July 2014

Educators Want Greater Scrutiny of Mariposa Street Development

Keith Burbank

Child advocates requested an expanded environmental review of the proposed development at 1601 Mariposa Street at a meeting focusing on the project last month. Currently, the scope of the review includes only hazards and hazardous materials, shadows, and transportation and circulation. But Potrero Hill residents and advocates for schoolchildren—especially those representing Live Oak School and International Studies Academy (ISA) —asked the San Francisco Planning Department to add noise, aesthetics, recreation, population, and housing to the list. 

“Based upon the content of the comments received, the Department will review the NOP [Notice of Preparation]/CPE [Community Plan Exemption Checklist] to determine if the topics that were screened-out from further review in the EIR were adequately addressed,” said Chelsea Fordham, environmental planner, San Francisco Planning Department. The public comment period for the EIR closed June 13. 

“If further analysis is required on topics that were scoped out from further analysis in the EIR,” Fordham said, “the Department would provide additional analysis in the EIR, as necessary. If it determined that these issues were adequately addressed in the NOP/CPE, the DEIR [Draft Environmental Impact Report] would describe how these issues were adequately addressed.”

“This is not an ordinary block,” said Holly Friedman, who lives at 18th and Arkansas streets. Friedman cited the nearby schools—including Kipp College Preparatory — adding that children are more vulnerable to harm than adults. The Planning Department held the meeting at ISA to gather information to inform the environmental review.

“I requested that the Planning Department host a scoping meeting for the 1601 Mariposa project,” said District 10 Supervisor Malia Cohen. “These meetings are essential. We must make sure that our residents have accurate, transparent information about the environmental review of projects. Judging from the large turnout of residents and parents who articulated concerns, the project sponsor has significant work to do.”

About 100 people attended the meeting, including Lydia Tan, executive vice president and director, northern California operations, Related California, the company developing the project. Tan has been leading Related’s efforts, but didn’t speak at the get-together. Most of the meeting time was given to the public for comments, many of which came from parents of children at Live Oak School, as well as Live Oak teachers and administrators. 

“This project is too large, too ambitious,” said Scott Wilbur, a teacher at Live Oak School. Teachers and staff wonder if there’ll be parking if the project is built; parents are concerned about how they’ll be able to drop off their kids given anticipated increases in traffic. “More cars, more danger,” Wilbur said. Teachers also fear the loss of natural light into classrooms, citing a study that indicates that natural light improves learning.

Other meeting attendees said the added population caused by the development may cause overcrowding and user conflicts at Jackson Playground; one parent wanted the impact to the playground to be included in the environmental impact report. Natalie Walrond, Live Oak School Board of Trustees president, called for a detailed noise analysis, given the adverse impact sound can have on learning. Others asked whether residents of the proposed project would complain about the kids playing outside. And questions were raised about whether there’ll be enough privacy for students and residents. 

Live Oak school head Virginia Paik asked that the EIR not rely on an outdated Eastern Neighborhoods Plan, a comment echoed by others, including Alison Heath, of Grow Potrero Responsibly, which is advocating for a smaller project at 1601 Mariposa Street. Heath said current development in the eastern neighborhoods is making the plan obsolete, with more units in the planning process than the City projected for 2025. Connecticut Street resident and District 10 supervisor candidate Tony Kelly asked at what point the Eastern Neighborhoods EIR becomes irrelevant.

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