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Go west, new housing — within reason

March 13, 2016

By : sfexaminer – excrept

Venture west of Twin Peaks and you will discover something very curious and strange, even by San Francisco standards: entire neighborhoods full of detached homes with a yard on all four sides.

Urban planners say this defies land-use logic, given the demand to live in San Francisco and the limited space of our small peninsula.

But District 7, which stretches from Mount Sutro to the ocean, is a unique and essential tile in the mosaic of our diverse city. It’s designed for families. It attracts people who seek a less frenetic pace and don’t mind a little more fog.

My husband and I own one of those detached homes. We enjoy the quiet surroundings and extra space for gardening while still being able to travel through the West Portal Muni tunnel to work downtown and access more lively parts of San Francisco.

I understand the anxiety westside residents feel upon hearing plans for San Francisco to build itself out of a housing shortage. We fear losing our quality of life if charming single-family homes are replaced with boxy condo towers and our neighborhoods become overrun with people and traffic…

“All my neighbors know people whose children cannot find homes of their own,” Noto said. “Decades of downzoning and anti-housing politics got us where we are today.”…

One of my favorite ideas is from 78-year-old Eugene Lew, a retired architect. He recently designed a five-story elevator building in which all 15 units are 1,400 square feet, have three bedrooms and a parking space. It’s perfect for keeping families in San Francisco and would fit nicely on a transit corridor — or a section of the unused Balboa Reservoir near Ocean Avenue.

“Five stories is a useful height,” Lew said. “You can house more people and keep a nice scale. At five stories, you can still whistle to your kid in the courtyard and call him to dinner.”

Talking to seniors like Noto, Strassner and Lew convinced me that we need to make sure the kids and grandkids of longtime residents will have a place to live when they start their own families.

The future of San Francisco depends on it… (more)

The problem is, how do you guarantee that the new housing in your pristine single family neighborhoods will be a reasonable design so so much of it is not? How can you limit the heights to 4 or 5 story buildings? We know that given our current solar technology, it is possible to build the energy self-sufficient 4 or 5 story buildings designed by Mr. Lew, with yards and on-site parking.

How do you open the west-side neighborhoods up to these options without allowing the 300 to 400 foot monsters in the SOMA neighborhood? Parkmerced, when it is built out will be sufficient to house many new residents while out-stripping the needed infrastructure to support that population.

Many residents who oppose the Mayor’s Affordable Housing Bonus Plan (and this is what this is about) do so because they have already felt the brunt of the increased density in the Eastern Neighborhoods and do not want to encourage any more development along that scale. Most of us are also aware that huge new entitlements are already “in the pipeline” and would like to slow more growth in that pipeline until the already “entitled” units are produced and filled with residents. There is a question of how many units are filled now.

There are lot’s of reasons to slow the process while we catch up and no reason to inflict any pain on neighborhoods not yet touched by the developer’s hand. Before wishing more density on yourself, you should talk to some of the reisdnts in the Eastern Neighborhoods. I am sure many residents on Potrero Hill would love to trade houses with you if you want to live in a more “vibrant” dense neighborhood filled with construction dust and less parking every day.

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