As we wrote a year ago with regard to numerous recently cleared but undeveloped lots now dotting the landscape in San Francisco facing the loss of their city entitlements:

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

As John King adds today:

The Newsom administration is drafting legislation to encourage San Francisco developers to occupy empty lots on a short-term basis with such initiatives as tree farms or public art.

What’s being called a “green development agreement” would offer a trade-off. Landowners with approved projects stalled by the real estate slump could lock in their right to build if the land is used in ways that offer visual, environmental or cultural benefits until construction begins.

Needless to say, we like the idea.
Entitlement Extensions? We Say Yes, But With A Green Twist… [SocketSite]
Myriad ideas to fill void of empty lots [SFGate]

Recent Articles

Comments from “Plugged-In” Readers

  1. Posted by Gil

    Couldn’t get the link to work so does the item say how long the extensions would be for? I assume there is an eventual cut-off date at which the entitlements would expire.
    If the entitlement is extended for a long time, years, and the residents become accustomed to a nice temporary park what happens if the drop dead date isn’t met and the entitlement expires?
    Development proposals would have to start from scratch and, if the neighbors really liked the park, there could be pressure to require any new development to include lots of public green space. Maybe contribute to a fund which would allow the city to purchase an expired entitlement site and make it permanent green space.
    The implications are interesting.

  2. I don’t think that this encourages developers to create a temporary park. Instead it encourages explicitly temporary facilities like Christmas tree farms or public art installations.
    I think that people are aware of the inertia that a park can create. This scheme skirts around that inertia by allowing uses that are understood to be temporary.

  3. Posted by anon$random

    i dont see landowners letting people use their properties for community purposes. then they will get used to this park and have some right of claim through the owner previously allowing their land to be used and it will create a whole bunch of problems…unless of course that’s handled as part of this program, but whose got time to read all that?

  4. Posted by Eric in SF

    The SFGate article was sorely lacking in details, as most of the commenters here and elsewhere are all asking the same question: what happens when the ‘community’ decides in 3-5 years they don’t want their ‘temporary’ tree farm/urban garden removed.
    There was a hint that the new legislation would address the issue but it was just that, a hint.

  5. Posted by jamie

    Kudos to John King for staying on this topic since his first article (that I can recall) on July 6, 2009. 399 Fremont Street has become a magnet for garbage and, as of last Saturday morning at least, graffiti.
    Maybe there’s a use for these empty lots that would provide open space/recreational use for the hundreds (thousands??) of kids cooped up in the day care centers all around the Rincon Hill neighborhood (Marin Day School and such).

  6. Posted by jamie

    As an aside, I think there’s only one development that should be sweating going through the planning process again … and that’s 201 Folsom Street and the excessive number of parking spaces they’re currently approved for.

  7. Posted by lolcat_94123

    I like the idea – but I don’t see this panning out well for the landowners (e.g., People’s Park in Berkeley).

  8. Posted by sacdomc

    @ anon$random
    Typically, adverse possession property rights (easement, ownership, etc.) only accrue if a landowner does NOT consent to the third party’s use of the property. Presumably, these owners would be consenting to let third parties use a temporary park, etc., and they should be able to permanently close it when and if they want. Then again, the BOS could try to pass legislation requiring the developer to keep it as a park… (but that could probably then be challenged as a government “taking” via eminent domain).

  9. Posted by corntrollio

    “Typically, adverse possession property rights (easement, ownership, etc.) only accrue if a landowner does NOT consent to the third party’s use of the property.”
    That’s correct. The possession has to be truly hostile to the right of possession of the owner, and if the owner consents, it’s definitely not hostile. The holding period in California is 5 years.

  10. Posted by Gil

    “As an aside, I think there’s only one development that should be sweating going through the planning process again … and that’s 201 Folsom Street and the excessive number of parking spaces they’re currently approved for.”
    Actually, if these large developments stall indefinitely and the entitlements expire, my guess is that the original proposal will be abandonned and not brought before the Planning Commission again.
    A long delay/the inability to get funding is one sign that a project is now no longer financially feasible. My guess is that new smaller scaled projects will be proposed for many of the empty lots if/when the extended entitlements expire.

  11. Posted by Eric in SF

    @sacdom – That was also my understanding of property rights.
    However, what developer wants to go through something like what happened in Los Angeles when a temporary (but very long-term) neighborhood garden was removed for the developer to actually start building?
    The community chained itself to the site, etc. etc. It was an ugly removal and that never looks good.
    I see similar outcomes here, especially if the delay in building is significantly longer than 3 years and the community really becomes attached.
    A container tree farm is one thing but a community garden with dozens of people on site weekly over several years generates intense feelings of attachment.

  12. Posted by Willow

    One way to mitigate some of the problems associated with what happened with the urban garden in South Central Los Angeles is to actually lease the individual mini plots of land at whatever the going market rate may be and prevent individuals from actually selling the fruit and vegetables that are grown. This would be a private arrangement with no (or limited) public access. It’s not exactly inclusive but it may provide some controls. For me, I’d say that at least one of those empty lots could be turned into a golf driving range or alternatively I do like the Christmas Tree farm idea. Although from the owner’s perspective, what’s the incentive other than being a good corporate citizen.

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *