Chronicle's Irresponsible Reporting Harmful to Rincon Hill Neighborhood
|April 22, 2009||Posted by jamie under Buildings|
First we had the half-baked article in Sunday’s Chronicle that left almost everyone (including myself) with the notion that the company that developed One Rincon Hill had not paid a single penny to the City in fees. The lead paragraph stated, “The developer of the new condominium tower that dominates San Francisco’s southern skyline has told The Chronicle that he does not plan to pay the $5 million in fees that were central to obtaining city approval to build the high-rise.” That doesn’t sound like there’s any probability of the $5 million being paid … and the article seemed to imply that zero dollars had been paid to the City and County of San Francisco by the development company thus far (no mentions).
I confirmed that I wasn’t the only one who had a false understanding eminating from the Chronicle story when I attended the Rincon Point-South Beach CAC meeting on Monday, April 20th. Luckily, I received the open letter from Mike Kriozere via my Blackberry email device while sitting at the meeting, allowing me to read out loud to the attendees the breakdown of the $16.6 million in payments that had already been made to the City and County of San Francisco. There was a HUGE difference in body language among attendees between the perception created by the newspaper article that nothing had been paid to the city and my conveying the various fees and dates of payments for the $16.6 million that had been paid.
I expected a humble article in the Chronicle that corrected the misperceptions Sunday’s story created. Instead, we get today’s headline, “Builder changes tune on paying One Rincon fees.” The story did not cite the individual amounts and dates for payments already made to the City that totaled $16.6 million. Instead, the lead paragraph claims “The developer of One Rincon …. now says he plans to pay the city-imposed fees that were central to gaining approval to build the skyscraper. ” However, the detail-oriented reader did spot this MAJOR difference in the wording of the second paragraph that indicates the Sunday Chronicle article was not 100% straight-forward: “Developer Mike Kriozere’s reversal came days after telling The Chronicle that the 62-story condo project was not making expected profits and funds probably would not be available to pay all of the fees he negotiated in 2005.”
Why am I making noise about the Chronicle printing these stories that create misperceptions? Well, I don’t live in One Rincon Hill, but I do live in the Rincon Hill neighborhood. I love the POSSIBILITIES of the Rincon Hill area becoming a fully developed, densely populated residential area located near the hub of Bay Area public transit and within a short walk/bicycle ride to thousands of jobs at nearby offices (not to mention the central location to the Embarcadero Pedestrian Promenade, Ferry Building, Union Square, AT&T Park, etc.). The potential of our neighborhood has already been delayed by the unprecedented credit market and economic calamity that leaves many of us fearing for the safety of our jobs. With folks fearing they’ll lose their jobs, there are fewer people willing to buy real estate … until the inventories at One Rincon Hill (first tower), Infinity (second tower), and Millennium get sold, it is hard to imagine the dirt lots at Fremont and Harrison or over on Lansing Street being anything except huge lots of dirt. Thankfully, we do have 333 Harrison, Lot 8 and Lot 11A in the Transbay Redevelopment Area portion of the Rincon Hill neighborhood (along Folsom Street), and hopefully at some point 430 Main/429 Beale moving along at some stage, but how do we help this development process move along? Do we help it by throwing up more hurdles to developers? I think the answer is a resounding NO … but the negative outcome of the Chronicle’s stories may in fact harm the progress of developing Rincon Hill into a livable, high-density residential area of San Francisco by resulting in more hurdles getting thrown up in front of developers.
Today’s article notes that the Planning Commission still has influence over the approval to build Tower 2 at One Rincon Hill. The longer the single tower sits on top of Rincon Hill by itself, the longer it will remain a lightning rod for people who hate changes … despite the environmental benefits of high-density housing near job center and transit hubs. The article also notes that Supervisor Daly introduced legislation to require fee payments prior to a Temporary Occupancy Certificate’s issuance (before people move into the building. closing on the property – providing cash inflows). I’m not saying these moves are good or bad, but I am saying that they could further impede our neighborhood’s ability to mature, meaning it might be 2025 instead of 2015 before the dust settles and we have neighborhood serving businesses open on the weekends (instead of closing on Friday and re-opening on Monday for the office workers). Isn’t the controversy over the high-speed rail terminus at the Transbay Transit Center or 4th and King enough to worry about?
I don’t know how the Chronicle makes this right, but I do know I will personally cease my delivered subscription at the end of the current term despite being a fan of Carl Nolte, Mattier & Ross, City Insider, C.W. Nevius, John King, and other local news focused writers. I’ve even urged my blog readers to buy The Chronicle in the past. No more.