Restrictions May be Lifted to Encourage Light Industrial Revitalization

Ocean Sash and Door at 3154 17th St. Photo by Lola M. Chavez.

A coalition of legislators including Mayor Ed Lee and District 9 Supervisor Hillary Ronen are proposing a shift in the rules governing industrial areas, including reversing a previous decision about commercial space along 16th Street.

The change revolves around a zoning use known as PDR (production, distribution and repair) that encompasses a wide variety of uses including small manufacturing, artist studios, auto repair shops, and furniture wholesale. Along 16th Street, a Transit-Oriented Retail Special Use District was originally established to encourage retailers to move into the area.

But, the city now says, that designation hasn’t resulted in retailers flocking to 16th Street, and instead the city wants to encourage industrial businesses to return.

“It hasn’t succeeded, and has had the unintended consequence of less property being available for PDR, or shorter term leases,” explained Laurel Arvanitidis, the director of business development at the Office of Economic and Workforce Development. “Because it wasn’t successful, we’re saying, let’s return these buildings to solely PDR.”

Accessory retail in the PDR buildings, Arvanitidis added, will still be allowed.

Another shift is that gyms and massage facilities will no longer be considered PDR use, because they are “not consistent with the goals of PDR zoning,” which usually refers to retaining jobs for the middle class.

“We want San Francisco to be a place where working class families can raise their children, and for that to happen we need good-paying jobs for all people,” the mayor said in the city’s written statement about the legislation.

Existing gyms and massage parlors won’t be affected, but the restriction keeps more PDR-zoned land from being used for these services.

PDR does, however, still allow for things like 3-D printing, clothing manufacturing, and chocolate production, as the city’s statement on the rule change indicates.

The legislation would also raise height limits from between three and eight feet for a group of more than 100 parcels, to allow operations that need higher ceilings. That move corrects a slight city mixup in which some parcels in the area were granted a height increase for their ground floors, but not an overall height increase, which essentially forced builders to replace one story of the building with ceiling height for the ground floor.

“It keeps development potential for the properties the same as was intended in the Eastern Neighborhoods Plan,” Arvanitidis said. “We’re really focused on ensuring that the ground floor can accommodate PDR, and can do it affordably.”

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