899 Valencia Rendering 2011
As we first wrote about the proposed building at 899 Valencia last year:

It’s another underutilized infill site that’s been caught up in the Eastern Neighborhoods Area Plan development log jam which is finally starting to free.

899 Valencia Site

On northeast corner of Valencia and 20th Streets an old one-story service station and surface area parking lot reside. As proposed, a 50,000-square foot, five-story mixed-use building with 18 dwelling units over 7,100 square feet of ground-floor retail space and a below-grade 18-car parking garage would rise.

Despite an appeal of the project’s Environmental Impact, or determined lack thereof, the plans for 899 Valencia are poised to be approved by San Francisco’s Planning Commission this afternoon.
The Vision For 899 Valencia On The Northeast Corner Of 20th [SocketSite]
Eastern Neighborhoods Plan, It’s Not Just For Policy Wonks Anymore [SocketSite]
San Francisco Planning Commission Agenda: May 26, 2011 [SocketSite]

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Comments from “Plugged-In” Readers

  1. Posted by noearch

    More responsible and logical urban growth moving (hopefully) toward approval.
    Projects like this can only enhance the Valencia Street urban renewal and popularity. Congrats!

  2. Posted by EH

    Plus the Chevron at 23rd, and the vacant lot either across from here or a block down.

  3. Posted by anon

    Decent, but it’s hard to see how going to 6-8 stories couldn’t be better in every possible way.
    Oh well, better than what’s there now.

  4. Posted by enrico

    I live one bloc from the site, and I am quite happy that it will finally be developed. More housing and more retail is exactly what is needed on all the empty lots on Valencia.

  5. Posted by Brahma (incensed renter)

    Hmm…I read the above and was wondering why someone would appeal the negative declaration determination and the first thing that popped into my head was that this site is kinda near that site over on 17th & Folsom where someone filed an appeal of the preliminary mitigated negative declaration for a project to turn part of a surface-level parking lot into a neighborhood park. Because they didn’t want to lose the surface-level parking.
    I haven’t come across the appeal letter, but perhaps the project docs themselves give us a clue as to the appellant’s objection. From the acrobat file, page 19:

    The proposed project is subject to new Article 1.5 provisions regarding parking requirements…no off-street parking is required for the residential or retail uses in the Valencia [Neighborhood Commercial Transit ] district. Up to one space per two dwelling units is principally permitted and up to 0.75 spaces per dwelling unit is permitted subject to conditional use authorization. The proposed project’s 14 residential off-street spaces, or 0.75 spaces per unit, would, therefore, require conditional use authorization.

    So the project sponsor is actually proposing more residence parking here than is allowed by the relevant zoning, possibly because the project was planned and proposed before the lower parking threshold was established. The next sentence, same ‘graph:

    Non-residential uses in the Valencia NCT district are permitted to have up to one parking space per 1,500 ft.² of occupied floor area. The proposed project would have four off-street spaces for the retail use, well within the number allowed for a project with 7,100 ft.² of retail space.

    But the sponsor is proposing just four spots for the retail. It’ll be interesting what got the person who’s filing the appeal’s hackles up. The project sponsor agreed up front to take the necessary measures to clean up soil contamination associated with the former gas station.

  6. Posted by NoeNeighbor

    The appeal was filed by Sue Hestor on behalf of the “keep the mission crappy” crowd (not MAC but a similar organization). I don’t think parking had anything to do with it.
    This is actually a decently designed building that fits in with the neighborhood and has an appropriate amount of parking (if there was less, the residents would just be parking on the already overcrowded streets).
    As for anon, you obviously haven’t been in this area. Something 6 to 8 stories tall would tower over everything for blocks around. Sorry but the charm of the neighborhood has much to do with its current scale.

  7. Posted by curmudgeon

    Brahma, to clarify, I doubt that the four offstreets for retail use have anything to do with presumed needs of retail patrons, but rather are reserved for the employer/employee side. I don’t think anyone in the neighorhood would assume that new retail uses on the Valencia corridor should provide parking for patrons.
    It wouldn’t surprise me to see this parking ACTUALLY used for the residential units (leased by the retailers). Also, in this situation, a “shared” parking situation for those 4 spaces is very feasible (depending on the kind of retail/commercial use and the hours they would need the parking).
    While I’m no fan of these old gas station parking lots, I wonder where the valet’s are going to find spots next. That’s how a lot of these places have been used, and the prime parking times for the neighborhood are clearly nights..and particularly weekend nights. Valets are very creative.

  8. Posted by da real sf

    @NoeNeighbor
    “the charm of the neighborhood”
    you made me swallow my chicken bone!

  9. Posted by The Milkshake of Despair

    “if there was less, the residents would just be parking on the already overcrowded streets”
    … or adapt to the situation and figure out how to get around without needing parking.
    Sure, many of the new residents without onsite parking will juggle their cars around street sweeping zones though you can expect that at least a few will learn how to do without owning a car. Even if there were two spaces per unit there would still be increased pressure on street parking.

  10. Posted by anon

    @NoeNeighbor – it’s hard for me to visualize how a five story building blends in with the surroundings, but a six story building would tower over the neighborhood.
    If you start building some development now at 6-8 stories, before you know it, the overall height of the street adjusts to that level, without any type of armageddon-type scenario of godzilla buildings towering over others.
    Mission should be mostly 8-12 stories, with 20+ close to the BART stations, and then we step down to 6-8 for Valencia.

  11. Posted by invented

    Occasional taller buildings on prominent corners have graced San Francisco for decades and don’t need to raise the height bar for adjacent or close-in buildings. All neighborhoods have lovely 8-15 story towers which soar above adjacent buildings. These buildings add visual interest, offer the natural amenity of a view (especially park-side)– and of course, create needed housing in the process.
    Our risk-free lego-like planning height-sameness to me is often monotonous and dull. There are select sites which call for beacons; taller, denser, interesting buildings. Must everything be so safe that it blends in and almost disappears? This corner can confidently and even gracefully carry an 8 story building.
    SF fortunately has a very large influx of new, urban residents who are supportive of interesting growth & change, and not just a safe recreation of our historical image of the city.
    100 years ago that corner probably contained a same-height multi-story building. And around we go again for the next 100 years.
    Not a terrible thing, but can SF really become its best this way?

  12. Posted by Willow

    Great location and I think the height is appropriate. Could it be a couple of stories higher? Perhaps. Overall adding 18 units is better than what’s currently there. I’m also happy that there are 18 parking spaces. (A common sense 1:1 ratio.) From the rendering the design could be a little more interesting but playing it safe maybe the easiest way for all concerned to move forward.
    Are these going to be condos?

  13. Posted by NoeNeighbor

    @anon: In that area of Valencia St., most buildings are 3 or 4 stories; so 5 stories is already taller than most and 8 stories would definitely be out of place.
    I don’t know why you think there “should” be lots of tall buildings in this neighborhood. Certainly that is not what the people who live there want.
    Furthermore once you get just west of Valencia there are historic residential neighborhoods with largely 2 to 3 story buildings (duplexes, SFRS etc.) So having 3 to 5 story buildings on Valencia Street creates an appropriate transition to these less dense neighborhoods.
    I suppose we could just flatten all of the neighborhoods and put in 10 to 12 story buildings, but then you have pretty much destroyed what people like about living in the area.

  14. Posted by sfrenegade

    “I suppose we could just flatten all of the neighborhoods”
    No one’s saying flatten them. What they are saying is upzoning on certain corridors to encourage density. Of course, you’d have to reform planning because every NIMBY would complain.

  15. Posted by anon

    I’m not sure how “build this to 6-8 stories” changed into “flatten everything” – why would I want good density flattened? I just want more of the good stuff, when we’re building new buildings that will be around for 80-100 years. Might as well add a bit more when making such a long term commitment.

  16. Posted by NoeNeighbor

    @sfrenegade: Valencia St. was just upzoned as part of the Eastern Neighborhoods and the max height is now 5 stories. As I said, this allows for a transition to the less dense neighborhoods that are immediately adjacent. You and anon seem to think that density is inherently good, but aren’t able to make the case for that. Saying that those who disagree are NIMBY’s (my what a tired insult) is not particularly convincing.
    @anon: The “flattening” refer to what happens to the existing low-rise buildings when they are demolished to make way for your 6 to 8 story buildings. You certainly didn’t seem to be limiting your comments to infill projects.

  17. Posted by sfrenegade

    “You and anon seem to think that density is inherently good, but aren’t able to make the case for that.”
    But I could quite easily flip this to “NoeNeighbor, you seem to think that density is inherently bad, but aren’t able to make the case for that.” We’ve rehashed the arguments numerous times, including on another active thread on SocketSite right now. The city has goals to make more housing more affordable in SF, improve its transit, create more jobs, etc., and a great way to do this is to increase density so that there are more housing units in SF, and so that there are more riders for transit (and over time this results in fewer cars), and more qualified workers.
    The city inherently changes, even though many people apparently want SF to stay the same as the day they arrived here. In our grandparents’ time, there was still farmland and sand dunes in SF. Should we really go back to that?
    I’m not even suggesting becoming Hong Kong or Manhattan, but rather suggesting that we upzone major corridors. 5 stories isn’t very high for major corridors.

  18. Posted by NoeNeighbor

    SFrenegade — I did make arguments, you just chose to ignore them. The people who live in the neighborhood like its scale, but apparently those residents are unimportant to you. Valencia abuts some of the most significant historic districts in the City, but you don’t care about that either.
    Sure the City changes — no one is talking about bringing back sand dunes — but we should try to preserve and protect what is good. Vague arguments about “growth” for growth sake just sound like a way to destroy neighborhoods so that developers can make money.
    In my view, this building — which is significantly larger than most of the surrounding buildings — is a reasonable balance of allowing more density while making that density compatible with the existing neighborhood. It is too bad that you and anon are not satisfied with that.

  19. Posted by anon

    Vague arguments about “growth” for growth sake just sound like a way to destroy neighborhoods so that developers can make money.
    Or…our side can just say:
    Vague arguments about “historical preservation” or “preserving and protecting what’s good” or “maintaining neighborhood character” just sound like ways to prevent more housing, keep property prices high and rising, and make more money for the existing residents.

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