Dear Members, Merchants and Friends,
Tremendous thanks to all who made our Annual Membership Meeting on April 19th such a wonderful gathering. The SF Art Institute opened its doors to a perfect venue. We had great weather, a lively pre-social hour hosted by RHN’s Social Committee and an interesting panel moderated by the very able Judson True, chief of staff to Assembly Member David Chiu, assisted by District 2 Supervisor Catherine Stefani, Assistant Chief Toney Chaplin, Commanders David Lazar and Ann Mannix, and Captain Paul Yep. A written report of RHN’s 2017-2018 activities and accomplishments was distributed and can be read here.
Another notable April occasion was the conditional use hearing before the SF Planning Commission on the proposal to locate a Whole Foods 365 full-service grocery at 1600 Jackson Street. The site has been vacant for a number of years since the former Lombardi’s Sports departed. RHN was one of several organizations that conducted surveys showing very strong support for a grocery there. During the 2 ½ year planning review process, RHN submitted three letters of support. We also joined numerous nearby residents and others from Russian and Nob Hills at the hearing to express our support. Project opposition stated a preference to demolish the existing structure and build housing, as well as concerns about formula retail and the potential impact of Amazon’s recent acquisition of Whole Foods.
During the Commissioners’ discussion, a “catch-22” soon became clear. If a grocery is approved to go into the current site, it can occupy 20,000 square feet on the ground floor and retain the existing parking. If the building is demolished and new housing over commercial is built instead, no more than 4,000 square feet may be for commercial use under any circumstances (which is not enough space for a full service grocery) and the parking would come within the strict limits of current zoning.
The Commissioners voted to continue the decision and allow Whole Foods and the building owner 90 days to come back with a revised project that includes a housing element within the existing structure.
Those of us who attended the hearing on behalf of RHN heard loud and clear that our neighborhood wants and needs a full service grocery option, both now and to serve future residents of the new housing projects in our area already in the pipeline or contemplated. We will continue to monitor the project and keep our members informed. During the 90-day continuance period, you can still share your thoughts with the Planning Commissioners and other city officials by email or snail mail.
RHN will sponsor a NERT (Neighborhood Emergency Response Team) course in August and September. This is a free training program wherein individuals learn the basics of personal preparedness and hands-on disaster skills. This is the first time in years that the course has been offered in our neighborhood. Space is limited. You can sign up before registration is opened to the whole city at this link: https://bit.ly/2EXGw7G.
For a number of years now, RHN’s Neighborhood Improvement Committee has conducted regular “street sweeps” on Russian Hill. You likely have seen the volunteers with their colorful work vests. While those participating have enjoyed both the camaraderie and satisfaction of participating in this activity, there is an increasing sense that the problem of dirty streets in our neighborhood is just too great to be addressed effectively in this way. After receiving many inquiries regarding the possibility of establishing some kind of regular schedule of mechanical street cleaning, the Committee recommended to the RHN Board of Directors that we conduct an online survey of our members on this issue. Thank you to the 321 of you who responded. The results have been compiled and can be viewed here. A solid 70% favor mechanized street cleaning. We will be meeting with city officials to determine appropriate next steps and will continue to report to you on our progress.
Look elsewhere in this newsletter for details about the May 18th CHEERS night (at Rouge/Nick’s Crispy Tacos on Polk Street from 5:30 – 8:00 PM) and other upcoming social events. Thank you for your membership and partnering with us to preserve and advance our very special neighborhood!
Carol Ann Rogers