Thursday, January 29, 2009

Spot Zoning Part I

Where did all the trouble with parcel 3616-007 (the site of the New Mission Theatre) begin? It really started with former Supervisor Geraldo Sandoval.

Under the guise of historic preservation, former Supervisor Sandoval introduced legislation that would have excluded the parcels where the El Capitan residential hotel and the New Mission sit from the height requirements, essentially giving the developers a variance.

Sandoval introduced legislation during the last Land Use Committee Hearing on the Eastern Neighborhoods on November 24th. Scores of hearings were held at both the Planning Commission and the Land Use Committee on the Plan, where proposed amendments were, for the most part, thoroughly vetted. The height increase proposed in Sandoval’s legislation was never discussed during the process.

The last minute introduction of this piece of legislation was an insult to the hundreds if not thousands of individuals who attended the Eastern Neighborhoods hearings at the Planning Commission and Land Use Committee. Only a few concerned citizens had the opportunity to comment on the legislation at the last minute.

Sandoval argued that any proposed developments on those two parcels should be allowed to go up to 85 feet, by right, in order to preserve the facades or marquees. We were not necessarily opposed to the merits of his legislation; we were opposed to the manner in which it was introduced.

It was our contention that Sandoval’s action to introduce legislation at the final hearing went against the spirit of the Eastern Neighborhoods planning process. While we have reservations about the Eastern Neighborhoods Plan, it had unlike Sandoval’s legislation, been vetted during the last year by community organizations, community residents, the development lobby, the Planning Department, the Planning Commission, and the Board of Supervisors.

At best we considered the legislation to have been spot zoning, and at worst, to be a mockery of the planning process in San Francisco.

We argued for it to be treated as trailing legislation to allow for more community input and a more measured analysis by the Planning Department and Board of Supervisors.

Luckily for the community, the Board recognized the legislation as spot zoning and turned it down.

Unfortunately, other Supervisor were not content with its defeat, leading to a strange series of events that brings us to the February 3rd vote.

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