After fighting the neighbors of a proposed condominium complex on Valencia Street for more than three years, the project’s developer cleared a major hurdle on Thursday night.
The San Francisco Planning Commission voted unanimously to approve Shizuo Holdings Trust’s plan to erect a 12-unit, 55-foot-tall building with 1,740 square feet of retail on the ground floor at 1050 Valencia St. The Liberty Hill Neighborhood Association has led the opposition to the development, as many of its members live in two-story Victorian houses on Hill Street, which is part of the Liberty Hill Historic District.
Even though the project has characteristics the city considers desirable, including two on-site affordable housing units and no off-street parking, it will likely be caught up in appeals. Thursday night’s decision may sound like a victory, but the project’s sponsor wasn’t celebrating.
“This is a big loss for [the Liberty Hill Neighborhood Association], but it is appealable at so many levels,” said Stephen Antonaros, the architect for the developer. The group has already told him it plans to appeal the project to the Board of Supervisors, he said.
Indeed, Peter Heinecke, the association’s vice president, told Mission Local that the group reserves its right to file an appeal.
“I am hopeful that we will be able to make a compromise,” he said. “If we are not able to cooperate, then we might consider an appeal.”
The association is mainly concerned with the building’s aesthetics.
“The community message has been the same: this building is too tall, too dense and incompatible with the neighborhood,” said Risa Teitelbaum, a member of the association.
About 20 people spoke in opposition to the project at Thursday’s meeting, including Hill Street property owners, some Valencia Street business owners and former Board of Appeals member Rafael Mandelmann.
However, the group lost support from a key business. Eileen Hassi, the owner of Ritual Roasters, which is on the same block, took back her signature on the opposition’s petition after attending an informational meeting with the neighborhood group a few weeks ago.
“After last night’s meeting, I can’t associate myself or my business with the views of the LHNA,” she wrote on the petition’s website. “They create a hostile environment and made it nearly impossible for neighbors to get information about the project or share views that are different from those of the LHNA.”
A handful of people spoke in favor of the project, including Tim Colen, the executive director of the San Francisco Housing Action Coalition, who argued that the development couldn’t be a better fit for Valencia Street.
The project would dedicate two units as below market rate to meet the city’s affordable housing requirement, it would be right at the height limit of 55 feet, and it would not include onsite parking, meeting the city’s transit-first policy, which discourages driving.
“They’ve done everything the city says it wants,” Colen said. “It’s up to you to stand up for it.”
The commissioners agreed, though not without reservations. Commissioner Michael Antonini expressed skepticism that the lack of parking would work.
“It’s what staff wants, but some of the neighbors know realistically that they are going to be competing for parking,” he said.
As part of the approval, the Commission suggested that the developer work with its next-door neighbor, the Marsh Theater, whose members are worried that they will lose natural light and ventilation because the proposed development’s five stories are three stories taller than their building.
The project could well end up at another hearing, because the commissioners asked the developer to make the rear yard less intrusive. The developer feared this would open another avenue for an appeal.
He didn’t get any sympathy from the commissioners.
“There are going to be appeals no matter what,” Commissioner Hayashi Sugaya said. “If it takes a variance to get a better project, then I would encourage you to take that on.”