A rendering of the proposed building at 1458 San Bruno Ave. overlooking toe Potrero Del Sol community garden.

What’s ultimately worse for San Francisco: Shadows on Potrero del Sol Park, or the city’s severe housing shortage? 

The latter, according to the Recreation and Park Commission. Today, the commission voted 4-1 that the shadows caused by a proposed seven-story residential project at 1458 San Bruno Ave., near Cesar Chavez Street, did not create enough of an “adverse effect” on the nearby park, at James Rolph Jr. playground, or the Potrero Hill Community Garden. The positive recommendation brings the project one step closer to overall approval. 

A shadow analysis indicated that the building would slightly diminish the amount of sunlight to the community garden, and slightly extend the shadow at the James Rolph Playground. Ultimately, the analysis found the most popular parts of the park, such as the skate park, would be mostly unaffected. 

“While I am very sensitive to the shadow issue, I just see the housing crisis as something out of control,” said Commissioner Laurence Griffin.  

Commissioner Vanita Louie, though a bit torn on the vote, said she grew up near parks in Chinatown that often had shadows. Ultimately, folks weren’t deterred from using the parks, she said. “I am not going to vote my conscience,” Louie said. “But I do feel a need for housing.”

The project, as proposed, has 232 units, of which 29 units will be rented for below market rate. It activated the state density bonus, and will rise at a maximum of 73 feet. 

Using housing as the deciding factor was a tad unusual for the parks commission, which does not normally consider affordable housing policies or project density in its shadow analyses. 

After several commissioners said the “public good” of housing outweighed the shadows, Recreation and Parks Department general manager Phil Ginsburg said: “This is not the Planning Commission. It is the Planning Commission’s responsibility to weigh these competing interests. You are weighing in on the impacts as it relates to the park.”

But, in this day and age, housing is top of mind, especially as public perception toward development shifts. More constituents are aware of the roles city commissions play in getting San Francisco housing projects approved. Lately, commissions like Rec and Park and the Historic Preservation Commission are under increased scrutiny as the state cracks down on building mandates. 

So, two artists who work at 1458 San Bruno Ave. urged the commission to rule that the project’s shadow would not be adverse. San Francisco’s homelessness and housing crises were worse. 

Three years ago, developer Christopher Goode proposed to demolish three industrial buildings, including one at 1458 San Bruno Ave. that houses the artist commercial space called “The Farm.” Later, the property was rezoned by the city for housing, and Goode decided to propose residential buildings and displace the 11 commercial tenants. At least three Farm residents are in support of the project, and two spoke at today’s commission meeting.


Community members decry proposed 200-unit development plan for San Bruno Avenue

Around 100 community members were in agreement Wednesday night: A seven-story, 205-unit market-rate development at 1458 San Bruno Ave. would not be good for the neighborhood, and they displayed a willingness to resist the development unless the plans change dramatically.  “I’m having nightmares about what’s going to happen here,” said Becky Jenkins, who has lived…

Residents remain unenthusiastic about housing proposal near Potrero Del Sol

Update: Tuesday’s meeting had approximately 105 participants, according to Chris Goode. The Goode family, who has long held the property next to Potrero Del Sol Park and has invited offers from affordable housing developers, wants approval for a seven-story, 232-unit building with 28 affordable units.  “I was at the original meeting that was in person, and…

Goode held multiple meetings, and knocked off some 77 units from the project to to appease complaints about possible shadows. Acknowledging concerns about affordability, Goode attempted to sell it to the city as a navigation center, but said the city turned him down. 

Still, Potrero Hill Community Garden members spoke today about how the project’s shadows would impede growth in a community garden, and they urged commissioners to vote that the projected shadows are harmful. 

Yet, even critics of the project appeared self-aware that their comments would be viewed as anti-housing, and repeatedly emphasized that they were not anti-housing “NIMBYs.” 

Some opponents said the project’s shadow might be worth it if the developer, Goode, added more affordable on-site units to the project. 

“If this project was a 100 percent affordable housing project, if it was a shelter for unhoused folks, then I would think twice about it,” said Commissioner Annie Jupiter-Jones, who was the sole commissioner to dissent in today’s vote. As a lifelong Mission resident who takes her kids to the park, she said the neighborhood benefits more from the public space than market-rate housing. 

“I do not think the benefit of this project is worth the impact that it’s going to have,” Jupiter-Jones said. 

Goode stated to Mission Local in an email that, in addition to the 29 affordable units, the city requires him to pay $4 million in fees to the city’s affordable housing fund and another $4 million in impact fees. Affordable housing fund fees later contribute to the production of 100-percent-affordable housing sites. 

During the 90-minute meeting, a few other residents called into public comment to note that the building would cause more shadow than the 1 percent it was legally allowed. Others expressed concerns finding a place to park cars in the neighborhood, specifically for seniors or people who work graveyard shifts.  

Goode responded that the 52 parking spaces in the plan is the maximum the city allows. San Francisco has a transit-first policy and discourages parking spaces in transit-rich areas.

Overall, these concerns and the evident shadows weren’t enough to block the project. Commissioner Larry Mazzola, Jr. said, “If you’re looking at this as just a shadow issue, I don’t think it’s enough to turn this job down today.”

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REPORTER. Annika Hom is our inequality reporter through our partnership with Report for America. Annika was born and raised in the Bay Area. She previously interned at SF Weekly and the Boston Globe where she focused on local news and immigration. She is a proud Chinese and Filipina American. She has a twin brother that (contrary to soap opera tropes) is not evil.

Follow her on Twitter at @AnnikaHom.

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  1. 100% Affordable housing would be awesome on Potrero as long as It doesn’t turn to a dump every weekend like at “La Fenix” (between 15th and 16th on mission st) . What’s crazy is that La Fenix residents also participate in the famous “weekend garage sale” (of course it’s reported on their taxes! Why wouldn’t they.. it’s not like they got accepted based off their strict income requirements) and block the entire sidewalk. No kidding. From 8am to 6pm it’s sad to see the mission slowly becoming the TL. Its probably for the better that there’s less affordable housing where those same tenants will eventually destroy the nearby park. Who cares about shadows ?!

  2. Potrero de la Sombra?

    I have mixed feelings about shade at parks, but the real test is would the Planning Commission allow an even taller building to cast shadows on the roof top patio of the luxury highrise?

  3. reading the comments, you can see that people who learned about this issue from your piece didn’t even grasp that there is anything there to shade other than a bit of park- the issue here is that this development would wipe out an entire community garden. Please try to report on the entire story in the future and not just the developers’ party line

  4. I’d like to note that the Rec and Park Commission is a body appointed by London Breed who have no actual employment in the Rec and Parks Department. It is primarily made up of mega donors to London Breed’s campaign, real estate developers, and construction and building trades presidents, so it is unsurprising they are putting the interests of market rate real estate developers above the interests of the parks.

  5. 200+ units and not even 30 are below market rate, and that could mean anything in this city. Pathetic way to tackle the housing crisis if you ask me. Why not 200 below market rate and 30 luxury condos?

    1. The alternative isn’t “200 below market and 30 luxury”, the alternative is nothing gets built at all because a 90% affordable housing project doesn’t pencil out for private developer’s.

    2. This is the sort of misguided thinking that got us into our present housing crisis. We need dense, energy-efficient apartment construction everywhere, whether it’s market rate, affordable, middle income, or anything else. We need homes for humans that are climate-friendly. We’ve seen what an “only-affordable” housing constraint policy has gotten us. We live in a housing scarcity dystopia, and I’m happy that our city’s governance is shifting to deal with our real-world problems.

  6. Since this is a State Density Bonus Law project, if the Rec & Parks Commission denied or reduced the project’s permitted density, the developer could simple use a “Waiver” (per the State Law) to override the City’s “Shadow Ordinance”.

    There’s nothing special about the Ordinance (aka “PropK”); it’s just another “development standard” — like a height limit or yard setback — and can be overridden by the State Law.