November 23, 2009
The 1645 Pacific Project: Latest Designs (And Neighbors’ Concerns)
The latest designs for the 1645 Pacific Avenue project we first introduced you to 21 months ago are now online. As proposed, 1645 Pacific (currently two stories and 30 feet) and 1661 Pacific (currently one story and 18 feet) would be replaced by a six-story, 65-foot-tall (excluding 9-16 foot mechanical penthouses), and 64,170 square foot mixed-use building.
There would be 48 dwelling units (approximately 46,570 sq.ft.) and 3,410 sq.ft. of ground-floor retail space. The dwelling units would consist of 26 studios and seven one-bedroom, 12 two-bedroom, and three three-bedroom units. The basement would contain 24 bicycle parking spaces and 49 vehicle parking spaces, of which 39 would be mechanical lift spaces, nine would be independently accessible spaces…and one would be an independently accessible car-share space.
Open space (a combination of common and private open space) for the dwelling units would be provided through a common rear yard (2,600 sq.ft.), roof deck (1,400 sq.ft.), and private decks (2,450 sq.ft.). The project sponsor would comply with the requirements of the Inclusionary Housing Ordinance for below market rate (BMR) units ordinance by paying an in lieu fee.
Project construction would take about approximately 20 months, and occupancy is anticipated in late 2011. The estimated construction cost is $18,150,000. The project sponsor and developer is 1645 Pacific Avenue, LLC and the project architect is BDE Architecture.
An alternate "preservation" proposal to address historical concerns (a "potential auto row historic district") would demolish 1645 Pacific but restore 1661 Pacific, an alternative which would yield ten fewer future homes.
Other non-historic concerns raised by neighbors that are addressed in the project's Environmental Impact Report: density, scale, height, design, visual and neighborhood character, rear yard size, traffic, noise, wind, light, shadows, and impact on property values, quality of life and (their) views.
First Published: November 23, 2009 12:30 AM
Comments from "Plugged In" Readers
"Potential auto row historic district"? -- you've got to be frickin' kidding.
Next thing you know we'll have the same folks calling for preserving "shooting gallery historic district" in the Loin, and "crackhouse row historic district" in Aitch Pee, and so forth.
Posted by: Nils at November 23, 2009 5:09 AM
Hooray! More studios!
Posted by: Stu at November 23, 2009 6:11 AM
I think you're right Nils, there should be a limit on what and how many "old things" should be called "historical and worth preserving".
PS: I love the Smokey Bear ad w/ Bambi! Yes! Save our forest friends.
Posted by: jessep at November 23, 2009 6:30 AM
This falls in line with my more condos strategy.
Posted by: Tall Guy at November 23, 2009 9:02 AM
Almost every single letter of opposition uses the same incorrect information, and comes from the taller apartment building immediately behind the proposed structure.
Organized opposition this is not.
Posted by: Joe at November 23, 2009 1:00 PM
Yeh, it is certainly ironic when the overwhelming part of the opposition comes from residents of a nine-storey building that is the tallest in the area!
Posted by: Amen Corner at November 23, 2009 2:16 PM
Students of rhetoric's application in the realm of public participation should take the time to read Sally Rosenman's opposition letter, it's a beaut. I can't tell if she's trying to parody a real NIMBY or if she thinks she's actually going to convince anyone she's got a genuine point over and above her personal ax being gored:
He plans to put a penthouse and an elevator tower + elevator machinery on the roof bringing the total height to 85 square feet[sic]. This will impact the building behind it, 1650 Jackson, where I have lived for the past 12 years. As an almost native San Franciscan, I know that views used to be sacrosanct. That, however and most unfortunately, is no longer the case… As a Realtor for the past 19 years, I can tell you that our property values will be affected and the lack of view aspect, which has always added to the market value and to the market price, will devalue our units.
That sound you hear, faintly, is the world's smallest violin playing.
Posted by: Brahma (incensed renter) at November 23, 2009 4:31 PM
Sally doesnt get it..views are NOT protected.
I suggest she just move.
Posted by: noearch at November 23, 2009 5:19 PM
1415 Mission was like 300+ feet and less than 60 feet from 25 foot residential. It was approved even though the community merely asked for some sort of step down redesign along the south side where the residential was. Even this was taken under advisement. The people at Pacific have it damm good. I'd take that height and bulk here anyday.
Posted by: pleassseeee at November 23, 2009 9:00 PM
As a part time developer I know the pain you must go through in this City to get anything built and I'm generally in favor of most development. The current 8k sq. ft. plus project I'm developing in Russian Hill took 7 years to get to construction with multiple rounds with both neighbors and City Planning/DBI so I'm quite familiar with how the game is played.
I'm also a bit familiar with this project and I personally think it would best serve the community to scale the project back to better fit in to the streetscape along Pacific as well as address some of the valid neighborhood concerns, and no, I don't live within 300 feet of this project.
Also, the developer is asking for an exception to the permitted bulk use on the site to build more units. In the meeting I attended he (the developer) was frankly a bit of a jerk when the neighbors brought up both valid and not so valid concerns. In my opinion, he should throw the neighbors a bone and reduce the building to 5 floors and remove the stupid 16' high elevator penthouse and the stair penthouse as there are less impactful ways to provide the ADA required access to the roof deck open space. Better yet, provide some "real" useful open space by making the back yard bigger. These goodwill gestures will help mitigate the impacts to the neighbor's "light and air", uh, I mean unprotected views.
Also, the north side of Pacific on that block is all 1-2 story buildings and this 6.5 story building sticks out like a sore thumb, IMHO.
Posted by: skirunman at November 23, 2009 10:32 PM
The building right next door (to the left as you face the project) is five stories. I think this project actually makes the streetscape on this block a bit more logical.
Posted by: Scooter at November 23, 2009 10:42 PM
Understood, but the two buildings to the left are two stories. Anyway, just my opinion and we all have them. I think it looks out of context, especially mid-block. Like I said, I personally really hate these large mechanical penthouses that exceed the zoned height limits as well.
Posted by: skirunman at November 23, 2009 10:57 PM
Also, just saw that Steve Vettel was the project sponsor's attorney. Steve has done work for me in the past and is a straight shooter.
Posted by: skirunman at November 23, 2009 11:01 PM
I couldn't disagree more. Every single letter of opposition that I read about came from the nine story building immediately behind the project - why should these neighbors get "thrown a bone"
Its a shame that there werent people there to protest 1650 jackson when it was going up. In this town, the haves have way too much control of the have nots.
Also, the micro focus on "context" is ridiculous and arbirtrary "its not adjacent to van ness - its two plots over!" "It's taller than anything around"
GIVE ME A BREAK. There's an atleast 100' tall building on one corner with a 90' building next to it. There are two 50+' tal; buildings immediately adjacent.
Let it be built as is. The NIMBYS ultimate goal is to have nothing change anywhere - its the same song that gets played out across the city again and again.
Posted by: Joe at November 24, 2009 9:04 AM
"I'm also a bit familiar with this project and I personally think it would best serve the community to scale the project back to better fit in to the streetscape along Pacific"
AKA I represent the (community) neighbors/homeowners of 1650 jackson and I would like to retain my private view.
Posted by: PeterA at November 24, 2009 9:07 AM
Is this brown & co's project (or are they a partner)?
Posted by: 45yo hipster at November 24, 2009 10:19 AM
I have nothing to do with the neighbors/homeowners of 1650 Jackson. I am just voicing my opinion as a nearby property owner, tax payer, and developer in this City. Also, I can guarantee you that there was in fact opposition to 1650 Jackson when it was built as well as the other 2 5 story buildings down the block towards Polk. Call it NIMBYism if you so chose, but the people that live in the neighborhood do have the right to some say in what gets built in their neighborhood as it most directly impacts their current investment and general quality of life and that is why we have a planning process and design guidelines. Of course the owners at 1650 Jackson are the most impacted by this building, and therefore, are the most likely to take issue, but they are not the only ones. The Middle Polk Neighbor Association also has submitted a letter with their concerns related to the Bulk Exception request, which is a function of the massing, as well as the density, traffic, and other concerns. IMHO this building as currently designed does not fit in to the neighborhood character and the massing will dominate the streetscape. Anyway, my opinions are my opinions and everyone is certainly entitled to their own. The developer also has the right to develop the property, but does need to address the valid concerns of his neighbors, that is all. What are valid concerns, or not, for this one will definitely be decided at the Planning Commission.
I believe the project is owned by a developer/apartment owner in Burlingame who I believe also was/is the Chairman of the San Francisco Zoological Society. http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2008/01/02/EDJ3U85TO.DTL I don't believe they have done development in the City before, but I could certainly be wrong.
Posted by: skirunman at November 24, 2009 12:25 PM
I am also a neighboring property owner - having lived in the area for the past 12 or so years. Ive watched a few new buildings going up and I've seen a fair amount of NIMBYism coming both from individual property owners and neighborhood associations.
The neighborhood rallied to keep a derelict church unoccupied/undeveloped - and even got Peskin to landmark it (later declared illegal in court).
A couple of years back the locals succeeded in lowering the height limits on upper pacific. There were no existing proposals for taller buildings - but it was a victory because they were keeping "them" out. I think I have a picture of the flyer they posted for the celebration street party talking about how it was a victory because they prevented adding extra housing to the area.
SF has rampant NIMBYism and Xenophobia and San Franciscans know they can abuse the EIR process using nebulous words like "light" and "air" as if any new building is going to physically place their unit under a bubble.
From what I can see, the neighbors have no valid concerns as private views are not protected. The building is smaller in massing that the 9 story monster 1650 jackson.
Lets build the damn thing already.
Posted by: Joe at November 24, 2009 1:41 PM
Xenophobia ? I'd think that SF bay area would be a very bad place for a Xenophobe to live. It is nearly impossible to go anywhere without rubbing shoulders with people from different countries, ethnic backgrounds, religions, and languages.
A walk down the street in any bay area town would be enough to make an Xenophobe's head explode.
... and the mix of people here is one of my favorite aspects of the bay area. The variety here is truly invigorating.
Posted by: The Milkshake of Despair at November 24, 2009 3:01 PM
Joe, no one is talking Xenophobia here, but by your argument EVERYTHING should be built without question, process, guidelines or neighborhood input? I hope this is not what you are stating.
This is not yet an approved project so now is the time to voice concerns. I personally have concerns with the massing and the inpact to the streetscape. I believe they are valid concerns and especially as the developer requires both Conditional Use approval as well as is asking for an exception to the bulk requirements for the building, i.e. he does not want to step back the building to reduce the massing on the street.
In addition, it is doubtful the building is actually zoned for all 48 units, but that is another argument with SF Planning Dept. These are not trivial issues IMHO.
Finally, I believe the arguments with regards to this building need to be taken on their own merits and not compared to 1650 Jackson, which was built in a different time with a different set of planning guidelines, or the derelict church up the street.
Posted by: skirunman at November 24, 2009 6:00 PM
Finally, finally, CEQA does provide for both impacts to light (shadow) and air. We all know these are used all the time by folks, incorrectly, to attempt to stop or change projects. However, light and air are not nebulous when it comes to the quality of your living experience. That is why getting thrown in the "hole" at a prison was always the worst place to be sent. The EIR addresses these issues and I doubt there is really any impact to 1650 Jackson. However, there is significant impact to the buildings on the northside of Pacific.
Posted by: skirunman at November 24, 2009 6:13 PM
Some other buildings on the block are 2 stories so this should be limited to two stories? Give me a break. Just because 2 stories made sense 100 years ago does not mean it makes sense today. Once upon a time this was all sand dunes. Should we have preserved them? Max out the building envelope. Density is the environmentally preferable urban form.
Posted by: Jim at November 24, 2009 8:43 PM
The developers and designers of this project must be stopped! - not because its too tall, blocks views or would replace a 'historic' structure, but because it proposes yet another pile of 'fake-old' mediocrity for SF. This project is backward-looking regressive architecture, plain and simple.
Posted by: citicritter at November 27, 2009 12:45 AM
Not exactly a great architectural monument but that neighborhood definitely needs more housing and parking. Polk St. is still my favorite part of town -- I lived exactly one block north when I first moved to SF.
These kind of contrived objections are just routine when it comes to construction in SF. I recall the developer of 1650 Broadway had to put up with years and years of this to get his building approved. Probably they just recycled the same old complaints about 'light and air' this time around. Big deal ...
Personally I would like to see more family-friendly developments -- large 3 bedroom units (1600-1800 sq. ft.) and 2 parking spaces per unit. Or maybe at least a tandem parking space for each unit. But, as the other guy said, that's just my opinion.
PS, Anyone know what's happening to the old firehouse across the street?
Posted by: Jimmy (No Longer Bitter) at November 27, 2009 7:12 AM
No objection to the size of the project per se, but three important issues:
1. This neighborhood has a car ownership ratio of .4 to .6 autos per family. The project should reflect this and REDUCE the number of parking spaces by at least half, and expand their car-share pod size.
2. This building will be an eyesore, pure and simple. Most architects don't get referential architecture right, or can't afford to do it well. This is a really banal attempt at generic "historic." Please! Hire an architect that understands context-sensitive solutions, form-based infill, and adaptive re-use.
3. Since it is steps from the Van Ness (BRT) Transit corridor, I would encourage the project sponsor to INCREASE the number of units. This is the type of location that should be densified, given it's relation to available transit and services.
Posted by: rob b at December 14, 2009 1:22 PM