Rendering of the plans for 490 South Van Ness. Image courtesy Forum Design Architects.

“It’s been a long, long process,” said pro-development advocate Sean Keighran of the hotly contested 490 South Van Ness condo development at today’s Planning Commission meeting.  And it will be even longer. 

The project, which was first proposed in 2010 will have to wait three more weeks  as the commission voted unanimously today to push back its final decision on the project to September 3.  This, they decided, will give the project’s backers J.C.N. Developers time to do more community outreach.

Specifically, community members want them to talk to Marshall Elementary PTA. With the support of District 9 Supervisor David Campos, community activists asked for the delay arguing that while the project’s sponsors spoke to the school’s principal and facilities manager, parents at the nearby school have been kept out of the loop.  It’s unclear what parents want as they were not at today’s meeting. 

Photo by Lydia Chávez

The project has stepped up to work with community groups in recent weeks, but there are still pockets of the community that have not been reached,” said Edward Lindo speaking on behalf of Supervisor Campos’ office.

Phil Lesser, who’s working with the project’s developer, told the Commission they were willing to accept the continuance (though, the shorter the better) but he didn’t get why Marshall’s PTA needed to be involved and why now.

We’ve been speaking to almost every group in the neighborhood… Marshall is three blocks way,” said Lesser.  The school is actually one and a half blocks away, but does not directly face it.  

Activists and community members at the hearing disagreed with both of Lesser’s points. Many in the neighborhood are just finding out about the project now they argued.  Marshall, which is on 15th and Capp, is an intimate neighbor of the project’s site, which will be at 16th and South Van Ness.

Marshall parents feel like input hasn’t been heard,” said Eddie Stiel a member of Food Not Bombs. “There’s a problem in City Planning about how neighbors get notified.”

The conversation today centered around community outreach and whether and for how many weeks the Commission would postpone their final vote, but the longtime opposition to this project, which would creat 72 one and two unit condominiums, centers around affordable housing. While the project will have 12 below market units, those opposed to the project don’t think it’s enough. Furthermore, the new development will be constructed next to the Redstone Labor Temple, a historic building in San Francisco labor history.

Previously a gas station, the project’s long process was halted in 2012 with the Department of Public Health issued a cease and desist letter when a soil excavation led to concerns about health concerns. Over the past two years, the developer has removed 300 truckloads of contaminated soil and picked up the planning process again in the last year.

For now, the future of the storied site will be decided in three weeks. If Commissioner Michael Antonini’s comments are any indication, there’s a pretty good chance the Commission will green light it.

It’s a project in compliance with the Eastern Neighborhood Plan,” said Antonini, and regarding future community discussion with Marshall Elementary: “I’d imagine parents of school children would prefer a beautiful building as opposed to a filthy lot.”

Stay tuned.

Correction 8/15, 9:00 a.m.: Since the publication of this story, Phil Lesser contacted Mission Local to let us know that we were wrong in stating this project has no on-site affordable units. Digging through planning documents confirms that this project will have 12 below market units on-site. Our story has been corrected above.

Correction 8/14: A previous version of this article misspelled Eddie Stiel’s name. It has been corrected. 

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Daniel Hirsch is a freelance writer who has been living in the Mission since 2009. When he's not contributing to Mission Local, he's writing plays, working as an extra for HBO, and/or walking to the top of Bernal Hill.

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  1. Why does an existing 45′ building and a proposed 68′ building appear to be almost the same height in the developer’s rendering?

  2. Trust me, the best thing for the school and the neighborhood is to have a building of homeowners anchored there — people who have a vested interest in the community and want to see it be safe and get better. The worst things is the status quo. You need good citizens living there to counter the forces of some of the criminal types that hang out in the neighborhood.

  3. Thousands of people looking for homes and a few whiny parents are allowed to delay a project even further, for no particular reason except they say they weren’t notified. And why should they be? It doesn’t really affect them. What’s next? Notification requirements for every employee who works in the neighborhood? Everyone who drives on Van Ness? Campos doesn’t have the fortitude to tell those parents “sorry, the comment period has ended. “

    1. The current group of kids and Marshall School who we are trying to protect are probably going to be Grandparents by the time it is build. All it does is make housing more expensive.

  4. What we truly need is the children’s parents to get educated. We focus way too much on the children and not on the parents. The racist white man keeps the Latins suppressed by allowing and paying them to have more children. We need to start charging$25,000 per child born ( the funds should go towards paying down the federal debt) I don’t care if your white, black, Asian or whatever. $25,000 per child. Equality for all. These condo’s only help everyone in the neighborhood. The only people against it have been spoiled by the government and turned into a transgendered puppet.

  5. I live on that block and we didn’t get notified. The service station has been vacant for several years. The property owner shows no regard for the neighborhood; it’s never cleaned, they provide no security and have ZERO presence in the neighborhood. There have been homeless camps on the sidewalk there now for several years. We call 311 and SFPD constantly. My almost 5 year old and I interrupted a homeless man starting a grass fire in the lot. As soon as I confronted them and called 911, the man and his buddies starting urinating on the fire to put it out. If they are bad neighbors before construction, they aren’t going to get any better. At least the project at the other end (15th and S. Van Ness) maintained their property during their permitting period.

    1. Are you kidding?! The SF Planning Dept. has the most stringent rules for notification in the world. Yours is the most tired old NIMBY excuse I’ve heard. When did San Franciscans get so entitled? New housing here (even if expensive) will take pressure off the current rate of evictions. This guy seems to just want to “punish” the developer for being screwed for 6 years by the neighborhood groups…which is why the lot is a trashy mess.

    2. Your ignorance is a weak excuse. Why should everyone be punished because you don’t know what’s going on in your own neighborhood?

  6. So pathetic. This is why there is a shortage of affordable housing in the Mission, because any random and uninformed person can hold up a project for no good reason.

  7. Seriously, there are dozens of buildings in between them and a big parking lot (which is more egregious and next to the playground) and they are worried about a condo near them?
    If anything more people living close by means more families, parents, and children who might attend and be involved with the school.

    If the developers have been in contact with the School Administration, then its obvious that the administration has a lack of communication with the parents.

    As was stated, this has been in the works for 4+ years, with notices online, at the site (tagged of course), and in the news.

  8. This is ridiculous. People holding up this project should be ashamed of themselves. Anything on this corner would be an improvement from the grimy vacant lot full of garbage that it is now.

    Build a new gas station. Build apartments. Build a Starbucks. Build a taqueria. Build LITERALLY ANYTHING and it would improve this corner which has been a blight on the neighborhood for years.

  9. “while the project’s sponsors spoke to the school’s principal and facilities manager, parents at the nearby school have been kept out of the loop. It’s unclear what parents want as they were not at today’s meeting.”

    BWAHAHAHA this city.

  10. Oh FFS marshals is a full city block away, and kiddy corner, with a dozen plus bldgs and a street in between. This project will have zero impact on them- unless it gets populated with child molesters.

    But thanks, housing activits, for ensuring that my mission properties retain maximum value! Less is more!

  11. It speaks volumes that the PTA is completely fine with the violent crime, prostitution, and drug sales that go on daily outside the school, yet are outraged by prospect of shade a few months a year. But then, pimps and drug dealers don’t have the ability to provide handouts like developers do.

  12. Marshall isn’t three blocks away – it’s on the same block, diagonally behind it. I can imagine this project creating quite an effect on the school, so am surprised they haven’t discussed it with them (if that’s true).

    In any event, this project will be a vast improvement to the slummy corner that’s there now. I’d think the school would see at least some of the positive effects this will have long term on the neighborhood.

  13. Strange that a PTA of a school 3 blocks away should hold up progress. Looking for a payout, perhaps?

  14. sigh. man, if you wonder why housing is so expensive in this city, you can easily see the at least half the blame lays with all this idiotic NIMBYS and community activist who block and delay every single new project for years. Someone has to pay for that, and it shows up in housing costs. If you want affordable housing, stop blocking all the development, and market rate housing will end up being cheaper! it is really not that hard to figure out….