Tensions ran high at a meeting last week when members of the Liberty Hill Neighborhood Association and the developer of a 12-unit building slated for construction at the corner of Valencia and Hill streets disagreed over plans for the project.
Eileen Hassi, the owner of Ritual Coffee on Valencia Street, organized the public meeting to get more information about the construction plans before Sept. 6, when the Planning Commission will decide the project’s fate.
Hassi told Mission Local that she and the Valencia Corridor Merchants Association needed facts before they could decide whether or not to support the project as proposed.
“As a merchant, I am concerned with what do people want,” she said.
Disagreements over the plans ranged from the building’s height to available parking and aesthetics. Conflicting information on whether the units would be for sale or for rent also angered some in the audience.
The project’s sponsor, Mark Rutherford, and architect Stephen Antonaros said that the five-story building will have 12 one- and two-bedroom residential units and one commercial unit, zoned as a restaurant. The plans include no parking for cars, but 32 bicycle parking spaces.
While Rutherford and Antonaros came prepared to give an informal presentation, the meeting soon became a back and forth of questions and concerns from the attendees.
Members of the Liberty Hill Neighborhood Association, who have filed a formal objection against the project that will be addressed by the Planning Commission, voiced their arguments that the 55-foot-tall building is not in scale with the neighborhood and does not provide enough parking.
Antonaros told the crowd that the bike parking will take care of the parking concerns.
“As many here know, Valencia is pretty bike-centric,” he said. “Serving the burgeoning bike population is more progressive.”
This did little to convince the neighbors. “You can’t force people to bike,” someone shouted.
“The market will force them,” replied Antonaros.
“Oh, your mighty market,” said someone as guffaws erupted.
Sara Shortt, a neighbor who does not belong to the Liberty Hill Neighborhood Association, agreed with Antonaros in part.
“I’m a biker,” Shortt said. “Many people in this neighborhood, including myself, are really supportive of less parking.”
A representative from the Marsh Theater said that a tall building next to the theater would impact ventilation and light. In addition, the potential noise from months of construction could impact theater-goers.
“We have talked to the Marsh. They have a leaky building,” said Antonaros, referring to the Marsh building’s permeability to sound. “Our building will be very soundproof.”
As the presentation went on, the audience became confused by conflicting information about whether the units would be for sale or rent.
“The project is slated for rental,” Antonaros said at the beginning of the meeting. But a half hour later, when Shortt asked about the potential for the units to become condos, she was told they would be for sale.
“These are condos,” said Antonaros. Faces around the room scrunched. “These are for-sale units for now; we misspoke before.” He added that while the developer would have preferred rental units, city fees and the long, drawn-out development process had made it necessary to sell them.
When one woman asked how much the units would sell for, Rutherford chimed in, “This is proprietary information.”
Some attendees indicated less opposition to the project.
Laurie Voss, the technical co-founder of awe.sm, a startup located on 22nd and Mission streets, attended to voice support for exactly what the Liberty Hill Neighborhood Association opposes.
“Because housing rents are up and housing is scarce, a tall and dense building is exactly what my employees need,” Voss said. “I am very much in favor of a dense building.”
Another attendee, Michael Tauber, an architect who has lived at the corner of Valencia and 20th for the past 19 years, didn’t understand the fuss.
“How can you argue with a developer who is meeting the requirements of zoning? This district permits 55 feet.”
One neighbor kept it simple. “My concern is trivial but I will voice it — the building is ugly,” he said.
As Hassi left the meeting, she was still undecided about whether to support the development. As for the meeting, “It was what I expected,” she said. “I am really glad that there were constituents from different groups.”
To voice support or opposition for the project, contact Richard Sucre at the San Francisco Planning Department before Aug. 28. The Planning Commission meeting starts at noon on Sept. 6 and is open to the public.