SoMa tower skips impact review

Despite concerns over increased traffic, study deems effects minimal

A proposed 23-story South of Market condominium project won’t have to undergo an environmental review, raising some questions about potential traffic impacts in the burgeoning area.

The 220-foot Tehama Street building is one of about 10 high-rises approved conceptually in the 40-acre area known as the Transbay Redevelopment Project Area. Buildings currently under construction there include the 58-story Millenium Tower at 301 Mission St. and a 33-story high-rise at 555 Mission Street. The redevelopment area was created in June 2005 to encompass development around the Transbay Terminal, which itself is slated to undergo a $3.4 billion renovation that would turn it into a state-of-the-art transit hub.

The proposed 198 condominiums on Tehama Street wouldn’t significantly increase the amount of traffic or parking in the area, or have a measurable impact on public services or utilities, according to a document released by the Planning Department for the proposed project between First and Secondstreets.

But Jeffery Leibovitz, a South of Market resident and neighborhood activist, said The City’s review of the project doesn’t adequately address the parking issues such a large complex could raise.

“This is not New York City,” where most people rely on public transportation, Leibovitz said.

While blueprints call for 76 underground parking spots and 176 valet spaces, an unmet need of about 116 parking spaces is expected in the middle of the week, according to the planning document. The availability of unused parking spaces in the area — more than 700 — would offset any shortages, the report finds.

The absence of abundant parking and a dense urban setting encourages drivers to change their habits, city planners say in the study. The City’s “Transit First” policy calls for encouraging people to take public transit where available, and parking is being limited for many new residential housing projects.

For example, the latest incarnation of the Market and Octavia Neighborhood Plan — which calls for 4,400 new housing units by 2025 in the area of Market Street between Van Ness Avenue and Church Street, including the new Octavia Boulevard — would provide less than one parking spot per housing unit, as is the standard under The City’s planning rules.

The City’s report finds that the Tehama condominiums won’t have negative aesthetic impacts, will present less-than-significant impacts on schools and that construction and traffic noises are expected to be less than significant.

The 63-page planning document concludes that the project would not require a major expansion of power or water facilities. The planning document, if not appealed by Friday, paves the way for developer Fritzi Realty to seek permits, city planner Susan Mickelsen said.

So far, no public comments have been received on the project, Mickelsen said.

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