A year after the Board of Supervisors forced a proposed 27-story residential tower back to the drawing board, a YIMBY lawsuit against the city has also been forced back to the drawing board, with most of its charges tossed out.
Last Wednesday was the one-year anniversary of a somewhat notorious San Francisco Board of Supervisors vote in favor of an an appeal that denied plans for a 27-story residential high-rise at 469 Stevenson Street (at Sixth Street) in what is currently just a Nordstrom’s parking lot. So on the anniversary, there was a rally at City Hall (complete with gravestones commemorating the development), which the SF Standard described as “Happy One-Year Anniversary to SF’s Peak NIMBY Moment.” But this was not an organic protest, it was more of a campaign stunt handled by the Yes on Prop D campaign.
A year ago, the @sfbos shot down a planned housing development on a parking lot at 469 Stevenson St.— The San Francisco Standard (@sfstandard) October 26, 2022
Today, pro-housing activists got staged a Halloween-themed demonstration in support of Prop. D, which would allow certain projects to bypass the board.https://t.co/6Jpd4tOko1
But also last week, something far more significant happened with the fate of that particular project. The pro-development group SF YIMBY brought a lawsuit against the city in January over the denial, arguing the denial violated that state’s California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and the Housing Accountability Act (HAA). But last week, it was revealed as reported by the San Francisco Business Times that a San Francisco Superior Court judge pretty much threw out the entire lawsuit.
🧵Superior court has rejected @Yimby_Law's challenge to San Francisco's CEQA-laundered kibosh of the 469 Stevenson St. project.— Chris Elmendorf (@CSElmendorf) October 29, 2022
tl;dr: court gave cities a free pass to exempt themselves from HAA w/ unreviewable demands for more "enviro study" 1/12https://t.co/Z5kkhG3Enf pic.twitter.com/QvHGhJkjyz
The Business Times sums up the decision by saying “None of the laws referenced by SF YIMBY, including the HAA and Senate Bill 330, which also seeks to streamline housing development, can apply to the Stevenson project until it completes adequate environmental review under CEQA, the judge wrote.”
But SF Superior Court Judge Cynthia Ming-Mei Lee did give SF YIMBY’s legal claims a little lifeline. She tossed all but one of their allegations that the board had broken housing laws. Per the Business Times, Judge Lee gave SF YIMBY “until Nov. 20 to provide additional supporting evidence. If SF YIMBY does, that claim could proceed.”
It’s important to remember the supervisors did not “kill” the project, they merely sent it back asking for a better seismic plan. And we should recall this was just four months after Miami’s Surfside condominium collapse that killed 98 people. The developer Build Inc is indeed working on another plan for the property, with seismic upgrades, and it may or may not get appealed again to the board.
The original appellant against the 469 Stevenson project, TODCO executive director John Elberling, insists he would not appeal again this time. But that’s only because he says the project will never actually happen.
“It would be a waste of time to oppose it — it would be opposing something that doesn’t exist, that never will exist,” Elberling told the Chronicle last week. “It could never get the rents that would be needed for that project to be financially feasible even before interest rates and construction costs went up.”
This is a legal setback for SF YIMBY, mainly because this project, and its denial, were covered so prominently by the local media. But as the SF Standard reported last month, SF YIMBY is stockpiling cash to bring as many lawsuits as possible against the city on stalled development projects.
Image: Google Street View