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Supes begin review of Central SoMa plan expected to add 8K homes, 33K jobs

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A city plan to rezone the South of Market neighborhood could add thousands of new jobs and housing units. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

After nearly eight years of planning, San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors is poised to rezone the Central SoMa neighborhood to create 8,000 more homes and 33,000 jobs over the next two decades.

However concerns remain that the plan perpetuates The City’s longstanding imbalance between job creation and housing development.

At one of two Board of Supervisors hearings on the plan held Monday, Supervisor Norman Yee said that the plan “can actually start balancing the housing versus job creation” but instead the numbers only continue the imbalance. “We can’t keep on doing this to our city,” Yee said.

SEE RELATED: SF Planning Commission adopts sweeping development plan for Central SoMa

But Supervisor Jane Kim, who represents SoMa on the board, noted that when the plan was initially introduced it called for about 7,100 units, not the 8,300 included now. And she said she planned to amend the proposal to “rezone some of the smaller parcels to allow residential to be built versus office and hotel.”

“We are doing what we can,” Kim said, adding that “it is pretty extraordinary that this plan will achieve 33 percent affordable housing.”

The plan adds new fees and taxes to generate nearly $2.2 billion in funding over 25 years that would be reinvested in area, including putting $940 million toward below-market rate housing to ensure that of the housing built, 33 percent would be offered at below market rates. Other proposed spending from the fees includes $500 million toward local and regional transit, $185 million for parks and recreation, $180 million for industrial space, or PDR, $110 million for safer streets and another $110 million for nonprofits.

Kim said that if she could “go back in time I would actually put in more large scale residential development into this plan,” but that any significant increase to the housing units at this point would require additional environmental review “which would hold this plan back for at least one or two years.”

“This is the best plan to move forward,” she added.

Planning Department staff stressed the importance of adopting the plan soon.

“After eight years, there is a sense of urgency. With our housing crisis and growing demand for commercial space we want to capitalize on the current market cycle,” AnMarie Rogers, director of Citywide Policy for Planning Department, told the board’s Rules Committee.

Lisa Chen, the Planning Department’s manager of the Central SoMa plan, said that existing height limits in the area are 30 feet to 85 feet, but the plan would increase these heights to 130 feet to 400 feet “in some places.”

“The plan will leverage significant value from new development,” Chen said. “If the plan doesn’t pass we would still see some growth, which would generate about $500 million in fees and taxes. Central Soma [Plan] would more than quadruple this.”

David Woo, of South of Market Community Action Network, SOMCAN, said the plan doesn’t adequately address the “gentrification and displacement that will come with this planned rezoning.” He called for increased efforts to protect existing tenants, including “aggressively purchasing existing rent controlled buildings, aggressively engaging in land-banking.”

John Eberling, executive director of the SOMA affordable housing developer TODCO, called for the creation of a Central SOMA Citizens Advisory Committee that would “provide input to city agencies and decision makers with regard to all activities related to implementation” of the plan, including to the Mayor’s Office of Housing and the Arts Commission.

He explained it would serve as a place for the community to remain apprised of the city’s efforts and provide comment without having to follow multiple city agencies.

Both the board’s Rules Committee and the Land Use and Transportation Committee held hearings on the proposal Monday. Kim said she planned to make a number of amendments when the Land Use Committee holds another hearing on the proposal next Monday.

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