February 21, 2013
Upzoning The Corner Of Market And Noe And Fighting Over Café Flore
San Francisco’s Market-Octavia Neighborhood Plan originally called for Market Street to be zoned for 85 feet in height from Church Street to the east, while west of Church to Noe Street was to be zoned for 65 feet. Due to concerns about potential historic resources, San Francisco’s Planning Commission adopted a plan that called for the heights to remain at 50 feet west of Church Street until a historic survey was complete. Following the survey, heights for non-historic corner parcels from Church to Noe Streets were raised to 65 feet.
On the agenda for San Francisco’s Planning Commission this afternoon, amendments sponsored by Supervisor Wiener which would change the Upper Market Neighborhood Commercial District to a Commercial Transit District (changing density controls from being based on lot size to the physical characteristics of any proposed buildings); raise the height limit of the southwestern corner parcel at the corner of Market, Noe and 16th Streets (which is just outside the Market-Octavia Plan boundaries) from 50 to 65 feet; and grant a planning code exemption for the off-site auxiliary kitchen for Café Flore which is across the street from the cafe.
In addition to raising the height limit for the aforementioned southwestern corner parcel, currently the site of FitnessSF, the Planning Department recommends that the Commission also rezone two other corner parcels at the Market, Noe, and 16th Streets intersection, the only two remaining corner parcels east of Castro Street that are not historic resources.
From the Castro/Eureka Valley Neighborhood Association (EVNA), the oldest continuously running neighborhood association in San Francisco (founded in 1878) with respect to Supervisor Weiner’s proposed amendments and legislation:
EVNA is supportive of legislation to change the Upper Market [Neighborhood Commercial District] to a [Neighborhood Commercial Transit District], but opposes this legislation as written because of its inclusion of two unacceptable exceptions:
1) the section that increases the height limit for one lot at Noe and Market Streets, currently a gym, FitnessSF, from 50 ft to 65 feet, and
2) the section that would grant an exception to a non-permitted accessory use for only one business in order for Cafe Flore to continue to operate an offsite illegal kitchen at 258 Noe Street.
In regard to the up zoning of the SE corner of Noe and Market Streets (FitnessSF), it is the position of EVNA that it is irregular to initiate a change in permitted height for one site without community input, without a permit application, and without plans submitted to the SF Planning Department for review. Once the full plans are available, the benefits to the community, any negative impacts have been thoroughly reviewed, and the community has weighed in, if the height increase is deemed warranted, that would be the time to initiate an exception to the zoning.
In regard to the exceptional legalization of the off-site kitchen for Cafe Flore, EVNA opposes the legalization of an illegal activity that has been engaged in knowingly by a business owner over a period of several years. Other businesses are required to conduct their activities within the parameters of the law. Cafe Flore was a successful business for many years without the use of an illegal kitchen. The new owner's decision to expand the menu entailed additional kitchen facilities. But to rest the financial well-being of an expanded business on an illegal activity cannot be condoned. It is unacceptable for the City to make an exception to the law for one business in order to accommodate its illegal activity. There is also the question of what further changes in use at 258 Noe might be triggered by granting such an exception and whether there might be unintended consequences.
EVNA strongly opposes the inclusion of these two exceptions in the legislation and therefore opposes the legislation as written.
Supervisor Wiener, once President of the EVNA, disagrees with the EVNA’s arguments and opposition as does San Francisco’s Planning Department which recommends the Planning Commission approve the amendments along with the Department's additions.
∙ Market-Octavia Plan And Requisite Rezoning Approved By The Board [SocketSite]
∙ Proposed Upper Market Planning Code and Zoning Map Amendments [sfplanning.org]
First Published: February 21, 2013 5:45 AM
Comments from "Plugged In" Readers
People are now speaking up about the illegal kitchen operations?
This stretch of Market between Church and Castro has seen its fair share of ups and downs. The suburban Safeway is an urban travesty. This whole complex needs to be razed (and raised) and replaced with a mixed retail-residential complex built with underground parking (to eliminate the expansive surface lot).
Posted by: Mark at February 21, 2013 7:56 AM
Planning is infamous for its selective enforcement. If some politicized planning hack (likely a Chris Daly era apparatchik) thinks your wallpaper is too upscale, they'll trump up a reason to rezone your property as a "plain plaster wall covering abatement special use district." But if your favored, you can fill a neighborhood with pot clubs, dump pollutants right next door to schools and family housing, flagrantly violate use and zoning, and likely get it all slipped in quietly by planning. Over in our hood, some bozo's are putting in kitchen equipment and on the planning docs they are calling it a dog day care facility. Planning is run by a junta.
Posted by: stucco-sux at February 21, 2013 8:35 AM
"The suburban Safeway is an urban travesty"
WTF? That Safeway is the single most profitable property in the entire Safeway corporation. There's a reason for that. People love that place as SF has far, far too few supermarkets for its population. People need groceries, and not everyone has the time or money to be able to go to some price-gouging corner market with no parking day after day to pick up just enough to carry home by hand.
It ain't like Market Street is some picturesque pedestrian boulevard. It's just a thoroughfare. That's not a bad thing as people need to be able to move from one place to another.
Posted by: anon at February 21, 2013 8:50 AM
Nobody is saying that safeway needs to go away, just that it doesnt need to be as designed - a strip mall surrounded by a sea of parking spots. It's the largest hole in the market street urban fabric, and it needs to be corrected. Does it look like it could be in Phoenix? Yes, and thats the problem.
Posted by: Joe at February 21, 2013 9:23 AM
A neighborhood group that opposes upzoning and change? In San Francisco?
Say it isnt so!
Posted by: bob at February 21, 2013 9:25 AM
@anon: please calm down...you completely missed my point about the Safeway space. Thanks, Joe, for clarifying.
If anon took the time to read the article it clearly states that the goal is to create a Commercial Transit District. Making Market St. less of a thoroughfare and more of a Main St. should be the priority. Adding density and height of mixed retail-residential buildings is a good way to achieve this.
Posted by: Mark at February 21, 2013 9:51 AM
Relax anon: you're far too reactionary.
The Safeway property has such amazing potential to be re-built with below grade parking, an open space plaza that connects to a new Safeway market, and mid-rise 6-8 stories of housing above.
Think of the potential.
Posted by: futurist at February 21, 2013 10:14 AM
I rarely agree with SF's all-powerful neighborhood associations, but this time they hit the nail on the head with regard to Cafe Flore. In my younger days, under the previous ownership, I was a fairly regular customer and calling their business "successful" is an understatement. It's past time for the new owners to go "back to the future".
Posted by: BT at February 21, 2013 10:29 AM
Now if they could shut down the recycling center at the tip of that block, that would help improve the area. That recycling center is a bum magnet and totally unnecessary.
After all, Recology/Sunset Scavengers is passing on the cost of uncollected redemptions to residents, which means the bums are making trash collection more expensive for everyone (aka indirect theft).
Bum advocates can start flaming me in 5, 4, 3, 2,...
Posted by: lol at February 21, 2013 10:33 AM
Most of the time I agree with Futurist and once again hits the nail on the head (see earlier SS post on an early draft of the Market-Octavia area).
I say build even higher (5 or 6 stories).
Posted by: Mark at February 21, 2013 11:12 AM
got it -- so if Safeway would just spend roughly one billion dollars to construct an earthquake-proof underground garage and re-build a massive retail space, and then add another 6-8 stories of housing, we could move toward completing a massive wall down Market Street. no thanks (and it's never gonna happen, thank goodness).
Posted by: anon at February 21, 2013 12:26 PM
I agree with lol: get rid of the (questionably legal) Recology Center. Clean up that corner, get rid of the bums.
Thanks mark! yea, that site has amazing, well planned development potential: housing, open space, more retail, below grade parking and a Safeway.
Posted by: futurist at February 21, 2013 12:27 PM
Hey anon! why are you so negative all the time, and not open-minded and perhaps a bit more "visionary"?
Where did you pull that $1b budget from? I could guess.
And what pipeline do you have that says this will never happen?
Posted by: futurist at February 21, 2013 12:30 PM
Fine, please share your budget for such a project.
My pipeline is that pipe dreams are just that.
Posted by: anon at February 21, 2013 12:32 PM
Funny how the obvious scam of "uncollected redemptions" is no problem.
Posted by: EH at February 21, 2013 12:37 PM
A billion dollars? Have you met my friend hysterical hyperbole?
The safeway site will be redeveloped.. its only a matter of time.
They are developing their other suburban store at fulton and laplaya to eliminate the parking lots - do you really think they wont do this for a lot which is much more centrally located.
Posted by: Joe at February 21, 2013 12:53 PM
The 1B figure could be an hyperbole, but I don't think it's too far off. Maybe twice too much compared to the potential.
The lot is roughly 200,000sf. If you cram 7 floors on the property including garage you're actually building 1M+ sf.
I don't know how much $/sf construction costs these days, but this project is clearly in multiples of $100Ms.
Posted by: lol at February 21, 2013 2:01 PM
Certainly this kind of urban project will cost in the several hundred million dollar range.
And so what? Anon is reacting with pure hyperbole and hysteria. The budget comment is simply irrelevant to the discussion of the project as architecture.
This type of proposed development,at the Safeway site, is appropriate and zoned for higher and denser use. The suburban style parking lot and building is out of date and served its' time well.
This project will NOT create a "massive wall" along Market St., but rather will develop, in a logical, urban planning sense, a great combination of retail, parking and housing ALL along a major transit line.
Posted by: futurist at February 21, 2013 2:17 PM
Imposter anon is being ridiculous (I'm the real anon). So what if the project would cost a billion? The only thing worth noting is the amount that it would gross for Safeway, which would be well north of that billion.
It doesn't matter if this is the "most profitable store in the chain", because clearly they wouldn't rebuild without a new store. They'd simply be extracting much more value from this astoundingly underutilized piece of land.
It would definitely be a shame if this were only rebuilt as six stories though. Should be rebuilt in the 8-10 story range, with a significantly enlarged Safeway on the ground floor.
Posted by: anon at February 21, 2013 2:36 PM
Count me in with those opposing a special privilege (allowing an offsite kitchen in a residential building across the street) not available to other restaurants. They've already been granted a full liquor license, live entertainment, and sidewalk seating, but they are apparently not making enough money and want more. They rebuilt the on-site kitchen a few years ago and could have expanded it to meet their needs, but it was easier/cheaper to keep using the illegal one across the street. All this for a place that doesn't pay their property taxes (after five years without paying a dime, they are now on a five-year payment plan.)
I think the Safeway site will eventually be redeveloped, but there are some challenges. Most people don't realize that there is actually a public street — Reservoir Street — running through the property from Market to Church. Basically the strip of pavement running directly in front of the store between the two streets is a public street itself. I don't think the street can be developed and so it introduces some challenges — not insurmountable ones — to any redevelopment. Also, from what I understand, there are a bunch of different parcels under the parking lot which are owned by a bunch of different people, which further complicates making big changes there.
Posted by: Dubocian at February 21, 2013 2:40 PM
And yes, the public street Reservoir does exist; in previous concept plans shown here on SS the developers/architects acknowledge that public street and build the development around it.
It's a great solution where Reservoir becomes a public way (no vehicles) connecting Church St. to Market st. : and providing access to retail and housing.
Posted by: futurist at February 21, 2013 2:57 PM
@futurist: I like that idea of peds only. I was recently in London and Rome for the first time and was amazed at the compactness of areas like Covent Garden/Soho where there was a ton of retail and commercial space surrounding vibrant narrow streets and alleys. It created a sense of intimacy that's hard to find in most American city retail districts (read: malls). Next project: razing Stonestown and creating a retail-dining-residential village.
Posted by: Mark at February 21, 2013 3:13 PM
What? Now you want to tear down stonestown. C'mon that area is really not the same as midMarket. I does not need a residential village it is surrounded by residential villages.
Posted by: sparky*b at February 21, 2013 3:33 PM
Couldn't agree more about how absurd stonestown is. Granted, the area is almost a silly level of low density, but it still sticks in my mind.
I lived in DC for years, and even though that city as a whole is far less dense, it always 'felt' more urban to me. The closest example of a mall there is in Columbia Heights, and Ive always kind of liked how that little mall is laid out. Beyond that, Macys is downtown by metro center.
Posted by: Matt at February 21, 2013 3:59 PM
Stonestown is a perfect opportunity to add height and density (translation: more residents) in a large parcel filled with a two-story mall and a lot of surface parking. Also, it's on a major MUNI line so transit is literally at its doorstep.
I lived in DC too for many years (as well as Arlington) and witnessed the reincarnation of Clarendon into an urban village on a popular Metro line. Even Pentagon City, which started off as a mall on a Metro stop, grew with additional commercial and residential development. It was infill development that worked. Same can be done in SF.
Posted by: Mark at February 21, 2013 4:38 PM
Really, you guys are crazy. Maximum cost for the parking structure would be less than $100/sf. For the superstructure - $200-300/sf all-in depending on finishes, TIs, etc. Maybe a $200-250M development - I'm not a developer, but I'm guessing that is in range for it to pencil out.
Posted by: Steve at February 21, 2013 4:44 PM
You know this site probably reflects accurately a particular portion and attitude of San Francisco residents:
1. We all think we are the best damn city in the whole solar system. We have all the answers to how to live the "right" way.
2. Cars are evil. Bikes are the only way and the way of the future.
3. The Castro is dead or dying: too many babies.
4. Public nudity should be a civil right.
5. All freeways should be torn down.
6. Dogs should be allowed to poop anywhere, off leash.
7. Any building over 4 stories creates a "wall".
8. Malls are suburban in lifestyle and should be demolished immediately.
9. Valencia St. is now ruined. By success.
10. Anon now has an imposter. The sky is falling.
Posted by: futurist at February 21, 2013 6:01 PM
Posted by: SocketSite at February 26, 2013 11:58 AM