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  • SFGATE, J.K. Dineen

Changes to SF’s Central SoMa rezoning plan would result in more housing

The rezoning of San Francisco’s Central SoMa neighborhood, a decade in the making, has always been about jobs — creating a place for the large-floor-plate office buildings that tech companies covet.

But as the South of Market plan heads to the Board of Supervisors for a vote in the next few weeks, Supervisor Jane Kim will introduce a set of amendments at Monday’s Land Use and Transportation Committee meeting designed to squeeze a little more housing out of the office-oriented rezoning.

Kim wants to change the zoning north of Harrison Street from “mixed-use office” to “mixed-use residential,” adding housing to that part of the plan’s designated area, which generally runs from close to Market Street south to Townsend Street and from Second Street to Sixth Street.

City planning officials say the change would result in about 250 more housing units and would mostly impact smaller sites north of Harrison Street.

“This will permit some housing on smaller sites — but not offices or hotels,” said Kim, who said she is trying to maximize the amount of housing in the plan without changing it so much that city planners would need to go back and update its environmental study, which could take two or three years.

Josh Switzky, who heads up community planning for the Planning Department, said that while the city has been working “seriously and diligently to expand housing in the city,” Central SoMa is the only plan left in the city where there is capacity to add jobs. He said the additional 250 units under Kim’s amendments are as much as can be added without prompting a new environmental study.

“It pushes about as far as we can push without disrupting the whole plan,” he said.

Originally, the plan envisioned 7,000 housing units and space for about 39,000 jobs. Gradually, city planners have been looking for ways to increase the amount of housing. Kim’s amendments would bring the housing unit count up to 8,550 housing units and the jobs down to about 32,500.

Kim said she wishes the jobs-to-housing ratio was more balanced.

“Of course, I wish I could go back in time and change it,” said Kim. “The city has changed tremendously over the last 10 years.”

The Central SoMa Plan was conceived before San Francisco had taken off as the global heart of the tech industry. While detractors charge that the plan would exacerbate the transformation of a once blue-collar neighborhood to a center of high-flying capitalism, proponents say the $2.2 billion in community benefits to be paid by developers make it worth it.

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