A spat over parking that kept hundreds of new apartments in limbo has been resolved.
Back in July, we covered One Oak Street and its status as the first of a series of projects to revitalize the Van Ness Hub as a destination for housing, culture, and transit connectivity. Since then, the project has encountered a number of obstacles, including a formal appeal of the project’s Environmental Impact Report (EIR) to the Board of Supervisors, as well as pending interim limits on off-street parking in the zone, both of which had the potential to jeopardize its financial viability. All that came to a head this week when the EIR appeal was withdrawn as a result of a deal brokered between the developer and neighborhood leaders by Board President London Breed.
In announcing that the deal, Board President Breed thanked everyone involved for their patience in the process, and described the result as a "win-win” scenario for the developer and community stakeholders. While “not a fan” of luxury condo development, Breed described the project as in the end bringing a number of benefits, including affordable housing and significant site improvements, to an area which had been “blighted and underutilized for decades.”
Breed also noted that “these developments still have environmental impacts… They need to be offset with benefits that will actually improve the community. The appellant knew that there were additional impacts that needed to be explored, and as our city grows, buildings get built, and our neighborhoods get more dense…the more impacted services will become…We know this is flawed, so we as legislators need to find our own way to make sure that we are developing in a smarter and more sophisticated way."
The agreement calls for the Planning Department and the City Attorney to explore and implement including traffic impacts from the operations of Transportation Network Companies, as well as other new traffic impacts, in future regulation and legislation.
Additionally, One Oak Street's project sponsor, BUILD:, will add another $3 million to the approximately $26 million already contributed in affordable housing impact fees, along with other public benefit contributions, including public space and utility improvements, totaling almost $108 million. In exchange, One Oak Street will be grandfathered under the planned interim controls limiting off-street parking in the Market Street Hub area, and the EIR appeal has been withdrawn.
That appeal, which had been filed by Jason Henderson, a professor at San Francisco State University and corresponding secretary of the Hayes Valley Neighborhood Association, had described One Oak’s EIR as “inadequate,” failing to analyze alternatives with on-site inclusionary housing, wind impacts, as well as effective overall vehicle miles traveled, particularly by Transportation Network Companies such as Uber and Lyft. “This is a part of San Francisco where the tolerance for more VMT is zero,” the appeal read.
The negotiations, carried out by Lou Vasquez and Michael Yarne representing BUILD:, and Hayes Valley Neighborhood Association president Gail Baugh and other board members, literally went down to the wire. Breed gave the parties some extra time during Tuesday’s Board meeting by juggling items on the special order agenda, but made it clear to both sides that the appeal would be decided upon that day and would not be continued again.
In the end, BUILD: offered the additional $3 million in affordable housing impact fees, which means that Below Market Rate (BMR) housing will now comprise 30% of the total number of units added to the area by the project. Much of this housing will be built on neighboring parcels where the developer relinquished rights to build market rate housing, and worked with the Mayor’s Office of Housing to donate design work.
40% of the BMR units built will also be covered under the city’s new Neighborhood Preference Legislation, which will allow nearby residents to have first choice to move in. Many of the affordable units may even be completed before the principal project, according to Breed.
“I’m very pleased with the way this negotiation is come out,” said Henderson during the hearing. During public comment, Gail Baugh offered: “We’ve done a good job - we’re trying to figure out what it means to live in The City now in the 21st century… This agreement is the first step in understanding how we're going to live in a city that is growing to be 1 million people very soon.” Even Sue Hestor, longtime EIR appellant and attorney who served as Henderson’s counsel in the EIR appeal, seemed pleased.
While it now looks like smooth sailing ahead for One Oak Street, there are more high density housing projects in the pipeline for the area, including Crescent Heights’ 10 S. Van Ness, and Lendlease's 30 Van Ness, which will now likely be subject to increased parking restrictions, along with other new regulations resulting from this deal.
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