February 20, 2009

Entitlement Extensions? We Say Yes, But With A Green Twist…

Rincon Hill Entitled Lots

From J.K. Dineen with respect to many of those recently cleared but undeveloped lots now dotting the landscape in San Francisco:

With residential and commercial construction stuck in a deep freeze, the San Francisco Planning Department wants to allow developers of some high-profile projects to hold off on building until the economic climate warms up — without losing their coveted city entitlements.
The extensions would apply to downtown office tower developers, who are now legally required to begin construction within 18 months of winning approvals. It would also cover Rincon Hill condo developers, who are normally given 24 months to start building. Finally, the proposed extension covers a more general group of projects across the city, including residential projects of 20 or more dwellings, 100 percent affordable projects and sustainable buildings designed to meet standards set by the U.S. Green Building Council.
The proposed extension would offer some relief to developers like Lincoln Property Co., which has fully entitled office projects ready to go at 350 Bush St. and 500 Pine St. On the residential side, the law would extend approved condo developments ranging from Crescent Heights’ two-tower, 720-unit project at 10th and Market streets to Turnberry Associates’ 227-unit deluxe skyscraper planned for 45 Lansing St. Altogether, developers of more than 12,000 units of approved housing would get a grace period under the proposal.

Our suggestion, grant the extensions but in exchange for turning undeveloped lots into public parks and maintaining them as such until construction is underway.

S.F. planners may put entitlements on hold [San Francisco Business Times]
Argenta Rises While Buildings For Crescent Heights Are Razed [SocketSite]
The Turnberry (45 Lansing) Scoop: Construction Starting Early 2009? [SocketSite]

First Published: February 20, 2009 8:30 AM

Comments from "Plugged In" Readers

Good luck EVER getting a development underway on a lot that gets turned into a park.
Quite simply the minute of of those entitled lots gets turned into a park - it will forever be a park.

Posted by: Joe at February 20, 2009 9:26 AM

Not to mention the liability of said park open to all kinds of public abuse. What happens when a kid bumps his head? Or a homeless stabbing?

Posted by: anoanon at February 20, 2009 9:35 AM

There should be something done to at least hide canyons of dirt like the one at Harrison and Fremont Streets in Rincon Hill.

Posted by: jamie at February 20, 2009 9:35 AM

I agree with Joe...

We're never gonna get parks put up for those plots. I guess we'll have to find a way to enjoy that dirt (I'm using it as a dog pooping ground).

Posted by: rinconhillbilly at February 20, 2009 9:39 AM

Does anyone know exactly what is going to happen to that 76 station once the project next door is fully underway?

I don't care how nice or "uberluxurious" that project is going to be, no one is going to buy a condo with a 76 gas station (and the accompanying panhandlers) attached to its hip.

I initially heard that the land where the gas station is currently located is currently owned by the developer (and is being leased to the station owner) and will eventually become some type of low-rise space, but no one has ever said anything further about it since the original discussion some time back.

Anyone have an inside scoop?

Posted by: RinconHill_Res at February 20, 2009 9:45 AM

As much as I like parks, I'm not sure the disposable park concept is going to fly. Either the developers will create a lame park or residents will get so attached to the park that they will thwart reversion to development.

We do need more parkland in this area though. Permanently.

Here's an idea : turn the land into parking lots and then let Rebar take over half of the spaces : http://www.parkingday.org/

Posted by: The Milkshake of Despair at February 20, 2009 10:38 AM

Unless there is a time limit for competing construction, it is not really a problem to start construction within 18 months. Just put one or two construction workers on the site and let them get started.

Posted by: flaneur at February 20, 2009 10:48 AM

This idea actually makes some sense. OK, maybe the park idea won't fly, but give the city some credit. They are trying to give developers a break and at least do something with lots that could sit there for a while now. All the cracks about homeless are getting old. And yes, I live in SOMA and see homeless all the time.

Posted by: Michael E at February 20, 2009 11:17 AM

Asking for the conversion to parks in exchange for an extension is salt in the wound and unfair in my opinion. The most the city could and should ask is for the lots to be properly maintained and fenced so as not to encourage blight. This would include removal of graffiti on said fence. And this is already something property owners have to do irregardless.

Let's not forget that it is in the city's interest to get these entitled projects built (jobs, sales tax, payroll tax, property tax revenues....). Any requirement of a temp park would simply be an exaction that would make the projects even less financially feasible. The idea that developers are greedy and in some way are stealing from the public, and therefore [should] suffer exactions, is nonesense.

Posted by: Dede at February 20, 2009 12:20 PM

I have never seen a homeless person at the 76 station. Ever. I like it there as there as very few stations in the area. When you get a flat tire, you'll appreciate it. I hope it stays.

Posted by: grr at February 20, 2009 2:59 PM

Funny I have rarely NOT seen a homeless person at that 76 station. They are very aggressive at that one.

Posted by: sf at February 20, 2009 3:27 PM

"I have never seen a homeless person at the 76 station. Ever."

Which tells me that you don't live in the area...I live across the street from that station so I think I have a good sense of who frequents the station.

Although I'm stilling looking for confirmation, I would bet the ranch that it won't be here once that Turnberry project gets going full bore...it just wouldn't make any sense...

Posted by: RinconHill_Res at February 20, 2009 3:35 PM

I don't know the home status of the folks who hang out at the 76 station panhandling .. they may live in a penthouse with Willie Brown and Al Gore for all I know ... but there are certainly folks looking for handouts that hang out at the 76 on Harrison and 1st. Like most of the folks like that in Rincon Hill, they're fairly docile and harmless.

Posted by: jamie at February 20, 2009 3:49 PM

"Any requirement of a temp park would simply be an exaction that would make the projects even less financially feasible."
Viewed from another angle one could make the argument that a "temp park" would be an improvement to the neighborhood that would bolster property values of surrrounding properties in the interim thus positively impacting the potential sales prices of the developer's newly constructed units in the future.
No need to build a playground or spend a lot of money on other improvements, just require the property be landscaped nicely with native and drought tolerant plants and trees. This would also be a plus for both the neighborhood's microclimate as well as the global climate.
This is really one of the best suggestions I've ever read on SS - great work editor!

Posted by: GoodBuyBadTimes at February 20, 2009 6:27 PM

Pet peeve: "irregardless." It's redundant ... and it's not even a word.

Posted by: D'oh!!! at February 20, 2009 10:04 PM

Parks are surprisingly expensive to create and maintain. If it's going to be temporary I'd rather it fenced off and free of debris and spontaneous encampments and leave those funds for the other essentials in danger atm.

That being said i love the sentiment - we definitely lack green in this fair city!

Posted by: big time park lover at February 22, 2009 10:17 AM

the most important point is that the city is actually trying to accomundate developers for a change, after years of capitualting to the wacky political whims of the BOS. and it's a good thing the city is doing this, given the unprecedented economic circumstances today.

Posted by: 45yo hipster listening2: charles lloyd at February 22, 2009 10:48 PM

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