Construction continues on a building along Oak Street near a parking lot along Franklin Street on Wednesday. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

‘Hub’ plan at Market and Van Ness faces key vote

Project would make room for more than 15,000 more residents in the transit-rich area

Planning officials on Thursday will weigh key approvals to upzone the area of Market and Van Ness, a plan which could make room for more than 15,000 more residents in the transit-rich area.

The San Francisco Planning Commission will take a vote on certifying an Environmental Impact Report for an 84-acre area development plan touching South of Market, Western Addition, Civic Center, and Mission neighborhoods. The zoning changes ,through what’s known as the Hub Plan, would increase height limits for 18 sites, boosting the number of units by 8,100 new residential units.

Two mixed-use projects analyzed by the EIR are 30 Van Ness Ave., a 45-story building with up to 11 floors of office space, and 98 Franklin St., where a parking lot would be demolished to build a 31-story residential building on top of five stories for International High School.

“The Hub is a key central location in the City,” said Kristy Wang, community planning policy director for urban planning think tank SPUR. “It’s still highly accessible to jobs and amenities and people who live in the neighborhood are able to access all sorts of things on foot.”

Planning Department staff released the draft EIR in September, which drew attention to transportation impact. Commercial vehicle and passenger loading demand can’t be accommodated by off-street loading zones that could cause “potentially hazardous conditions or significant delays for transit, people walking, or people biking,” the report said.

“This location is the right location for a dense, compact, car-free residential mixed-use district,” said Jason Henderson, a San Francisco State University urban studies professor who lives nearby. “But that’s not how this has been planned.”

The 30 Van Ness project proposes 148 spots for vehicles, 349 bicycle spaces, and five spots for car-share while 98 Franklin plans for 108 vehicle spaces and 539 bicycle spots.

Moving pickup and loading zones offsite would mitigate the impacts but it remains tough to plan developments without proper data from Uber and Lyft, Henderson said. Removing plans for parking would make it less luxurious, allow more units to be built, and disincentivize private drivers in an area well-connected to transit, he added.

These are the types of aspects community groups like United to Save the Mission and SoMa Community Action Network felt they should have been a part of from the beginning.

“We feel the Hub plan as it stands right now, is reflective of other city processes that we believe has a disparate and disproportionately impact on our marginalized populations,” said Carlos Bocanegra, coordinator for United to Save the Mission. There’s a lack of analysis and engagement with these communities and lack of measures designed to protect and uplift them first.”

If the development goes through, it could satisfy demands to turn the controversial project known as “Monster in the Mission” into 100 percent affordable housing, which fell through after steep community pushback.

Developer Crescent Heights would buy the 1919 Mission St. property to satisfy affordable housing requirements for its project at the former Honda dealership on Van Ness Avenue, the San Francisco Chronicle first reported. Plans aren’t final and are still contingent on making both sites equitable in coordination with Plaza 16 Coalition and other anti-displacement groups, according to Bocanegra.

“A major accomplishment that’s yet to be resolved would be about the equity framework around the Hub,” Bocanegra said. “If the equity plans are not adopted then the community would not be moving forward with this proposal.”

Bocanegra hopes that the disproportionate impacts of coronavirus on marginalized groups will have commissioners and supervisors heed community concerns. Henderson added that the plans were drafted in a dramatically different political era that could change the Hub’s trajectory.

“It’s a big deal being decided in the middle of a pandemic,” Henderson said. “We as a city need to think about how we can house teachers and essential workers. We should be planning in that political paradigm, a post-pandemic reality.”

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