Neighborhood plan reviews blamed for construction delays

A survey of historic buildings in Hayes Valley and portions of the mid-Market and Mission Dolores neighborhoods stands to delay the construction of affordable housing, critics of a revised neighborhood plan argue.

The Market and Octavia Neighborhood Plan — which could pave the way for 4,400 new housing units by 2025 — has yet to meet official approval despite its beginnings six years ago. A draft plan was released in December 2002 after a series of community meetings, workshops and tours.

The environmental review of the plan has been under way ever since and the environmental impact report is slated for consideration along with new amendments to the plan this fall.

“The big delay with Market-Octavia was because of the halting way the environmental analysis was done,” Planning Director Dean Macris said. The environmental review began after the draft neighborhood plan was solidified in late 2002, resulting in delays because environmental reviews should coincide with plan approvals, Macris said, not follow plan approval.

Additionally, six years later, new changes are being proposed to the neighborhood plan, which could also cause several months of delays due to the approval process, which includes public hearings. The changes include performing a historic survey of the area on and near Market Street, between the Van Ness Avenue and Church Street Muni stations and along Octavia Boulevard, where the former Central Freeway once ran.

Robin Levitt, an architect and board member of the Hayes Valley Neighborhood Association, said the delays are frustrating for those who spent countless hours working on the draft plan years ago.

“It’s unfortunate it’s taking so long,” Levitt said. “Now there are people saying they object to this and that. It’s the 11th hour.”

The delays will stall the development of 22 parcels along Octavia Boulevard from Market to Turk streets, which cannot be developed until the overall neighborhood plan is approved, according Richard Hillis, deputy director of the Mayor’s Office of Economic and Workforce Development. Even then, specific projects must gain individual approvals. The City gained the 22 parcels in 2003 after the state tore down the Fell Street offramp and transferred them to The City. The City expects up to 800 new units, about half of which would provide affordable housing.

The so-called neighborhood plan idea was designed to help implement long-term planning guidelines in areas larger than 40 acres. The City’s Better Neighborhoods plans were devised to shape The City’s long-term future and avoid piecemeal planning.

In the last six years, the Planning Department has spent $4.5 million drawing up plans for its three better neighborhoods plans: Balboa Park, Central Waterfront and Market-Octavia. None of the transit-oriented plans has yet been implemented.

The Planning Commission is slated to consider the changes when it meets on Sept. 7 and during subsequent meetings, said AnMarie Rodgers, project manager with the San Francisco Planning Department.

mcarroll@examiner.com

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