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Planning. Ahead.

Jan
6
2004

It’s looking like Proposition J might be the San Francisco political fight of the decade. Well, okay, maybe just this year.
Either way, it’s shaping up as a good test of soon-to-be Mayor Gavin Newsom’s character. The neighborhoods are getting restless. Prop J is nothing more than a land grab, says Tony Kelly, president of the Potrero Boosters Neighborhood Association. Kelly says he and his neighbors have been trying to plan the development of the land just north of their ‘hood for years and they don’t like the SF Chamber of Commerce swooping in and, well, messing with their hard work.
“The residents of the central waterfront took on the planning department five years ago, creating and publishing their own neighborhood zoning plan that added 3000 housing units in a livable, vibrant mix,”Kelly wrote in an email. “That vision has been mixed (in good ways and bad) with the city’s own “better neighborhoods” rezoning program. That program has been stalled in the planning department recently, due to lack of funding for environmental impact reports.
“But somehow, there’s plenty of money for the Chamber of Commerce to raise for their own ham-fisted approach to fixing the housing crisis and, incidentally, create great gobs of money where there wasn’t money before. Money isn’t bad, of course; but stomping on an existing neighborhood and five-plus years of hard work is.”

Kelly’s mixing apples and oranges when he talks about money for the initiative and the city’s funding. And the idea that any land in the city, particularly land near 280, the road to Silicon Valley wouldn’t attract greedy, rapacious land developers is a short-sighted one. But Kelly’s broader point is worth thinking about. San Francisco’s planning and building departments and their processes are in a world of hurt. The mess that’s been created there is really what the fight over Prop J will be about. It’s a stand-in for a planning process and department that’s alienated neighborhoods – all of them, it seems. It’s pissed off developers – most of them, it feels like. It’s politicized. It’s corrupt – show me another city where “expediters” are treated as credible business people. It’s ineffective and oh, yeah, it doesn’t seem to be working very well.
Or is it? Look, planners piss people off. To some extent, saying “no” is part of the gig. And city residents’ reluctance to consider higher, denser development is well-entrenched. Maybe the problem here is that the Chamber – like many business interests sees Newsom’s election as its personal triumph – ignoring the niceties of grassroots support? Managing those expectations, really, is the test of Newsom’s character and his election promises. Along with everyone else he wants a City Hall that runs cleanly and fairly but the ghosts of the past – in this case the shenangigans over live/work lofts – are, fairly or not, haunting Prop J and its laudable goals.

Share  Posted by Chris Nolan at 10:27 AM | Permalink

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