Citizens Committee Approves Eastern Neighborhoods Report

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Last month, the Eastern Neighborhoods Citizens Advisory Committee (ENCAC) narrowly approved a report detailing land use changes that’ve occurred over the past five years in Potrero Hill, Dogpatch, Mission and South-of-Market.  According to the Eastern Neighborhoods Five Year Monitoring Report – and any sentient Southside resident – the four neighborhoods have seen a development boom since the end of the Great Recession

“There’s a lot happening in the City,” committee chair and Mission resident Chris Block said.  Block had urged ENCAC members to approve the report so that it could be presented to the Planning Commission at its September 22 meeting.  By law the information must be provided to the Commission shortly after the end of 2015.  The study is intended to help inform municipal policy related to housing and production, distribution and repair, or PDR, activities.

“By hook or crook we got there,” Block said of the approval, which took two rounds of votes to secure.  The Committee wasn’t required to approve the report, but since it represents residents its insights are valuable, according to Block. “It would have been a big loss,” he said, if the necessary 10 votes hadn’t been secured.

The Committee had a hard time earlier this year attracting enough members to its meetings to take formal votes.  According to Block, the Committee has struggled to get a quorum because the Board of Supervisors and Mayor’s Office have been slow to appoint members to vacant positions. Poor attendance has hampered the group too.  The Committee failed to achieve a quorum at its first four monthly meetings of the year; the May meeting was canceled, as Committee members expected to fall short of a quorum.

The Committee had a quorum at its last three monthly meetings, in part because Mayor Ed Lee recently made two appointments.  Since then, however, Lee has been slow to continue the process of filling vacancies, according to Block.

The 19-member Committee helps City officials set development priorities for the eastern neighborhoods, and influences which community improvement projects, such as park expansions and improvements, are funded with development fee monies, as ultimately determined by the Board of Supervisors.

The lack of a quorum has delayed at least one project on Potrero Hill. Advocates for the Potrero Gateway Loop – a $2.75 million effort to improve neglected land around and under U.S. Highway 101, between San Bruno, Vermont, 17th and 18th streets – haven’t been able to get the Committee to vote on their project.  The Loop’s advocates made a presentation at the June and July meetings, but the Committee took no action at either gathering.  The delays have cost the group $3,000 to keep its landscape architect on retainer as it waits for committee action.

Under current designs, the Potrero Gateway Loop would consist of a public park that features a trail system, small gathering spaces, dog run, secret garden and sculptural stairways. Micro-businesses operating out of shipping containers, as well as art installations, are also planned for the area. 

“The problem…is that we are ready to start this project,” Loop advocate Jean Bogiages said. “We have the conceptual plan, we have met with Caltrans folks and have removed features that they would not permit and are ready to put together the documentation to get an encroachment permit and start creating phase one.”

According to Bogiages, the Committee must vote before her group can start work. “We will continue asking the ENCAC to put us on the agenda for a vote,” Bogiages said.  The Committee is scheduled to vote on the project this month.

District 10 Supervisor Malia Cohen, who represents Potrero Hill and Dogpatch, is responsible for appointing four people to the Committee, including filling a seat that’s been vacant for a year.  But an aide in her office said the lack of a quorum wasn’t the result of that vacancy.  “The current three members appointed by the Supervisor have good attendance records,” Cohen’s Aide Andrea Bruss said. “The quorum issues were primarily driven by vacancies in seats appointed by others and existing members who were not attending meetings.”

Lee is responsible for appointments to seven Committee seats. According to Lee’s spokeswoman, Dierdre Hussey, on June 1 the mayor made two appointments. Developer Dan Murphy now occupies a seat vacated by Kate Sofis.  Marcia Contreras, director of operations and resident program and services for Mission Housing Development Corporation, which builds and manages affordable housing, fills a spot previously held by Arthur Reis. The terms of both appointments end October 2017. 

District 9 Supervisor David Campos is responsible for appointments to two Committee seats, one of which was recently vacated.  “We’ll be making the appointment in short order,” said Campos’ aide, Sheila Chung Hagen.  Hagen claimed that Campos-appointed members had good attendance records.  She didn’t know of any Mission District projects that were being held up by a lack of a quorum.