San Francisco Planning Commission Approves Unanimously Central SoMa Plan with Changes

San Francisco Board of Supervisors, Central SoMa Plan and Final Environmental Impact Report, South of Market Street, Central SoMa Plan, City’s General Fund, Vision Zero, Townsend Street, Folsom, Howard and Stevenson Streets
Image courtesy of JLL

By Vladimir Bosanac

In a late night, 7-0 vote, on Thursday, May 10th, the San Francisco Planning Commission approved the proposed Central SoMa Plan and Final Environmental Impact Report, setting forth a path for a massive redevelopment and economic potential in the city’s South of Market Street neighborhood. This geography is defined generally on its western portion by 6th Street, on its eastern portion by 2nd Street, on the north by Folsom, Howard and Stevenson Streets and to the south by Townsend Street. The vote now will go in front of the city’s Board of Supervisors, which will vote on the final decision.

The plan, which has crossed a major hurdle, is promising to create 40,000 jobs and add 7,000 new housing units (33 percent of which will be affordable) to the neighborhood and generate $500 million for local and regional transit improvements. Additionally, the Central SoMa Plan will create multiple acres of new and rehabilitated parks and recreation open spaces and will include funding for investments in air quality improvements and green energy programs. It will result in $2 billion in public benefits for the neighborhood while generating $1 billion in revenue for the City’s General Fund, according to a statement from the city.

The approved plan did come with a number changes, some of which will lead to additional housing proposed for the final draft, while others focused on the operational aspects of the plan and its execution. For instance, one of the big wins for housing advocates has been the change in the jobs-to-housing ratio, which up until the meeting was proposed to be 6 to 1. Now, the balance of the scale has been moved toward the housing side, according to Brett Gladstone, a partner in San Francisco’s Hanson Bridgett and the head of the firm’s land use practice. The new ratio will now be set at 4 to 1, which will be accomplished through a number of ways, but the most important one will be through a rezone of some commercial lots up to 40,000 square feet, which will provide an opportunity for additional lots to be allocated for housing.

This change will have a net balance impact of additional 1,240 units created that were previously not considered at the expense of 4,750 jobs, said Gladstone.

Another significant development was the change introduced to Proposition X, which passed in November of 2016 as a measure to require developers to provide replacement space for structures with production, distribution and repair (PDR) uses if they were to redevelop a building, for instance. The change introduced by the vote now allows non-profit office, other non-profit businesses and legacy businesses to be allowed along with replacements consistent with PDR uses. “This is important, because there is a lot of legacy business,” said Gladstone.

“I am very proud that the Central SoMa plan sets a new standard for the City with 33 percent affordability throughout and zero loss of any existing arts or manufacturing jobs,” said Supervisor Jane Kim in a statement. “It will be the first new area plan with an eco-district that implements Vision Zero from its inception, designed with robust community benefits such as parks and recreational open spaces for our entire city to enjoy for decades to come.”

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