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  • Trisha Thadani - SF Chronicle

SF supervisors reject housing complex that would cast shadow on SoMa park

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors on Tuesday unanimously rejected a 63-unit apartment complex, including 15 below-market-rate units, because it would cast an evening shadow on a South of Market park.

The proposal was to replace several smaller buildings at 1052-1060 Folsom St. and 190-194 Russ St. with an apartment complex that would shade a portion of Victoria Manalo Draves Park, a 2-acre open space next to Bessie Carmichael School, a public K-8. The project will now return to the Planning Commission for further review.

“We absolutely need more housing and affordable housing,” said Supervisor Matt Haney, whose district includes the park. But “this isn’t a meaningless shadow on someone’s backyard. This is a shadow that falls on the only multiuse public park in SoMa.”

The shadow would impact the northeastern portion of the park, which has a basketball court, children’s play area, benches and a grass section often used by dog walkers. The shadow wouldn’t reach the southern half of the park, where the baseball field and batting cages are. On the longest day of the year, June 21, a shadow would be cast for 100 minutes, starting between 5:46 and 6 p.m. It would cover an additional 18.24% of the park, above the 30% of the park covered at that time by existing shading.

The 10-0 vote — Supervisor Ahsha Safaí recused himself because of a possible conflict of interest — came after hours of impassioned public comment on how the shadow would impact the SoMa neighborhood, which has the lowest amount of open space in the city.

Public speakers ranged from community activists to park neighbors to several Bessie Carmichael students, who lamented that the shadow would impact the precious green space where they play basketball, hang out after school and revel in the sun.

“This park is important to our community,” said Heather Phillips, director of programs for United Playaz and a youth baseball coach. “It’s not about housing versus parks. About 60 units of housing is not going to make or break the housing balance, but it will damage a park.”

But those against the appeal said it is an example of why it is so difficult and expensive for the city to build more housing in the city.

“This is yet more evidence of why local jurisdictions are failing so badly to deliver the housing that the city needs to help the housing crisis,” said Tim Colen of the San Francisco Housing Action Coalition. “The city’s housing crisis will not abate unless and until we dramatically increase production of housing projects exactly like this one.”

Also at Tuesday’s meeting, the board unanimously decided to adorn San Francisco International Airport’s Harvey Milk Terminal with prominent signs honoring the late gay-rights activist and San Francisco supervisor.

The decision follows months of arguments between the board and airport over the placement and size of the signs for the newly renamed Terminal 1.

“It has been an uphill battle and fight every step of the way to rename this terminal after Harvey Milk, one of the most important civil rights leaders, whose political career and life and legacy was born and raised right here in San Francisco,” said Supervisor Hillary Ronen, sponsor of the ordinance.

In 2013, former Supervisor David Campos originally proposed renaming the entire airport after Milk, but gave up after hitting resistance. Ronen, his successor, later proposed renaming just Terminal 1 after him. While the board approved the name change last year, Ronen said the proposed signage was neither big nor bold enough. She proposed another piece of legislation in February that outlined the size and placement of the signs.

Her proposal met some resistance from airport officials, who worried about how having a sign that says “Harvey Milk Terminal” next to a sign that says “Terminal 1” could confuse travelers.

Under the ordinance, which must pass a second reading by the board, the sign for “Harvey Milk Terminal” must have capital letters that are at least 4 feet high and must be installed by March 2020. A slightly smaller sign saying “Terminal 1” will be placed below. Also, wherever a sign for “Terminal 1” appears inside or outside the terminal, the words “Harvey Milk” must appear in equal or greater height.

Doug Yakel, an airport spokesman, said the airport would “ensure that our signage complies with this legislation.”

Milk was elected to the Board of Supervisors in 1977 and was the first openly gay elected official in the state. He was killed in 1978 along with Mayor George Moscone by former Supervisor Dan White.

The board also unanimously passed Mayor London Breed’s proposal to unlock some of the money raised by Proposition C, the November ballot measure to tax big businesses to fund homelessness programs. If the ordinance passes on the second reading, the elaborate proposal would give companies subject to Prop. C a tax break if they agree to let the city keep the money they pay — even if the courts strike down the measure and order the funds to be repaid.

The board also approved a resolution by Supervisor Gordon Mar opposingSB50, a state bill that would allow denser housing to be built around transit hubs and job centers, unless it’s amended.

“Opposing SB50 doesn’t mean opposing housing, or opposing density,” Mar said. “The question isn’t whether we should build more housing or not — we must. It’s about what we build, how and for whom.”

While the resolution passed the board 9-2 — with Supervisors Vallie Brown and Safaí in the dissent — the legislation was sent back to the Government Audit and Oversight Committee to consider amendments proposed by Brown, recommending specific changes to the state bill.

Supervisor Shamann Walton also introduced legislation that would require the city to close its juvenile hall by the end of 2021. The ordinance would create a working group to oversee the process and come up with rehabilitative and noninstitutional settings for those who require secure placement.

Supervisors Ronen, Mar, Brown, Safaí, Aaron Peskin, Sandra Lee Fewer and Matt Haney are co-sponsors of the legislation.

The supervisors created the measure in response to a recent Chronicle investigation that exposed a dramatic drop in serious youth crime that has left the state’s juvenile halls nearly empty while the per-inmate costs skyrocket.

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