Photographs by Ed Rudolph

Photographs by Ed Rudolph

Daniel Safier of Prado Design, facilitated the meeting.

March 2014

Developers Meet with Community to Discuss Plans for Cor-o-Van Site

Keith Burbank

Two meetings held last month to gather neighborhood feedback about future development of the Cor-o-Van site elicited mostly positive reactions from attendees. But according to two community leaders, Potrero Hill won’t know if the developers heard residents’ concerns are until an actual design is produced.

Property owner Josh Smith, of Walden Development, and the developer, Prado Group, held a public meeting early in the month at the Potrero Hill Neighborhood House. A week later, Save the Hill, a community advocacy group, sponsored another meeting about the project at Live Oak School. “It was a great meeting,” said Melinda Lee, a real estate professional who’s been selling on the Hill for 12 years. “I think it’s been a great opportunity for people to give their feedback.” Jean Bogiages, chair, Mariposa-Utah Street Neighborhood Association, said Walden and Prado are spending more time soliciting feedback than the City requires.

“I found it pretty positive,” said Save the Hill member Ergin Guney, after the meeting among Save the Hill, Smith, the Prado Group and architects hired to design the project. According to Guney, the developers are open to an adaptive re-use of the site, something Save the Hill is pushing for. “It seems like there is hope [for an adaptive reuse],” Guney said.

Before the meeting, Guney spoke to the View on behalf of Save the Hill. “We’re not convinced yet that Walden Development has the neighborhood’s best interests in mind,” he said, pointing out that the developer wants to maximize its profits, but his group wants to retain and enrich the community.

Tony Kelly, candidate for District 10 supervisor, and Potrero Boosters president J.R. Eppler took a wait-and-see attitude about the project. Kelly said it’s fine to have a meeting, but ultimately “it all depends on what [design] they come up with.” According to Eppler, the design will be the proof the developers heard what the community said. “And then we’ll know if this has been a worthwhile enterprise or not,” he said of the meetings.

Prado Group calmed some Save the Hill member’s fears about the project’s design, but concerns remain. “Prado’s other recent developments have a suburban or office-park aesthetic, and include formula retail in the formulaic architecture,” noted a list of comments and questions from Save the Hill to the developers, referring to projects recently completed by the developer at 1266 Ninth Avenue and 38 Dolores Street. “Should we be concerned that your plans will be similar in style and use?”

Dan Safier, Prado Group president, declined to provide specific responses to the advocacy group’s comments. He said he’d just received the questions that day, and needed time to respond.

Before this latest development effort, Walden Development was working with Kaiser Permanente to build a medical complex at the site, located at 16th and Mississippi streets. Kaiser dropped its plans in face of strong community opposition, instead relocating two blocks away, at 1600 Owens Street. Kaiser claimed it pivoted to the Owens Street site because it’ll be able to open its offices two years sooner.

At the outset of the meeting, Save the Hill supporters took a cautious, even contentious, approach with the developers. When Safier called the Cor-o-Van buildings “metal sheds,” one community member took offense. “I wasn’t trying to cast any judgment,” Safier said, asking what he should call them. The resident said that he preferred the use of the word, “historic.” But besides a brick building at the site, it appears Walden Development regards the other three structures on the property as non-historic.

In 2008, Christopher VerPlanck, of Tim Kelley Consulting, designated most of the site as historic, according to DPR Form 523A, which is used by the California Office of Historic Preservation to record historical resources. But Walden Development appealed this designation to the San Francisco Historic Preservation Commission, which adopted a motion in 2011 that eliminated the historic designation, except for one building. Save the Hill supporters are skeptical of the Historic Preservation Commission’s decision because it was based on a report done “at the request of Farella Braun & Martel, legal counsel for the property owner,” Walden Mission Bay I LLC.

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