The proposed building. Courtesy of the Planning Department.

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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.

The current building. Courtesy of the Planning Department.

“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.”

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Rigoberto Hernandez

Rigoberto Hernandez is a journalism student at San Francisco State University. He has interned at The Oregonian and The Orange County Register, but prefers to report on the Mission District. In his spare time he can be found riding his bike around the city, going to Giants games and admiring the Stable building.

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  1. This project is a total mess. The only people with enough cash to buy these crummy condos will have cars; so we build them without parking expecting that they’ll use public transit. At the same time, we’re cutting public transit and spending stimulus funds on road-building.

  2. I’m sure the NIMBYs would love this to be a KFC again.

    San Francisco needs more housing, period.

  3. Didn’t the old KFC have parking? Spork made the parking lot into a deck and the neighborhood didn’t crumble. This is a smart project in the right place and if the units are too small, then that’s the developer’s problem, not the neighborhood. I wish there were more YIMBY’s in SF.

  4. SF doesn’t need more housing. SF doesn’t have any more land to grow towards (7×7, remember?). SF needs less people interested in living within it. If the population only has an upward growth line, where’s the living space going to be found? Underground?

  5. Really? This painted over KFC is a better neighbor than tax-income generating units? However, the absence of parking will clearly create more congestion in this neighborhood. That feels like a cost-cutting measure.

  6. It seem like we have an out of town developer trying to build something way too big for the neighborhood.

    Though the simple-minded will decry this as NIMBYism, it is not surprising that the residents objected to a building that will tower over the streets and consume all available parking.

    If the developer had followed some of the more recent precedents on that stretch of Valencia St., he might not have met such opposition.

  7. totally hilarious as always. TISF.

    at least there’s a nice restaurant there, and they’re not protesting to keep a vacant eyesore or shuttered storefront unchanged.

  8. This is the kind of project we need more of. It will be more affordable because the people who insist on parking in their own building won’t bid up the price of the units. And small units are fine (everywhere else in the world people live in smaller units than we have here in the U.S.). What matters is the number of bedrooms and at least some of the units have multiple bedrooms. It’s a good project!

  9. @familymansf: It is true that people who want parking in their building wont bid up the prices, but that doesn’t mean that the others won’t have cars — the extra cars have a negative impact on the neighborhood.

    This is actually not a very family friendly project; it is lots of very small apartments — mainly studios and one bedrooms.

  10. This is great, at least for now. Keep up the good work. Affordable housing for families should be a priority, not unaffordable ego bras for lobotomized consumers.

  11. Let me get this straight: people are freaking out about a building with 4 stories of residential and one of commercial without parking. Sorry, but this sort of development exists all over SF, give or take a story, and no one seems to mind since it was built 90-100 years ago.

    Please, get this sensible project built. This isn’t exactly One Rincon Hill, folks.

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