Long anticipated WSoMa Plan finally heading to Planning Commission

The Western SoMa Citizens Planning Task Force is preparing to introduce the Proposal for Adoption of the Western SoMa Community Plan to the Planning Commission. This is the beginning of the final stage in the adoption process. The Task Force is scheduled to make informational presentations to the Planning Commission on September 8 and October 13. The first presentation will focus on the Community Plan itself, along with public benefits policies and implementation measures. The October 13th presentation will concentrate on the Design Standards, Community Stabilization Policy, Social Heritage Districts and Planning Code changes.

Last month, the full Task Force voted to ratify the final draft of the Plan. The complete Community Plan, along with the Design Standards and drafts of the Filipino and LGBTQ social heritage reports, can be found in the Documents section of this website.

“Building a Complete Neighborhood” is the title and goal of the Plan. The Task Force spent the better part of its first year focused on coming to a shared vision of how this community should develop over the next twenty years. At the first of three Town Hall meetings, the South of Market community endorsed the Vision and Values Statement developed by the Task Force and helped to create a set of Planning Principles that have served as the basis for the objectives and policies in the Plan ever since.

“The Western SoMa Citizens Planning Task Force shall promote neighborhood qualities and scale that maintain and enhance, rather than destroy, today’s living, historic and sustainable neighborhood character of social, cultural and economic diversity,” the Values Statement declares, “while integrating appropriate land use, transportation and design opportunities into equitable, evolving and complete neighborhoods.”

At one time during the course of this six-year process, there were as many as five meetings a month taking place. Planning Principles, Business and Land Use and the Complete Neighborhood Fabric Committees were the primary subcommittees established and the Transportation and Arts and Entertainment focus groups helped develop the fine-grained policies the subject matter deserved. The Filipino and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer or questioning communities, with deep roots in the South of Market, helped develop social heritage polices to honor and preserve their legacy.

More than sixty meetings over the course of the last six years focused specifically on the arts and entertainment element during the process and helped to shape the policies in the Plan. A compromise forged between neighbors, small business owners and the arts and entertainment  community will expand opportunities in over 65% of the Plan Area. The Plan recommends (1) changing the zoning south of Harrison Street to make all forms of entertainment a fully permitted use, (2) allowing accessory entertainment in the Folsom Street Neighborhood Commercial District, (3) retaining the legal, non-conforming status for entertainment in the mixed-use neighborhoods north of Harrison Street and (4) developing trailing legislation that would allow the non-conforming status to remain with a property for a reasonable length of time following demolition of the building.

The Community Stabilization Policy, which gets right to the heart of the “maintain and enhance” vision of the Plan, is one of its most controversial and ground-breaking aspects. It would require that the ratio of affordable vs. market rate housing and the jobs/housing balance be maintained. Many community plans have paid lip service to these goals but the Western SoMa Plan proposes triggers that would require Planning Commission intervention if development begins to radically change the existing fabric of the neighborhood. Recently, the Board of Supervisors voted 11-0 to support the policy.

If all goes well, hearings on the Environmental Impact Report and the Plan itself will begin around the end of the year and final adoption by the Board of Supervisors is expected early in the New Year.

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Filed under art, entertainment, planning, politics

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