PHOTOGRAPH BY ED RUDOLPH

PHOTOGRAPH BY ED RUDOLPH

July 2014

Planning Commission Approves Third Street Development Despite Opposition

Keith Burbank

Dogpatch community members failed to persuade the San Francisco Planning Commission to halt a proposed development at 2051 Third Street last month. After a short discussion, the Commission voted unanimously to approve Raintree Partners’ request for a large project authorization, agreeing that the proposal meets the requirements for Eastern Neighborhoods Mixed Use Districts. 

“No comment right now,” said Jason Check, director of development, Raintree Partners, when asked for his reaction to the favorable decision. Check is leading Raintree’s efforts to develop apartments at the site. Legal counsel for Raintree Partners, Andrew Junius, Reuben, Junius & Rose, L.L.P. lobbied the Commission 15 times between February 12, and March 26, 2014 on behalf of the project.

Raintree will merge three parcels to form a 19,620-square-feet lot between Third and Illinois streets. The development will rise to roughly 80 feet in some locations. The Planning Commission approved 93 rental units; the company contracted with the City and County of San Francisco to maintain the units as rentals for 30 years. As a result, Raintree will be allowed to provide three percent fewer on-site affordable units, and the firm will pay one dollar per gross square foot less in development impact fees to the City, a $93,176 reduction, according to a June 5, 2014, Planning Department staff report. 

To address residents’ concerns, Raintree Partners moved the building’s elevators to the south, which will allow more light to fall on the open space of the owner-occupied lofts to the north. The adjacent building to the south of the project is a rental property, and few, if any, of the buildings’ occupants turned out to comment on the development. Raintree also reduced the massing along the project’s north side. And the company changed its design to align the development’s courtyard with that of the adjacent buildings’ courtyards. That alteration will allow the three yards to receive sunlight from the south. 

Raintree Partners refused to align a wall of its project with the wall of one of the adjacent buildings, which will reduce the light its residents receive. Check said that aligning the walls would force his company to build less than the required 40 percent of two- and three-bedroom units. Raintree Partners seems determined to construct as many units as possible on the site. Raintree solicited support for its development from the San Francisco Housing Action Coalition and San Francisco Bay Area Renters Federation; both groups want new housing throughout the City. 

Neighbors want to protect two eucalyptus trees along Illinois Street, which Raintree Partners plans to cut down to build the project. Steven Williams, an attorney representing residents who oppose aspects of the project, said Raintree Partners could avoid cutting the trees if the company designed the development with a standard rear yard occupying 25 percent of the site. Neighbors have requested that the City designate the trees as landmarks, and will likely appeal the Planning Commission’s decision to the Board of Supervisors. 

“These trees meet all the City requirements for being considered ‘significant,’ said Lori Maak-Ingram, a resident of an adjacent property at 610 Illinois Street, “and many of us have asked our Supervisor, Malia Cohen, to nominate the trees for landmark status since they are so large, provide a habitat for wildlife, and are the only ‘significant’ trees in our area.”



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