The Planning Commission on Thursday voted to prohibit most office space in some new developments in the Mission District.
The unanimous vote Thursday on a proposal from Supervisor Hillary Ronen is intended to boost housing in projects within the urban mixed use (UMU) district that includes the South of Market, Potrero Hill, and the central waterfront, which was created to allow for residential and office space while preserving industrial uses.
The restrictions approved Thursday no longer allow new office space in the upper levels of certain developments within the UMU district, but scale back Ronen’s original proposal to include only the Mission District.
Ronen introduced her proposal in February after the controversial approval of a project at the former Lyft headquarters at 2300 Harrison St. that allowed a total of 95,00 square feet of office space and 24 dwelling units. The project made use of state density bonus laws intended to incentivize housing by allowing up to 35 percent more density in projects that meet certain requirements.
“It basically allows the increase of office space, which is more profitable, by creating a small number of housing units,” Ronen said of current laws and zoning. “That’s not what we need right now.”
The proposal would have also required conditional authorization for ground floor office space, which is currently allowed as long as it’s for a professional, financial, or medical service, but Planning Department staff recommended against that out of concern it would prevent non-profits from being shut out of using that space.
The zoning change approved Thursday drew concern from the owner of the building at 2300 Harrison St. A representative called for the project there, approved in December, to be grandfathered in to prevent killing it altogether.
“It’s unfortunate and inequitable to change the rules after it’s gone before the Planning Commission,” said Tuija Catalano, a partner at Reuben, Junius & Rose law firm representing the project’s sponsor. “We are just asking to go through the normal approval process.”
Representatives from the YIMBY Action and Housing Action Coalition groups agreed, warning that failing to do so would create uncertainty, and therefore increase the cost to build housing and discourage future developers.
A handful of public commenters disagreed that the project at 2300 Harrison St. should be grandfathered in.
“We know the UMU area is not acting as intended,” said Carlos Bocanegra of the community group United to Save the Mission. “We’ve seen an extraordinary amount of office added to the Mission area.”
Planning commissioners also expressed concern for the four or five projects in the pipeline that would be impacted by the changes, and added an exemption for projects with proposals submitted before the legislation was introduced on February 11.
Some commissioners also said the commission would need to revisit making the same change to the rest of the UMU district at a later time. Community input from those areas was cut short by the coronavirus response, Ronen’s office told commissioners.
The proposal goes before the Land Use and Transportation Committee on Monday.