The Liberty Hill Neighborhood Association has won a small battle in its fight to stop a proposed five-story development on Valencia and Hill Streets.
Last Thursday, the San Francisco Planning Commission voted unanimously to require a report on the impacts of the proposed development on the adjacent Liberty Hill Historic District. The commissioners turned down the association’s request for a more detailed environmental review.
“I do not think it takes a full environmental [review] — I think that is overkill,” said commission president Ron Miguel. “I think more of a consideration of the impact with the historic district [of] a large corner building should be looked at.”
The proposal in question would demolish the 23-foot-high, 1,670-square-foot building at 1050 Valencia. It was formerly a Kentucky Fried Chicken and is currently occupied by the restaurant Spork.
In its place, project sponsor Shizhuo Holdings Trust is proposing a 17,000-square-foot, 55-foot-high mixed-use building with 16 residential units.
According to the filed proposal, the owners of Spork would be allowed to return once the project is complete.
The project is in compliance with city restrictions and is outside the Liberty Hill Historic District, according to the Planning Department. The neighborhood association argued, however, that because it is adjacent to the historic district, the project will significantly impact the neighborhood’s historic character.
The Planning Department’s response to the association’s complaints has been “largely focused on the compatibility with Valencia Street and ignore[s] its impact on Hill Street,” said neighborhood association secretary Peter Heinecke.
The commissioners agreed, and voted for more information on the impacts.
Commissioner Hisashi Sugaya said the language the Planning Department used “is flawed, because it’s trying to tell us that [the project] doesn’t have an impact on the historic district, but it only analyzes the Valencia Street corridor.”
Although the hearing only considered whether further environmental review was necessary, it also offered insight into the likely arguments for and against the project when the full proposal goes to the Planning Commission again.
Some of the neighborhood association’s concerns are the project’s height and the shadows it could cast on adjacent properties, increased demand for parking, and the loss of a sense of the Mission District and its cultural life.
The current proposal does not include a parking garage, although the project is expected to generate demand for an additional 34 parking spaces. The exclusion is consistent with the Eastern Neighborhoods Area Plan, which encourages the use of mass transit.
Jason Henderson, who teaches transportation studies at San Francisco State University, praised the lack of parking because “it follows through with true sustainable urbanism.”
Planning Department staff stated that the project is intended to be rental units and is well served by transit.
Audrey Bauer, a nearby resident, claimed that the units are too small to be family-friendly.
“The Mission households are family households with a median size of three people, and most have more than four people,” Bauer said. “However, the units are very small. The majority are studios of 400 square feet, and there are some two-bedrooms of less than 800 square feet.”
For now, the Liberty Hill Neighborhood Association is satisfied with its gain.
“The people I talked with were pleased that the Planning Commission recognized that the building will have a tremendous impact on Hill Street and the rest of the Liberty Hill Historic District,” Heinecke said in an e-mail. “We are hopeful that we will be able to work with the project sponsor to come up with something more suitable.”