SF leaders debate neighborhood changes

August 8, 2008 11:44:09 AM PDT
San Francisco leaders are voting tonight on dramatic changes to four of the city's neighborhoods. It's a plan that's been debated for years, one that includes new housing and businesses and widespread re-zoning to make it all work.

What's being discussed at city hall has been 10 years in the making. It's a plan that covers an amazing 20 to 25 percent of San Francisco.

"They are existing neighborhoods but many parts of these neighborhoods are seeing change and growth and we wanted to manage that growth and shape that growth," said San Francisco Planning Director John Rahaim.

The so-called eastern neighborhoods plan covers the Mission, Showplace Square/Potrero Hill, the eastern area South of Market and the Central Waterfront. Neighborhoods described as ground zero in the fight over gentrification.

More than 7,000 market rate and affordable homes are expected to be built. A key component of the plan covers some industry.

In some areas, land will be set aside for businesses like DK Design, a custom furniture and cabinetry company in the Mission.

"It's hugely important, it's already gone by the wayside. Half the people I know have either gone to the East Bay, the Peninsula or out of business," said Dennis Hodges from DK Design.

Neighborhood activists feel retaining these kinds of businsses is crucial because they provide blue collar jobs.

Attorney Brett Gladstone's clients feel the new plan reserves too much land for industrial use. They want to build offices and have worked with the city on a compromise.

"We've created a new kind of use called a hybrid industrial/office use that doesn't allow offices completely but at the same time doesn't require industrial use only," said Gladstone.

The Planning Director says this broad rezoning plan will change the face of the city for years to come. It calls for developers fees for neighborhood improvements and incentives for businesses to hire low and moderate income workers.

"This is groundbreaking nationally. These kinds of plans aren't done very often, if ever, so this is an important piece of work," said Rahaim.

But some young South of market residents are worried about the plan.

"We standing up for our neighborhood and we want to let them know we don't want change what's going on, because there's been too much change already," said South of Market activist Rudy Valentino.

They are concerned about gentrification. The activists spoke to the commissioner and the commissioners voted unanimously to approve an environmental impact report. There's no vote on the re-zoning plan, but it is expected to pass and it will then head to the Board of Supervisors where anything is likely to happen.


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