A car-free, 12-unit condo and retail development was approved unanimously yesterday by the SF Planning Commission, despite opposition from some residents. The project will include no car parking and 28 bike parking spaces.
The building at 1050 Valencia Street will be targeted toward residents seeking the kind of car-free lifestyle that’s increasingly popular in neighborhoods like the Mission District, which is short on housing but among the most walkable, bikeable, and transit-rich parts of San Francisco. The building will be located on the corner of Valencia and Hill Streets, along one of the city’s most heavily-traveled bicycling streets and business corridors. It’s also close to the 24th Street BART station and several major Muni lines. Currently, the site hosts a restaurant space.
Since 2009, opponents have attacked the project on a number of grounds, including the assertion that residents moving into the building will own cars and compete with existing neighbors for street parking, even though residents in units without dedicated parking are less likely to own cars, and about half of residential parking garages in the Mission aren’t used for car storage.
“The reality is that until there is an alternative, people will need cars and a place to park them,” said Liberty Hill Neighborhood Association representative Risa Teitelbaum, who wanted the project to include some car share spaces. “The residents of this building will be no different.”
Tim Colen, executive director of the Housing Action Coalition, argued to the Planning Commission that the project follows the goals set in the Eastern Neighborhoods Plan — to build denser, less car-dependent neighborhoods. Two of the project’s 12 apartments will be priced below market rate. “This is a way to get housing more affordable and more accessible to the folks who we say we want to live here,” he said. “We want to see less emphasis on cars — private auto use. This project does it.”
“There’s certainly demand for car-free apartments from plain folks,” said Livable City Director Tom Radulovich, who lives in the Mission. “We see this in the census — the number of car-free households has increased in the past decade.”
Kimberly Conley, who lives nearby on Valencia without a car, told the commission that there was a significant amount neighborhood support of the project.
“I think this is exactly the neighborhood where [living without a car is] possible,” said Conley. “As a young professional who originally moved to the Mission because it is transit-rich, I was discouraged at the time at the lack of small apartments and places to live.” (It’s worth noting that Conley recently held her wedding with ‘Deep Jawa on their residential parklet on Valencia during Sunday Streets.)
Planning commissioners Gwyneth Borden and Cindy Wu echoed Conley’s sentiment, noting that they both live nearby and mostly rely on transit. “It is transit-rich,” said Borden. “It’s close to BART — I don’t even own a car.”
Opponents also complained that the density, height, and architecture of the building are not appropriate for the neighborhood, though the project sponsors pointed out that there are others like it close by. The architecture of the project has already been tweaked, and it was downsized from its original size of 16 units. Opposition has also been organized by the Marsh, a performance theater next door to the building, which submitted a petition primarily based on complaints about noise and shadows.
While few projects in San Francisco are currently built without parking, Colen noted that the real estate market in Portland, Oregon has caught on more quickly to the growing demand for car-free living. Two-thirds of new rental apartments being built in that city include no parking. “What do they know that we don’t know?” said Colen.
The project’s approval seems likely to appealed by opponents. Read more from the hearing at Mission Local.