The site’s current height limit is 40 feet; three historic buildings located are already 44 feet or higher. Building 2 is 90 feet, Building 12 is 60 feet and Building 21 is 44 feet.

July 2014

Dogpatch Neighborhood Association Endorses Waterfront Height Limit Increase

Keith Burbank

The same month a ballot initiative that requires voter approval for height limit exemptions on the waterfront passed, the Dogpatch Neighborhood Association (DNA) endorsed Forest City’s request for a height increase at their Pier 70 development. Forest City wants to build up to 90 feet, more than double the current 40-foot limit. 

“We appreciate DNA’s endorsement of the height limit increase,” said Alexa Arena, senior vice president, Forest City. “By continuing to work closely with the neighborhood we have a tremendous opportunity to transform a largely abandoned site cut off from the waterfront for decades by chain link fencing into a community asset that reconnects Dogpatch to the waterfront.” 

Forest City was clear that it wasn’t asking DNA to endorse the project in its entirety. The development will go through the same community planning and environmental review process as any other project, including examination by the San Francisco Planning Commission, the Port of San Francisco, and the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. 

The developer started preparing for the now necessary ballot measure to authorize increased heights even before last month’s approval of Proposition B. The company is gathering the required 9,702 signatures to place its measure, tentatively titled the “Union Iron Works Historic District Housing, Waterfront Parks, Jobs and Preservation Initiative,” on the November 2014 ballot. Forest City has to file the petition and signatures with the Department of Elections at least 120 days before the election. Otherwise it’ll have to wait until a future vote. The filing deadline for the November 4 election is July 7.

While the site’s current height limit is 40 feet, three historic buildings located on it are already 44 feet or higher. Building 2 is 90 feet, Building 12 is 60 feet and Building 21 is 44 feet. The ballot measure asks voters to approve edifices reaching “two to nine stories.” 

 “There will be very little difference in the views that are seen today, since the proposed building heights are in the range of existing buildings,” Arena said. Increased heights is one of two changes Forest City has made to its development proposal in the past year, in addition to including as many as 600 affordable housing units in the project. 

“We believe a robust affordable housing program makes a better place and it’s why we’ve committed to building 30 percent of the units at below market rates, which is more than double the amount required,” Arena said. Forest City is proposing that a majority of the units be rentals. 

The measure would bring 28 acres of the 66-acre historic site back to life. The balance of the 66 acres is divided into three areas: a section of historic buildings being renovated by Orton Development, the future Crane Cove Park, and ship repair operations. 

The revitalization, as laid out in the initiative, would include, among other improvements, “nine acres of waterfront parks, playgrounds and recreational facilities.” Public access to the parks would be created “by setting new buildings back at least 100 feet from the shoreline.” The development would make new space available for cultural uses, nonprofits, artists, small-scale manufacturers, and retail and service businesses, though it’s unclear how affordable commercial rents will be.

Forest City proposes to move the existing Noonan Building artist community to a new “state-of-the-art” space. Rent “will be based on the Port’s current parameter rent schedule for the Noonan Building inflated to the date the new space is available, and thereafter as outlined in a Community Benefits Agreement.” The company will “continuously” accommodate the artists during construction. 

Forest City estimates that the project will create 10,000 permanent jobs, and 11,000 temporary construction jobs. The developer will invest more than $200 million to improve transportation and infrastructure critical to the site, the new historic district, ship repair operations, and the surrounding neighborhood, including protection from rising seas. All of the “benefits will be paid for from revenues created by the project and will not rely on a single dollar of funding from the City’s General Fund,” according to the measure. 

Forest City reports that more than 10,000 people have attended public events held to vet the project. At a June open house, one Dogpatch resident said the height exemption seemed reasonable. At the DNA meeting, 22 members voted in favor of the increase, with two opposed. 

“They’ve done a nice job listening to the community,” said Indiana Street resident Brandon Roslin.

Former Mayor Art Agnos, who helped pass Proposition B last month, supports Forest City’s proposed measure. Agnos lauded several of the project’s goals, including the creation of 10,000 jobs, the potential for additional affordable housing in the City, and plans to preserve the Noonan Building artist community. 

“You put that package together,” Agnos said. “I think that is a spectacular piece of work.” 

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