Supervisors approve Western SoMa Plan, rejecting expanded office development


The Board of Supervisors today approved the Western South of Market Community Plan, the first step to ending a development moratorium that has been in place since the citizen-based planning process that developed the plan began in 2005, but not before some supervisors made a last-ditch effort to allow more office development and nightlife.

“I have real concerns over the plan,” Sup. Scott Wiener said as the plan came before the full board for the first time, continuing an effort to modify the plan that he began a few weeks ago when it was before the Land Use and Economic Development Committee.

While some of Wiener's colleagues echoed his concerns and those raised by the business and entertainment communities, most decided to defer to the area's Sup. Jane Kim and the Western SoMa Task Force that developed the plan. It was approved on a 10-1 vote, with Wiener in dissent. It will guide development and set land use rules for the Western SoMa area after being approved on second reading by the board next week.

Wiener led the critique of the plan's restrictions on office development in most of the plan area, particularly around the transit hub of 4th and King streets, concerns that were echoed by Sups. London Breed and Malia Cohen, likely indicating that the business community has been lobbying supervisors on the issue.

But Kim said she is concerned about the area's artists, nonprofits, and light industrial businesses – dubbed Production Distribution and Repair (PDR) in the city planning code – being squeezed out if the area is opened up to more office development.

“Office space is hot right now and it's pushing out PDR uses,” Kim said. “Zoning is an importance tool, otherwise everything will turn into offices in South of Market.”

Wiener, Breed, and other supervisors also sounded their support for the entertainment community that has lobbied for changes in the plan, winning greater protections for nightlife at earlier hearings – including a ban on residential development on the raucous 300 block of 11th Street and persuading owners of “the purple building” to switch from residential to office – pushing for removal of more of the plan's restrictions on attaining limited live music permits.

“I also have some real concerns with how the plan treats nightlife and entertainment,” Wiener said, while Breed said, “As a big supporter of the arts, I'm concerned there are limited live performances in the plan.”

Kim noted that the plan tried to strike a balance in the conflict between nightlife and housing, and she said that expanding the ability business in areas zoned Regional Commercial District (RCD) shouldn't be done in just in a part of town where there conflicts have often been difficult to resolve.

“If you're going to permit it in the RCD areas, it should be citywide rather than just in Western SoMa,” Kim said, noting that she's open to futher discussions after the plan is approved.

Sup. David Campos and other supervisors urged their colleagues not to tinker with the compromises and hard-won balance in the plan. “I'm not 100 percent happy with every aspect of the plan, but I do think some deference should be given to the district supervisor,” Campos said.

Wiener agreed that deference to the desires of district supervisors is an important consideration, “but there are times when this board does not vote the same as their supervisors,” citing as an example the board's approval of the controversial 8 Washington luxury condo project over the objections of Board President David Chiu.

Afterward, Terrence Alan of the California Music and Culture Association, which had lobbied for expanded protections of nightlife, told us, “Entertainment as a whole fared well.” But he said that they would continue pushing for greater citywide nightlife protections, including supporting Wiener's proposal to expand the limited live music permits to include DJs.


People like the warmth on the east side, warmth that does not happen in the shade and the wind that come with tall buildings.

Why not build up out on the avenues where there is so little sun that it would make little difference?

Posted by marcos on Mar. 13, 2013 @ 10:37 am

But on the east side, as you say, there is plenty of sun, and so some more shade would be welcome. Should reduce skin cancer rates too.

Posted by anon on Mar. 13, 2013 @ 11:02 am

There is plenty of demand to build on the west side, it is just that people who make more money live out there and they are better able to defend their neighborhoods against this crap. Western SOMA fared much better than most of the rest of Eastern Neighborhoods but still worse than anywhere west of Fillmore.

Posted by marcos on Mar. 13, 2013 @ 4:47 pm

development for several reasons:

1) Smaller block sizes and narrower streets
2) Less demand - SF beahcfront property is deemed low class
3) Much worse transit and freeway connections
4) Already built out with low-rise

But there are a couple of square miles on the east side that are desirable and yet hopelessly under-utilized. That's why downtown has moved about half a mile south in the last 20 years, and that trend will continue.

Posted by anon on Mar. 13, 2013 @ 5:08 pm

New York City has all of the same restrictions yet there are high rises everywhere. #planningfail.

Posted by marcos on Mar. 14, 2013 @ 8:28 am

But you're telling the Western SOMA community what to think or do after hundreds of people spent thousands of hours researching what the optimal solution that enjoyed the greatest amount of political support was.

Building high in San Francisco subtracts value.

Posted by marcos on Mar. 13, 2013 @ 7:59 am

You whine about low-income people being squeezed out while opposing all attempts to build more housing. Do you wonder why new San Franciscans think your ilk is insane?

Posted by Guest on Mar. 13, 2013 @ 8:09 am

They claim they want cheaper RE (although in many cases that is self-serving as they own RE) but then they oppose the one thing that would give us cheaper RE, which is building more homes and (for maximum affordability) building them high in places like SOMA and the SE..

Is it mere stupidity on their part? Or mendacious selfishness?

Posted by anon on Mar. 13, 2013 @ 8:27 am

The amazing part is that with so much froth in the real estate market, the WSOMA plan was able to see the light of day and become law in five weeks.

For some reason, those twenty something skinny blonde white women in tight fitting black dresses, impeccably coiffed, who were interning with HAC and cooed for "more housing, more housing" at meeting after meeting were ignored and the community got its say.

Posted by marcos on Mar. 13, 2013 @ 9:32 am

We've had low-rise ordinances before, and even had one for downtown. Look at it now. The battles for variances will be fought block-by-block, building-by-building, and what actually happens will be determined on a case-by-case basis. As you have already noted, people get bought off.

But I understand your skewed logic that your condo will be worth more if there are not too many other built half a mile away. Never let relief and resources for others get in the way of self-serving NIMBY'ism.

Posted by anon on Mar. 13, 2013 @ 9:51 am

total BS. Whether you have any faith in those people depends critically on how smart you think they are and, from what I've seen of the kind of people who like to get involved in these things, they are not very bright. But they do love controlling things.

Building high is the only thing that makes sense unless like, say a Mission condo owner, you want higher RE prices.

Posted by anon on Mar. 13, 2013 @ 8:23 am

in anon's statement, "people can spend hundreds of hours and then come up with total BS," which accurately describes his contributions to these comment pages.

Down with stupidity!!!

Power to the thoughtful!!!

Posted by San Francisco Anti-Stupidity Campaign on Mar. 13, 2013 @ 12:01 pm

carp from the peanut gallery.

'Twas ever so.

Posted by anon on Mar. 13, 2013 @ 5:06 pm

Good point. It would be terrible to subtract value. Those million dollar condos might sell for less than a million, and then where would we be?

Posted by baklazhan on Mar. 14, 2013 @ 12:48 am

You're a renter, I'd assume.

Posted by anon on Mar. 14, 2013 @ 6:08 am

Why should we subsidize auto repair by allocating valuable real estate to low-value uses? If there is demand for office and residential space, let the market (i.e., what people actually want and will pay for instead of what politicians think they should have) decide

Posted by Guest on Mar. 13, 2013 @ 6:24 am

Because we need a complete city so that people don't have to take hours from their days to run minor errands around the Bay Area that they should be able to do locally.

Posted by marcos on Mar. 13, 2013 @ 6:49 am

But if there is one thing we are not short of in SOMA and the Mission it is auto repair shops. There are hundreds of them.

There are better uses for places like SOMA where we can build multiple floors.

Posted by anon on Mar. 13, 2013 @ 7:24 am

The community as expressed through five years of open, public process disagrees with you. Even the regulatory captured Planning Department, which crimped the the community plan before they'd introduce it is okay with it.

Only libertarian trolls have a problem with the WSOMA plan which is music to my ears.

It is not just auto repair but all sorts of lower economic footprint businesses that create blue collar jobs and provide work a day services to San Franciscans that are more important than upzoning office space around a "transit corridor" that might see a 15% increase in capacity once the subway opens.

Posted by marcos on Mar. 13, 2013 @ 7:44 am

SF "progressives": libertarian on drugs, authoritarian on productive activity

Posted by Guest on Mar. 13, 2013 @ 7:53 am

them something financial and they want bureaucrats in cheap suits to micromanage it. That's why socialist economies have always failed, while capitalism has been successful.

The politics of envy hates success and prosperity.

Posted by anon on Mar. 13, 2013 @ 8:16 am

evaluate the advanced capitalist economies that are presently in extreme crisis.

Down with stupidity!!!

Power to the thoughtful!!!

Posted by San Francisco Anti-Stupidity Campaign on Mar. 13, 2013 @ 8:48 am

How is North Korea doing these days? What about the USSR and the myriad other failed socialist states? China turned around coincidentally when it began to embrace the market. Does the entire world have to become a failed socialist hellhole before you learn that capitalism works far better, or are you simply incapable of reconsidering your beliefs?

Posted by Guest on Mar. 13, 2013 @ 8:58 am

but he feels no hypocrisy in spending all day here telling us how great they all surely must be, from a safe distance of course, and inbetween wolfing down a big mac, fries and a coke.

Posted by anon on Mar. 13, 2013 @ 9:18 am

addressing the issues, anon resorts to personal attack and to raising irrelevant points.

Most likely, later today or soon thereafter, he will decry the efforts of thoughtful commenters to counter his "arguments" as personal attack

How are things in France, Italy, Great Britain, Greece, the United States...?

Yeah North Korea is bad, but worse than Bahrain or Saudi Arabia, capitalist paradises?

How about opening your mind to consider the improvements in Brazil, Venezuela, Ecuador and Bolivia?

Posted by San Francisco Anti-Stupidity Campaign on Mar. 13, 2013 @ 10:03 am

Yes, a significant residential upzoning did not show enough deference to the gods of the market, so they complain.

Posted by marcos on Mar. 13, 2013 @ 10:15 am

meaningless "plan" to get that removed is something we can live with.

I suspect you will not like what ends up there.

Posted by anon on Mar. 13, 2013 @ 10:26 am

No, I will not like 65' on Folsom, but we prevented more than we let through.

Posted by marcos on Mar. 13, 2013 @ 6:00 pm

Last time I checked, they had a Conservative, pro-capitalist government.

Posted by anon on Mar. 13, 2013 @ 10:19 am

Incidentally, Greece's problems are the result of a bloated public sector. The other European countries you named are also suffering from excessive government spending.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 13, 2013 @ 10:34 am

PIIGS borrow in Euros but cannot produce Euros.

The US borrows in USD and has the monopoly franchise on producing USD.

There is no comparison.

Posted by marcos on Mar. 13, 2013 @ 10:59 am

Your point?

Posted by Guest on Mar. 13, 2013 @ 11:05 am

EU states are not monetary sovereigns, they've forfeited that to the ECB. They are in debt like a family in a currency they cannot produce, and are at risk of default.

The US is a monetary sovereign, has exclusive control over the production of its own currency, and therefore it is impossible for such a state to default on its debt like a family or a EU state unless it wants to default.

Posted by marcos on Mar. 13, 2013 @ 11:20 am

Why are you talking about default?

Posted by Guest on Mar. 13, 2013 @ 11:41 am
Posted by anon on Mar. 14, 2013 @ 6:07 am

Waving of the hands that your opponent is cornered to deflect from your own demolition does not make it so, it only highlights your failures.

Posted by marcos on Mar. 14, 2013 @ 7:26 am

Default is the alleged downside of excessive public sector debt, that we will not be able to pay it or the interest. Since the US has monetary sovereignty, those fears are baseless, comparisons to Europe groundless.

Posted by marcos on Mar. 14, 2013 @ 7:26 am

various parts of it can, and in fact have done. We're starting to see more municipal bankruptcies, and some bigger cities like Detroit and Oakland could be facing that.

The voters have had enough with out-of-control public spending and will demand repudiation of the debts incurred. Too bad for municipal workers whose gravy train will be derailed as a result.

Posted by anon on Mar. 14, 2013 @ 7:43 am

Debtors that are not economic sovereigns have to generate revenues to pay their debts in the currency in which the debt is denominated.

This includes US states, counties and municipalities as well as every European Union member state.

That does not apply to the United States Government which is constitutionally vested with economic sovereignty and can never default on debts denominated in currency that it and only it has the constitutional license to create.

Posted by marcos on Mar. 14, 2013 @ 8:05 am

better place to live than a socialist nation supposedly doing well, if you can even name one.

Posted by anon on Mar. 13, 2013 @ 9:00 am

precisely because knowledge work creates far more prosperity than grubbing around with your hands.

SOMA and the south-east is the last frontier of SF where mixed-use density can be scaled for optimal success and returns.

And in fact auto shops such as you suggest are closing down and being replaced by higher-value service businesses.

We all know you're weirdly nostalgic about SF's industrial past (not that you would know a wrench if you tripped over one) but those days are gone, and you need to start looking forward, not back.

Who cares what the "community" thinks. This is about what is best for the city and the bay area. The "community" there is mostly intinerants and peripatetics anyway.

Think big.

Posted by anon on Mar. 13, 2013 @ 8:20 am

If you want auto repair, move to Alameda County, or better yet, Montana!

Posted by Guest on Mar. 13, 2013 @ 11:20 am

Until transit is an attractive alternative for many, many will need auto repair, amongst other businesses with similar economic footprints that can't compete with housing and office.

Good land use planning and zoning anticipates and provides for that.

If you're to the right of Mark Farrell, then you're off the charts.

Posted by marcos on Mar. 13, 2013 @ 11:30 am

If auto owners want to pay more to have repair done nearby, they can. If they prefer to do it in Oakland or Daly City, they can also do that. Your solution requires that the rest of us pay for auto owners' convenience.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 13, 2013 @ 11:44 am

as to how its members are paying for "auto owners' convenience."

The SFASC never received a bill. When will it arrive? Are we revisiting the fallacious subsidy argument?

Down with stupidity!!!

Power to the thoughtful!!!

Posted by San Francisco Anti-Stupidity Campaign on Mar. 13, 2013 @ 11:58 am

Rents are high because of inadequate supply. We all pay the cost of too little development every month. By setting aside land that otherwise would be used to add housing for auto repair, you give a gift to auto owners at the expense of renters.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 13, 2013 @ 12:46 pm

new development of housing. Works for me.

Posted by anon on Mar. 13, 2013 @ 5:04 pm

"If the Board of Supervisors didn't reserve the space for low-value uses..."

Most five year olds understand that just because you can't place an immediate market price doesn't mean value does not exist.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 13, 2013 @ 7:49 am

Most adults understand that allocating resources politically is wasteful at best.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 13, 2013 @ 8:06 am

Which is why people have no faith in government. Congress is now down to a 11% approval rating.

Why anyone trusts the givernment to get anything done is beyond me.

Posted by anon on Mar. 13, 2013 @ 8:24 am

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