Monday, November 15, 2004

The Coalition for San Francisco Neighborhoods appears to be split over interim controls for Showplace Square:

"Folks, in the latest CSFN newsletter president Barbara Meskunas writes, 'we must demand that the city finish its neighborhood planning process.' The Potrero Boosters agree; we've been in the trenches of community-based planning in our neighborhood for many years. So it's truly baffling to read, in the same editorial, that Ms. Meskunas apparently opposes Supervisor Sophie Maxwell's legislation to install interim controls on lower Potrero Hill - legislation designed specifically to force the Planning Department to complete the Showplace Square community-based planning process.
Let's get the main misconception of the editorial out of the way: Supervisor Maxwell's legislation does NOT re-zone ANY land on Potrero Hill. It establishes INTERIM controls for a large and sensitive portion of our neighborhood, in order to a) stop the Wild West-style land speculation that is going on right now before our eyes; b) save good, living-wage paying jobs that are valuable parts of our mixed-use neighborhood; and c) FORCE the Planning Department to complete its EIR for the re-zoning of Showplace Square and lower Potrero Hill, before the expiration of the interim controls.
The last point is, of course, crucial.The communities of Potrero Hill and Dogpatch have indeed asked for more housing in a public planning process, but ONLY in the context of a comprehensive neighborhood plan.That plan is in danger of failure right now; our painstaking work sits untended on someone's desk at the Planning Department, with NO comprehensive plan or re-zoning ready for action for at least a year. Meanwhile, developers with get-richer-quick schemes are trying to push their pet projects through first, based on what they presume the new zoning will eventually be. That isn't good faith, that is speculation, pure and simple - and it is deeply hurting our mixed-use neighborhood. It's no coincidence that the well-funded, misleading opposition toSupervisor Maxwell's legislation is coming from ... those same speculating developers, most of them aligned with the Residential Builders Association.
Ms. Meskunas' editorial repeats their false arguments word for word. While I can understand the loyalty of some CSFN members to a very generous corporate donor, the editorial simply doesn't consider the opinion of Potrero Hill ... or reality. Our neighborhood's situation is NOTHING like the 701 Lombard land grab; afar better analogy would be to the 'live-work' scams of the 90s, where developers like the RBA used special connections and loopholes inplanning code to game the system, and gain huge personal profits at the expense of neighborhoods and good planning.
Supervisor Maxwell's legislation is necessary to save and complete our comprehensive, community-based planning process, which is in danger RIGHT NOW of falling in the face of shady ad hoc deals and spot zoning. We've been through that too many times on Potrero Hill. That's why the Potrero Boosters, the Potrero Hill Association of Merchants and Businesses, Save Potrero, the Dogpatch Neighborhood Association, and every other neighborhood association on the Hill is supportingSupervisor Maxwell's legislation. And that's why we are asking the CSFN to join us in supporting the legislation, in an emergency resolution at tomorrow night's meeting.
This legislation comes before the Board of Supervisors Land Use Committee on Monday, November 22; and if the CSFN fails to take a position, we fear that the RBA developers wil use Ms. Meskunas' editorial and claim that that is the CSFN's position. As amember of the CSFN, we ask you to stand with your colleagues in favor of good community-based planning, and in favor of this legislation.
Best wishes to all, and thanks for reading."
Tony Kelly
President, Potrero Boosters

And the response:

"CSFN Members:
Debates over land use issues belong at the CSFN committee meetings held for that purpose, not on this Board. But since one member saw fit to write a rebuttal to my editorial, and the newsletter editor saw fit to post what I consider to be a personal attack, as well as an attack on the integrity of the CSFN, I must now respond.
My conclusion is that the true intent of Supervisor Maxwell's proposed legislation is NOT to force the conclusion of the neighborhood planning process- that is the public relations cover for the illegal seizure of the value of many parcels of land for the benefit of one corporate "good neighbor" - Anchor Steam Brewery.
Finishing the plans is a priority of everyone; there is no entity in opposition that would require a draconian legislative remedy to overcome. All three versions of the Eastern neighborhoods plans call for housing on 16th and 17th Streets, coexisting with commercial and industrial uses. The plans intelligently point out that the park and streets will be safer when people LIVE there 24/7, and can keep an eye on the neighborhood. Developing the maximum appropriate housing on designated parcels will add an estimated $20 million dollars of property tax revenue to the general fund, money that will be reinvested in the community for facilities and services that enhance everyone's quality of life.
Property owners who invested in the future of Potrero Hill, in accordance withan 18 month community planning process, will essentially have their properties seized by the city if these controls pass, since the only permitted use for the duration of the controls will be PDR, not housing, even though there is already a high vacancy rate for industrial uses. In other words, the financing on proposed projects will fall through in the duration, and property owners will be forced to sell for pennies on the dollar to industrial buyers. Just as in the case of 701 Lombard, a Supervisor will be scuttling much-needed housing to satisfy a special interest, at great cost to the General Fund.
Who benefits from this nasty business? Anchor Steam. According to BeyondChron, representatives from Anchor Steam were heard bragging that they had no need to purchase the property adjacent to their beer factory at the asking price, since they would soon be able to purchase all they needed at half the asking price.
I do not blame the neighborhood advocates for this deception -Anchor Steam has been a good neighbor and neighborhood support for the company is certainly warranted. I blame the Supervisor, who must recognize that whatshe is doing is not in the best interest of the city. CSFN believes strongly in the neighborhood planning process, as I indicated in my editorial. Such a process was used in determining appropriate uses for the area at question, and it is now threatened by Supervisor Maxwell's proposed generous corporate gift. CSFN must be consistent if it is to remain credible. Retaliatory spot zoning is not the answer, and is not good government.
Barbara Meskunas
CSFN President

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