By ALLISON DAVIS
As members of the Eastern Neighborhoods Planning commission outlined details of their proposal, Sophie Maxwell, chair of the three-member Land Use and Economic Development Committee, let no fact go uncontested.
“It all sounds like a good idea, but we need meat on the bone,” said Maxwell several times during the three-hour Board of Supervisors hearing.
The September 17 hearing, the first of five, dealt largely with vision of retail and office space spelled out in the Eastern Neighborhoods Area Plans, which affects the Mission, South of Market, Potrero Hill and Central Waterfront districts.
The plan seeks to rezone and redevelop the neighborhoods to encourage growth.
The commission has worked for eight years with members of the community to develop a plan that strikes a balance between what is best for the neighborhood and what will foster the most growth for the city.
”We’re dealing with an imbalanced part of the city,” said Maxwell. “We can’t forget the community that is going to be affected by this.
On Wednesday the focus was zoning that would allow for more retail spaces in high traffic areas, such as 16th and Dolores Streets. While some attendants, including Maxwell, raised an eyebrow at the idea of a sharp increase in retail, Ken Rich of the City Planning Department pointed out that there would be fewer displaced residents under commercial rezoning than if the corridor underwent residential rezoning.
The commercial rezoning that would bring more retail would also bring production, distribution and repair services, which include performance spaces, design activities, and furniture wholesale.
These were considered beneficial by the commission because they foster creative industries and offer decent-paying jobs for the 50 percent of San Francisco residents without college degrees, said an official.
But residents argued that these jobs would be ill-suited replacements to existing jobs in industrial areas that stimulate growth in the community.
“Make sure those jobs don’t just include a mop and a bucket,” said Nick Pagoulatos of the Mission Anti-Displacement Coalition. “Give jobs that offer room for growth.”
Maxwell agreed, directing a curt order to the Planning Commission to ensure that the residents of these neighborhood received jobs of quality.
Michael Yarne, development advisor at the Mayor’s Office, presented a fee-deferral incentive program and insisted that owners would be required to report on their businesses and employees on a regular basis. After a five-year sunset period business owners would have to reapply.
While community members, such as Katie Soffis of the North Mission Residents Association, cited Timbuk2 and Extreme Pizza as models for how lucrative incentive programs were, the board remained skeptical.
Citing the 1986 example of a similar program in Oakland, in which business owners, who received fee deferrals, were expected to report on the number of community employees, Supervisor Aaron Peskin reiterated the unlikelihood of sustainability.
“It’s been 22 years and we haven’t seen a report,” said Peskin. “I hate to sound like broken record, but we’ve been through this exercise before.”
“You don’t sound like a broken record,” retorted Yarne, accusing the board of attacking a program which could provide much needed jobs. “You’ve just re-affirmed what everyone already knows.”
Both Peskin and Maxwell agreed, the plan sounded good in theory, but the logistics were lacking.
This issue and others will be presented, debated and revised at future hearings through the beginning of October, before the board will approve the proposal.