DZLU MEETING DATE: April 20, 2021 (via Zoom)
- ONGOING POLICY UPDATES
a. HOUSING—SF LEGISLATIVE PROPOSALS
Supervisor Mandelman’s proposals on large home expansions and on increased density in single-family zoning districts:
Discussion continued with participation by Lee Hepner, Aide to D3 Supervisor Peskin. See notes from the previous two months for more detail on the proposals. There will be ongoing debate about the appropriate building size or expansion percentage that would trigger conditional use review. Some have argued that these new restrictions, if too limiting, could overly conflict with an owner’s property rights. Some argue that codes should have clearer explicit limits on size rather than create a new process that increases the number of cases requiring conditional use review, which can be a process that is highly discretionary and unpredictable. Lee shared the interesting statistic that D3 has the city’s smallest average unit size at about 700 square feet – due in part to the district’s large number of SRO housing units.
The recent SF Chronicle article of 2-28-21 by J.K. Dineen came up that outlined several challenges in attempting to create new housing by allowing fourplexes in districts zoned for single-family use. The article suggested that the impacts in San Francisco would therefore be limited. Lee relayed that such proposals are responses to strong internal pressures to increase production of SF’s housing as well as external pressure from the State. It was mentioned that increasing density in some neighborhoods would ultimately require more services, such as neighborhood retail, including groceries, etc. and improved Muni service. Lastly, it was noted that in the current real estate market there appears to be a much higher demand for single-family homes in San Francisco than for condominiums—policies might therefore be created that support the need for all types of units.
b. COMMERCIAL POLICIES: SHARED SPACES PROGRAM, PARKLETS
Proposal to make Shared Spaces (temporary) installations permanent:
There is proposed legislation initiated by the Mayor’s Office to make these installations permanent, as the current emergency legislation authorizing them expires at the end of June. Lee Hepner had shared the recent presentation by City staff to the Small Business Commission, which will also be presented at the Planning Commission on 04-22-2021 and to the BOS Land Use and Transportation Committee on 05-10-2021.
Concerns were discussed about the speed with which this proposal is moving forward and that community input has been limited. There are many potential unintended consequences, including designs incompatible with the existing streetscape, the blocking of facades and storefronts, impacts to recent street improvements, and other unresolved issues: public versus private access, the merging of shared spaces and parklets under a single program.
DZLU has drafted a letter to the team developing the new Shared Spaces proposal for RHN Board review at its May meeting. With the pending expiration of the emergency legislation governing the program, the letter urges that attention focus on several areas that do not yet appear to be fully addressed in the draft program.
- Urban design guidelines: Current installations exhibit a range of design quality from those that complement the streetscape to those that have elicited “shantytown” references. We recommend that concise, unburdensome–but effective–design guidelines be developed that take into account the visibility of existing storefronts and historic facades, and that offer design strategies that respond to varying sidewalk or street width. Guidelines for installations on slopes seem especially warranted; non-horizontal partition tops and roofs may conflict with the geometry of the floor lines of the buildings they front. Stepped installations seem to fare better. One might cull the best examples from the highly abbreviated design guidelines in the existing Shared Spaces program and the more extensive guidelines in the Parklet Manual, supplemented with urban design considerations.
- Curbside loading and short-term parking: As alluded to in the draft under “Balance Curbside Functions,” shared locations for these critical functions will require upfront planning.
- Public access: We are encouraged that the draft requires that commercial parklet options require at least one public seating opportunity. To eliminate the public’s confusion, include specific signage requirements in the guidelines for the purpose of clarifying if and when all or part of the parklet is open for public use.
- Schedule: Provide a period of at least 6 months, following expiration of the current program, to develop adequate design guidelines and program requirements, with sufficient community feedback, before prematurely enacting a new detailed ordinance.
- Implementation & funding: As suggested in the draft under “Prioritize Equity & Inclusion,” provide grants for materials and technical assistance. These could be targeted to project sponsors that need to modify existing installations to comply with new requirements. In the meantime, to mitigate the risk that newly proposed installations might face rework requirements or, in worst cases, removal requirements, the proposed “Movable Commercial Parklet” type might be promoted as a desirable option that is more affordable and more flexible in adapting to yet-to-be-finalized new guidelines.