A Superior Court Judge has called for a halt to the five-story development currently under construction at 1050 Valencia Street between 21st and 22nd Streets, at Hill Street. And this is triggering a lot of tiresome flashbacks for many familiar with the back-and-forth mess this whole project has been.
Socketsite reports the judge ruled that a decision made by the SF Board of Appeals — to allow the building to stand at five stories, undoing a previous decision to make it just four — shows that it "abused its discretion" and “failed to set forth the analytic route it traveled.” Okay, and hey, this too could get reversed and not matter. But let's check in on the project generally, because it's an interesting case study.
One clue as to what the judge could mean comes in another statement in his ruling. “The Court cannot determine based on the instant record whether Supervisor Weiner [not how you spell it] illegally tainted the deliberative process in violation of San Francisco City Charter 2.114 or whether he was merely expressing his opinion under the First Amendment.” To bring us up to speed: at one point, the Court of Appeals made the decision that the development should lop off a floor. But Scott Wiener huffed and puffed about denouncing them, and there was threat of legal action, so the Court of Appeals said oops, five is good.
Let's back up: 1050 Valencia. The spot was once home of a KFC, later became Spork, and most recently has been home to a sushi restaurant, which looked like this.
The development was first floated in 2007, and it passed its Environmental Impact Review back in 2010. But, this is San Francisco, and here we are still fighting about it in 2015. Anyway, in 2012, it passed the Planning Commission despite neighbors' complaints (the design, the height, lots of other things). The group most at odds with the development: the Liberty Hill Neighborhood Association, who, as Socketsite wrote back in 2012 enumerated a bunch of quarrels with the development and even filed a Discretionary Review to block it.
But that didn't work, and by the time it all shook out, the building was set to be 55-ft tall with 5-stories containing 12-units (10 market-rate for sale, and 2 below market rate) and no car parking. Neighbors, by the way, have complained about that fact a lot — they'll have to park on the street, etc. So, the Liberty Hill Neighborhood Association decided to appeal the 2010 Environmental Impact Review, which definitely felt a bit belated.
The last time SFist waded into the controversy was in 2013. At that time, the enemies of the development were the next-door building owners and operators of the Marsh Theater, who were concerned about construction noise and then first floor retail space that could potentially include a bar interrupting performances.
Now we're nearly back to present day. The Board of Appeals offered a compromise: if you don't like the height, okay, take off a floor. That seemed like it would work, but the developer fought back and claimed that, legally, there's was absolutely no reason to lose a floor (and a lot of money presumably). That kind of thing could only be done for "specific adverse impact on public health and safety." So the board, perhaps under pressure from Supervisor Wiener and also from the developer, reversed its four-story compromise, and said five stories would be fine. And then construction began. And then construction stopped.
So, will we go back to four stories? What's fascinating here is that this fight has been so prolonged that during the delay, the neighborhood around it has changed completely, and potential property values have soared. Perhaps it was fair to argue points about preserving the character of Valencia Street in 2010, but five years later the area is very, very different. Of course, a possible moratorium on more development in the Mission could freeze things on a larger scale. But, with struggles like 1050 Valencia, who needs moratoria?Google Streetview