October 3, 2013

Larkin Street Redevelopment Take Three And Planning's Flop

First St. John's United Methodist Church at Larkin and Clay (Image Source: MapJack.com)

Having been rejected twice, once in 2010 and again at the end of last year, the project sponsors of the proposed demolition the dilapidated First St. John's United Methodist Church at the corner of Larkin and Clay will once again seek the Planning Commission’s approval to build a new residential building upon the lot this afternoon.

The revised design for the development at 1601 Larkin Street which is down to five floors from six with additional setbacks and new finishes on the façade will yield 27 new dwelling units and 32 parking spaces as proposed.

The Planning Department which had originally supported the project but then flipped has flopped back to once again characterizing the project as “necessary and desirable” and recommends the project be approved.

1601 Larkin Street 3.1: The Redesign Details And Renderings [SocketSite]
1601 Larkin: Planning's Flip-Flop And Expected Disapproval Today [SocketSite]

First Published: October 3, 2013 4:00 AM

Comments from "Plugged In" Readers

Nobody is mentioning the 60k "donation" to the middle polk neighborhood association which seems to have bought their support.

People talk about extortion in connection with development, but this is the most blatant case of that that I have ever seen.

Posted by: Joe at October 3, 2013 7:39 AM

Joe, that's standard operating procedure on Potrero Hill and Dogpatch where we've been bought and sold. Just the cost of doing business.

Posted by: PHill at October 3, 2013 8:06 AM

PHill - please let me know what you are referring to on Potrero Hill?

Posted by: J.R. at October 3, 2013 8:30 AM

J.R., Well we all know about the Eastern Neighborhoods Public Benefit Fund $1.5 million
http://www.potreroview.net/news10393.html

But more recently we have donations to the GreenBenefit District and various open spaces. Look at the sponsors for the Potrero Hill Festival.

The problem is that we have come to accept this, that it's OK to take the money and believe that we can remain independent of influence.

Posted by: Phill at October 3, 2013 8:52 AM

Nicely vague accusations; I am still uncertain whose silence or support has been bought.

Posted by: J.R. at October 3, 2013 9:15 AM

Is it legal for neighborhood associations to accept "donations" in exchange for development support?

Posted by: SFCitizen at October 3, 2013 9:16 AM

If you are a neighborhood association, or have a small neighborhood-serving endeavor, and someone is willing to invest thousands of dollars, you may avoid speaking out against your donor at some point. I don't think these donations are given without some expectation that there will be some return on investment. It's a slippery slope for those accepting these funds.

It's not illegal, but one hopes that new ethics reform will force transparency.

Posted by: PHill at October 3, 2013 9:29 AM

What's the problem? As much as I'll despise the years of construction noise, this needs to happen. The existing structure is not salvageable, not historic, and is just a haven for transients. It reeks of urine every time I walk by.

I live on this block and recently received the floor plans to the proposed structure in the mail. So the developer is definitely reaching out.

Posted by: sixtypercenttogether at October 3, 2013 11:14 AM

PHill - Is someone working on ethics reform for neighborhood associations?

Posted by: SFCitizen at October 3, 2013 11:36 AM

Herrera and Chui are working on legislation that requires developers to disclose donations.

Posted by: PHill at October 3, 2013 11:41 AM

Nice to see all the development news today!

Regarding donations: Companies / wealthy people generally don't donate large sums of money without expecting something in return. It's certainly no surprise in SF, with such a convoluted and broken permitting system.

I don't really see it any different than a developer offering to reduce the size of a building to get approval. It's basically the same thing, they are giving away something of value to make a complainant stop complaining.

I see the "donations" as more honest and efficient than the drawn out pain of the current DR process.

It definitely sucks and I'd love to see a more sensible system that didn't require such measures.

But hopefully this development will finally go through.

Posted by: lyqwyd at October 3, 2013 11:58 AM

I live in the neighborhood, and there is an unregistered neighborhood group called Nob Hill Neighbors which has been plastering the telephone poles in the hood with hysterical hyperbolic warnings about planned developments - including the church.
Would love to know who the "nob hill neighbors" are.

Posted by: Joe at October 3, 2013 12:22 PM

I don't agree that donations are equivalent to design changes. Donations are ephemeral and that NAs that receive them could easily squander their windfall on donuts and new laptops for their exec staff and other stuff that will be gone in a few years. Design changes on the other hand will last as long as the building.

When the DR process is used to legitimately address the negative impacts of a new development then it provides a long term good for the city. The DR process should be reformed to curb abuse, not abandoned.

As the system stands today opportunists can form NAs directly in response to a new development. With that org they can essentially extort cash from deep pockets with little effort and no risk. The risk and liability needs to be increased to discourage specious DRs.

Posted by: The Milkshake of Despair at October 3, 2013 1:19 PM

@MoD

That's cool, it's just my opinion. To me it's extortion in 99 cases out of 100.

I don't suggest abandoning the DR, and I'm all for imprving it, but it's so far gone that I'd prefer it's abandonment over keeping it as is, if those were the only 2 options.

Posted by: lyqwyd at October 3, 2013 1:54 PM

The Planning Commission approved the project. The vote was unanimous.

Posted by: Linda Chapman Fan Club at October 4, 2013 10:12 AM

It's about time. Crunch that pile of rot and bring on the future.

Posted by: Bilditnow at October 5, 2013 5:57 AM

...and BTW commentor above, if MPN was "bought" and got a "donation", why did it's chairperson speak against the project as the last witness?

Posted by: Bilditnow at October 5, 2013 6:00 AM

Bilditnow that's typical operating procedure. Votes are stacked prior to the hearing, then the bought and paid for neighborhood turncoat speaks against the project publicly knowing full well how the vote will come down. Tony Kelly of the PHill Boosters can fill you in on the details. Or reach out to the folks at the Dogpatch Association for a more indepth explanation. It's the art of the backroom deal.

Posted by: LD at October 5, 2013 6:09 PM

LD nailed it. Should be an interesting D10 campaign season.

Posted by: PHill at October 6, 2013 10:07 AM

Posted by: SocketSite at January 24, 2014 12:51 PM

good news on the number of parking spaces.. should help to ease congestion

Posted by: jill at January 24, 2014 6:01 PM

I have a very fond memory of this church. I grew up in the neighborhood. Not a particularly happy childhood but my sister and I attended the Methodist Church in 1955-57. Those are probably the few happy memories of my childhood in the neighborhood.

Uncle Otto and Aunt Stella ran the childrens choir, sunday school, and put on all the children's performances and cared for each and every child. The church involved us in weddings (we would lite the candles) and it made us feel so important. They gave us love and that is priceless to two small children who attended without parent and were accepted. So argue about all what should be done with the property, but remember that what should be done is what was done for myself and my sister in the mid fifties. I am so thankful to that church.!!!!!!!!

Posted by: Etta Daniels at February 11, 2014 2:57 PM

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