A chance to finally get some answers about the Central Corridor Plan

This week, the Western SoMa Task Force will hear the latest on the Archstone development, which includes 420 units of housing at 8th and Harrison Streets, and hopefully we’ll get some answers from Planning Department staff about what they’re up to (and why) in the area they call the Central Corridor. The meeting is on Wednesday, August 22, 2012 at 6:00 p.m. in Room 421, City Hall.

Amir Massih will bring us the very latest news on the Archstone project. In keeping with the Task Force’s goal of building complete neighborhoods, the proposal attempts to reflect the diversity of the surrounding area. It includes seven distinct buildings, with a mix of uses ranging from retail and commercial to a variety of residential and light industrial facilities. It includes an extension of the SoMa alley network, adds moderate scale housing along Ringold Alley, roll-up garage door type flex space on Gordon Alley, a community center and a privately-maintained, publicly-accessible park at the corner of 8th and Ringold.

In the area south of Harrison Street, Planning Director John Rahaim would like to remove a substantial portion of the SALI (Service, Arts and Light Industrial) zoning district from the Western SoMa Community Plan, reprogram the proposed zoning away from blue collar jobs and arts and entertainment uses and incorporate the area into a new “high tech” development zone called the Central Corridor Plan.

Planners have been promising answers to some fundamental questions for months now. Much of the push for this new Plan seems to be driven by pressure from the underutilized Flower Mart and vacant Chronicle properties between 4th and 6th Streets. In general, the Central Corridor Plan would reverse numerous positive goals of the Western SoMa Plan in pursuit of the creation of an entirely new downtown-scale development in an area currently zoned Service and Light Industrial (SLI).

Western SoMa was identified in the Eastern Neighborhoods Plan as an appropriate place to set aside space for the service and light industries (often called PDR) that provide jobs and keep the tourist and convention industries and Financial District offices working. The EIR identified a need for more space than the Eastern Neighborhoods could accommodate. The Western SoMa Plan provides such space. And because housing would remain a non-permitted use in the WSoMa Plan, the area was also set aside for the expansion of the arts and entertainment venues. (A height bonus in the SALI was included that would incentivize an entire floor set-aside for the arts in new construction). The WSoMa Plan also includes protections for recreational facilities that do not appear in the Central Corridor Plan.

Rather than promote the expansion of existing long term industries, the Central Corridor Plan seeks to replicate the high tech boom that’s already occurring on Market Street and in the Financial District. Our questions revolve around goals and inconsistencies in the process.

The Western SoMa Task Force is enabled by Board of Supervisors Resolution 731-04. Visit the website for more information at http://www.sfgov.org/westernsoma 

Jim Meko, chair
SoMa Leadership Council

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1 Comment

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One response to “A chance to finally get some answers about the Central Corridor Plan

  1. Some questions you might want to ask the Planning Director …

    1. You’ve stated that you respect the Western SoMa process. In what tangible ways?
    2. Why did you choose to include the blocks between 5th and 6th Streets, an area filled with service and light industrial jobs, in the Central Corridor plan? 
    3. What sort of upzoning are you giving to the Flower Mart and the Chronicle properties?
    4. Will there be any protection for existing PDR businesses in the area you intend to cut out of our SALI zoning? You’ve suggested imposing MUO zoning, which permits almost anything. Throwing them to the mercy of the free market is hardly adequate protection for small businesses which would find themselves having to compete with high density housing and large scale office developments.
    5. Do you still recognize Western SoMa as a good place to encourage new PDR businesses? Please explain the recommendations included in the Eastern Neighborhoods Final EIR.  
    6. What are you going to tell all the service and light industrial uses that have already moved into Western SoMa? They were told that it was going to be a stable place to grow their businesses.
    7. Has the Planning Department changed its understanding of the inherent incompatibilities of offices and housing with PDR and entertainment uses?
    8. How will you keep the commitment we made to provide space for the expansion of entertainment venues in the area you’ve programmed for new housing and offices? You’ve made oblique references to Limited Live Performance permits in your presentations, hardly an acceptable substitute for entertainment as a fully permitted use. 
    9. What about the arts? The SALI, as a service and light industrial protection zone, represented an opportunity to preserve, and in fact incentivize, space for the arts. The Central Corridor Plan, on the other hand, appears to be an effort to eliminate lower intensity uses and thus would price the arts out of the neighborhood.
    10. Would the Central Corridor Plan include the same protections for recreational facilities that are part of the Western SoMa Plan?
    11. Why do you persist in planning a park in a location with some of the unhealthiest air in the city?

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