It’s a guest editorial from Rincon Hill resident Jamie Whitaker related to yesterday’s Board of Supervisors’ approval of $1,844,273 in grants from the SOMA Community Stabilization Fund (funded by way of fees for developing within the Rincon Hill Plan Area):
The SOMA Community Stabilization Fund has collected $6.6 million from developments within the 14-block portion of South of Market that falls within the Rincon Hill Plan Area – that amount is from the single development that actually got built, One Rincon Hill.
Nearly five years after the Rincon Hill Plan was written into Section 318 of the San Francisco Planning Code, the justification for the adding the $14 per square foot fee for the SOMA Community Stabilization Fund (on top of the anticipated development fees paid for affordable housing and infrastructure) seems ridiculous. The justification was that exceeding the former height limits and allowing high-density housing near our mass transit and jobs hub in the downtown would destabilize the residents and businesses in South of Market.
There was never a nexus study conducted by the Planning Department to affirm that only high-rise developments between Folsom and Bryant and Second and Steuart Streets have a destabilizing impact on the rest of SOMA. The fee was born in the Board of Supervisor chambers after Planning had already gone through the process of meeting with Rincon Hill residents and creating the Plan.
While many of us living in Rincon Hill appreciate the public benefits of services provided by the 19 non-profits awarded the nearly $2 million yesterday, the very existence and rationale without a nexus study of the fee leaves a bad taste in our mouths. It is hard to believe that high-rise buildings east of 2nd Street and between Folsom and the Bay Bridge cause any greater impact on SOMA residents and businesses than those high-rises constructed west of 2nd Street.
If there is an impact, why shouldn’t the fee be applicable to all developments that create the impact instead of discriminating against just the 14 blocks within the Rincon Hill Plan Area?
There are several high-rise buildings, some right around the corner from the alleys of residents supposedly impacted by such tall residential buildings. If there is no impact, as could be proven by a legitimate nexus study, why impede the redevelopment of the Rincon Hill area with this additional $14 per square foot fee?
It is a shame that these fees were collected to provide one-time payments to non-profits instead of possibly funding the first public green open spaces in Rincon Hill that can be enjoyed by many for years to come. Instead, the Rincon Hill Plan Area does not have a single park, only lots of land awaiting more infrastructure fees to pay for Guy Place Pocket Park’s development and possibly state grant money to pay for the Harrison Street Park at Fremont (fronting 333 Harrison as proposed).
Again, this isn’t frustration with the non-profits benefitting from the nearly $2 million, but a frustration with fees and taxes that have no justification and should not be allowed to continue to exist without such a basis.
Our angle, recognizing we’re in a radically different market as compared to 2005, might not incentives for developers to invest in San Francisco, add residences and residents to a neighborhood still in search of its critical mass, and increase recurring tax revenues from the Rincon Hill area pay greater dividends than any one-time fee?
Now extend that thinking beyond simply Rincon Hill.
∙ SF BOS Resolution: SOMA Community Stabilization Fund Expenditures [www.sfbos.org]
∙ Rincon Hill Plan [sf-planning.org]
∙ Michael Kriozere (ORH) Responds: We’re Planning To Pay, Damn It! [SocketSite]
∙ Putting Some Green On Guy Place: A Rincon Mini Park In The Works [SocketSite]
∙ Harrison Street Park [harrisonstreetpark.com]
∙ A Plugged-In Reader’s 12 Notes On The “PC” Approved 333 Harrison [SocketSite]