Appeals Board Reverses Vote to Downsize Parking-Free 1050 Valencia

The San Francsco Board of Appeals voted yesterday to reverse its decision to downsize the long-embattled condo project at 1050 Valencia Street in the Mission. The project includes no car parking and one bike parking space for each unit.

Image: Architect Stephen Antonaros via Mission Local

The vote restores the full 12 units approved by the Planning Department and Board of Supervisors. The Appeals Board had voted in December to chop off one of the building’s five floors, removing three units, two of which would be subsidized affordable housing. The downsizing was intended to appease vociferous neighbors opposed to the perceived increase in noise, shadows, and competition for curbside parking spaces, since new residents wouldn’t have off-street parking. (Studies show that residents who move into a home without a dedicated parking space are less likely to own and drive cars.)

Housing development advocates successfully challenged the Board of Appeals vote on the grounds that it violated the California Housing Accountability Act. The Housing Action Coalition explains in a press release:

Under the California “Housing Accountability Act,” for a local agency to condition approval of a housing project on reducing its density to less than that allowed by law, the agency must make findings that the project would have a “specific adverse impact on public health and safety” unless the density is reduced.

HAC Executive Director Tim Colen argued to the Board of Appeals that, in fact, restricting the amount of desperately-needed housing in transit-oriented projects like 1050 Valencia is what’s harmful to public health and the economy. “Among the consequences are discrimination against low-income and minority households, lack of housing to support employment growth, imbalance in jobs and housing, reduced mobility, urban sprawl, excessive commuting, and air quality deterioration,” he said.

The Board of Appeals’ vote to reverse its own decision was “highly unusual,” the HAC said. “While it might seem odd to a lot of folks that so much attention and energy has been focused on such a small project, the Board’s decision was quite noteworthy.”

At the hearing, a few dozen speakers urged the board to uphold its vote to downsize. Most protested the building’s size because of perceived shadow and noise impacts on the neighboring Marsh Theater. As a condition of the permit, the board mandated that the top floor have a setback, meaning that floor would be smaller than other floors in the building, and have smaller apartments.

Amandeep Jawa, a neighbor and sustainable transportation advocate, told the board he doesn’t “feel that [the project] changes the character of the neighborhood one iota,” especially since there are many taller buildings nearby. “We can’t afford to lose more housing in San Francisco,” he said.

Elsewhere in the city, a few other housing developments with little or no car parking seem to be moving along, and with little protest. At Sutter and Jones Streets in the Tendernob, a 20-unit apartment building with no parking was scheduled for consideration by the Planning Commission today. A few blocks away, at Sutter and Polk Streets, a nine-story building would include up to 40 dwelling units, 6 parking spaces for cars and 35 for bikes, and a commercial space on the ground floor.

At 468 Clementina Steret in SoMa, between Fifth and Sixth Streets, a parking-free 13-unit building was approved for construction in November.

  • bobster1985

    Hurrah! Some sanity at last!

  • Ian Turner

    This is great news, but something tells me we are not going to solve San Francisco’s housing problems 10-20 units at a time, unless there are far far more of these projects.

  • CS

    Seriously. Keep this going please. Oh, could someone build some stuff in these empty downtown lots in Oakland while we’re at it?

  • Jim Greer

    Wow! This is the best news I’ve heard all week.

  • J

    12 car free units is a drop in the bucket, and look at the ridiculous hurdles this project had to go through. In nyc, small car free projects like this are accepted as of right. SF needs to seriously rethink its zoning codes if it wants to add population and keep down housing prices without adding more cars.

  • gneiss

    This had nothing to do with zoning codes. The builder has complied with all zoning codes in the design that was approved by the Planning Board. Simply put, it was San Francisco NIMBY-ism at it’s absolute worst. A group of neighbors that style themselves the ‘Liberty Hill Neighborhood Associations’ were concerned about tightening on-street parking from the new residents if this building was constructed without off street parking and used a number of obstructionist tactics to try and prevent it from getting built, claiming it was ‘out of character’ with the rest of the area, but really, it was about parking spots. In addition, people from the Marsh Theatre next door were worried they might get pushed out due to the ever nebulous ‘gentrification’.

    Because of the way SF works, even with planning compliance, a small, vocal, group of neighbors could still hold up a project like this in appeals to various city boards and committees for 8 years. This project shows more than anything why we need to reshape the process to approve construction to mitigate these kinds of delays. Watching projects like this make you realize it’s no wonder we have a housing crisis in the city.

  • North Oakland

    Oakland is, and the neighbors are not very excited. 8 live work units on a currently empty lot 5500 and 5510 Lowell Street (empty if you don’t count the great concrete alligator). Formal notice at:
    http://www2.oaklandnet.com/w/OAK045592
    Comments were due on February 24th, I am curious to see if the City will require changes or move the project forward as is. The concerns are the expected ones: shading, parking, to large for the neighborhood.

  • Guest

    1050 Valencia is north of The Marsh. There are few hours during some of the year that a building north of The Marsh will cast shadows on The Marsh.

  • Thomas ridde

    Three cheers for HAC!! SF needs housing that is affordable by design which means no parking

    And thanks to the Liberty Hill Neighborhood Association clowns for another great project needlessly enduring years of political shenanigans, delays and extra cost. LHNA, only concerned about traffic delays and parking competition for its old rich white members, also fought the beautification of Cesar Chavez and Valencia streets, also unsuccessfully.

    LHNA always trumpets itself as a very powerful group (and when they leech onto a nonprofit, like the Marsh theatre, they come close). But ultimately they always fall on their face. Just die please!!

  • BellaDancer

    Standard urban planning policy calls for zero-parking new residential construction to be excluded from residential permit parking.

    Here’s one example:

    http://www.berkeleyside.com/2013/10/17/innovative-housing-with-rooftop-farms-set-for-southside/

  • gneiss

    Back again for more punishment? This is certainly not *standard* urban planning policy. We’ve hashed this out before – there’s no reason why this building is any different then the thousands of others that exist in San Francisco that don’t have dedicated residential parking.

    We are not Berkeley where only a handful of buildings don’t have dedicated off-street parking.

  • keenplanner

    Berkeley thinks like a suburb.

  • Not a good policy to discriminate against the new folks. It is pandering in the worst way.

  • BellaDancer

    It’s different because the developer expressly said that this building was intended for people who did not need or want individual cars, people who would walk, bike and use public transit.

  • 94103er

    Ooh careful, that might be too subtle Mission-style snark for some.

  • 94103er

    And you still don’t get it. When you decided to get a parking permit the city made it clear to you that your space isn’t guaranteed. But at the same time, you are free to do with that car what you wish. Barring future residents from future RPP implies the city’s reserving that parking for you. They are not, in fact.

    The price of parking needs to be always decoupled from housing. If the city is enjoined from raising the monetary price of parking then at least they can raise the price by making you waste time looking for parking. Macroeconomics tells us parking will be increasingly scarce until the market self-regulates: some of you will decide to stop storing your cars on the street.

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