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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.

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