SoMa ‘5M’ project gets green light

A proposed development at Fifth and Mission streets in San Francisco has received the support of Supervisor Jane Kim after pledging to include 40 percent below-market-rate housing. (Mike Koozmin/S.F. Examiner)

City commissioners have paved the way for a major mixed­-use development that will transform a chunk of the South of Market neighborhood in the coming years.

The Planning Commission on Thursday unanimously certified the final environmental impact report and voted 5­-2 to in favor of a slew of conditional use authorizations for the development at Fifth and Mission streets, the brink of the SoMa, Downtown and Mid-­Market areas. Vice President Cindy Wu and Commissioner Kathrin Moore were the dissenting votes.

The “5M” project — led by development giant Forest City and property owner Hearst Corporation at 925 Mission St. and nearby parcels — includes offering 212 of the 690 residential units at or below 50 percent of the area median income, and helping fund the construction of a Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corporation below­-market-­rate housing site at 168­-186 Eddy St.

Also Thursday, the Planning and Recreation and Park commissions jointly signed off on raising the shadow limit at Boeddeker Park at Jones and Eddy streets in the Tenderloin. The project is anticipated to cast a shadow over the upper corner of the park, though the shadow will disappear before the park opens at 9 a.m. each day.

The commission also found the project consistent with The City’s general plan and recommended the Board of Supervisors approve the project agreement between the developer and The City. However, the commission called for the establishment of a small sites acquisition fund and a stabilization fund for displaced residential and commercial properties.

It was also recommended by the commission that the development agreement include $300,000 toward a Filipino Cultural Heritage District.

“What’s challenging for me is the general plan,” Wu said when commissioners began discussing the project Thursday. “I look at [some] eight priority policies … and a number of them refer to preserving affordability in [The City] and not impeding the streets with too much more traffic.”

The “5M” project includes the demolition of a handful of surface parking lots and buildings at 926 and 912 Howard St., 409­-411 Natoma St. and 190 Fifth St., and the construction of three new high­-rises that range from 200 to 450 feet tall, as well as 800,000 square feet of office space.

Also within the four­-acre project site are the Dempster, Camelline, Chronicle and Examiner buildings (an addition to the Chronicle building that was constructed in 1968) that developers intend to preserve. The project will pay $8.8 million for transit improvements as well.

Several hundred speakers expressed support and disdain for the project, with those against primarily concerned that the development will ultimately lead to the displacement of residents within the community, particularly among the neighborhood Filipino population.

In fact, opposition for the project rang out loudly enough for the Planning Commission to consider an impromptu continuance of the hearing. When that effort failed, the meeting was delayed for nearly an hour while the public chanted for the termination of the project. Opponents also pushed for more time to come up with a plan to tackle displacement.

Planning staff, however, countered that the project was not expected to lead to the immediate relocation of residents. In fact, of the some 8,000 units of housing identified within a quarter mile of the 5M project site, 6,000 were identified as supportive housing, recently constructed below-market­-rate units or other forms of stabilized properties.

“This is the project that’s been before us the most and we’ve heard the most about,” Commissioner Rich Hillis said. “Certainly there are issues … [but] this project goes to the Board of Supervisors. It is not done here.”

The Board of Supervisors could authorize the project as early as December.

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