Plans for 344 14th Street

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.” 

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19 Comments

    1. $300 to delay any project for a couple years. IN the case of the bike lanes it was a decade.

      At some point I suggested raising funds so that every project would get hit with a CEQA review to highlight the abuse, but it turns out that isn’t necessary since it happens nearly 100% of the time already.

  1. It’s weird. When I lived in the mission, none of these mission district activists asked me my opinion on anything. Seems like they only have their own interests at heart. I’m sure they’re aware there’s a housing crisis, what’s their suggestion to fix it? Perhaps you should call these mission district activists and ask them if they actually know anything or if they just say gentrification over and over with different intonations so it kind of sounds like a sentence but has no actual meaning.

  2. I’d be perfectly happy if that ugly Armory building was ripped down & replaced by similar housing. It may be “historic” but it’s not exactly the best use of that block

  3. Observations regarding the Appeal Letter:

    Seems like some reasonable points are made. A fairly large construction located on what is swamp under the pavement.

    I guess you can argue “high earners” are a greater danger to pedestrians and bicyclists what with their Ubers and Lyfts and Google buses. On the flip side there is no off-street parking and you’d be insane to assume one could find on-street parking for the BMW on a regular basis.

    Other:

    Going by the factory1 website Hill and Padroncelli have done one design project for affordable housing. However 90% of their work is quite high end and one would have to cash in the stock options to be able to afford it. Seems hypocritical for those sucking on the teat of the uberati to voice class animosity to their meal ticket.

    The building is butt ugly but par for the course for a structure where design is guided by Peter Principle San Francisco bureaucracy.

    Why do people even bother trying to put up market rate developments in the Mission?
    At some point there must be a realization it’s more economically viable just to give in and sell out to MEDA or try and offload to some out of town sucker.
    Mr. Tillman the exception but that was a case of extreme stubbornness in the face of unrelenting/underhanded subterfuge and even he ultimately handed off the project.

    1. It almost makes you wonder why they are protesting so much.
      Perhaps it’s because they were not hired or paid an extortionate “consulting fee” to co-operate.

  4. I’d be more than happy to have that ugly “historic” armory torn down to make room for a housing project……and yes I’ve never been asked my opinion by any “activists” either, not since I moved into the area in 1990…..

  5. It’s past time to stop allowing these militant tormentors from to raise prices and delay construction of much needed housing. When they lose their appeals they should be forced to pay the cost of the delays.

  6. And meanwhile, while these so called “activists” delay projects for months, and years, keeping hundreds of units from being built, home buyers are instead buying older, tenant-occupied housing stock to move into, rather than moving into brand new units. Again, an unintended consequence of the Progressive’s inability to separate ideological dogma from practical solutions.

    1. Agreed.

      Folks will buy a TIC from an Ellis flipper instead – if their need is great enough.
      Speculators whose sole purpose is to put people out on the street.

      That said – it is almost inconceivable someone would purchase an Ellis TIC.
      Morally it’s reprehensible to house oneself at the expense of another losing their home.
      You’re also stuck with a whole host of financial restrictions and good luck ever getting the unit condoed.

      1. The SF Condo Conversion lottery is suspended til at least 2024 and nobody thinks it’s ever coming back. So there is very little actual cost to Ellis Acting a building, besides the slightly more complex title and financing. But banks will figure that out.

        Of course this suspension was in the name of discouraging evictions. Another ill conceived policy. How is Hilary doing on her 10k affordable units promise again?

  7. This will certainly be an interesting one.

    This project, just like 2918 Mission (aka the absurd “historic laundromat”), is a State Density Bonus Law (SDBL) project.

    And, remember, State Law overrides Local Law.

    If the Board of Supervisors (BOS) tries to do what what they tried to do (at the behest of Supervisor Ronen) with Robert Tillman’s 2918 Mission project then the BOS is going to, once again, expose the taxpayers to massive $ liability.

    What they attempted to do with 2918 Mission was obviously illegal and after all the sturm und drang, the City ultimately (quietly at the direction of the “voice of reason”, aka the City Attorney) backtracked and quickly re-approved the project.

    If the BOS once again caves to the unwritten/undemocratic policy of “Supervisorial Perogative” and the NIMBY mob, then as 2-time offenders, the Courts will have to come down hard on them.

    Accordingly, I expect a lot of chest-beating and Clintonian “I-feel-your -pain” expressions on the part of bad actors like Ronen but, ultimately, the BOS will uphold the Planning Commission’s approval of this project.

    It’s absolutely awesome that this project, like 2918 Mission, is in Ronen’s District and I’m going to enjoy seeing this play out immensely.

    Either way it goes — either quickly and legally or slowly and illegally, seeing Hillary Ronen being forced to eventually capitulate and eat crow will be sweet. It’ll also be a great bitch-slap to the NIMBY crowd.

  8. A decade into Eastern Neighborhoods, it is clear that very little worked out according to plan, and that the environmental clearance was functionally fraudulent.

    It is long past time to revisit the zoning of the Mission to set the rules for development that meet the needs of the evolving community and which legislates the concessions expected from developers into law so that self-appointed unaccountable operators are not the ones making decisions for the community.

    These operators have no interest in changing the rules so that development in the Mission is not a project-by-project battle because they get paid by the project, piece workers as it were. And they really have no interest in plugging the luxury condo floodgates because their agencies are funded in part by above the table exactions/fees and below the table extortion like this.

    The professional progressives beholden to the city funded nonprofits have failed to live up to their own stated politics and they’ve refused to take steps to bring their promises and reality into conformance. Their approach has failed to “save the Mission.” It has failed to arrest the decline. But it has succeeded in keeping the cartels funded.

    For a neighborhood crawling with “community organizers,” the community remains perennially unorganized and vulnerable to these destructive luxury condo projects.

    1. That last paragraph is truly the most damning. Never have I seen a coherent policy position taken by these self-appointed community voices which moves the neighborhood forward.

      1. The coherent policy is to act politically like an invasive eucalyptus does ecologically, to drop phytotoxins along the drip line so that no other plants can grow and the existing paid “organizers” can thrive.

        Community organizers exist to ensure that the community never organizes so that the peace and stability agreement between the for-profit corporate developers and the non-profit corporate developers is maintained. Note, that there is no room for San Franciscans, the corporate interests.

        Organizing for disorganization’s sake.

        Now if the nonprofits were able to produce any meaningful results relative to the challenges they face, this would be less of a problem. But they continue on, indeed expand, irrespective of the deterioration in their professional portfolios which reflects violence of eviction and displacement among their claimed “community.”

        In the world of neoliberal identity politics, someone can claim to act on behalf of poor people or people of color and that automagically insulates them from any accountability for their failures. Note that even in the face of failure, these operatives continue to get paid.

        And as far as United to Save the Mission goes, I went to a few of their meetings on the cultural district. It was comprised with a new set of itinerant nonprofit employees and a smattering of residents. The main goal was to get a line on City hotel tax dollars to fund a new nonprofit cultural district.

        I’d attended a previous meeting years ago leading up to the failed ballot measure on the Mission Moratorium. I stopped going to that after one of CCHO’s, was it Scott Weaver, inserted a poison pill into the measure that added a moratorium on non-residential uses.

        This was most likely to ensure the continued flow of in-lieu fees to the CCHO nonprofit developers. Community organizers exist so that any residents with knowledge of the politics and law who take time to participate are alienated and stand down.

        Cultural districts are like tombstones, they are enacted as a community is on the verge of extinction. I guess it is nice work, being able to stride into meetings in a position of relative power, if you can get it, tho.

        1. Wow… awesome read. I love reading the comment section showing who the real residents of the Mission feel regarding new housing vs the Nimby “activists” who are not really activists but in truth exclusionists who would rather continue to see counts of homeless and rents rise.

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