SF Planning Commission

Planning Commission Approves Mar’s ‘Sunset Forward’ Vision

By Thomas K. Pendergast

A long-term vision for the Sunset District is developing, as the San Francisco Planning Commission unanimously endorsed Sunset Forward, a project designed by District 4 Supervisor Gordon Mar and various local community groups.

The overall goals are to stabilize low- and moderate-income families and seniors and meet their needs in housing, transportation and neighborhood businesses and services.

The two-year study focuses on three key issues: affordable housing for both homeowners and renters; support for small businesses and merchant corridors; and access to neighborhood services for youth, families, seniors and immigrant households.

“One thing we did hear consistently throughout the last few years, through the Sunset Forward process, from our community leaders and members in the Sunset is the need to build more capacity in the Sunset and on the west side overall for planning and community engagement,” Mar told the Commission. “We just lack a lot of the developed community infrastructure that exists in the east side neighborhoods, where there’s been more developed work around these issues.

Sunset Forward, a long-term vision for the Sunset District, was unanimously endorsed by the SF Planning Commission. It is a project designed by District 4 Supervisor Gordon Mar and various local community groups. Courtesy graphic.

“So, I think through the Sunset Forward process over the last few years, we’ve really started to build new community infrastructure and capacity in my district that was directly connected to this process.”

As examples, he said, the Chinese community leaders in the Sunset worked with his office to create the Sunset Chinese Cultural District; the Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development worked with him to build capacity for affordable housing development on the west side; and the creation of the District 4 Youth and Families Network, a collaboration of Sunset-based nonprofits serving families, youth and seniors, including the Wah Mei School, Sunset Youth Services, Sunset Neighborhood Beacon Center and the Asian Women’s Resource Center.

A report produced by Sunset Forward and released earlier this year prioritized strategies to address the district’s needs around housing, small business and commercial corridors, along with neighborhood services.

“We’re already moving forward on a lot of the key recommendations and policies in the Sunset Forward final report,” Mar told the Commission, giving examples of the educator housing planned for Shirley Chisholm Village and another housing project at 2550 Irving St., which includes 22 units of permanent supportive housing.

“We’ve also been working on expanding single-family homes with ADUs (accessory dwelling units) and now under SB9 (The California Home Act), duplexes and fourplexes. So, we’ve created the Housing Development Incentive Program for Homeowners that will provide resources and support for homeowners to create ADUs, duplexes and fourplexes as allowed under local and state law.”

Commissioner Sue Diamond asked how the document will be used to guide City planning decisions going forward.

“I want to understand how we ensure it just doesn’t become a plan on the shelf that we remind ourselves of from time to time but that it is actually incorporated into our decision making,” Diamond said.

Planning Director Rich Hillis responded that some recommendations in the report are already being implemented.

“You can look at the strategies around housing and they helped inform what’s in our housing element,” Hillis said. “Our strategies evolve that are in the housing element partly because of the work we did in the Sunset with Sunset Forward: the cultural district being formed and then building capacity in the community to help inform decisions we make in the future; the strategy around senior housing and implementing that, that came out of this. It’s not this linear process.

“As we see projects happening, we go out and implement the housing element; we’ll be working with the communities that we’ve been working with as part of Sunset Forward,” he said.

The commission’s Vice President Kathrin Moore said she hopes the conclusions in the report will “ultimately calibrate how we successfully implement the housing element and the incredible housing challenges that this city is going to meet in the future, that it’s primarily about equity. Building, building, building is not the issue. We can build on the moon if we need to, however, how we meet who we are building for, that is really where the challenge lies.

“And if we don’t understand that, we can build ourselves to death,” she said. “What you are doing is indeed the perfect tool to calibrate the challenge ahead.”

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