Citizen’s Group Calls for Eastern Neighborhoods Capital Plan

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Almost seven years after it was adopted by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors the Eastern Neighborhoods Plan has emerged as a perennial source of controversy for community groups.  The Potrero Boosters, Save the Hill, and other advocates are concerned that insufficient municipal attention is being paid to ensuring that infrastructure – transit, parking, schools, and open space – is keeping pace with the population increases expected to occur as new developments are completed and offered to the purchase and rental markets under the plan.

After the plan was approved the San Francisco Planning Department was tasked with preparing periodic monitoring reports, detailing development activity, housing construction, and infrastructure improvements in the Eastern Neighborhoods, to be presented to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, Eastern Neighborhoods Citizens Advisory Commission (ENCAC), and Mayor’s Office. The first of these reports was published two years into the plan.  A “Five Year Monitoring Report” is expected to be issued a year from now.

ENCAC was established five years ago.  It’s made up of 19 members, representing the Central Waterfront, Mission, Potrero Hill, Showplace Square, South of Market, and Western SoMa districts. “It’s a collection of citizens who actually help the Planning Department determine what the priorities are on things,” said ENCAC vice chairman Bruce Huie.

“The plan is approaching the five year mark, and that’s when there’s the requirement for a monetary plan,” said ENCAC chairman, Chris Block. According to Block, sufficient funds to pay for infrastructure improvements promised by the Eastern Neighborhoods Plan have never been identified, an opinion shared by Boosters planning and development chair Tony Kelly.

Block and Huie are calling for a reappraisal of the plan, as a means to determine how much development has occurred, and whether the original analysis, conducted to gage how much developers should pay in impact fees, is still relevant in today’s economic climate.

According to Block, the amount of development that’s occurred is far in excess of what the plan anticipated. “So what strain has that put on infrastructure that was unanticipated in the original plan?” he said.  “The first thing that we should look at is, can this development continue in this way, and if so, is there a way to shift resources so that there’s a greater emphasis on completing some of the infrastructure that’s necessary.”

Huie said that ENCAC will help the Planning Department develop a report covering the past four years for each of the different areas within the Eastern Neighborhoods.  ENCAC will use this information to extrapolate development trends for the next five years. “We’ll be pulling data together over the course of time, and that will take about a little more than a year, and they’re expected to present a final report to make sure that each of the different agencies within the City is aware of what plans their might be, and what progress their needs to be, based on increased development activity, and the priorities for the Eastern Neighborhoods,” Huie said.

Block noted that when the Eastern Neighborhoods Plan was developed, the impact fee analysis took place during a set of economic circumstances that has significantly changed.  “It’s a different economy than it was seven years ago,” Block said. “We, the people, agreed to a plan that had certain development goals and certain infrastructure needs, but now the pace of the development has clearly outstripped the pace of the infrastructure. Six or seven years ago we did the sensitivity analysis and since then there’s been a sea change in the economy. It’s time for a reevaluation.”

“…what we’re doing at this five year mark is trying to figure out what has happened in the past, what’s the score card, and what’s going to happen in the future,” Huie said.

Block said that he’s worried that an overreliance on impact fees and citywide infrastructure funding might leave Southside San Francisco behind.  “Reopening these plans is an absolute pain in the ass,” Block said. “So is it the City’s first thought? No. To get the thing passed was a huge pain in the ass, and to get it up and running was a huge pain in the ass, so I think that it’s not necessarily the City’s first thought, but it sure as heck should be the first thought for people who care about the eastern neighborhoods.”