Supes Narrowly Reject EIR Appeal Against Car-Free Condos at 1050 Valencia

The proposed parking-free, 12-unit condo and retail development at 1050 Valencia Street narrowly cleared a hurdle Tuesday after a 6-5 vote by the Board of Supervisors, which rejected an appeal that contended the project should be required to have a full environmental impact report.

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##

The project, approved by the Planning Commission more than a year ago, has faced continued opposition for several years, organized by the Liberty Hill Neighborhood Association and the neighboring Marsh Theater. LHNA contends that new residents will own cars despite the lack of dedicated parking — even though a growing body of research shows otherwise — and take up street parking spots. Meanwhile, the Marsh’s protests focus on potential noise and shadows.

The latest appeal protests the Planning Department’s determination that the project does not require a full EIR under the California Environmental Quality Act because it complies with the zoning of the Eastern Neighborhoods Plan, for which an area-wide EIR was already done. Five supervisors voted to uphold the appeal — David Campos, John Avalos, Malia Cohen, Eric Mar, and Jane Kim. It next goes to the Board of Appeals.

Stephen Williams and other LHNA reps argued that the project’s location on Valencia at Hill Street, between 21st and 22nd Streets, was not a “transit-rich” area where residents would be able to live without cars, though studies show that residents who move into 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.

“What does ‘transit-rich’ mean? No one knows,” Williams said in response to Supervisor Scott Wiener, who pointed out that the location is within one block of Mission Street, which has some of the most frequent Muni service in the city, and less than half a mile from BART’s 16th and 24th Street stations. Valencia is also one of the most heavily-traveled streets for bicycle commuting, and the building will have indoor parking for 28 bikes.

“I don’t think anybody should consider that transit-rich,” Williams said.

“If we can’t build 12 units of car-free living development in this walkable, transit-rich, bikeable community, where in the city will we?” said Paolo Cosulich-Schwartz, business and community program manager for the SF Bicycle Coalition.

Housing Action Coalition Executive Director Tim Colen expressed frustration with the CEQA appeals process that allows opponents to continually stall the project, which has been in the works since 2007, was downsized from 16 condos to 12, and includes affordable housing units on-site.

“Apparently, no good deed goes unpunished in this town,” said Colen, who said the project could set a precedent for the political support and confidence from financial lenders that’s needed to bring car-free housing developments to the city. “We have to get more projects approved like this.”

Supervisor Campos, who seemed convinced at a recent hearing on a housing project at 480 Potrero Street that residents would own cars regardless of the amount of dedicated parking provided, amplified appellants’ arguments that CEQA guidelines could require a full EIR to determine if residents of the 12 new units could be accommodated with transit without a “significant” environmental impact. Campos also echoed claims that the elimination of the 26-Valencia line in 2009 should trigger the requirement for an EIR, although Planning staffers said the project’s “negative declaration” against the requirement of an EIR came in 2010.

“It seems to me that there is a very valid point that there are a lot of changes that have taken place [on Valencia] that require an in-depth review in terms of the environmental impact,” said Campos.

“I am uncomfortable with the fact that it’s a no-parking project,” said Supervisor Cohen. “I think it excludes seniors and families with children.”

A few LHNA members said that new residents in the building shouldn’t be allowed to apply for residential parking permits, so that they wouldn’t compete with existing car owners for street parking.

“We’re talking about 12 households,” said Walk SF Executive Director Nicole Schneider. “If I chose to live to live in this apartment complex, I would go into that knowing that I couldn’t have space for parking a car. People are going to self-select.”

“Zero-parking projects make sense for San Francisco,” Schneider said.

  • bourbon

    I grew up in a city in Europe. As a child, I would take the bus and walk to get to school. When I was too young to do this alone, an adult or older sibling would accompany me on their way to their own destinations. A car is absolutely not necessary for families with kids, however I agree that Muni is appalling. It simply can not be considered a functioning transit system. The solution however isn’t to defend parking as do so many advocates, but to push for better transit. It is an absolute necessity.

  • NoeValleyJim

    I have a bike seat. We also have a cargo bike that can carry two:

    http://farm6.static.flickr.com/5030/5619914305_434c49988f.jpg

    Something like this works too, when they are bigger:

    http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_p0SE26rNJ6k/TH8qsrTgbCI/AAAAAAAADLk/CyR42xXPOZw/s1600/trail-a-bike.jpg

  • BellaDancer

    Residents of The Garden Village project in Berkeley will not be eligible for residential permit parking:

    “Building tenants will not be eligible for Residential Parking Permits (RPP’s) with the City of Berkeley, pursuant to BMC 23E.68.080.F. The City’s Finance Department, Customer Service Center, will prevent
    any tenant with an address located at the building from obtaining a RPP. Furthermore, the building owner will be required to provide sample leases and/or contracts including such notification to the project planner prior to issuance of an occupancy permit or final inspection.
    The building owner does not intend to arrange for off-site parking. However, if off-site parking arrangements were ever made during building operation by management for tenants, such parking would only be provided to tenants at market rates, unbundled from their rent.”
    http://www.transformca.org/files/130313_garden_village_traffic_reduction_measures_final.pdf

  • Sprague

    Muni certainly needs improvement, but it is functional. It gets half of our family to work and school on a daily basis and it’s usually on-time and reliable.

  • BellaDancer

    From SFMTA last week — on-time performance statistics for the 14, the 49, the J and systemwide.

  • Thanks for the info, @azb324:disqus and @d764bc6d11305aec60d6461ea56f6638:disqus! I sort of suspected as much, but it’s good to be a little more certain. IMHO, this whole discussion just reinforces the need for comprehensive CEQA reform. These kinds of value decisions are really not environmental issues, but as long as CEQA allows them to be appealed/litigated ad infinitum, project opponents will continue to use them as the mechanism to achieve other ends (i.e., smaller buildings).

  • OneSF

    Can you give me a link to that?

  • BellaDancer

    SFMTA sent it to me in response to my request. You can email them at SFMTA Sunshine Requests

  • murphstahoe

    Do you believe it’s smart policy, or do you want to keep it easier for you personally to park your car?

    You are wrapping your comments in policy and even environmental talk, but I wager you speak with forked tongue.

  • bourbon

    I guess it depends on how generous you wish to be with the term “functional”. A bus that stops. at. every. damn. block. and takes forever to accelerate and decelerate is just not a reasonable option. I’m painfully slow and out of shape, and I’m still usually twice as fast on my bike then on a bus.

    I don’t condone the entitled and myopic car-centric view of parking advocates, but that said, I totally understand that if they can afford it, they will choose their cars over Muni in a heartbeat. The solution is to advocate for better transit, of course, not parking. But it’s not constructive to insist that people can just use Muni when it’s obvious why they won’t.

    There is a lot of money in SF, no reason not to have better transit.

  • murphstahoe

    But it’s not constructive to insist that people can just use Muni when it’s obvious why they won’t.

    Yet 700,000 boardings happen daily…

    If you work at 1050 Valencia and work downtown, there is no way that door to door, driving a car can beat BART. Even with the walk to BART and whatever your walk from BART to the office would be, getting downtown in a car at rush hour is brutal, and from BART you can walk right to your office, instead of parking “wherever”. Not to mention the presumably stiff parking costs downtown.

    This is also why the N-Judah and 30X and 1-California and all of GGT are jam packed.

  • bourbon

    Yes, Bart is great, but has little coverage. My comments were only about Muni, and were aimed more at the buses than the light rail.

    And yes, many people use Muni, I did too when I first moved to SF, before I realized how much better biking was. That doesn’t mean it’s not a horrible excuse for a transit system. Again, those who can afford it will understandibly prefer to use a car. People who can’t will contend with Muni. If we had a less aggravating system those who have to take Muni could have a semi-decent commute and those who can afford a car might willingly choose Muni anyway.

  • Wanderer

    I get constant e-mail from the Marsh Theatre about how the condo project is going to destroy them, how it’s ridiculous to consider Valencia St. transit rich, and generally how the friends of the theatre should oppose the project. It’s really sad to see a well-respected San Francisco arts organization, long resident in the Mission, behave this way.

  • 94103er

    I know plenty of well-to-do men who bike to work. Not as many women, but a few. We can hope that the tide is changing re attitudes about what’s socially acceptable re transit, I guess.

    Expansion of BABS can’t come soon enough.

  • BellaDancer

    I believe it’s smart policy to have excellent public transit, to be bicycle-friendly and to have car-share. And i believe it’s smart policy to exclude zero-parking residential construction from residential parking permits.

  • Ryan Brady

    It can be both.

    That’s sort of like saying “Bikes running stop signs isn’t caused by poor engineering. It’s caused by a lack of enforcement.”

  • Ryan Brady

    I did, and it was a huge hassle. I have spent 30+ minutes circling for parking, and most days that I stayed home sick I ended up getting street cleaning parking fines.

    It’s a bad idea, and I’m surprised anyone does own a car here.

  • murphstahoe

    Excluding zero parking developments induces more car use – which is bicycle unfriendly and bad for transit

  • BellaDancer

    “To attract residents willing to forgo car ownership, Boston needs to allow car-free housing but also forbid residents of such housing from getting on-street parking permits.”

    Stephanie Pollack, Dukakis Center for Urban and Regional Policy

    http://www.northeastern.edu/dukakiscenter/the-boston-globe-research-misread-in-debate-over-car-free-housing-101613/

  • BellaDancer

    “Building tenants will not be eligible for Residential
    Parking Permits (RPP’s) with the City of Berkeley, pursuant to BMC
    23E.68.080.F. The City’s Finance Department, Customer Service Center, will
    prevent any tenant with an address located at the building from obtaining a RPP”

    http://www.transformca.org/files/130313_garden_village_traffic_reduction_measures_final.pdf

  • BellaDancer

    “To attract residents willing to forgo car ownership, Boston
    needs to allow car-free housing but also forbid residents of such housing from getting on-street parking permits.”
    -Stephanie Pollack, Associate Director, Dukakis Center for
    Urban and Regional Policy

    http://www.northeastern.edu/dukakiscenter/the-boston-globe-research-misread-in-debate-over-car-free-housing-101613/

  • 94103er

    Inertia and a blithe ignorance of the economics are strong pulls toward car ownership, I’m afraid. Also, the city doesn’t have the balls to seriously ramp up carshare pods. They need to start taking street spaces for this. Otherwise, people in single-family-home villages like Glen Park aren’t going to consider signing up. In fact, even the commercial-street-dense NW Mission and eastern Castro have a serious shortage of carshare pods right now.

  • murphstahoe

    So lets say we disallow the RPP’s, and the developer comes back with a new design that includes parking. Do you consider that preferable to a design with no parking but allowing RPPs?

    If so, then stop with the claim that you want bike friendly. You want parking friendly. Period.

  • 94103er

    I’m curious–is the reason for this that people who move to 1050 Valencia are gonna be bloody-minded and keep their car or even buy one and then circle for parking in the non-RPP zones if they can’t get a permit?

    I gotta say, I really don’t get the intense bickering about all this. I moved into an old 6-unit place with no parking in 2000 and got an S permit and it was a total joke–there was no parking to be had, anywhere. A few extra cars in whatever zone this is, or not, just ain’t gonna make a big difference. Maybe some permit holders will decide to give up their car, or find secure off-street parking. I did (by moving to a house).

    Difficulty of parking changes with economic cycles, not the amount of housing that goes up in an area.

  • murphstahoe

    700,000 MUNI rides daily. 400,000 BART rides daily. 450,000 cars registered in San Francisco. 50,000 Caltrain rides daily.

    There are hundreds of thousands of people in SF who own cars but who commute on transit.

  • murphstahoe

    Nothing about this is rational. People will leave notes on legally parked cars (not at a curb cut) in front of their house because they are parked in “their spot”.

    Edit: It’s plenty rational. Even though the added competition is small, people will hold onto every edge, perceived or real, even if holding on to that edge produces a side effect clearly explained to them which goes against their self-interest.

  • murphstahoe

    Question: If they build parking spots, do they get to have RPPs?

    By your assertions above, this will result in 2 car families moving in who keep one car in the garage and one on the street. And you’ll be every bit as screwed for parking and the neighborhood will have even more trips generated.

  • It’s a 7-minute walk to BART: http://goo.gl/maps/HgTid

    But BABS is also fun.

  • @NoeValleyJim – I had to thumb you down as part of an agenda of opposition to everything. I’m thumbing myself down, too.

  • @Wanderer – Please come to the Marsh to see my one-man stand up improv act, “It’s So Hard To Park Around Here, Ammirite?”

  • neroden

    Exclusive streetcar lanes & bus lanes would be necessary to improve that rate.

  • I don’t think that’s how the RPP process works.

  • If a bus is one minute late, I cannot get to work!!!

  • jd_x

    If you’ve ever seen the crowd waiting in line for a show at the Marsh, you know the majority aren’t from the neighborhood. And I think it’s pretty clear (especially given the theater’s position on this issue) that in order to get to the neighborhood, most of the Marsh’s patrons drive. So it’s no surprise that they are going to defend the status quo. But it’s really a shame, because I think it’s great to get people from different neighborhoods and different demographics to the Mission (not to mention getting more theater and the arts in general in the neighborhood and less hoighty-toighty restaurants) … except if they are going to get all “from my cold dead hands” about their free/subsidized car parking which is crushing the livability of the city.