September 10, 2012

Fighting To Save Their Lower Potrero Hill Neighborhood (And Views)

Walden Development Mission Bay Parcels

Kaiser Permanente’s proposed development of an 84-foot tall medical office building fronting 16th Street west of Mississippi in Lower Potrero Hill, "LoPo" if you will, has a group of Potrero Hill residents and business owners fighting "to preserve the unique quality of [their] neighborhood for the benefit of all."

LoPo Pre-Kaiser

And yes, they're fighting to preserve their unprotected views as well.

LoPo Post-Kaiser

In the words of Save Lower Potrero Hill which created the rendered view above:

The proposed Kaiser Permanente development will destroy the character of lower Potrero Hill, a San Francisco neighborhood with a colorful mix of small businesses, single family homes, warehouses, design studios and apartment buildings. The Kaiser development will obliterate treasured city views available to all neighborhood visitors, will greatly worsen already growing traffic and parking congestion, will diminish air quality, increase noise pollution and create a dangerous precedent for future corporate development in our neighborhood.
We want Kaiser to put their new building where it belongs: in Mission Bay, or appropriate areas of Third Street or Bayview—zones more uniquely suited to developments of this type. Potrero Hill is a particularly bad fit for this kind of development.

Again, those are their words, not ours.

UPDATE: Designs For Kaiser Permanente's Potrero Hill Medical Services Building on 16th.

Residents As Proposed On 17th (And Perhaps A Few On 16th As Well) [SocketSite]
Save Lower Potrero Hill [savelowerpotrerohill.com]

First Published: September 10, 2012 1:30 PM

Comments from "Plugged In" Readers

ouch: "put it in the bayview" - why cuz the black folk dont care about views?
What a profoundly entitled group of people - and its a feat to match that in SF.

Posted by: Bob at September 10, 2012 1:34 PM

this is another argument for building taller on smaller lots: a tall skinny building will block less of the view behind it.

Posted by: James at September 10, 2012 1:37 PM

There they go again.

Posted by: Joel V at September 10, 2012 1:55 PM

Why bother? There was hardly any view. This is the streetscape on 17th St, one block up from the site

http://goo.gl/maps/gd7pj

The red apartment on Mariposa street is in the foreground of the picture. It is built in the 90s. I guess it is those kind of building that shouldn't be build because it destroys the neighborhood and blocks the view blah blah blah. I doubt the resident of the building will get much view anyway. Looks like the picture is taken on the top floor or maybe the roof top.

Posted by: Wai Yip Tung at September 10, 2012 1:55 PM

My oh my how I hate NIMBYs.

Posted by: Snark17 at September 10, 2012 1:56 PM

That building will likely also dramatically reduce road and rail noise in the vicinity.

Posted by: Mole Man at September 10, 2012 2:12 PM

This is a truly ridiculous complaint. I live in Potrero Hill and the entire neighborhood as been plastered with leaflets littering the ground protesting this development. The development here is the same height as buildings in Mission Bay, is on a major transit corridor and the lot across from 16th street is slated for development too! If anything, this will improve views for the majority of Potrero Hill residents by further blocking the 280 from the neighborhood. This neighborhood is home to some of the city's most annoying NIMBYs who refuse to ever acknowledge how incredibly privileged they are and how they have benefited from tech boom property value increases more than almost anyone else. Build a modest apartment/ office development on the site of a warehouse- heaven forbid!

Posted by: luc at September 10, 2012 2:16 PM

and on top of this, good luck with the views arguement, the SFPC will generally not accept this ... get into light and air, you've got a shot, but NOT views.

Posted by: knock at September 10, 2012 2:41 PM

I think the excuses are absurd... but why not just make it a couple stories shorter and keep errrbody happy? Everything else in that area is like 1-2 stories... I have no idea how that lot is zoned.. but Im sure this thing is stretching it to the limit.

My favorite: "diminish air quality" HA! Yet they live at the edge of the industrial zone! Fools.

Posted by: Rob at September 10, 2012 3:10 PM

Rob,

I think across 16th street is going to be built with 6 and 7 story buildings.

Posted by: sparky*b at September 10, 2012 3:25 PM

Tall, skinny buildings do not work for clinics and health care functions.

Posted by: futurist at September 10, 2012 3:27 PM

@Rob, the "diminish air quality" caught my eye too.

Okay, I'll bite. How?

Posted by: SF Michael at September 10, 2012 3:34 PM

Well, at least they actually acknowledged their real issue, unlike the NIMBYs on Telegraph Hill. Sure, they followed it up with a bunch of nonsensical stuff, but they did lead with the real complaint. Got to give them credit for that.

Posted by: Turin at September 10, 2012 3:41 PM

It looks like it blocks the view from where the photo was taken! What a bunch of NIMBY jerks. Like LOPO is such a quality place now?! And what about Daggett Place across 16th Street - isn't that going to be a massive problem for the POHI's?

Posted by: marvinsnephew at September 10, 2012 3:51 PM

but why not just make it a couple stories shorter and keep errrbody happy?

That would not make me happy. We spent years planning out what the absolute "maximum" height in these areas should be, so people should be allowed to build to that maximum. If the "real" maximum was known to be lower, then I would have STRONGLY argued for heights a couple stories higher at the time. As it was, the folks for growth have already compromised down to the ridiculously low height of eight stories.

Posted by: anon at September 10, 2012 3:53 PM

Why not lower it a few stories
Why not build it somewhere else
Why not make it wider
Why not make it skinnier

Everyone has an opinion that needs to be heard. Individually all those voices dont make much of a difference, but in aggregate they all add up to why SF is the most difficult large city in the US to build new construction. It all adds to the cost of doing business here which adds to the cost of construction which adds to the costs of the unit.

Enough. Enough process. Enough DR. Enough CEQA over "light and air"

Posted by: Joe at September 10, 2012 4:08 PM

I live in Potrero Hill and I was happy to hear about this development.
I'm a Kaiser member and it's a long way to Kaiser at Geary and Divis.
This is a good option for the whole south east part of San Francisco. It's green! Less transit.

The truth about Potrero is that it is just too well located to have big under used or unused lots scattered around the base of it. There is going to be development, and that's a good thing. It's not like they will be tearing down anything worth saving! It's a bunch of ugly warehouses, for heaven's sake.

In fact we're lucky SF has room to expand like this. We've got job growth people. Let's not kill it.

Posted by: dissent at September 10, 2012 4:26 PM

@anon I'm in total agreeance with you on that... I think that it should be left to the people that get paid to make those decisions.

Unfortunately, the public seems to be more motivated to voice their opinions after the fact.

Posted by: Rob at September 10, 2012 4:58 PM

@dissent. as another Potrero Hill resident i completely agree. These are ugly warehouses or empty lots, many of which are unused or vacant.

This whole bottom part of potrero is going to be redeveloped (e.g., they demolished two weeks ago the ugly building at 1717 17th street next to Jackson park). it's time for people to embrace the change, especially for projects that will create jobs in the area. this project will get built, i just hope people to delay it due to nuissance litigation for years. only people who benefit from that are the lawyers.

Posted by: johnny at September 10, 2012 5:16 PM

screw the 15 potrero hill residents who are trying to block civic progress.

potrero hill is a mostly industrial wasteland. there is not a much better place in the city to put this. I'm sure the residents would be Ok putting it near the projects on the other side of the hill. F_cking priviledged SHiites

Posted by: spencer at September 10, 2012 5:18 PM

Posted by: SocketSite at September 10, 2012 5:19 PM

I posted on Nextdoor Potrero Hill: "There are two issues here. 1. Do we want a Kaiser facility here, and my answer is yes. If you say yes, but elsewhere in Mission Bay, it is NIMBY. If you say no, that is something else.

2. Do we want a good design that fits with the lower Potrero neighborhood, My answer is yes, and yours too I presume(?), but I fail to see that their design at this stage of the design cycle is horrible as some describe it.

You cannot argue taste, but I heard someone say it was elegant! By all means let us improve it! Let us not just get up in arms to block every idea we don't agree with."

Posted by: Ralph A at September 10, 2012 8:57 PM

I think it's pretty. Like Whole Foods on steroids. Should be more like it, and Kaiser should pay off even more residents /lobbyists to do their groundwork for them and keep people in "agreeance" :P

Posted by: Romulus at September 10, 2012 9:01 PM

Also posted on Nextdoor Potrero: "The allowance for mechanical equipment is exactly what UCSF did, and the results are heavy at the top...All these buildings do need it and the zoning code allows it, so let us focus on a more elegant design. Kaiser is proposing a six story structure, with step backs, and this is the very early conceptual stages...not so bad after all. The only thing really ugly in their filed preliminary design is that mechanical "shed" on top. We should force them to design something prettier, not just a wall, and that does not block as much of the downtown views?

Any building at this location will cause traffic and other problems....even now Corcovan causes major traffic headaches on Mississippi, so it will be nothing new, and potentially Having Kaiser will be better than being blocked by giant vans extending across Mississippi to unload, or double park all around.

The bigger traffic issue is related to 280 backing up at Third and Sixth Streets, so many cars exit at Mariposa and use surface streets. If you want to deal with a real congestion issue, this is the one to work on. It will only get worse with the UCSF hospitals, and more Mission bay housing, or industry."

Posted by: Ralph A at September 10, 2012 9:01 PM

Only a few of the positive comments in this and other venues lack the hand and voice of the developers; it's as clear as a perfect Potrero day!

How much was Joe paid to help usher this in? Can I get paid by a developer to usher in some retarded looking building and traffic nightmare into his 'hood of the dogpatch?

Posted by: Ulises at September 10, 2012 9:18 PM

The project requires a Large Project Authorization and a Conditional Use. The zoning does not allow for this project.

Posted by: LD at September 10, 2012 9:19 PM

The zoning doesn't allow for a hospital of any kind here either. They are using the "office" description and housing add on as a work around.

Posted by: Durrell at September 10, 2012 11:00 PM

NIMBY = favorite knee-jerk acronym for people who don't know many words and can't be bothered with original thoughts on the matter.

The neighborhood is full of "ugly warehouses" and a "wasteland" filled with privileged people? Sounds pretty interesting! Love this city!

For some of us who embrace change and development, this still doesn't look like the right direction. Not all development is a sign of "progress." I'm a longtime "thriving" Kaiser patient but this building makes me ill. :(

Posted by: Bere at September 11, 2012 7:02 AM

@Durrell - this isn't a hospital. It's a medical office building. Trust me, that's a thing. Not all Kaiser buildings are hospitals, no matter how much you wish them to be.

Posted by: anon at September 11, 2012 8:50 AM

since when are PH residents considered "priviledged"? Compared to the rest of the city this neighborhood is considered middle class. And to be honest the area to be built on is next to the freeway. What types of structures other than office space would be appropriate for that lot?

Posted by: PHer at September 11, 2012 9:02 AM

I live in a rent-controlled apartment in lower Potrero Hill and I love the view. I have to walk out my apartment to see it, but that's okay.

So this really will impact me - a lot. Not just view, but parking and dramatic increase in the amount of people there.

More than the view, it will kill the feel of the neighborhood.

I was wondering why they were working so hard on fixing the streets around there. Knew there was a plan. Of course it totally pisses me off as I've lived there for twenty years. I'm not sure what I can do about it though. Sounds like it's a done deal.

Posted by: Henrietta Snodgrass at September 11, 2012 9:37 AM

I think its unfortunate that the majority of negative comments are subjective in nature.

No one really pays much attention to the need of the city in these cases. In scale, "views" are pretty trivial in the grand scheme. Building an urban infrastructure that supports the necessary growth a city like ours requires to flourish is complicated and people should be more understanding to the process.

Posted by: Andreas at September 11, 2012 9:58 AM

Long time Portrero resident here: Isnt this why we have planning review? So residents can voice their concerns on what is being planned and work to find a better fit if a particular building doesnt work?

This building will block my view of downtown and I am sure it will do the same for others. This alone is enough of a reason to block the development. How can you allow something that will so drastically affect so many people? Will the city reimburse me for the lost value to my home?

Secondly, the area is very peaceful and quiet right now. Parking is very easy to come by, and believe it or not the empty lots and other lower intensity uses are a welcome respite from the intensive activities going on in the rest of SF.

Posted by: Nancy Labatte at September 11, 2012 11:31 AM

@ Nancy. Sorry Nancy, but views are not protected by any codes or legislation in our Planning Codes.

View blockage is certainly the LEAST valid reason for objecting to a proposed building. And the location of the proposed building is not peaceful and quiet on 17th St. This is a busy cross town street that goes right under a major freeway. How can you call it peaceful and quiet? This area is part of the growing and thriving Mission Bay, full of activity, vehicles and people. It's NOT on the hill, it's at the base of the hill.

And your comment (I assume serious) when you ask if the city is going to reimburse you for your lost property values, is rather absurd and very selfish.

If a neighbor directly across from you painted his house purple and pink with giant plastic flamingos on the roof, would you claim "lost property value" and demand payment?

Posted by: futurist at September 11, 2012 11:49 AM

Wow, entitlement galore from Nancy. Screw all you others who want stuff like jobs (that this building will provide loads of), I want my views!

Posted by: anon at September 11, 2012 12:16 PM

"If a neighbor directly across from you painted his house purple and pink with giant plastic flamingos on the roof, would you claim "lost property value" and demand payment?"

Actually that would never be allowed. SF's codes are quite specific about colors and historical accuracy. We all have to live together in a small space, so its really upon the neighbor to be a good partner with the neighborhood - you dont just get to do whatever you want.

Dont get on my case for the way things are set up in SF. Laws are there for a reason.

And to the person who says views are not protected: why does the planning code talk about establishing view corridors for the bay bridge if views dont matter. You might want to look again.

Posted by: Nancy Labatte at September 11, 2012 1:09 PM

Nancy and I are not probably living in the same universe.

Anyone can paint his house any color he wants.

Slapping purple or puke on a house actually a typical last resort stick-it-to-the-NIMBYs act. Say you want to make an addition to yor house but neighbors across the street block your project. You're so pi$$ed you go to the Recology/Sunset Scavenger recycled paint counter and pick the pukest/flashiest colors you can find and paint your house with it. The NIMBYs will have to live with this for years and years.

Views are not protected. If you do not want anything built there, pool your cash with your neighbors and buy up all the land between you and your view.

Posted by: lol at September 11, 2012 1:27 PM

@ Nancy: you are completely wrong about colors: Planning code does not regulate colors or what you put on your roof, or your yard. Period.

There may be specific houses that are defined at Historical Landmarks, and then there are regulations regarding remodeling, additions, etc. But not for average houses. There are houses of all colors and design on Potrero Hill, and they add a lot to the variety of that neighborhood.

View corridors are defined and regulated very different from your own personal view.

And of course one does not get to do "whatever one wants", whether a SFD or a health care facility. That's why we have the planning code, and at this point, this new building proposed is within the codes.

You may not like it but that area below the base of PH is zoned for commercial/health care/research and is within the height limits.

Posted by: futurist at September 11, 2012 1:27 PM

I do suddenly feel like I live in a different universe. The planning code is basically a one size fits all broken up into smaller areas. Just because something fits within specification in a spot does not mean it automatically gets built. A developer needs the neighbors buy in. Planning requires an automatic review of anything over a certain height this is so the neighbors have a chance to air their concerns. This is how it is done in SF.

Posted by: Nancy Labatte at September 11, 2012 1:53 PM

nancy you are stopping good progress on infrastructure and jobs to a blighted neighborhood for selfish reasons of a view.

You want to be paid for your lsot property values due to losing your view? Did you go to the mitt romney school of self entitlement?

On the opposite end, we have henrietta, a long time rent controlled tenant; living off the propery owner and govt teat. Did you go to the Obama school of self -entitlement?

Posted by: spencer at September 11, 2012 4:05 PM

This is why people hate San Francisco.

Posted by: sf at September 11, 2012 4:19 PM

@lol: yea. gotta agree with you completely.

Not sure what universe Nancy is living in, but she's certainly uninformed about building color restrictions. Besides, color is very personal and should be.

As for the Planning Code, yes, it is pretty specific about height, bulk, setback, FAR, landscaping, parking issues, open space, etc. And yes, there is still the Planning Commission who will review this project and certainly listen to any neighbor concerns. There, most likely, be some revisions, but I'm pretty sure this project will get built.

Yes, the developer has to hear all concerns of neighbors at Planning Commission meetings. They will respond and perhaps make some changes.

And yes this is how it is done in SF. I think Kaiser is a good neighbor and long term much needed facility in this part of town.

Posted by: futurist at September 11, 2012 4:54 PM

Love those happiness pink houses throughout the western reaches of SF

Posted by: contrarian at September 11, 2012 8:16 PM

what don't people in potrero hill complain about?

Posted by: luiza at September 14, 2012 2:40 PM

PLanning works boths ways...they will not spare your views (so dont piss them off by wasting a time on that topic)

...but you have legs to stand on regarding size of the buildings in height/scope/texture consistent with other buildings, have Kaiser pay to rework the streets from Mariposa to this area, have them bury the phone lines in the area, have them include an underground parking garage, have them supplement street/sidewalk cleaning, create mini garden park space on part of the lot, keep the brick facade as a historical landmark

Posted by: Chris at September 17, 2012 11:32 PM

I'm happy to see people pushing Kaiser to build an attractive building. We all deserve to live in a city full of buildings designed with care.

I'm also happy to see people ask Kaiser to be a good neighbor, and help keep the streets up.

What makes me deeply sad though is to see people refusing to compromise about the building being built. This is a hospital, and there are plenty of Kaiser patients in the area who right now have to travel far for medical.

Many of those people work at companies where they're stuck with Kaiser, and have a hard time getting jobs.

Putting people's medical needs below your non-existent right for a view is terrible. I'm happy when I see my neighbors are capable of compromise, but I'm sad to see the evil that lies in the hearts of people who think views are more important than the health of the public.

Just because something was built 70-80 years ago doesn't mean it's worth preserving. Those warehouses are not, especially for something as valuable to the community as a hospital.

I bet these are the same people who fought the helipad. I always hoped that those people would be injured and in need of a helipad themselves one day, and would suffer terrible injuries due to their greed.

We all have to get along here, and in order to get along, sometimes that means giving up a little of what you think you have.

If views are so important to you, there are plenty of other parts of the bay area where you can be sure development will never happen.

Time marches on and things change. People rightly prioritize public health over aesthetics. Be kind to your neighbors, folks

Posted by: Matt at November 2, 2012 2:24 PM

The funny thing is....it's not planned to be 8 stories!...4 or 5

Posted by: Meg at January 11, 2013 10:19 AM

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