Who’s trying to fast-track Parkmerced?

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So many new apartments, so little time
photo by Rebecca Bowe

At a Sept. 30 Planning Commission meeting, several commissioners and community members raised concerns that project approval for Parkmerced, a development that will add thousands of new housing units to an existing residential complex, had been scheduled before anyone was really prepared to discuss it. It’s since been pushed back, but the attempt to rush it through drew fire nonetheless.

Land use attorney Sue Hestor said she’d discovered the day before the Planning Commission meeting that a final project EIR would be made available Oct. 7, with an approval hearing scheduled just two weeks later, on Oct. 21. That came as a surprise even to Hestor, who closely monitors development projects. “You cannot just drop a complex legal document on people two weeks before the hearing and say that is sufficient,” Hestor said. “Two weeks for a staff report for this project is insulting.” Prior to this notice, the hearing on Parkmerced was widely expected later in the year.

Christina Olague, vice-president of the Planning Commission, said during the meeting that the accelerated timeline was highly unusual. "I was hearing that we were going to be attempting to initiate this project on the 7th of October with an approval calendared for the following week," she said. "And I was concerned that it felt, at that point, that it was a little bit out of the hands of the planning commission. When it comes to projects of this size, I just felt like that was too much of a rush to get it through, especially given that we are in the middle of CPMC with comments due the 19th of October."

Olague said the process made her uncomfortable. "I felt a lot of our say was being removed from our realm and there were outside forces ... other departments in the city that were kind of influencing it in a way that didn't feel comfortable to me," she said. "Also, historically ... we have never done it that way. Usually we calendar an item for one week and then there's a 20-day noticing period that allows members of the public to digest the information and review the information." She added, “I just didn’t want the public to get the impression that we were favoring one project over other projects.”

Calvin Welch, an affordable housing activist, noted that Parkmerced developers have a laudable goal of preserving onsite rent-controlled units at the housing complex -- but he had yet to see a draft of a development agreement outlining the details of that plan. The planning commissioners hadn't seen that document, either. Welch suggested more time was needed to review the terms of the agreement.

If the Planning Commission had approved Parkmerced on this accelerated schedule, it might have gone to the Board of Supervisors for approval before the end of the year, so the votes would’ve easier to count than if the project went before a new class of Supes in 2011.

The Guardian reported earlier this month that Mayor Gavin Newsom received a $1,000 campaign contribution for his bid for lieutenant governor from Craig Hartman, a design partner for Parkmerced, plus $2,000 from two executives associated with the project. AECOM, which is completing technical studies for the project, gave him campaign donations totaling $13,000.

Speaking to a crowd of real-estate professionals and representives from the business community a couple weeks ago, Newsom urged them to get involved in district elections in order to avoid “a dramatic shift” that would occur if the wrong people get elected to local office in November.

Did the mayor's office lean on the planning department to rush the approval of Parkmerced in order to ensure a more predictable outcome? We emailed Newsom’s press secretary, Tony Winnicker, with questions, and we’ll be sure to post a response if we receive one.

 

Comments

Just like Eastern Neighborhoods, the political calendar dictates development policy.

In that case, it was Calvin Welch who feared losing elections, in this case, Newsom fears winning, perhaps progressive supervisors are also fearful of a more conservative board, or perhaps it is just Sophie Maxwell trying to exert control over this too as she seems bored with everything else, what having sold the east side out in toto.

What will we see first? The Transbay Terminal or the M Oceanview tracks rerouted through a new Park Merced?

Elvis Costello is playing at HSBG...what was his song: "Now there will be chit building, diving for pearls?"

-marc

Posted by marcos on Oct. 01, 2010 @ 5:47 pm

what are u talking about? your reply has nothing to do with what was written

Posted by Mark on Oct. 01, 2010 @ 6:59 pm

I live here at ParkMerced and they can not manage there tower buildings let alone thousands more. The basement is full of trash, buildings are never vacumed or cleaned. Walk in a tower building and look at the floors, they spot mop them the rugs on each floor are nasty. Our one tear lease is up next month and we cant wait to get out.
The management is worthless, there are cigarette butts all over the complex, they wont clean them until someone calls and complains, our neighbors and "college" kids are always breaking elevators, writting on walls, throw trash on the ground the mail area is a mess everyday because people throw things on the ground liek mail they dont want.

Parkmerced could control these things, but they make a choice to ignore them they built trash bins to help control the tons of garbage in the basement now there is food, trash and it smells in teh basement and outside near the doors.

The walls are paper thin, however there agents are told to tell you there cement and 2 feet thick so you cant hear anyone, we here the dog below us EVERY night barking hours at a time, we complain they do nothing..

The city needs to look into Parkmerced before they let them expand and its only going to get better they have a grocery store here that sells expired food and cost 12.00 for a gallon of milk, mind you COLLEGE kids live here and PM NOW is letting them build a bar/tavern in the complex.

You can talk to the residential service manager, but he does not do much but "promise" it will get better and say sorry each call, the big shots are unreachable and dont care or they would fix this place up.

its like letting a place thats serves spoiled food expand, its really a stupid idea!

Posted by Mark on Oct. 01, 2010 @ 6:57 pm

Because you think the food is too expensive?

When did going somewhere else NOT become part of the solution?

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Oct. 02, 2010 @ 9:07 pm

Why not ask for a great deal more transparency on how the Commission calendar is set?
The Commissioners should not be going along for the ride, they should be driving the bus.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 02, 2010 @ 10:59 pm

interesting to note that a number of trees were removed for the signage and replanting shown. Many of the trees were rare or protected, and were removed without adequate notification. The tree-sign-off for removal was by Mr. Rosania himself. And the statements that this all is "sustainable" and green, is a joke....the rush to demo is due to also co-running efforts at CEQA changes (alioto-pier) and circumvent appeal and review of the demolition of so many units of essential housing....

dont be fooled by the green-vision

its Green-$-Greed.....

Posted by Guest on Dec. 13, 2010 @ 12:20 pm