October 24, 2013

Appeal Of Potrero Hill Development Rejected By Supervisors

480 Potrero Site (www.SocketSite.com)

San Francisco's Board of Supervisors has rejected the CEQA based appeal opposing the proposed Potrero Hill development at 480 Potrero Avenue and affirmed the Planning Commission's Environmental Declaration to allow the six-story building with 75 condos, 47 parking spaces and a thousand square feet of retail on the northwest corner of Potrero and Mariposa to be built.

First Published: October 24, 2013 8:15 AM

Comments from "Plugged In" Readers

A glimmer of sanity in SF.

It should be taller

Posted by: mdg at October 24, 2013 8:25 AM

Why does it have to be so ugly?

Posted by: hal at October 24, 2013 8:27 AM

Why can't we have nice things? UMU (Urban Mixed Use) is a joke. 1000 square feet of retail space on a street that should have a full ground level of commercial space, and that should be pedestrian friendly. Instead we get ground level residential and no community benefits.

Posted by: PHill at October 24, 2013 8:33 AM

This isn't meant to be snarky, but an honest question. I have seen many people lament community benefits in newer construction residential. Are you talking more retail (which I sort of get), or like taking away space for living space by adding publicly accessible green space, plazas, etc? The main purpose of development is to house people. I do not agree that new development, especially 8 story and under infill, needs to give amenities to the general public, outside of ground floor retail where it makes sense. This is meant to provide sorely needed private places to live, and you do not see public benefits really anywhere in the residential buildings of established areas and neighborhoods, so it's not like there is precedent. I am open to changing my mind, but I find statements like that curious.

Posted by: JWS at October 24, 2013 9:23 AM

Oh noes! What's going to happen to this beautiful scenic vista?

Posted by: anon at October 24, 2013 9:36 AM

"Why does it have to be so ugly?"

Are you talking about the existing graffiti'd up space? :)

This is in my neck of the woods and I am glad this is moving foward. Can the design, height, etc be better? Maybe, but no one is perfect. This will tremendously help the surrounding blocks as well as bring additional supply to a city that is in desparate need of more.

Posted by: PotreroSF at October 24, 2013 9:43 AM

@JWS, it's a fair question. I think that Potrero Ave. is traditionally a nice mix of commercial and residential and, with the goal of improving the area and making it more pedestrian friendly (which it is not currently) it would be wise to encourage active ground level uses and/or some buffer of green space at sidewalk level.

Why would you say that the purpose of new development is solely to house people? If we want sustainable, vital urban communities we need to have jobs and retail spaces mixed-in with residential, right?

The UMU zoning in the Eastern Neighborhoods Plan was intended to maintain a mix of uses. In practice, it allows developers to build bedroom communities with, at most, token amounts of commercial space. 1000 square feet for 75 condos is hardly close to the objectives stated in the ENP.

Posted by: PHill at October 24, 2013 9:46 AM

"Bedroom community" lol. What is the mix of uses that this is replacing? It's ok for "mix of uses" to mean a residential-only building next to a building with both, etc.

Posted by: anon at October 24, 2013 9:55 AM

Ummm, Potrero is not a nice mix of commercial and residential. It's a busy street with one of the biggest homeless encampments in the city near SF General. There's no need for retail at this spot. Who would go there? Why encourage making it pedestrian friendly when all the streets west of it already are?

Why walk on Potrero when you can walk down Harrison (which has wide sidewalks and bike lanes) or you can go down the slower paced sidestreets (Florida and Alabama).

Posted by: Regen at October 24, 2013 9:55 AM

Ok PHill, so you're talking retail. I get that, although not in all locations. I am more confused by people who want large scale public amenities like parks, roof decks, plazas, etc for infill development.

Posted by: JWS at October 24, 2013 10:02 AM

So we would prefer to NOT make Potrero Ave pedestrian friendly, and we should put ugly ticky-tacky boxes there because it's already ugly?

Posted by: PHill at October 24, 2013 10:07 AM

^No, it should be made pedestrian friendly. I don't understand the desire to make every building an employment center though, especially in a place where no employment currently exists.

Posted by: anon at October 24, 2013 10:23 AM

The whole notion of "pedestrian friendly" is quite often just a trendy buzz-word without any real substance.

Not EVERY street in SF can be "ped-friendly". Some streets, like Potrero Ave are very busy roadways with a PURPOSE: moving to and from the freeways and to and from the hospital. Yes, you can plant trees, some bulbouts, sidewalk landscaping, etc, but a street like this is and will remain very busy.

The primary purpose is auto-centric. It's going to be noisy and fast. It's not going to become a bucolic country lane.

Trying to make a very busy automobile thoroughfare into a "pedestrian-friendly" street is a bit of a misnomer. Doesn't mean you can't or shouldn't walk there, but as others have said why not just enjoy other streets nearby?

Posted by: Futurist at October 24, 2013 10:27 AM

@Regen - This stretch of Potrero Ave DO GET a lot of pedestrians - the bus stop is down the street (and it's usually a crowd), the Potrero Shopping Center is also right there, there are people walking to the Verdi Club or to the bar across the street, to Franklin Square, not to mention plenty of SF General employees/patients walk north up Potrero Ave to the Potrero Shopping Center.

Harrison and Florida are too far away. Hampshire and York do not extend to the Potrero Shopping Center. The only viable alternative is Bryant. But why not make Potrero Ave a nice pedestrian friendly place too? Why make people travel three blocks west in order to have a good walking experience?

Posted by: mas at October 24, 2013 10:35 AM

^^ Futurist, you surprise me. Or maybe I am surprised that you call yourself that. We want to have an auto-centric street without encouraging pedestrians? That's it's purpose, so people can go to the freeway and hospital in their cars? It's already that way. It doesn't have to be a bucolic country lane, but it could be a boulevard. It doesn't have to be ugly. Maybe it could even be NICE!

Posted by: alh at October 24, 2013 10:40 AM

@Futurist - Potrero Ave is not that busy. Most of the time it's pretty dead. Try google map street view and see for yourself.

It's only busy if you approach it during rush hour. It probably get much less traffic than Marina Blvd, which is a very pedestrian friendly street. So I don't see why you write it off just because for roughly three hours a day it gets a lot of traffic.

Posted by: mas at October 24, 2013 10:43 AM

@ alh: And I said that: yes, it's possible to make it "nice" by adding trees, landscaping, bulbouts.

But just what does "pedestrian friendly" really mean or imply? Potrero Ave. is not going to be a country lane, or even a quaint side street.

"most of the time" it's not pretty dead, as mas implies. And once again, I did NOT "write it off". Read my comments again, if you need clarification.

Enhance what is there, yes, but acknowledge that it's a very busy street for autos. That's reality.

Posted by: Futurist at October 24, 2013 11:03 AM

Pedestrian friendly has nothing to do with being a country lane or "quaint". 5th Avenue in NY is one of the most pedestrian friendly streets in the world, yet is clogged with auto traffic 20+ hours of the day.

Posted by: anon at October 24, 2013 11:15 AM

@futurist, Ground level residential with no greening and virtually no retail is not "pedestrian friendly". Neighborhood-wide, adding more transit and more green space would certainly help, as was promised in the Eastern Neighborhoods Plan. But, as PHill said earlier, it seems that we aren't allowed to have nice things.

Posted by: alh at October 24, 2013 11:16 AM

I wouldn't mind seeing more flexible space-- make those ground level apartments also usable (with a remodel) as small retail. That's how a lot of SF's neighborhood shopping areas were built, more or less, and I'd say it made for a good result.

Posted by: Alai at October 24, 2013 11:29 AM

Anyway, we should count our blessings. It could have been a blank wall with a parking garage behind it.

Posted by: Alai at October 24, 2013 11:31 AM

San Francisco's visionary urban planning: "It could have been worse."

Posted by: PHill at October 24, 2013 11:54 AM

Why people hate seeing development at a private property?

Posted by: people's hate at October 24, 2013 12:01 PM

PHill, Despite the fact that the 16th Street Safeway complex is relatively nearby (2 blocks away), it is clear that this stretch of Potrero is not a shopping destination ...in fact just the opposite. The nearby blocks on Potrero are residential, and with the exception of the "saloon" across the street the only businesses are auto-related repair shops and gas stations. In that context, 1000 square feet for a corner store kind of use is perfectly adequate. If larger scale retail had been proposed it most likely would have been vacant or used by a non-pedestrian activated use (like office) because it's simply not an attractive retail location.

Potrero can certainly become nicer for pedestrians, but it is currently maximized for cars and transit and not anywhere that peds really want to be. Most are probably there to access the General Hospital and/or transit. The nearby smaller scale streets are much more comfortable for peds and bikes, and it's no surprise that only a block away on Hampshire the Slow Club has sidewalk seating....you don't see that on Potrero.

A long winded way of saying I don't understand your gripe and I think you should re-examine it.

Posted by: curmudgeon at October 24, 2013 1:01 PM

Pedestrians wouldn't want to walk there; the only businesses are auto repair shops and gas stations; there's a large homeless encampment nearby; and the street is noisy and busy with cars heading to the freeway or to the hospital. We clearly can't have commercial or retail development in a place like that. But why would anyone want to live there???

Posted by: mishpo at October 24, 2013 2:14 PM

Agree with curmudgeon. Don't expect retail space as if you build it, they will come. Economic factor will decide how much retail a place can support. On this stretch of Potrero I am not seeing much demand. There are a number of retail spaces build with new housing around Potrero Hill. I only see them sitting vacant year after year or being used as office space.

Posted by: Wai Yip Tung at October 24, 2013 2:15 PM

1. Potrero Ave is only an auto freeway during rush hour. Go there in during off peak time and it's a very mellow street.

2. There are a lot of pedestrians on Potrero and moving to the side streets is not always practical. See below.

3. In addition to the auto shops and gas stations, there are offices, art studios, and manufacturing on that street. Which attracts the foot traffic.

4. The ground floor commercial space doesn't have to be retail, it can be an office, bakery, print shop, lab, physical rehab, etc, etc. There are already some of these types of business on Potrero. The point is that this is a very convenient location, close to SF General and other non-profit centers; and it has the potential to serve a lot of people.

5. This part of Potrero is going to have a lot more people in the not too distant future. The Potrero Center has talked about building condos on top of the shopping center. You know the auto shops, gas stations and car wash are going to be torn down and replaced with condos sooner or later. The time to prepare for the influx of people is now.

Posted by: mas at October 24, 2013 4:31 PM

^^ Exactly.

Posted by: mishpo at October 24, 2013 5:15 PM

Yea, right @ mas:

Potrero Avenue "off peak" is a very mellow street.

And yea, Noe Valley is a little farm village with goats and pigs.

Right.

Posted by: Futurist at October 24, 2013 5:16 PM

I've driven on Potrero Avenue during off-peak hours. It's wide, but it's not particularly busy. It's a fantastic way to get from the north end of the Mission down to Army Street (and vice-versa).

Posted by: Fishchum at October 24, 2013 7:38 PM

I walk those sidewalks occasionally. It seems plenty pedestrian friendly to me. What more do you want, Jetsons-style moving walkways?

Posted by: Sidney W. at October 25, 2013 1:48 PM

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