By Thomas K. Pendergast
What are the best uses for available land in the Sunset District?
While vast open spaces are not to be found around San Francisco, there are patches of land and certain buildings here and there which do have poten- tial for further use or develop- ment.
San Francisco Supervisor Katy Tang recently hosted a community meeting where she asked this question and the idea generated quite a response from members of the community who showed up.
While there was much discus- sion about developing certain transit and commercial corridors, Tang says one spot emerged as a leading contender for a place that offers much to the community: the Francis Scott Key
Annex building, located in the Outer Sunset.
“It’s underutilized right now and there’s a lot of opportunity there,” Tang said. “It’s used for a few administrative functions but not really regularly. Many, many people who came to the meeting made comments about what they’d like to see happen on that site.
Tang says it is a mixed bag of suggestions about what exactly to do with it, some of which include senior, teacher or family housing, or mixed-use with retail businesses and community space.
“We’ve heard everything,” she says.
Tang says her office proposes that if more housing is to be built in the Sunset, it should be along transit and commercial corridors.
“So, we’ re specifically talking about Taraval, Noriega, Judah and Irving streets,” she said.
That could mean larger, multi-unit apartment buildings, condominiums or adding a couple of floors to already exist- ing structures.
“There are opportunity-sites that have been identified where buildings have not been built up to their existing height limits,” she said. “For the most part we’re talking about an existing apartment building and building one more story or two stories. And then for the bigger sites, like the Francis Scott Key Annex building, then you would be potentially building a 100 units. It depends on what the community agrees on.”
The meeting itself featured six tables, each surrounded by 11 – 13 people, including two facilitators working for the City. Every table had a street map of the Sunset District that featured certain unused buildings, colored according to their function or potential function.
Discussions at tables included “workforce community housing,” and the differences between transit and commercial corridors, noting that there is no “one size fits all” rule that applies.
At another table, the consensus seemed to be that it would be fine to reconstruct mixed-use buildings along commercial corridors to their full legal potential of 40 to 45 feet, which would
consist of a ground floor dedicated to commercial use and three stories for resi- dential use.
Another group was focused on certain empty lots along Noriega Street, with a debate going on whether it is best to be more flexible about zoning laws in order to change lot usage, or stay firm for consistency.
One poster said that approximately 1,300 housing units and 1.3 million square feet of commercial space could be added to the Sunset under existing zoning laws.
A vacant lot between 44th and 45th avenues, and between Santiago and Rivera streets, was the focus of attention at the next table. Some people sitting around the table were discussing their desire for a community center to fill this spot, which reflected a general consensus among the group for some kind of com- munity center west of 36th Avenue.
A woman at another table made the point that if people want things like more small businesses or community centers in a given area, it’s necessary to have ade- quate population density to support them.
Another woman opined that west of 36th Avenue there is a dearth of community gardens.
After the meeting, Lori Liederman, a local community activist, said she appre- ciated that city officials went to the com- munity and asked them about their ideas.
“I think what they’re undertaking is really challenging because it really is a blank slate and trying to reach any kind of community consensus about what to do with a whole bunch of different spaces, that’s a hard thing,” Liederman said. “What I hope doesn’t happen is they just come out of this meeting and say ‘oh, you know, the community agrees that all these spaces should be developed.’ Because that’s definitely not what happened at the table I was at.”
For a summary of the main discussion points that came up at the meeting, go to the website at http://iin.sfplanning.org.