By Thomas K. Pendergast
A 13-building development planned at the University of California’s Laurel Heights
campus, a 10-acre site located at 3333 California St., has already drawn community
opposition, even as it is being reviewed by the SF Planning Department.
The proposal being developed by the Prado Group would: convert an existing office
building to residential use and divide a 68-foot-tall structure into two structures, with
vertical additions raising the height up to 92 feet; build 13 new buildings along the
perimeter of the lot, ranging in height from four to six stories; and demolish the surface
parking lots and annex building.
The contractor would partially excavate a part of the lot to enlarge an underground
parking structure to contain up to 895 off-street vehicle parking spaces, nine loading
spaces and 600 bicycle parking spaces. There would be two public open space corridors
along the north-tosouth and east-to-west axes of the site, according to the SF Planning
In its current form, the project would be composed of a total of 15 buildings,
containing 558 residential units, 49,999 square feet of office space, 54,117 square
feet of retail space and 14,690 square feet of space for a child care center.
Opponents of the plan say they are not against the development, per se, but the proposed
retail space is a problem. Because a change of zoning will be required from the SF Board
of Supervisors for the project, a showdown at City Hall could be looming.
At this point, however, both sides seem to be open to alternatives and are awaiting an
opinion from Planning Department staff.
Two neighborhood groups whose members are concerned about the plan are the
Laurel Heights Merchants’ Association (LHMA) and the Laurel Heights Improvement
Kathryn Devincenzi, vice president of LHIA, claims the group got more than 800
signatures in opposition to the project from locals, which were submitted to
SF Supervisor Mark Farrell’s office. Voice-mail and e-mail messages left for Farrell and
his staff seeking comment were not returned as of press time.
“Retail is having difficulty surviving and some of the merchants over at Laurel
Village have told me that since Target opened on Geary Boulevard their business
has dropped off,” said Devincenzi.
“So, one of the reasons that we oppose a change to retail is that we don’t want to
compromise Laurel Village; it’s a lovely little neighborhood shopping center and
serves many, many neighborhood people who stop on their way home from work.
It’s very safe. We have the elderly walk there in safety and we have a couple of
grocery markets. They have quality goods and they take care of their workers, and
so we want to try to keep them in existence.”
Senior vice president and director of development for the Prado Group, Don Bragg, is
lead manager for the project.
“Our approach has always been to add to and complement the existing retail uses at
Laurel Village, and we aim to work with the community and Laurel Village merchants to
accomplish this,” the Prado Group said in an e-mail.
“The retail plan (presented in June) shows how we would like to divide the spaces on
California Street to accommodate smaller shops and a range of family-friendly
neighborhood retail that can add uses that do not currently serve t his neighborhood.
“We do not have any specific retailers for the project. When the time is right to
commence seeking tenants, we will work with the neighborhood and local merchants
to determine the ideal uses for the neighborhood,” the Prado statement continued.
“Our goal will be to attract a mix of local-serving retail to complement the retail uses that
are already available in the neighborhood. All of our planned spaces are for small
businesses and average approximately 2,000 square feet, similar to Laurel Village. Our
largest space on California Street is approximately 6,600 square feet and is further
divisi ble. By comparison, Bryan’s is approximately 8,000 square feet and Cal-Mart is
approximately 11,000 square feet.”
But that is just one issue among several that Devincenzi says local residents are
“We’re concerned that the development will have adverse impacts on the
neighborhood in terms of traffic, parking overflow, noise, air quality, shadows and
other things. Also, (Prado) wants to add two to three stories onto the main building,”
The Prado Group says it is doing everything according to current zoning at the site, but it
recognizes that a change in zoning could change development options.
“We have requested 895 parking spots. We have requested the city maximum allowable
under the zoning plus an additional 60 public parking spaces. These parking requests are
subject to city approval …. “With the changing transportation landscape in mind, the
project also has several designated pick-up/drop-off vehicle zones, which can
accommodate ride-sharing services (like Uber and Lyft) safely and efficiently. Our
current plan places all the retail delivery spaces, waste and recycling pick-up
underground, “the Prado statement said.
But Devincenzi urged the development of housing at the site.
“We need housing, not retail, especially at that location, which is right next to
Laurel Village,” Devincenzi said.
According to state Resolution 4109, which has been around since 1953, the rezoning
of the property up from the basic residential would allow for a project with
up to 744 residential units.
“As part of the commercial rezoning, the resolution imposed certain conditions,
including limitations on the density of residential development along a portion of
the western and southern perimeters of the property,” the Prado Group said.
“The design that was presented … proposed 558 homes, is consistent with the
number of homes allowed under the RM-1 zoning. As such, the proposed base
application does not take advantage of the increase in density allowed under a
Planned Unit Development (PUD) designation.
“However, an EIR alternate was requested by the City at the PUD density of
approximately 744 units. In response to the City, we developed a senior housing
variant for the environmental review that removes the 49,999 square feet of office
(space and replaces it with 186 senior housing units .”