Central SoMa Rezoning Moves One Step Further at the Board of Supervisors

San Francisco, Hanson Bridgett, SOMA, Transferable Development Rights, Caltrain, Rincon Hill, San Francisco Board of Supervisors
Image used with explicit permission from JLL

By Brett Gladstone

After 16 public hearings, over a five year period lasting through the tenure of three mayors, the largest San Francisco rezoning plan in ten years received a unanimous Planning Commission approval on May 10, 2018. Earlier this month, the Land Use Committee of the Board of Supervisors had a second hearing to listen to testimony about plan, and while the plan keeps advancing, there are some new elements in the Supervisors’ proposal that may insert additional hurdles in the overall proposal.

The rezoning is intended to produce 40,000 new jobs, the construction of millions of additional square feet of office space than currently allowed, as well as the creation of roughly 7,000 new housing units. The geographic area affected is defined generally as follows:

  • boundary to the west will be 6th Street,
  • boundary on the east will be 2nd Street,
  • boundary on the north will be Folsom, Howard and Stevenson Streets, and
  • boundary to the south will be Townsend Street.

The plan was created years ago to focus on producing more office space in San Francisco, which still remains the prominent proposed use for the district. However, in several hearings in July of 2018 (July 16 and 23), the Land Use Committee of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors (consisting of Supervisor Jane Kim, Asha Safai and Chair Katy Tang) heard testimony asking that the Plan be more tailored to construction of housing, instead of office space, given the epidemic housing shortage in the city and the region, as a whole, of the moment.

In response to the testimony, the Supervisor Jane Kim, whose district is being partially rezoned through the Central SoMa Plan, introduced amendments to the Plan that would change the zoning north of Harrison Street from “mixed-use office” to “mixed-use residential,” adding the focus of housing to that part of the plan’s designated area.

At the hearings, members of the Planning Department stated that these changes are possible and could be made, but that further alteration to add even more housing to the Plan might trigger changes to the Environmental Impact Report (EIR). This 600 plus page multiyear effort was monumental in its creation, and it ended with its certification by the Planning Commission earlier this year. Any changes to the document at this point could also have the consequence of additional work needed in other parts of the report.

In addition, despite the fact that the EIR may not materially change, the Kim amendments must be vetted by the Planning Commission before the full Board of Supervisors votes on the Plan. The Planning Commission is scheduled to hear those amendments on September 10.

The final vote at the Board of Supervisors thereafter must await its decision on whether or not to uphold several appeals of the EIR, after which, we hope, we will all be a step closer to seeing the Plan come to life.

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