The alert from the developer (AF Evans):

Unfortunately, at the last possible moment, someone is trying to stop the 55 Laguna project. Supervisor Peskin is going to introduce amendments this coming Monday that will KILL the entire project permanently.

He is asking that the Landmarks Board and the preservation planners at the Planning Dept. be the body to review and approve the design of the project and not the Planning Commission or the senior staff in the Planning Department. This is highly irregular but also specifically against our project.

The Landmarks Board has vociferously opposed our project for over two years. If this amendment is approved, the project is over. We have already said in the Environmental Impact Report that we have a significant preservation impact and we are doing everything we can to mitigate that impact. The Planning Commission and the Board approved the EIR unanimously. This issue of preservation has been discussed multiple times and has been put to bed.

The editorial from our plugged-in tipster:

We regret to inform you that San Francisco is closing down.

Should we all just go home and gate this as Colonial Williamsburg by the Sea – perhaps a retirement village with nice light, no mosquitoes and artisan everything?

And how AF Evans suggests you respond:

Please send an email to the four supervisors below. It is important to use the same words in the subject sentence (“APPROVE 55 LAGUNA WITHOUT CHANGE NOW!”), so they don’t have to read the emails to know what they say. It is our goal to fill up the email boxes and the voicemail boxes of these supervisors so they can know that this project has gone through its paces and it is time to start building housing, not wasting time and money on throwing up road blocks.

Then you can add a few lines about how the project has been approved by the Commission and the Board with full knowledge of the preservation impacts and that it is highly irregular and completely damaging to the project to remove the review and approval process from senior planning staff and the Planning Commission.

The emails and phone numbers are below. Please call this weekend and let them know you are frustrated, angry and disgusted by the changes proposed at the last minute when this project has been in review at the Board and Planning Commission since January 2007.

Aaron Peskin: (415) 554-7450, Aaron.peskin@sfgov.org
David Noyola (Peskin’s Aide): (415) 554-7451, david.noyola@sfgov.org
Ross Mirkarimi: (415) 554-6715, ross.mirkarimi@sfgov.org

Other Land Use Committee Members
Sophie Maxwell: (415) 554-7670, Sophie.maxwell@sfgov.org
Geraldo Sandoval: (415) 554-6975, Geraldo.sandoval@sfgov.org

55 Laguna: Approved On Appeal And In Front Of San Francisco’s BOS [SocketSite]

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Comments from “Plugged-In” Readers

  1. Posted by jeff b

    Why does the message fail to mention Jake McGoldrick, the third member of the land use committee?

  2. Posted by sf

    Design something better and this won’t happen. I could care less if this were not built.

  3. Posted by Observer

    You have Peskin killing Laguna, Daly killing Hunter’s Point what happened to the city of peace and love.
    If this is progressive can someone get me a new dictionary.
    It is amusing one year on from the SF magazine article which talked about the growth of Mission Bay, South Beach and Rincon Hill. The same issue had an article about Peskin (in a swim suit) with soft claims about how was helping make it all happen.

  4. Posted by Louis

    As far as i know, Mr Peskin cannot kill a project by introducing amendments. I do not believe he has that level of power. If they are introduced that means they have to be voted on by the entire Board in order to become law.
    If the entire Board votes in one direction- and they cannot be over-riden by a mayoral veto -that means that a super majority governed.
    This board of supervisors was elected by San Francisco Voters, and there have been plenty of chances, since Willie Brown, for the Board to be changed, but it has not.
    So… if you dont like the direction that yields, and you have every right not to on Laguna or any other land use issue — its not a factor of Aaron Peskin or Chris Daly — or whoever — its a factor of that being the ideological balance of the voting population of the City of San Francisco.
    It might be really difficult to accept for some people – even repugnant to some, OK? — but that is the reality you need to deal with.
    We will see what happens in November but I dont expect the ideological balance of the Board to change course.

  5. Posted by Jamie

    Any folks pursuing recalls of Supervisors on the November 2008 ballot? If not, why not?

  6. Posted by tipster

    It’s hard to tell what the issues are. This was all I could find on the subject. And SFweekly is hardly a respectable source.
    The crux of the issue is alluded to in this statement:
    “As a former City of Berkeley planner who worked on their affordable Rental Housing Acquisition Program, I’d be inclined to support the project as described if it were on private land and were not needlessly demolishing National Register-eligible structures. The 55 Laguna St. project has its merits, but they do not justify the rezoning of 5.8 acres of land in the heart of Hayes Valley that has been in public use for more than 150 years.”
    http://www.sfweekly.com/2007-08-29/news/week-of-august-29-september-4-2007/
    I’m not taking any sides on this issue, just trying to perhaps add something to the discussion other than “Do this Now! Development: Good. Peskin: Bad.” which is what this thread sounds like to the uninformed. No Discussion at all. This is the most difficult to comprehend thread on what is otherwise a great site because there is no real information as to what the issues are to those of us who don’t already know what is going on here.
    Mapjack 33 Hermann St and turn towards the pink building by dragging the mouse sideways on the photo: I “think” this is the building to which they are referring.

  7. Posted by zzzzzzzz

    I fail to see the logic of the argument that this site should remain zoned for “public” use. The reality is that the “public” has had no reason whatsoever to venture into the site, except for the relatively few who attended classes or used the parking lot. Having lived in the neighborhood for close to 17 years I can state that I’ve never set foot there! My guess is that the public park in the proposed development would be of far greater “public” benefit than anything which currently exists on the site.

  8. Posted by Joe

    San Francisco is progressive on development like cuba is democratic.. It’s honestly just disgusting that we have these political hacks operating as mini me mayors stopping whatever they feel like whenever they feel like. The democratic process in San Francisco is BROKEN!
    Colonial williamsburgh by the sea indeed.
    I have no doubt that a large percentage of the luddites in this town would like nothing better than to live in a gated community of their own design.
    Animal farm had better leadership than our current BOS.

  9. Posted by jeff b

    I used to live right across the street from this place and I couldn’t agree more with zzzzzzzz. This is a superblock that’s mostly parking lots, mostly closed to the public, and mostly and eyesore. The AF Evans plan for redevelopment retains Woods Hall and Richardson Hall, the two supposedly architecturally and historically significant buildings on the site, and assigns them to community space like lectures and recreation. AF Evans will rehabilitate both buildings at an estimated cost of over $7 million.
    If you look at the renderings on AF Evans site, it seems like a very good plan. There will be two new public alley ways, which is good for pedestrian access in this neighborhood (currently you have to go around two blocks to get around this site.) The site also includes a new park comparable in size to South Park, and of course the more than 400 new housing units.
    People should remember that this is not city property. The land belongs to the University of California, who will lease the site to AF Evans for 85 years. UC has already publicly stated that if the city kills the project, they will simply fence it and let it rot.

  10. Posted by zzzzzzz

    What I don’t get is what prompted this latest attempt to kill the project. It was barely two months ago that the developers agreed under pressure to increase the number of subsidized units to close to 40%, and supposedly everyone was happy. Just goes to show – when it comes to development in SF, no good deed goes unpunished.

  11. Posted by sf

    I choose to live here for many reasons. One thing I have learned living here for the past 7 years is to never expect anything to get ‘better’ or change in this city. Things can get worse, but will never get better, and I forsee this to be the case the rest of my lifetime.

  12. Posted by tipster

    Oh, here is a much better description of the issue.
    U.C. got the property in what looks to be by force, from the state on ONE CONDITION, that they maintain it for university purposes. They then promptly set about neglecting it.
    And now, as a reward for neglecting the site, they want to make serious dollars by abandoning the one condition that allowed them to essentially take the property.
    So, as usual, this is all about $$$.
    This is such a standard formula: buy (or in this case, take) a piece of property that is zoned in such a way as to limit its value, neglect it for years until the neighbors cry out to rezone, get it rezoned into a use that increases its value, and reap the benefits.
    There is really only one question in my mind: should we continue to reward the people who follow this time honored formula, or should we draw the line and say that if you got the property for a very low price because of the way it was zoned, and you neglected it in order to force the city to rezone it, then we aren’t going to budge.
    Otherwise, you just encourage other people to do the same and you end up with a city full of eyesores, and lose the benefits of properties that have a public character, by the manipulative techniques that appear to have been used here. The “public statement” that they are going to fence it and let it rot spoke to me loud and clear: this is rezoning by force.
    I’ve heard nothing other than reasons that are under control of the university itself for why this is a bad thing to keep.
    This starts by talking about a film, and then discusses the history of the site. UC got it on one condition. I think people need to be held to their word.
    http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2007/02/12/18361739.php
    I understand that projects like this development can be helpful, I think the Presidio project is just ideal, but the commercial aspect to that project is a tiny fraction of its size. It was done as a minimum attempt to support the public nature of the project, as opposed to this project that has an overwhelming profit motive, with some very interesting and valuable public benefits thrown in.
    How do I come out personally? I think the project should go forward, but I think they University is getting too much, by getting the property rezoned, at the public’s expense, and should be forced to provide additional public benefits. And I have a real problem with someone who manipulates the process by letting a property rot and then demanding a change because the property has rotted.
    Maybe I’m just too sensitive to what amounts to obvious manipulation and deception. I think that’s what they’ve been doing, and rewarding that behavior hurts property values around any such project during the multi year process the property is rotting.
    Everyone here can cry out against the “spite paint jobs” that are done to punish the neighbors. But the way this property was managed for the last 20 years might really be the same thing, being done for a profit motive. I don’t think that makes it any better.
    And if you let people profit, handsomely, from their spite paint jobs, don’t be surprised to see more of them. That hurts property values everywhere.

  13. Posted by sleepiguy

    Remember Peskin is termed out this fall. He and Chris Daly are backing David Chiu for office. If you want four more years of another Daly or Peskin vote for him…

  14. Posted by Christopher Carrington

    I also have lived near this block for 20 years and I have never conceived of it as “public” space. Sure it’s an old college campus, but I don’t grasp why this then makes the space “public.” The new San Francisco State Campus (top floors of the Westfield/Bloomingdales complex) is also “public” space, but not just anyone can hang around as they wish. If you did, someone would ask you to leave unless you are actually a student, staff, or faculty or member of the public attending an event ‘open to the public’.
    The Laguna site is a perfect location for new housing, affordable and market rate, and should be developed. The plan offers truly public access space with it’s provision for park space.
    It absolutely amazes me how it is that many of the same people who opposes this kind of development pride themselves on their commitment to “green” efforts to slow climate change. We cannot slow climate change without changing where we live. Every time another roadblock is placed in front of this kind of in-fill development, we contribute more to global warming. If people can’t locate new housing in urban cores, they will find in inner suburbs and exhurbs and that contributes handsomely to global warming. Proudly driving your Prius, fighting for ‘green’ building codes and in the your next breath, making the case against higher-density housing located near well developed transit on underutilized land is hypocritical and selfish nonsense.

  15. Posted by Christopher Carrington

    I also have lived near this block for 20 years and I have never conceived of it as “public” space. Sure it’s an old college campus, but I don’t grasp why this then makes the space “public.” The new San Francisco State Campus (top floors of the Westfield/Bloomingdales complex) is also “public” space, but not just anyone can hang around as they wish. If you did, someone would ask you to leave unless you are actually a student, staff, or faculty or member of the public attending an event ‘open to the public’.
    The Laguna site is a perfect location for new housing, affordable and market rate, and should be developed. The plan offers truly public access space with it’s provision for park space.
    It absolutely amazes me how it is that many of the same people who opposes this kind of development pride themselves on their commitment to “green” efforts to slow climate change. We cannot slow climate change without changing where we live. Every time another roadblock is placed in front of this kind of in-fill development, we contribute more to global warming. If people can’t locate new housing in urban cores, they will find in inner suburbs and exhurbs and that contributes handsomely to global warming. Proudly driving your Prius, fighting for ‘green’ building codes and in the your next breath, making the case against higher-density housing located near well developed transit on underutilized land is hypocritical and selfish nonsense.

  16. Posted by flaneur

    tipster,
    The building at 33 hermann st. is Richardson Hall, which thankfully will be saved. Woods Hall will also be saved. The debate is about the fate of Middle Hall, which is a gym, and doesn’t lend itself to renovation into flats. My personal preference would be to see it preserved and turned into a community space, perhaps at the cost of a reduced garden to make the program and the numbers work. Decisions, decisions…

  17. Posted by zzzzzzz

    “…but I think they University is getting too much, by getting the property rezoned, at the public’s expense…?
    Huh? The University of California has a fiduciary responsibility to the taxpayers (AKA, the “public”) to obtain the highest possible financial return on the Laguna campus. Anything less would be an abrogation of the University’s public responsibility, even moreso in an era when UC’s budget is being cut to the bone. I cannot fathom how UC’s making money on the deal is in any way inimical to the public interest.

  18. Posted by grodno

    McGoldrick is not listed b/c he’s no longer on the land use committee…. Peskin himself replaced McGoldrick and now serves on the committee.

  19. Posted by TrailerTrash

    This board of supervisors was elected by San Francisco Voters, and there have been plenty of chances, since Willie Brown, for the Board to be changed, but it has not….
    It might be really difficult to accept for some people – even repugnant to some, OK? — but that is the reality you need to deal with.
    We will see what happens in November but I dont expect the ideological balance of the Board to change course.
    Change the franchise laws to exclude renters (who pay no direct RE taxes, ergo should have no say in anything concerning RE) and you will get rid of Peskin, Daly and their ilk

  20. Posted by tipster

    “Huh? The University of California has a fiduciary responsibility to the taxpayers (AKA, the “public”) to obtain the highest possible financial return on the Laguna campus. Anything less would be an abrogation of the University’s public responsibility, even moreso in an era when UC’s budget is being cut to the bone. I cannot fathom how UC’s making money on the deal is in any way inimical to the public interest.”
    By that measure, they should just shut all of the campuses down and lease them too. :-)
    But fortunately, that isnt the measure and we expect them not to put a profit potential over the needs of the public, when those two things conflict.
    I don’t oppose this project, I think in some ways it would be a good addition to the city, but I can see how the loss of a 150 year old public space should be an issue to be considered.
    The only reason I brought any of this up was to show you that these sorts of issues are not just black and white, and that reasonable people can disagree.
    If UC finally gets the fact that their years long neglect will not be rewarded, they can lease or sell the property to someone else who will refurbish it in such a manner that it can be used for education and enjoyed by the public. They’ll just have to lower the price to get there. That’s what they don’t want to do, but in the end, it’s really what should be done, given the history of the site.
    And when UC gets it, anyone else contemplating the same manipulative tactics will also get it, and that helps property values everywhere.
    And I don’t know anything about Peskin, I haven’t followed his actions that carefully, other than to hear about how hated he is by developers and how obviously wrong he always is. This was the first time I decided to investigate an issue that people were complaining about. And what I found showed me he is an intelligent guy who is doing what he thinks is right for the city.
    In the end, I expect my government officials to lead, not to be suckered in by the manipulative tactics of a landowner. Because in the end, that hurts property values everywhere.
    And on this issue, I can see that he is taking an unpopular stand on an issue that isn’t really as black and white as it appears to a layperson. He obviously understood the issues better than most of us here, and took a stand for what he thinks is the right course of action. Right or wrong, whether I agree with him or not, I think I have to applaud a guy like that.
    And if it weren’t for people like him, that site would have been chopped up and sold off a long time ago, so you can’t really sit here and complain about people like him now, as the guy who is stopping this development. The fact that people stand up for these things is why we still have them after 150 years.

  21. Posted by fluj

    Yeah, we still have a treasured, non-public PARKING LOT after 150 years. Which the greedy developer wanted to make into a LBGT senior oriented HOUSING development, with PUBLIC green space.
    I suggest people look into what sort of pork Aaron Peskin is cooking.

  22. Posted by Zigq

    Reasonable people can disagree but there seems to be a disturbing winner-takes-all approach to land use planning in San Francisco where people change the rules and game the system to get their outcome. In this case a blatant misuse of landmarking which is just a means to ends and not a true interest in historic preservation. Right?
    Hasn’t this already been debated for 3 years? Thats enough (to long in fact IMO)
    Carrying costs and uncertainly are directly related to the high cost of housing in the city
    So if I have this right; this has been approved by the BOS and the Planning Commission after 3 years of debate and compromise and Peskin (or those who have his ear) don’t like the outcome so they are attempting to circumvent the process?

  23. Posted by StockBoySF

    Aren’t there two issues here? The first issue is how the proposed development fits into the preservation/landmarks aspect. The second issue is the approval process.
    It seems to me that there is a review process which developers must go through for their projects. By all accounts (that I can see) this has been done and approval was given for the development to go forward.
    But these three supervisors don’t like the project and are proposing an amendment to change the rules so they can have their say.
    It’s fine to debate the project and its preservation/landmark issues, but when the process is done, then let’s go forward. For the supervisors to change the rules after they lose is just outrageous. Of course people who are against the project will be happy to drag this out…. If the process had given these complainers what they wanted, they wouldn’t be complaining about the process now…. Funny how certain types of folks who don’t get their way always try to change the rules AFTER they lose.

  24. Posted by AlphabetCityNYC

    Peskin is garbage and so are those who attempt to curb development in SF. SF is a real city or is it? Good question that also deserves a good answer. If a city has balls, it develops enough housing for all of its residents and employees. Look at this situation here is San Francisco. You have workers who can’t even afford to eat a sandwich at lunch. A shame isn’t it! Of course, who’s fault is this? When you can’t afford to pay rent because there isn’t enough housing, then you have your answer. Curb development and you tell your middle and lower classes, ‘thank you for your hard work’ but we don’t care if you don’t have a place to live or food to eat’. You want to have a real city once and for all, a city that treats 80% of the population “the average Joe’s” with respect, then build a city that is made to support and reward the hard work of the middle and lower classes. Curbing development lowers the standard of living of the majority of the population and it reinforces the balance of power in the hands of the very rich. Think about it this way. San Francisco can only build one way now and that is UP. So, if you’re building up you better build up consistently to give the average (majority of) people a chance to live in and enjoy the city they provide the most vital services for (Janitors, plumbers, electricians, construction workers, security guards, postmen, police officers, firefighters, ambulance workers, etc.) Thank you.

  25. Posted by Louis

    Or to put the last comment – by alphabet city — another way — sue hester , calvin welch and their oppositional cadre, have probably created more billions of dollars of value for high rise property owners than they have created for themselves. !!
    and been responsoble for the middle and working class exit from SF becuase of choking off the supply of market rate rental development.
    talking about unintended consequences, they show true genius.

  26. Posted by sfgirl

    I was waiting for the “regular people who can’t afford to live in the city” argument to include a reference to our obscenely overpaid police officers, firefighters, nurses, anyone on the city payroll. etc. We should know from the Chron’s list of 8,180 $100k+ employees (out of 27,000) that the “poor civil servant” can’t afford to live here premise is complete and utter bullshit when 1 out of every 3 SF City employee is not middle or lower class.

  27. Posted by Zig

    SFgirl
    Walk down today and sign up for the police dept. in SF. They can’t find enough people. This tells me they are underpaid
    Firemen on the other hand are obscenely overpaid and it shows when they open it up thousands apply

  28. Posted by sfgirl

    My friend tried to “sign up” and it took them almost 3 years to finally offer her a job. Maybe they can’t “find enough people” because the rest of the world can’t wait 3 years for a job offer and there’s no incentive for them to give up the OT gravy train.
    1,784 police dept employees and 1,351 fire dept employees make over $100k – police account for 21.8% and fire for 16.5% of total number paid more than $100k. I’d love to know the total # of cops there are just to see what percentage make >$100k.

  29. Posted by Michael

    Sue Hestor, Calvin Welch, Chris Daly, Aaron Peskin and all their compatriots are responsible for the sorry state of this city, especially as it relates to high housing costs.
    Thankfully, they’re being termed out and getting older, and hopefully dying off or moving on soon.

  30. Posted by haighterade

    Sup. Mirkarimi, in response to my email, writes: “[T]he entire plan successfully emerged from the Land Use Committee on Monday. It now goes to the full Board next week where it’s poised for strong support.”
    Since I live in the Haight, I go by the campus every day on the bus and on foot, and something about that big, blank, street-deadening wall really bugs me. So I’ve been following this saga pretty closely, and while it’s been frustrating to watch the planning process drag on for so long, all the haggling does seem to have produced a decent project. My impression is that, as usual, Mirkarimi played a key role in bringing everyone to the table.
    So I guess the lessons to be learned are twofold: (1) Elect good supervisors, and (2) Don’t let the loud anti-everything minority be the only voice they hear once they’re in office.

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