May 2014

Sierra Heights Advocates Say Changes to 645 Texas

Keith Burbank

Though developer Trumark Urban has made changes to the design of its 645 Texas Street project, according to Sierra Street resident Tai-Sun Schoeman the development still doesn’t comply with Planning Department recommendations. Schoeman objects to the project’s proposed height, inadequate building breaks, the courtyard’s design, and access to units from street level. Earlier this year the View had misreported that the development faced no community opposition.

Trumark officials counter that they’ve responded to community concerns. “Trumark Urban has engaged the neighbors for over 18 months,” said Kim Diamond, the company’s development director. “This has helped inform and form our design. We have also been in discussions with the Planning Department over this period of time. Even after achieving support from the DNA [Dogpatch Neighborhood Association], we have continued to make additional refinements as we work to reach our final design.

“Based on the input we have received from our neighbors at Potrero Boosters, Sierra Heights, and residents and merchants in area,” Diamond said, “we have made a number of refinements.” Trumark has added “a commercial/retail space at street level” at the corner of Mississippi and 22nd streets, “walk-up stoops into individual residential units” and “access from the street into the courtyard via a breezeway.”

The company has incorporated “a host of sustainable features,” as well as “pedestrian enhancements on all street frontages” such as “landscaping, lighting, [a] crosswalk [and] visual/actual access to the courtyard.” We have “recessed the building in multiple locations to add more building façade articulation, and revised the color scheme and materials to reduce the scale of the building. With regard to building height, Trumark Urban is operating within the confines of the current zoning,” Diamond said. “The building never exceeds 45 feet, and is at or below 40 feet for 86 percent of the building. We are still refining the design and encourage ongoing input and dialogue.” 

“Their plans still have large portions above 45 feet, and when you add parapets and rooftop elevator housings, the heights appear to go above 50 feet along 22nd Street!” said Sierra Street resident Andy Shaw. “I would like to point out that at the first required public meeting of residents within 300 feet of the proposed development we took a vote for or against any part of the proposed building being above the 45-foot ceiling required by the Planning Code. The unanimous vote was against anything above 45 feet. This was recorded in the meeting notes by Trumark Urban, and these notes are in the file at the Planning Department.” 

According to a 2012 preliminary Planning Department assessment, with which Shaw and Schoeman want Trumark to comply, the building may not exceed 45 feet in height. But the assessment states that the height requirement is “exclusive of permitted obstructions allowed under Planning Code Section 260(b),” which includes parapets and elevator penthouses. “The Department is still in the process of reviewing the project,” said Gina Simi, communications manager, San Francisco Planning Department.

Schoeman also wants more than one retail space at 645 Texas Street. The bottom floor of the Sierra Heights condominium complex, across the street from the Texas Street project, includes spots for four businesses. And Schoeman thinks 645 Texas Street should be broken up more, despite the recent design changes. Sierra Heights is actually three buildings, he said. And with the number of parking spaces limited to 0.75 per residential unit, traffic congestion in the area may increase, he added. 

“We really want to work with them,” Schoeman said of Trumark. But he believes that company officials didn’t give him and other Sierra Heights residents straight answers to their questions during a March public meeting held about the development. Schoeman acknowledged that Trumark has since called to request another meeting with Sierra Heights residents. 

“We are not the only two” with concerns, he added. “There are many residents.” 

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