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Transbay Redevelopment Block 11A CAC Meeting Outcome

The Transbay CAC meeting had a record-breaking attendance yesterday.  Rincon Hill neighbors came to the meeting to voice concern primarily about the building design’s usage of a portion (1/3rd of the frontage) of the Folsom Street face for non-retail use.  The neighborhood plan (Transbay Redevelopment Plan) took a lot of time and community members’ efforts to nail down and pass in 2005.  One of the principal characteristics stated in the Transbay Redevelopment Plan was the importance of Folsom Street as the retail spine of the Rincon Hill Plan Area and the Transbay Redevelopment Area (what I refer to as the Rincon Hill neighborhood – Transbay doesn’t strike me as a neighborhood name at all).  The plan says Folsom Street’s redevelopment sites will contain bottom floor retail on the Folsom Street frontage – 100%!

As happens way too often in my humble opinion, it appears that the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency (SFRA) made the compromise with the proposal team to use 1/3rd of the space for non-retail use without consulting the neighborhood residents.  That’s a recipe for neighborhood dissent for a project every single time because the efforts that go into a neighborhood plan, like the Transbay Redevelopment Area plan, are expected to be respected and the guidelines followed.  If there are going to be a ton of exceptions to the neighborhood plan and projects just railroaded through a process whether residents like it or not, why bother us with “community input” and the notion of “livability” (can you tell I’ve had a bad experience with Planning in the recent past?).

There was talk about the viability for businesses to exist on Block 11a since there’s not a lot of foot traffic today.  At the end of the meeting when I was the last “public member” present, I told the CAC and Mike Grisso from the SFRA that a lot of my neighbors do not believe it is safe to walk around the neighborhood since there have been practically zero improvements to pedestrian safety in the area despite the millions of dollars we contribute to the City’s general fund each year via our property taxes.  We’re getting mugged by the City and County of San Francisco … The Infinity owners alone pay $7.5 million in property taxes each year.  Where are the neighborhood infrastructure improvements?    If the City would stop screwing us over and use some of our millions of dollars of property taxes to improve pedestrian safety in Rincon Hill (build out some of the streetscape plans along the residential core of Harrison Street and connecting to Folsom Street on 1st and Fremont), I would bet a lot more Rincon Hill residents would stop jumping into their cars to go anywhere.  The sad thing is that the whole ideal of building high-density residential buildings downtown near jobs and the Bay Area’s multi-modal transit hub is to get people out of the habit of driving their private cars everywhere and harming the environment in the process.  I’d suggest we as a neighborhood start hammering Mayor Newsom to stop mugging us and to start spending on improvements for pedestrian safety and open  space in our neighborhood – anyone else game?

Anyway, Mike also mentioned that 20 businesses have opened up on 6th Street.  If the socio-economic demographics around 6th Street can sustain 20 businesses, surely the socio-economic demographics of the current residents in Rincon Hill can support 2-3 businesses on Block 11a.

The Transbay CAC decided that the folks proposing the project should hold a meeting with Rincon Hill neighbors and provide the rationale behind using 1/3rd of the Folsom Street bottom floor frontage for counseling services and programming instead of retail.  The Transbay CAC will likely consider the building design again after that meeting occurs (hopefully, that means they’ll make a recommendation next month).

Maybe it will make sense to have a portion used for non-retail purposes, but I hope the SFRA recognizes the need to involve community members before changing the deal next time.

2 Responses to Transbay Redevelopment Block 11A CAC Meeting Outcome

  1. Hi Jamie,

    Let me begin by saying your blog has a lot of good info, and being that it appears you know what you are talking about, I wanted to ask you a couple of questions.

    I am looking to buy on Lansing/Guy place, but found out a couple of things that I wanted your input on:

    1. Services: I was considering on buying on King St, primarily because its proximity to the Embarcadero, but equally as important was its proximity to Safeway and Walgreens and food-type places (i.e. Panera, Burgerjoint, etc.). In terms of the Lansing/Guy there doesn’t appear to be anyplace around, meaning I would have to drive Safeway or Wholefoods to do shopping. Is this correct, or am I missing a closer food store or drug store?

    2. Traffic: I know traffic to the Bay Bridge is always a mess, but do you think with all of the Transbay projects and housing they intend to put in the area that it will make the streets more congested making getting home from work an even bigger nightmare (I’m referring to post-construction)

    3. Supportive Housing/Homeless Shelter on Essex/Folsom: I guess this is a two part question. The first part being will they put retail space on the bottom as they originally promised (this relates to #1 above)? Second, do you think crime will increase in that area? I was reading on the CSH website that the tenants that are put into supportive housing include former substance abuse or people who have been previously incarcerated? The reason I ask is because my wife is expecting, and that is something that would be a concern of mine, especially at night. Finally do you know of other “expensive” areas where they put this type of housing?

    So, those are my questions. I prefer to have the response posted to your blog, since I can’t always check email at work.


    • Hello Potential Future Rincon Hill Neighbor,

      The Rincon Hill is definitely a work in progress, but a lot of folks move here because they can walk to work, they enjoy The Embarcadero, the arts organizations in Yerba Buena, or other downtown attractions without driving, or they just want to live in a newer building with many conveniences not available in other parts of the City. With it being a work in progress, there are some uncertainties about how the neighborhood will change over the next 10 years. The reason for the Rincon Hill Neighborhood Association’s existence is to bring neighbors together to try to make sure our quality of life is improved over time and not stagnate or allowed to decline.

      Responding to your questions by number …

      1) Gabby Market at Main and Harrison can provide quick, convenient items. A little further away at Howard and Spear is Rincon Market which provides a nice selection of food items and prepared deli foods. Bayside Village has another RJ’s market on the corner of Brannan and The Embarcadero. The Ferry Building also offers many food options, just a 12 minute or so walk away. We’d all love to have a Trader Joe’s move into the RIncon Hill neighborhood, but I don’t know of any plans … or if there’s even enough space planned in the building designs in the pipeline for such a thing.

      2) Traffic is the worst on 1st Street … primarily during evening commute hours in the evenings Monday through Friday. Harrison and Folsom can also get backed up. I believe that traffic could easily get worse if the City does not implement a congestion charge to discourage private cars from coming downtown during work hours or if the City does not implement market rate street parking pricing. The latter is in the process …. SFPark is supposed to allow for market-based parking so that folks are paying $20 or whatever the market demands when a Giants baseball game is happening, for example. In the short term, traffic congestion will be an issue for a few hours each evening Monday through Friday. I walk or bicycle primarily, so I hardly notice it with the exception of when I’m crossing the street – despite all the talk from Mayor Newsom about being a green city and encouraging folks to walk to get healthy, there hasn’t been a single bit of the $35 million or so of property taxes collected from Rincon Hill residents each year spent on pedestrian safety improvements on Harrison Street. As a matter of fact, folks in a wheelchair or with a stroller wider than 22 inches cannot traverse from Fremont Street down to Main Street along Harrison Street’s sidewalk.

      3) Their will be two retail spaces at minimum on the bottom floor of the Folsom/Essex supportive housing building. One idea is for a coffee cafe with outdoor seating on the corner of Essex and Folsom because there will be some extra space there for the pedestrian bulbout to make crossing what is not an exit ramp for the Bay Bridge a little safer. I do not have any reason to believe crime will increase. The crimes that occur in Rincon Hill are primarily property thefts – car break-ins. There are some nightclubs in the area, but the nightclubs east of 2nd Street (what I consider the border of the Rincon Hill neighborhood to the west) seem to do a reasonably good job of keeping patrons and surrounding neighbors safe … the same cannot be said for clubs west of 2nd Street in my humble opinion. There is a supportive housing development in Mission Bay, and I do not know of any problems related to its residents specifically.

      Rincon Hill isn’t for everyone, but I personally love the ability to walk to work and to get around downtown on foot or to make use of MUNI with little hassle (because there are multiple options as long as you’re traveling between Twin Peaks, more or less, and the waterfront on MUNI). Mission Bay is probably worth a look for a young family with a desire to have open spaces and groceries/food already in place ….

      jamie whitaker