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Revised plans for music student housing head to Planning Commission

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An apartment building at 200 Van Ness Ave. is scheduled to be converted into student housing for the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. (Sarahbeth Maney/Special to S.F. Examiner)

The San Francisco Conservatory of Music is inching forward with its plans of bringing student housing and performance spaces to Van Ness Avenue.

Altered designs for the music dormitory will be presented to the Planning Commission today in the first in a series of hearings about the project in the coming months.

Although today’s hearing is informational, the public will have an opportunity to weigh in on the project in February, when the Planning Commission is slated to vote to amend local zoning regulations to allow the music school to build higher.

Initial plans to build a 20-foot-tall performance space on top of the proposed 12-story tower that will include both student and faculty housing were knocked down by the Planning Department last spring. The area is zoned for a height limit of 96 feet, although the amendment, if approved, could allow the music school to build the tower to 120 feet.

“Because of the uniqueness of our various controlling documents, we [would] have to modify both the planning code and general plan,” said Daniel Sider, senior adviser for special projects at the Planning Department, adding that such changes in height limit in the downtown area are not unusual.

The music school’s revised plans propose demolishing two adjacent buildings — 214 Van Ness Ave., which formerly housed the Lighthouse for the Blind and is now vacant office space, and a three-story apartment building containing 27 rent-controlled apartments at 200 Van Ness Ave. — and replacing them with three apartments for faculty members and 113 group-dorms that would accommodate 420 students.

The proposed tower is set to include approximately 49,600 square feet of educational, classroom, office and rehearsal space, as well as two performance venues, a broadcasting studio space, a second-floor courtyard and rooftop terrace, and 5,000 square feet of restaurant space.

Included in the plans are 27 replacement units set aside for the tenants who will be displaced by the construction, and the music school will be responsible for relocating the tenants in the meantime.

Supervisor Jane Kim, whose district includes the proposed project, expressed concerns about the loss of rent-controlled units when the project was first proposed more than two years ago, but Wednesday called the project a “win.”

She said, “We managed to keep the rent controlled units” while expanding “cultural offerings in the area and providing student housing.”

The Planning Department has concluded an environmental review of the project with no negative impacts, and the project is now up for public review.

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