Why SF City Planning can’t protect local industry from office encroachment: An alarming case study

By Zelda Bronstein : 48hillsonline – excerpt

MAY 29, 2014 — At its May Day meeting, the San Francisco Planning Commission took a stand for blue-collar jobs, affordable housing, public transit, and government accountability: it refused to approve a staff recommendation to authorize the conversion of the industrially-zoned property at 660 Third Street into an office building.

Planning Department staff deemed the change a “routine” matter, so they placed the item on the commission’s consent calendar, meaning that they expected it to be passed without discussion.

Instead, the commission moved 660 Third Street onto its regular agenda and took public comment.

After hearing strenuous objections from representatives of the Council of Community Housing Organizations, Mission Economic Development Agency, Tenants and Owners Development Corporation, and the SoMa Leadership Council, among others, commissioners peppered staff and the applicant with pointed questions:

At a time when San Francisco manufacturing is undergoing a welcome revival, but manufacturers are leaving town because they can’t find space, why is the Planning Department asking us to shrink the city’s industrial building stock?

A sweeping plan to rezone Central SoMa is slowly making its way through the city bureaucracy and has yet to come before the Planning Commission. Why, then, are we now being asked to rezone the area parcel by parcel?

Did staff discount the development impact fees for changing 660 Third Street from industrial to office use and thereby encourage the elimination of industrial space and deprive the city of desperately needed funds for Muni and affordable housing? How are these fees calculated, anyway?

The staff report says 660 Third St. is currently occupied by office tenants; how can that be, when the owner is asking for permission to convert the property into offices?

In other words, has the building already been converted – illegally – and if so, why has nobody in the Planning Department done anything about it?

Failing to get satisfactory answers, the commission continued the matter to June 12, at which time staff are to fill in the blanks.

We can fill in a lot of them right now. And the information will say a lot of about the city’s ongoing failure to protect the industrial space that is under assault from an influx of higher-paying tech-office uses.

…  (more)

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