Proposed Folsom Street development won’t overshadow SoMa park, study finds

The San Francisco Recreation and Parks Commission greenlit a six-story, mixed-use housing project slated to rise at 1075-1089 Folsom St. this week despite concerns the development will cast a shadow over a South of Market public park.

The project, for which plans were initially submitted in 2015, would raze two industrial buildings to make room for 48 single-room occupancy studio apartments, as well as 15 private decks and balconies. A total of 25 percent of the units would be set at below market rate rents.

Following a request last month for a study of the impacts that a new shadow cast by the proposed development would have on SoMa’s Victoria Manalo Draves Park, the commission voted unanimously Thursday to adopt a resolution clearing the project for approval by the Planning Commission. The commissioners agreed that the less than 1 percent shadow increase caused by the development would not adversely affect park goers.

But a request for a discretionary review, filed by the South of Market Community Action Network (SOMCAN), alleges that the park is a vital resource for low-income families who would be negatively impacted by the project’s shadow, and that the housing provided will be “priced to sell at a level not compatible to existing residents” of the area.

The park is located within the Youth and Family Speical Use District, which was created to “protect and enhance the heatlh and environment for youth and families” in Soma, said SOMCAN Community Development Coordinator David Woo, adding that the SUD’s stated purpose is to adopt policies to specficially “maximize light access and minimize shadow and wind impacts.” 

“In SoMa, there is a current expansion of childcare facilities and children with families…These facilities need access to parks and open space,” he said, adding that the project will bring “primarily market-rate SROs.” 

“While we have existing SROs that are an essential stock of afforable housing, we have this new wave of market rate SROs that we are really seeing are not affordable,” he said. 

The 1984 Sunlight Ordinance and a 1989 memo require a review of shadows on Rec and Parks land for buildings 40 feet or higher. The shadow analysis will move before the Planning Commission on Nov. 8 and the discretionary review request will also be heard at that time.

Victoria Manalo Draves Park spans some 2.5 acres in the heart of SoMa less than a block away from the proposed project. It contains a basketball court, two children’s play areas and two community gardens and a ball field.

The new shadow would fall along the central western edge and up through portions of the northeastern corner of the park, affecting the edge of the basketball court, one of the children’s play areas, several picnic tables, and the ball field, according to Rec and Parks documents.

The new shadow would occur between 6:30 and 7:30 p.m. in the summer and between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. during the rest of the year. Maximum shading would occur on Nov. 22 and Jan. 18, at which points the new shadow would cover about 2 percent of the park. 

An existing shadow currently leaves about 7.41 percent of the park in darkness, while the new shadow would add a .04 percent increase. Parks over two acres with existing shadows smaller than 20 percent are allowed a shadow increase of 1 percent.

Shadow disputes have delayed projects before, including an 8-story Mission District housing development at 2918 Mission St. earlier this year. That case resulted in a lawsuit against The City by the property’s owner.

The SoMa project is designed to provide “entry-level workforce housing with smaller unit sizes that are affordable by design” said Mark Loper, an attorney with Reuben, Junius and Rose, the firm representing the project’s sponsor, Elevation Architects. Loper added that the project’s impact fees will fund child care, transportation and infrastructure improvements and public schools. 

The project’s sponsor has also agreed to make a $125,000 contribution to the Rec and Parks department to construct a new dog park in Victoria Manalo Graves Park, he said. 

Mark McNabb, a business owner in the area, said that the project would help solve the housing crisis in San Francisco. 

“We really do need to provide housing for The City,” he said. “The new residents in the area will help the businesses in the area be successful. Compared to the benefits that this project is providing, the shadow seems very slight.” 


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