SF planners propose zoning changes, street reconfigurations for central SoMa

Heavy industry is no longer the lifeblood of The City’s South of Market – but the neighborhood’s zoning regulations and transportation infrastructure still seem tailored toward the days when it was.

Now planning and transit officials are moving forward with a project to help the transforming area accommodate anticipated growth in housing and jobs.

The area included in the proposed Central SoMa Plan – Market to Townsend streets and Second to Sixth streets – originally was set for rezoning along with the Mission, Potrero, Dogpatch and the Central Waterfront as part of the Eastern Neighborhoods Plan. At the end of 2008 with the recession, however, the SoMa section was considered too complicated and had to be dropped, officials said.

Tuesday, Planning Department officials will present the project for central SoMa released in April to San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency board members. Plans call for reducing industrial zones – which mostly lie south of Harrison Street – in favor of mixed-use development.

“We have a lot of zoning in SoMa that prohibits new housing and new offices, and it doesn’t make sense in a neighborhood that has some of the best transit in the Bay Area,” said Steve Wertheim, a planner with the department. “We want to allow new development to happen there.”

Along with zoning changes, the plan calls for street reconfigurations.

Harrison, Bryant, Third and Fourth streets would get widened sidewalks, reduced traffic lanes and transit lanes. Brannan Street would receive the same, but a cycling track in place of a transit lane, while Folsom Street would be re-envisioned as a civic boulevard.

“SoMa was designed back when it was an old industrial neighborhood, to get vehicles through as fast as possible,” Wertheim said. “That’s not the SoMa we have today and it’s not the SoMa we expect to have in the future, so we’ve done a lot of design work to make it comfortable for all modes of transportation.”

Such planning keeps in mind that San Francisco is expected to grow by 200,000 people and 190,000 jobs by 2040, according to the planning department. Currently, about 8,700 housing units and 50,000 jobs exist. The plan allows for an additional 2,500 to 4,600 housing units and 24,000 to 36,000 jobs by 2040.

Design and construction – not including Folsom and Howard streets – will cost an estimated $110 million. A draft environmental impact report is expected in September 2014. In the meantime, planning and transit officials will continue fine-tuning the plan with community input.

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