Potrero View Op Ed - Pier 70 Project Merits Comprehensive Transportation Solutions

Last month’s The Potrero View’s coverage of Forest City’s Pier 70 “Mega Project” extolled the many benefits of the 28-acre development, with little consideration of its negative impacts. Contrary to what was reported, the Draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR) identified nine “significant and unavoidable” impacts. 

A massive increase in Dogpatch’s population, along with large numbers of workers, will overburden service on the 22-Fillmore and 48-Quintara, with no funding identified for increased operation costs. “Substantial” noise and construction emissions during the anticipated 11-year building phase would pose risks to public health. Of grave concern is the permanent “cumulatively considerable net increase in air pollutants” in the surrounding communities from increased traffic. 

The number of residential units developed at Pier 70 would potentially exceed the entire total projected for the Central Waterfront Area under the Eastern Neighborhoods Plan. The Draft EIR described population growth as “substantial,” with the area’s populace possibly quadrupling as a direct result of the development. Throw into the mix 2.2 million square feet of commercial space and close to 10,000 workers, shoppers and diners, and it should be no surprise that the development will generate between 131,359 to 141,365 “person trips” a day.

Described as a “21st Century sustainable urban development” Pier 70 will actually be a car-centric exclave with 3,655 parking spots and limited public transit options nearby. The Draft EIR shows that half the trips in and out of the area will be by private automobile. 

The developer asserts that Pier 70’s urban location automatically makes it a transit-oriented development. This clouds the reality that, with limited options, only 21 percent of people are expected to travel to and from the development by public transit. 

Although the Draft EIR recognizes that increased traffic will significantly impact air quality and increase ambient noise, it ignores the direct impact of traffic itself. California recently changed the way it evaluates traffic impacts. Rather than considering traffic congestion in a project’s vicinity, it takes a more regional approach, and assumes that development within urban areas will automatically result in decreased car use. The idea is that hypothetical new developments will somehow mitigate transportation impacts by encouraging alternative transportation modes, including investment in public transit.

One has to dig deep into the 2,000-page Draft EIR to understand exactly how much traffic Pier 70 will generate. Buried in an appendix is a traffic study done under the “Level of Service” methodology, which shows that 30 intersections will operate at “Level F” – near constant gridlock – as a direct and dire result of the project. Whether one relies on a car or not, our quality of life will certainly suffer under these conditions. 

Forest City proposes a band-aid solution to San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency’s abysmal failure to provide Dogpatch and Potrero Hill adequate public transit. While Pier 70’s planned onsite walkways and bike paths should be encouraged, they won’t serve everyone’s needs. Car- and ride-sharing reduce parking demand, but discourage public transportation use and make traffic worse. Along with other nearby developments, Pier 70 will rely heavily on an unregulated network of private shuttles, resulting in a patchwork system. These private fixes are neither efficient nor sustainable over the long-term. We need more buses, more trains and additional lines to connect east and west. This is a City problem, one that won’t be solved without a comprehensive public solution.

-Alison Heath

Legal Action Being Taken to Challenge the Environmental Review at Corovan Site!

Grow Potrero Responsibly and Save the Hill are taking legal action to challenge the environmental review conducted for the massive development at 901-16th Street and 1200-17th Streets, at the former Corovan site. The project, comprising 395 residential units, and covering 3.5 acres, would  be one of the largest ever proposed on Potrero Hill. 

AUGUST 29, 2016 – Suit filed in SF for Controversial Potrero Hill Development

Two community groups, Save The Hill and Grow Potrero Responsibly, are challenging the environmental review conducted for one of the largest construction projects ever to be proposed in Potrero Hill. The project proposed by Potrero Partners, LLC of San Mateo and Prado Group Inc. of San Francisco is located at a “gateway” location for the neighborhood and includes the construction of 395, primarily market rate, residential units on approximately 3.5 acres at 901 16th and 1200 17th Streets.

The neighborhood groups contend:

The City improperly relied on an outdated 2008 environmental study for the Eastern Neighborhoods Plan that substantially underestimated the level of residential growth the City has experienced since the recession. “The Plan projected approximately 3,100 new residential units on Potrero Hill and Showplace Square by 2025, yet we already are on track to build 4,500 units. Meanwhile, the City has failed in its promise to provide us with community benefits we need to support this kind of growth” stated Alison Heath of Grow Potrero Responsibly. The legal action seeks to overturn approvals for the Potrero Hill Project and cease reliance on the outdated environmental study.

The project will result in unaddressed impacts to traffic and circulation, iconic public views of the SF skyline, shadowing of open space, transportation and transit, and cumulative impacts. The environmental review for the project admits the development will cause significant impacts to traffic and circulation and loss of Production, Distribution and Repair (PDR) uses but brushed aside all efforts that proposed the adoption of feasible alternatives and mitigation measures that would reduce these impacts.

Rodney Minott, co-founder of Save The Hill, stated: “The City of San Francisco has broken its pledge to protect the Potrero Hill neighborhood from the impacts of overdevelopment and failed to deliver badly needed public infrastructure to accommodate existing needs, let alone supersized growth.”

The massive development would permanently displace the existing 109,500 square feet of industrial PDR space that has traditionally provided good-paying blue-collar jobs. An economically feasible “adaptive reuse” alternative proposed by Save The Hill would repurpose the existing industrial buildings, creating a more balanced mix of commercial and residential uses while retaining much of the PDR space. Attorney, Rachel Mansfield-Howlett stated, “My clients are not against the development of Potrero Hill but the community should not have to shoulder the impacts of a for-profit development when there are feasible alternatives that reduce the project’s impacts and satisfy most of the project’s objectives.”

Heath stated, “The Eastern Neighborhoods Plan has failed us; the plan was supposed to encourage new affordable housing for low to moderate income people while preserving PDR uses that support a diverse economy and provide good jobs for residents. It looks like we have yet another market rate residential development that permanently displaces PDR uses.” 

 

Concerns at 1601 Mariposa and 790 Pennsylvania

Concerns at 1601 Mariposa

 1- Density:  The proposed project is 299 units.  There is nothing this size comparable in the neighborhood.  The adjacent streets and properties cannot support the traffic and parking congestion that would result from the number of new residents at this location.   

2- Traffic: There are several intersections surrounding 1601 Mariposa where the traffic impacts cannot be mitigated and will result in deteriorated conditions.   In addition, the traffic studies in the EIR should have been conducted over a longer period and while school is in session.  The original EIR studied traffic on two days in June 2013 then a second traffic study was executed one day in August 2015.  Both show very different results, thus making conclusions from the studies unreliable.  The EIR also sites mitigations from new MTA bus routes, installation of traffic signals at Mariposa and Pennsylvania for the 280 ramp and the addition of marked pedestrian crossways.  The Planning Commission should require all of the traffic mitigations to be in place prior to 1601 being permitted to start construction.

3- Massing:  The proposed project design is comprised of several large "block" buildings.  It is not similar to the character of the design of other buildings in Potrero.  It spreads across the property instead of resembling the look of distinct buildings.

4- Cumulative Impacts:  The Eastern Neighborhood Plan did not account for all additional housing happening at once and ten years earlier than planned.  The current number of units proposed for Potrero Hill exceeds the plan.  The cumulative impacts of the additional residents are not supported by parks, transportation and services mandated by the Eastern Neighborhood Plan.   

5- The open public areas are largely cement pathways.  The community has repeatedly voiced that there is a lack of green, open space in Potrero Hill.  The design of the public areas should be landscaped with native plants and present an inviting neighborhood green space, not a cement/gravel pathway.

6- The separation between Live Oak School and the buildings is not 36 feet throughout the midblock passage and in some cases narrows to only 20 feet.  The mid-block passage should be widened to 36 feet in all areas to respect the privacy of the students attending the school.

7- The community has a need for additional community meeting/recreation space.  Jackson Park is overcrowded and there is not a place for adults to gather.   A community space on 1601 Mariposa would provide benefit to both the residents of that development as well as neighbors.

8- More PDR and Commercial space to represent the character of the neighborhood.  Potrero flourishes from diversity of residential and manufacturing facilities.  Neighbors very much desire that the character of Potrero be incorporated at 1601 and more PDR and Commercial spaces are added.

Concerns at 790 Pennsylvania

1- The massing and poor design of the building is an extreme concern of Potrero Residents.  The proposed project is one long building of 500 feet, nearly 100 feet tall, and no consideration has been given to respecting the design and character of the neighboring buildings.

2- The developer will not be providing any onsite affordable housing units as part of the project.  This is ignoring a significant need of the community.

3- Providing a public stairway as a connector of Potrero Hill and Dogpatch on 22nd second street relies largely on funding from the City.  The City has not committed funds to support this effort and the developer is using this as a way to garner support when in fact the addition of the stairway is very tentative.

Final chance to let your voice be heard!

What: Final Project Authorization for 1601 Mariposa(299 units) and 22nd and Pennsylvania (251 units)

When/Where: Thursday, November 12, 2015 beginning at 12:00 p.m. (noon) or later, City Hall Room 400

Why: Last chance to voice community concerns with these massive projects

This is the last chance on these projects, so we encourage everyone to make themselves available at City Hall Thursday afternoon. Agenda for the Planning Commission Meeting will be available November 6th. Public comments will be heard, each speaker has up to 3 minutes.

You can see the EIR and Comments to Responses issued October 15, 2015 here

Comments for Draft EIR due February 17

Here are some examples for your email:

Dear Ms. Jones:  I am a resident of Potrero Hill and live near 1601 Mariposa Street.  I am concerned about the Draft EIR issued for the proposed development at this site.  Below are my concerns: 

Select one or two from the list below that you feel strongly about. Or if you'd like a more in-depth list of issues, click here.

Send to sarah.b.jones@sfgov.org

Not within the character of the neighborhood - The proposed project is out of scale with the established neighborhood pattern and because it is on such a large site, these impacts are exacerbated.  Page 59 of the DEIR should be revised because the project would be inconsistent with a key objective of the Housing Element, which, as discussed on page 59 of the DEIR, aims to ".promote development of new housing in a way that is protective of neighborhood identity, is sustainable, and is served by adequate community infrastructure."   Furthermore, the project should be revised to encourage small manufacturing uses (PDR space), and maintain the mix of diverse land uses that are an attraction and attribute I seek to preserve.    
 
Shadow on Jackson Park - (A SOMA project was recently declined because of shadowing of a park)
The project should be revised, as demonstrated in the Reduced Density Alternative to eliminate shadow impacts on Jackson Playground.  In order to protect these vital park and garden resources and to promote the many City policies in place to protect our parks from shadow it is important to prevent any new shadows when possible. The EN FEIR found that up to 40 percent of Jackson Playground could be shaded at certain hours during the winter months and 25 percent during the summer months under cumulative conditions. The DEIR claims that the project's contribution to this is minimal. The project should be modified, to eliminate project generated shadows on Jackson Playground and the Community Garden.
 
Parking - The DEIR concludes that the unmet parking demand could be met on the street by the existing supply. However, this analysis was based on counts that were undertaken during the summer when three schools adjacent to the property were not in session and capacity is presumably significantly higher than during the school year.  The EIR needs to revise its analysis of secondary parking deficit impacts.  Once accurate parking conditions are established for the periods when the schools are in session, the EIR should examine the potential secondary effects of an inadequate number of parking spaces being provided. An increase in the number of cars circling the neighborhood for spaces leads to distracted driving that compromises pedestrian and auto safety.

Transit - The project would increase ridership on MUNI, which is already overburdened, underfunded, and unable to keep pace with the rapid pace of development.  Page 152 of the DEIR acknowledges that the project would increase ridership on the 10 Townsend line (which already operates at 98 percent of capacity inbound at the PM peak), but that because it would only account for three percent of the ridership it would not be considered significant. This project would burden an already at or overcapacity and underfunded public transit system. Because a huge gap exists in funding for infrastructure upgrades (such as Muni, bicycle, pedestrian, and roadway improvements) needed to accommodate the substantial growth planned for the EN, the assumption on page 87 of the DEIR that growth has been planned for and anticipated is no longer true!
 
Exposure to Hazardous Materials - The EIR needs to provide more information regarding how soil management during construction would be achieved. The descriptions provided in the DEIR do not provide a level of confidence that school children, business owners and their customers,  and residents will be protected from exposure to hazardous materials.  During construction, there will be exposure to elevated levels of particulate matter during demolition of the existing structures and construction of the new buildings and diesel particulate matter (a designated toxic air contaminant).  Specifics on how health risks and removal of these materials needs to be provided to the neighborhood in community planning sessions prior to any work being done.  The DEIR should include an additional mitigation measure requiring weekly updates via mail and email with scheduled activities and contact information in the event that problems should occur. Proper signage with the names and contact information for responsible City staff should also be posted prominently on the project site.

Preparation for the Public Hearing

The purpose of this Planning Commission hearing is to accept oral comments regarding the adequacy and accuracy of the Draft EIR. Each speaker will have 3 minutes to let the Planning Commission know that there is substantial opposition to the project as proposed. We hope that you will personalize your comments. Focus on one or several areas that you feel passionately about. Let the Commission know that your particular concerns are based on your own experiences and circumstances. An overhead projector will be provided and we strongly encourage you to bring photos and other visual materials to further emphasize your points. While comments should technically be limited to environmental impacts, in practice comments may cover other issues. If you are not comfortable speaking publicly, we urge you to come anyhow and support your neighbors.

ISSUES

Conflicts with Area Plans and General Plan: Conclusions in the Draft EIR conflict with the Showplace Square/Potrero Area Plan and General Plan by disregarding policies of preserving neighborhood character and protecting parks and open space from shadowing.  

Studies are out of date: The City is relying on a document (Eastern Neighborhoods Final EIR) that is eight years old and is now stale for the environmental review of the 1601 Mariposa Street project . Some of the studies and research rely on data that is as old as the 2000 census.

Ignores cumulative impact: The issue of cumulative impact has been dismissed entirely and misrepresents the projections made in the Eastern Neighborhoods Final EIR. The fact is that the City already has more units in the pipeline for Showplace Square/Potrero area than were anticipated to be built in the area by 2025. Furthermore, the City has failed to fund the promised infrastructure improvements to support growth. The assumption that cumulative impacts will be limited is no longer true.

Traffic impacts were not fully studied and cannot be fully mitigated: 1601 Mariposa will contribute to significant "unavoidable" traffic impacts at two intersections (Arkansas & 16th and Mariposa & Mississippi). The DEIR notes that the intersection at Mariposa and Mississippi Streets is already at "unacceptable" levels. The traffic analysis fails to fully account for “past, present, and reasonably foreseeable future projects”. The traffic study is incomplete, as some of the traffic, pedestrian and parking impacts were studied when nearby schools were not in session.

Recreation impacts are not fully addressed: The addition of 320 new households would result in an increased demand on Jackson Playground. The Draft EIR for 1601 Mariposa relies on outdated projections  and doesn't account for cumulative impacts. It points to onsite public and private open space to fulfill recreation needs for residents. However the majority of this space consists of a mid-block passageway that functions primarily as a hardscape pedestrian path, rather than a bona fide recreation area. Furthermore, the proposed mid-block passage as a substitute for the rear yard is not permitted in Eastern Neighborhood Mixed Use Districts, except as an approved exception through the Large Project Authorization process.

Land Use objectives are ignored: The UMU (Urban Mixed Use) zoning for this project does not honor the Showplace Square/Potrero Hill Plan’s Objective 6.1 to “support the economic well being of a variety of businesses”.  The 1601 Mariposa development will result in the displacement of 96 jobs, many of them viable PDR and blue-collar jobs. Most of the development’s square footage will be devoted solely to residential use. The extent of the cumulative loss of PDR space was not fully anticipated in the Eastern Neighborhoods’ FEIR (Final EIR) and merits further study.

Shadowing will impact the use of Jackson Park: In order to ensure the enjoyment of our limited public open spaces and to honor City policies, it is imperative that we prevent new shadows when possible. The Eastern Neighborhoods Final EIR found that up to 40 percent of Jackson Playground could be shaded at certain hours during the winter months and 25 percent during the summer months under cumulative conditions. Analysis for 1601 Mariposa was for the entire park, but shadowing will be more significant in the areas heavily used by neighborhood residents: the playground, community garden and tennis and basketball courts.

Hazardous Materials need further study: The EIR should be revised to include more specific information about hazardous materials and measures to protect children and neighbors from exposure during demolition, remediation and construction. Based on the lack of detail in the Draft EIR, we are not confident that our children and neighbors will be safe.  

Noise may be a nuisance for two full years: Jackson Park, residences and businesses in the area will be impacted and the proposed mitigations are inadequate. In the CPE, the Planning Department noted that construction noise "could interfere with indoor activities and may be considered an annoyance by occupants of nearby properties." Scheduling around school schedules appears problematic and the use of noise blankets over such a long period of time would have a significant impact on Live Oak's access to light and air.

Study of Air Quality was not included: Additional mitigation measures are needed to address construction-period air quality impacts.  Air quality was addressed in the CPE Checklist, but not the Draft EIR. Recently we have witnessed failures at nearby construction sites to properly control and monitor dust. Watering down is not an adequate mitigation, particularly under windy conditions. Alternate measures should be provided.

PROJECT ALTERNATIVES

Grow Potrero Responsibly supports the Reduced Density Alternative as the environmentally superior alternative because it would avoid the significant traffic-related impacts and reduce or avoid other impacts. A lower density project, broken into smaller masses, would simultaneously reduce the impact of a large number of new residents and better respect the existing character and scale of the neighborhood. We have proposed that the developer include a more active ground floor with neighborhood-serving businesses, including PDR, to maintain some of the historically diverse land uses that have been typical in the area and that the ENP sought to preserve. In order to address the increased need for open space, we strongly believe that a rear yard exemption should be scrutinized, and that a second mid-block passageway from Arkansas should be included as part of the complex. Additionally a bona fide public gathering area with a setback on the Mariposa side of the development has been proposed by the community and should be included as part of the project. This would reduce shadowing of Jackson park and the Live Oak School courtyard. Additionally, the neighborhood has asked for an onsite community center, open to the public, to reduce the pressure on the already overburdened Jackson Park clubhouse.

Draft EIR has been issues and public hearing scheduled!

Important Dates for 1601 Mariposa Project

  • December 17 - The Draft EIR for the proposed development has been issued. The report can be viewed online here
     
  • December 17- February 17 - Comment period for the Draft EIR. Written comments can be sent to the Environmental Review Officer, Sarah Jones:
  • January 22 - The public hearing on the Draft EIR will be held at the Planning Commission. The purpose of the hearing is to receive testimony related to the accuracy and completeness of the Draft EIR. Please save this date and plan to attend. Later in the year, the Planning Commission will be voting on whether to approve the EIR. A large turnout at the January 22nd hearing is imperative and will demonstrate our deep concerns with the impacts of the project. 

Grow Potrero Responsibly's Next Steps


The Draft EIR is very extensive. GPR will be taking the next few weeks to review the report and we will contact you via email with our opinions.  Please check our website for the most current information.

Written Comments to Planning Department!

In addition to oral comments at the Public Scoping Meeting on June 4, 2014, the Planning Department will accept written comments at the meeting, and by mail, email or fax until 5:00 PM on June 13, 2014. 

Written comments should be sent to:

Sarah B. Jones, Environmental Review Officer 

San Francisco Planning Department

1650 Mission Street, Suite 400

San Francisco, CA 94103

Fax: 415-558-6409

email: sarah.b.jones@sfgov.org 

Public Scoping Session

The purpose of the Scoping Session is to provide oral comments to assist the Planning Department in determining the scope and content of the Environmental Impact Report for the project. The proposed 316 unit residential and commercial complex at 1601 Mariposa will have widespread impacts in the neighborhood, particularly in the context of many other large projects that are being considered in the area. The Eastern Neighborhoods EIR did not specifically consider, analyze or mitigate many of the impacts of a project of this scale at the 1601 Mariposa site, nor did it anticipate the cumulative impacts of multiple large projects on traffic, parking, transit, open space, changes in land use and impact on neighborhood character.

Click here for more information.