Planning Commission Considers Proposed Corovan Development

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Last month, the San Francisco Planning Commission held a hearing on the draft environmental impact report (DEIR) for a proposed development at the Corovan site, located at the bottom of Potrero Hill’s North Slope. A DEIR evaluates a project’s potential impact on such things as traffic, dislodging or releasing hazardous substances, and the historic relevance of buildings.

The proposed project is located on four lots at 901 16th and 1200 17th streets. In 2013 the developer, Josh Smith, proposed to build housing and Kaiser Permanente medical offices at the site, presently occupied by the Corovan moving company, an idea that was fiercely rejected by nearby residents.

Smith is now planning to demolish what some consider historic buildings to construct 395 housing units and about 25,000 square feet of retail space. One structure would rise 82 feet, including rooftop projections, such as elevator shafts; the other would reach 52 feet with rooftop outcrops. At the October 1 Planning Commission hearing roughly a dozen people offered comments to commissioners, who will ultimately vote whether or not to certify a final EIR.

“This is ridiculous,” 18th Street resident and Potrero Hill Archives Project director Peter Linenthal said, about plans to demolish two steel frame warehouses. According to City planners, alterations made to the buildings over the years made them ineligible for historic preservation protection. Linenthal disagreed with the City’s reasoning. “By nature industrial buildings are regularly altered,” he said.

According to Save the Hill, the DEIR has numerous flaws, including omission of potential traffic impacts caused by the proposed Golden State Warriors’ arena project. Planning Department staff didn’t include possible arena effects in the project’s cumulative analysis because of the timing of the proposals.

“The Event Center project would not cause any significant change to the results given in this report and may potentially reduce the percent contribution to the impacted intersection from the proposed project,” the staff analysis stated, in reference to the 16th/Seventh/Mississippi streets intersection. Save the Hill insisted that Planning Department staff relied on outdated traffic data from 2012 and 1998 to render this judgment.

Save the Hill insisted that the proposed project would be “one of the largest, densest building developments in Potrero Hill history” and that “previous environmental studies and projections for Potrero Hill” by Planning Department staff “fail to take into account a project of this scope at this site. Official analysis currently on record in the Eastern Neighborhoods Plan considered heights of between 45 feet to 50 feet at the property, not 72 feet to 82 feet. The DEIR fails to address this discrepancy.”

According to Save the Hill’s Rodney Minott, other flaws include the loss of 109,000 square feet of production, distribution and repair space. “The DEIR does not consider this proposed development in the context of broader, unanticipated, PDR losses both in our neighborhood and across the Eastern Neighborhoods,” stated the advocacy group. Smith’s proposed design, Minott said, resembles a Mission Bay project. “He brought us Kaiser,” Minott said. “He’s brought back Kaiser repackaged as all housing.”

“Award-winning San Francisco based architecture firms BAR Architects and Christiani Johnson Architects have crafted a design that utilizes an architectural vocabulary that celebrates Potrero Hill’s industrial past while at the same time embracing several unique and creative vernacular designs that Potrero Hill is known for,” Smith stated in an email to the View. “Neighborhood serving retail spaces are provided along both 16th Street and 17th Street to support a vibrant, walkable and people-oriented experience in the neighborhood and further enhances a sense of well-being by providing more ‘eyes on the street’. The project will provide direct access to MTA’s Route No. 55 bus connecting to BART and the T-line on Third Street.

The project is also within easy walking and bicycling distance to thousands of jobs that are located in Potrero Hill, Showplace Square, Dogpatch, Mission Bay and SoMa. To further enhance transportation alternatives, there will be 455 secure indoor bicycle parking spaces and at least five car share vehicle spaces. The project will also be designing opportunities for electric vehicle charging and future electric bikes.”

According to Minott, Save the Hill put forth an alternative adaptive reuse project that’s in keeping with the developer’s goals. He told commissioners that he asked to meet with Smith to discuss the alternative and “was quickly rebuffed.”

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