“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.
“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.”
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.