Wave of development could sweep through four eastern neighborhoods

A building boom in San Francisco’s east side could start within a year, with white-collar jobs and thousands of new homes expected to replace dwindling industrial jobs in a sweeping 2,200-acre rezoning proposal ready to be debated by city leaders after nine years of planning efforts.

The 1,373-page draft Eastern Neighborhood plan — which will guide the future development of areas including the Central Waterfront, Potrero Hill, the Mission and some part of the South of Market neighborhood — goes before The City’s Planning Commission today.

The plan, if eventually adopted by the Board of Supervisors, is expected to reduce the amount of light industry in those areas, by allowing increased housing density and building heights, and changing building rules.

If the plan is approved, higher-density homes could be built in the neighborhoods to house more than 20,000 new residents by 2025 — a 30 percent population rise, according to findings in a draft environmental impact report.

John Rahaim, The City’s planning director, said the plan aims toslow the ongoing loss of light industry and other related businesses that historically dominated San Francisco’s east.

The draft plan aims to encourage construction of new homes and “employment space” that’s better suited to emerging “knowledge-based” industries, Rahaim said, such as those in the biotechnology, environmental and information technology fields.

The total number of jobs in the neighborhoods is expected to remain relatively unchanged if the rezoning goes ahead, but the number of industrial jobs could fall by as much as one-third to 23,000, according to the environmental impact report.

The proposal also includes plans for at least four new parks, would develop transit-, bicycle- and pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods, and preserve certain view corridors.

At least 88 development projects are on hold pending the plan’s finalization, according to Rahaim, who said he hopes to have the approval process completed by the fall.

Construction of those projects could begin early next year and the housing and office markets will determine whether a building-boom occurs at that point, he said.

The plan’s path to approval could be a bumpy one.

Some city legislators have expressed concerns about keeping unbridled development in check and dozens of residents and neighborhood groups attended planning commission meetings in December and January to voice opposition.

Critics of the plan say they fear neighborhood identities will be lost, along with diversity and small businesses.

Developers and builders also say they are worried by the proposal, which requires around one-third of the new units to be sold at below-market rates to very low- to middle-income earners.

Residential Builders Association President Sean Keighran said more incentives, such as height allowances and flexibility should be offered to builders in exchange for the construction of more inclusionary housing.

jupton@examiner.com

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