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  • SF Examiner - Joshua Sabatini

Supes block SoMa housing development over shadow cast on neighborhood park

SoMa neighborhood residents and activists successfully defeated a more than 60-unit housing project Tuesday in an effort to protect a beloved 2.5-acre park from the shadow it would have cast.

The Board of Supervisors voted 10-to-0 to uphold an appeal of the development filed by the South of Market Community Action Network (SOMCAN) on the grounds that the seven-story project would have shadowed a northeast section of Victoria Manalo Draves Park for about eight months of the year.

The vote was celebrated by members of the Filipino community, who had testified for nearly two hours against the development proposed by Paul Iantorno, developer with Golden Properties LLC.

Iantorno declined to comment to the San Francisco Examiner after the vote.

“Like we said before, we are not against housing. We are not against development but this development needs to go back to the drawing board where it won’t impact the only park in our neighborhood,” Angelica Cabande, SOMCAN director, told the Examiner after the vote.

Sue Hestor, a land use attorney for SOMCAN, said that the developer is now “going to have to look at producing a project that doesn’t shadow the park. I think they may have gotten the message.”

Supervisor Matt Haney, who represents SoMa on the board, said he attempted to encourage both sides to reach a compromise but was unsuccessful. “I am honestly disappointed that this is where we find ourselves today,” Haney said, noting that the concerns over shadows were known by the developer for years.

“We absolutely do need more housing,” Haney said, but he said that “the community of SoMa, particularly around this park, is certainly doing its share in that regard.”

Pro-housing development advocates said the project, slated for pracels at 1052-1060 Folsom St. and 190-194 Russ St., was exactly what The City should approve to address San Francisco’s housing crisis.

Tim Colen, of the pro-development San Francisco Housing Action Coalition, said the opposition is “why local jurisdictions are failing so badly to deliver the housing the city needs to address the affordability and displacement crisis.”

“That a project this good, with this many benefits, particularly affordable housing that doesn’t cost the city a nickel, cannot be approved easily or administerially is deeply frustrating,” Colen said. “The City’s housing crisis will not abate unless and until we dramatically increase the production of housing projects exactly like this.”

The development proposal included 15 of the total 63 units at below-market rates.

The Recreation and Park Commission and the Planning Commission voted Dec. 20 to support the project despite opposition from SoMa residents and then Supervisor Jane Kim.

Heather Phillips, an employee of the SoMa-based anti-violence group United Playaz, said The City should block the development “to protect the integrity of our park.”

“This conversation isn’t about housing versus parks. Of course we need housing,” Phillips said. “We need a lot of a housing. But 60 units of housing is not going to make or break the housing balance, but it will damage a park.”

Phillips continued, “We only have 4 acres of open space in SoMa. That’s it. In case you are wondering Dolores Park is over 15 acres just in one site.”

City officials must take into consideration development shadow impact under Proposition K, which was adopted by voters in June 1984.

If a development higher than 40 feet casts a shadow upon a public park, the Planning Commission must oppose the project unless it finds the shadow would not be significant. The decision includes input from the Recreation and Park Commission.

In this case, both commissions decided that the shadow would not have a significant impact on the park by analyzing such criteria as amount of new shadow and where the shadow falls.

The Planning Department said that the the project would cause no shadow increase on the park between the months of October to February, but would impact the park during the other months to varying degrees.

“The new shadow would fall on the northeastern quarter of the park at the park entry, basketball court, northern children’s play area, lawn areas, and several fixed benches, and would be present between February and October in the late afternoon beginning between 5:15 and 6 p.m., with an average duration of 72 minutes,” according to a city planner report.

The board technically voted to support an appeal of a conditional use permit, on the grounds the project wasn’t “desirable” due to the impacts on the park. The permit was needed to develop the sites.

Supervisor Aaron Peskin rejected criticism from pro-development advocates.

“If you want to have whole and complete neighborhoods, we do not shadow our parks,” Peskin said.

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