Planning Commission Approves Parking-Free 1050 Valencia Project

A rendering of the 1050 Valencia project. Image: ##http://sf.curbed.com/archives/2012/09/05/contentious_1050_valencia1_hill_project_up_before_planning.php##Stephen Antonaros via Curbed##

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.

  • Anonymous

    Fantastic news! Long overdue. We need more housing that isn’t made expensive by unnecessary parking.

  • Yeah to no parking! Boo to really ugly architecture! 

  • Anonymous

    You don’t like Emeryville Modern?
    – brian

  • Anonymous

    Great news. My only complaint (well, besides it’s kinda ugly) is that it’s 1-story too tall for the neighborhood.

    Just curious: what business is going to be at the street-level?

  • James

    correction: it does not host a vacant restaurant space.  It’s a sushi restaurant.

  • Ah yes, that opened recently, didn’t it? Fixed it.

  • Easy

    Good job folks who went to testify in favor!

  • Sprague

    Undoubtedly other developers will follow the lead of this project and they, too, should receive the planning commission’s support.

  • J

    I find it weird that this is such a news story. In NYC, parking requirements are waived in many districts if the lot is less than a certain width, or if the the number of required parking spaces is below a certain threshold. Here is an example from a widely-used zoning district:

    http://www.nyc.gov/html/dcp/pdf/zone/zoning_handbook/r6b.pdf

  • I wish new developers would embrace retro style. Check out this restored building in Boyle Heights 

    http://www.theeastsiderla.com/2012/07/boyle-heights-landmark-gets-unwrapped/ I certainly wouldn’t mind if developers made buildings that looked like this or looked like anything pre 1950’s.

  • lukewho

    I hope that this is just the first – and ugliest – of a new trend of car-free housing in SF.

  • Sfdesigner

    So you want SF to be Disneyland? We should be moving forward. Not backwards.

  • John

    I am reminded of that famous line by
    Churchill: “Yes, Madam, I am drunk, but in the morning I shall be sober and you will still be ugly.”  

  • Anonymous

    A bit sad that the Marsh opposed this.

  • Anonymous

    That’s not “retro” or “historicism” but an old building with good bones that has been renovated sensitively. That’s very different from doing a new “old” building, which is at its core a concept that lacks integrity, even when done well.

  • dbarchitect: “Check out this **restored** building in Boyle Heights “, I’m well aware this isn’t a new building. 

    Sfdesigner: Move forward? Sounds like the thinking that gave us the great freeway movement! Progress, woo! And I am using that building as an example, naturally I believe a SF historic style building would be more fitted for SF.

    I just saying that cities used to rock. We used to have beautiful buildings that were scaled to pedestrian life. I think there’s no shame in bringing back what cities lost. A lot of great cities have wonderful architecture that stands the test of time and while a new “old” building isn’t the same as a preserved historic building, it can still be done right. I guess I just tend to agree with Steven Mouzon of http://www.originalgreen.org

  • Charles_Siegel

     More accurately, Emeryville Post-Modern.

  • Charles_Siegel

    I strongly disagree with the commenters who say that all neo-traditional buildings “lack integrity” and are “Disneyland.” 

    I would say that these belated modernists are the ones who are retro: they are just repeating the architectural dogmas of the 1950s.  Architecture began to move beyond modernism during the 1970s, but there has been a reactionary move back to mid-century modernism in the last decade. 

    http://preservenet.blogspot.com/2011/12/after-modern-architecture-postmodernism.html

  • whenInSoCal

    Does this mean that in San Francisco condos and apartments as a rule can now be built without parking, or is it a cumbersome variance request for each individual case?

  • Anonymous

    I am surprised this is something new for San Francisco. This seems like something that should have happened years ago given how little land is available. At any rate, I hope this becomes the norm. Recently, Philadelphia passed a zoning ordinance outlawing rowhouses with front garages on most streets.

  • dkw

    Just moved to SF from Seattle where they had no minimum parking requirement for the Center City and a maximum of 1 stall/1000 sf, that’s been in place for several years to little deletrious effect.  It seems SF has some catching up to do.

  • Nlgraham1

    Great. Another step backwards in de-development. Is the next project going to have designated horse and buggy lanes?

  • Anonymous

    I don’t see the issue with height here. It’s a corner property on a relatively busy commercial corridor with other buildings on the same block that are a similar height. BART represents a huge, ongoing public investment. You maximize that investment by making it accessible to as many people as possible. If density is going to be anywhere in a city it should be near rail stations

  • Anonymous

    @spijim:disqus It’s definitely significantly higher than the surrounding buildings. Take a look at this street view shot (Spork on the right is where the building will be):
    http://goo.gl/maps/v8Xwg

    But otherwise, the decided-upon plan is a good one.

  • Anonymous

    @c27542acc027540e6137c9f80b64b690:disqus Ah yes: thanks for reminding us that if it’s not built around the car it must be a step backward. I keep forgetting that more and more cars — regardless of all their absolutely destruction to our health, the environment, and the livability of our cities — is the future.

  • Anonymous

    oops. you’re right. I was a block and half off. 

  • Anonymous

    Already-tired architecture, but goodbye KFC building!

  • Sue

    Ugly, and probably way too expensive for most San Franciscans, but car-free is certainly an excellent start. Can we do something about the uglification of SF along with the struggle for affordability?

  • UrbanUndead

    Heh. Harsh, but fair.

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