Thanks for “Citizen Involvement Embedded in San Francisco’s Planning Process” in last month’s View. Note that there’s another approval process that wasn’t covered in the article: Large Project Authorization (LPA), which is required in the Eastern Neighborhoods for bigger developments. It was a LPA for 88 Arkansas that the Potrero Boosters took to the San Francisco Board of Appeals; there was no discretionary review.
To encourage family-friendly housing, the Boosters have long encouraged developers to exceed the minimum requirement that 40 percent of units in large projects contain two or more bedrooms. In the case of 88 Arkansas, a code clarification had been interpreted to allow the developer to provide less than the obligatory 40 percent. We argued that the approval set a precedent that undermined the Eastern Neighborhoods Plan’s objective to build housing for families. Fortunately, our advocacy led to municipal legislation to correct this loophole.
Alarmed at the massive boxy structures that were being constructed in Potrero Hill under Urban Mixed Use zoning, the Potrero Boosters and Grow Potrero Responsibly also led the effort to formalize Urban Design Guidelines, recently approved by the Planning Commission. The Boosters Development Committee tries to engage developers early in the process and expects them to comply with these Guidelines, but we also advocate for onsite affordable housing, active ground floors with neighborhood-serving businesses, and onsite open space.
As traffic has become increasingly congested, we’ve begun to discourage onsite parking and look to the City’s Transportation Demand Management program and transit improvements to reduce car ownership. We pay particular attention to formerly industrial sites with contamination and expect developers to adhere to strict remediation standards. Finally, we ask that each project appoint a community liaison to notify neighbors of construction and remediation activities and field complaints and questions.
Rather than slowing down projects, the Development Committee has efficiently negotiated developments that’re better for the neighborhood, with genuine community benefits and fewer negative impacts. This has simplified the process for developers and ensures easier project approval at the Planning Commission.
Potrero Boosters Development Committee Chair