A seven-story, 60-unit housing development at 344 14th St., which was green-lit in July, was appealed by Mission District activists at the end of August and must now go in front of the Board of Supervisors for a final vote.
The reasons for the appeal are numerous, and reflect a last-ditch effort to delay the would-be project at 14th and Stevenson five years after it was originally proposed. The Planning Commission approved the project 5-1 (with one commissioner absent) on July 25, even as negotiations between activists and developer Manouch Moshayedi of MX3 Ventures crumbled.
Appellants Larisa Pedroncelli and Kelly Hill, writing on behalf of Our Mission No Eviction, and whose business, Factory 1 Design, is located next-door to the proposed development site, argue in their environmental appeal that soil samples need to be re-taken; drainage and sewer systems need to be re-examined; and the development’s effects on the Woodward Street Historic District and the adjacent 105-year-old San Francisco Armory have not been adequately explored.
Moreover, Pedroncelli and Hill argue that a completed development would exacerbate traffic congestion and further endanger pedestrians and cyclists. They also say the project will contribute a “disproportionate construction of market-rate units as compared with Affordable Units.”
The project would include eight affordable units, or 13 percent.
When asked for comment, Pedroncelli and Hill, both architectural designers by trade, referred to their letter submitted Aug. 26. The two activists were among the few to speak against the project’s approval at the July 25 meeting, where they claimed Moshayedi blew them off during their attempts to negotiate in the run-up to the meeting.
At that meeting, Moshayedi’s lawyer, John Kevlin, said that the activists had declined Moshayedi’s previous offers, including the first right of refusal to an $8.7 million former auto livery at 3140 16th St. that he was unable to develop into housing.
A Board of Supervisors vote on whether to uphold the appeal is scheduled for Oct. 8. Although the entire 11-member board technically votes on the appeal, supervisors traditionally vote in line with the supervisor in whose district the project is proposed. That would be Supervisor Hillary Ronen.
“Supervisor Ronen has to review all documents and can’t compromise her ability to participate in the appeal decision by making a decision before the facts are in,” said Amy Beinart, a Ronen aide.
Ronen, in February 2018, voted to delay a 75-unit (11 percent affordable) project at 2918 Mission St. pending, first, a six-month study on whether it was a “historic resource” and, later, a months-long shadow study on a neighboring elementary school.
Despite the appeals, that project was approved in October 2018 — 11 months after the Planning Commission gave it an initial go-ahead.
But Ronen has not yet taken a stance on the 344 14th St. project, and the outcome may well be different.
David Prowler, a development consultant and former planning commissioner, said that for relatively small projects in San Francisco, the California Environmental Quality Act “is really prone to abuse” and can delay a project for years, should a group decide to file a lawsuit.
“Usually, the concern of the appellant is not environmental — it’s an objection to the project itself, not the extent of the review,” said Prowler, also formerly the director of the Office of Economic and Workforce Development. “It’s really the emperor’s new clothes, I think.”