June 26, 2009

Japantown’s Better Neighborhood Plan Update: Draft Acknowledged

Japantown's Peace Plaza

While 3D Investments' redevelopment of the Japan Center Mall and Peace Plaza was pushed back by the economy late last year, the Planning Department’s Japantown Better Neighborhood Plan has been pushing forward.

Yesterday a draft plan which includes an overhaul of Peace Plaza and “the conversion of the western two lanes of Webster Street, between Geary Boulevard and Bush Street, into a neighborhood park” was endorsed acknowledged by the Planning Commission.

Japantown's Draft Plan Overview and Budget

The proposed $41.3 million budget "would need to be raised through development impact fees and neighborhood taxes to pay for proposed public improvements included in the draft 20-year plan."

UPDATE: A correction from a plugged-in reader:

The draft was "acknowledged", not "endorsed" by the Planning Commission. The Planning Commission added language to the resolution to emphasize that this plan is a work in progress and it does not endorse some of the most controversial contents, such as proposed heights.

Japantown: The Question, The Answer And Your Chance To Embellish [SockeSite]
Japantown Better Neighborhood Plan [SFGov]
Commission backs Japantown overhaul [San Francisco Examiner]

First Published: June 26, 2009 9:00 AM

Comments from "Plugged In" Readers

Anyone knows what 'Neighborhood Tax' is ? Does it apply only to the Japan Town area, or to the Entire District ? How will it be assessed ? On Shops in that area as a sales tax or on residents of that area as income tax ? Or something else ?

Posted by: Chad at June 26, 2009 9:33 AM

Ok, I see some Property Tax and also something called 'Impact Fee' in this PDF

WTF is Impact Fee ? It says it will be 10 to 25 dollars per sq ft.

I wonder if JapanTown residents are getting ripped off and don't even realize it !

Posted by: Chad at June 26, 2009 9:38 AM

$4.3M for Signage and Wayfinding ? What ?? !! This seems really overbudgeted. You can install a lot of signage for $4.3M and this project scope is only a few dozen blocks. What do you get for $4.3M ? Gold plated signs ? Solid gold signs ? if anyone is in the know, I'd like to know how this amount breaks down. I would not be surprised to see $500K in there for a sweetheart deal for some marketing firm to develop a signature style package. Still too much cash left over for the actual signs.

And another thing that wilts my potato chips : $3M for supposedly adding a pedestrian connection from the Hamilton Rec Ctr. to Raymond Kimball Playground. I assume that this is to replace the elevated pedestrian overcrossing.

Folks, this is being sold as a pedestrian improvement. But it is really an automobile improvement. The easiest, cheapest, and best for pedestrians would be to install a signalized crosswalk across Geary at Steiner. Total cost, less that $100K. But that would impede the freeway-like flow of traffic along Geary when someone pushes the crosswalk button.

Instead we get another elevated overcrossing "for pedestrians". Yeah sure. Ask an elderly person whether they would prefer to cross at a level crosswalk or climb up and down an elevated overcrossing.

Even sadder is that it is likely that money earmarked for true pedestrian improvements will again be put forth to improve motoring. Ped and bike improvements receive tiny budgets. This is embezzlement at a government scale.

Posted by: The Milkshake of Despair at June 26, 2009 10:17 AM

Chad, it's a fee added on to new development in the area. Any area that has a neighborhood plan typically has impact fees added on to new development to pay for the new features being built and/or the upzoning allowed in the plan. No one's getting ripped off, and it's a common procedure in just about any city in the country.

Posted by: anon at June 26, 2009 10:18 AM

Correction: The draft was "acknowledged", not "endorsed" by the Planning Commission. The Planning Commission added language to the resolution to emphasize that this plan is a work in progress and it does not endorse some of the most controversial contents, such as proposed heights.

Posted by: flaneur at June 26, 2009 10:22 AM

It also added the language that a strategy for merchant retention needs to be developed by the Mayor's Office of Economic Development.

Posted by: flaneur at June 26, 2009 10:26 AM

It also added the language that a strategy for merchant retention needs to be developed by the Mayor's Office of Economic Development.

Hows about a strategy for owner education? I have a friend who tried to lease here, and they were demanding double the market rate. Property in question was boarded up for a year when he came along. He tried reasoning with them, asking for some documentation as to the value -- i.e. demographic info, new developments that would bring in more traffic, etc. Got nothing, so he went elsewhere.

Leaseholders here are notorious for being closely held family properties that can't keep tenants. So, they either rent to a relative at a discount, or it stays boarded up, as they don't seem to be savvy enough to charge market rates to non-relatives.

Not sure what the Mayors office can do about that, but one option is to fine commercial property owners for each month of vacancy once a storefront has been empty -- after a certain threshhold is reached.

Something like this should happen before the taxpayers chip in more dollars to such an incompetent and derelict business community.

Posted by: Robert at June 26, 2009 6:03 PM

The "wayfinding" budget seems pretty ridiculous. On the other hand, as the budget seems to include building a "pedestrian connection" between Japantown and Alta Plaza Park, $3M may in fact be too low...

Posted by: BobN at June 26, 2009 11:10 PM

Why are they redesigning the Peace Plaza again? What's there is relatively new having been rebuilt in the late 90s. Anybody remember the covered walkway between the two malls?

Posted by: Craig at June 27, 2009 7:01 AM

Because it is leaking into the parking garage underneath.

Posted by: flaneur at June 28, 2009 12:48 PM

Whether or not the rebuilt Peace Plaza will leak is anybody's guess if the same public agencies that were in charge of the last reconstruction are in charge of the next one...

Posted by: flaneur at June 28, 2009 12:51 PM

Any part of the plan involve moving japan town away from the lower Fillmore? You can't have a successful redevelopement near the projects.

Posted by: Jimmy C at June 28, 2009 9:07 PM

BobN - Wayfinding is a separate budget item from the ped connection to Alta Plaza.

The ped connection line item is $3.1M, about the right amount to build an overhead pedestrian bridge (real purpose : keep auto traffic on Geary moving faster).

The wayfinding line item is $4.3M which is way too much if this is just signage. It might be the right amount however if wayfinding means hiring a dozen or so uniformed people to wander about and find lost people.

Posted by: The Milkshake of Despair at June 29, 2009 8:53 AM

Milkshake, Alta Plaza park is several blocks up the hill, not anywhere near Geary. I think that item has to do more with improving the sidewalks and things from Alta Plaza down to Geary.

Posted by: anon at June 29, 2009 9:27 AM

$4.3M is not that much for signage and wayfinding, folks, and a quick review of chapter 6 of the plan shows much more than "just signage." We're talking sculptural gateways like the Torii gate or sensu fan, orientation kiosks, integrated transit signage, interpretive content, signs with solar-powered LED illumination, etc. There's a lot of coordination in this plan, and a lot of durable urban fixtures to be built. Kudos to the planners for allocating enough to actually implement this aspect of the plan well.

Posted by: Jon at July 6, 2009 12:29 PM

Post a comment


(required - will be published)


(required - will not be published, sold, or shared)


(optional - your "Posted by" name will link to this URL)

Remember Me?

(you may use HTML tags for style)


Continue Perusing SocketSite:

« Strata And Avalon III Riding A Mission Bay Rental Wave | HOME | Bay Area Home Sales Slow, Except In San Francisco »