. "The plan is pretty much about protecting residential."

That perspective irritates task force chair Jim Meko, who said he held about 60 meetings on entertainment and nightlife issues and bent over backward to accommodate that community. "Overall, the Western SoMa Plan is very friendly to the entertainment industry," Meko said, noting that the plan grandfathers in all existing nightclubs, even after a building is demolished, and requires new residential construction to buffer against street noise. "They're never satisfied."

But Meko does concede that accommodating existing residents and new residential development was central to the task force's work, as it was charged with doing by the Planning Department. "The most important thing was to do no harm to anyone," Meko said was the guiding philosophy behind the task force's approach. "We're the real test case for a mixed use community in the city."

While Folsom Street has more bars that 11th street, and those bars will be protected under the plan, Meko said the idea was to keep them limited in scale and prevent the proliferation of large clubs that operate into the wee hours.

"Folsom Street is where the residential growth will go," Meko said. "That's the area where we want to add the most residential growth and it seems dumb to add more nightclubs there."

But he also doesn't think it makes economic sense for many clubs to open there anyway. With allowable height limits in that corridor being increased from 50 feet now up to 65 feet, and with the plan's approval allowing development projects to move forward, many of what he called the "old junky buildings" where clubs could find cheap rent will likely be demolished.

"With the height increases, those buildings are going to be history in five years," Meko said.

Kim said she is supportive of both nightlife and the plan's facilitation of residential development.

"It's transit-first and a good place to be able to handle the density that's close to downtown," Kim said, noting that she's supportive of even the massive residential project proposed for 801 Brannan Street, mostly because it includes units with up to two and three bedrooms and an elegant design by architect David Baker.

That project would have 432 housing units with a total of 606 bedrooms, 22,124 square feet of retail, and a 422-car parking garage on a site of just over four acres. In many ways, it is typical of the housing density that will begin to crowd into Western SoMa.

Meko was critical of how the entertainment community was able to make changes to the plan after all the hard work of the task force, and he told us, "It was a choice Jane Kim had to make, and she will have to answer to her constituents in the future."

But Kim said the change on 11th Street made sense and that it's important to strike a balance. "Entertainment is clearly an important part of Western SoMa and 11th Street is unique in showcasing that community," Kim said.