Eastern Neighborhood Plan Passes:  FINALLY

Today the Board of Supervisors passed on second reading the Eastern Neighborhood Plan (the “Plan”); it is now official. Barring a veto, this action brings to an end a long and complex process and rezones a broad area of eastern San Francisco (East SoMa, Central Waterfront, Showplace Square, Potrero and Mission neighborhoods). The Plan is a major milestone in the San Francisco planning process.

Reuben & Junius, LLP will be making presentations on the Plan to clients, consultants and friends starting next week. If you are interested in attending a future presentation or would like to schedule a presentation for your group, please contact Tuija Catalano. Some of the highlights of the Plan include:

New Zoning: The Plan creates new zoning districts and changes others: new PDR districts (residential prohibited; office severely restricted); new NCT districts geared towards harmonizing high- and moderate-density housing and commercial uses close to transit services; and the new UMU district (Urban Mixed Use, affectionately pronounced “OO-Moo,”), to act as a buffer zone between residential and PDR districts. There are others.

Heights: A potpourri of changes over the entire Plan area. About 60% of lots received a small increase (5 to 20 feet), while about 30% actually lost height. Specific areas near AT&T park and in upper SOMA received 45 to 95 foot increases.

Density Limits – Gone: In most new districts residential density limits are eliminated.

Larger Units – Required: The Plan requires a certain percentage of units to have 2 or more bedrooms in an effort to create more family housing. The developer can choose to provide (1) 40% 2-bedroom units; (2) 30% 3-bedroom units, or (3) in EN Mixed Use districts, a required number of on-site inclusionary affordable housing units as 2-bedroom units.

Less Parking: For most properties, the potential amount of parking will be less than before due to the elimination of minimum parking requirements and introduction of parking maximums.

More Fees: Includes a new Community Improvement Fee intended to fund infrastructure improvements. Fee ranges are as follows:

Fee “Tier” / Residential / Non-residential:
TIER 1 (no height increases, 100% affordable housing projects, and housing projects within UMU): $8/gsf (Res) $6/gsf (Non-Res)
TIER 2 (1-2 story ht. increases): $12/gsf (Res) $10/gsf (Non-Res)
TIER 3 (3+ story ht. increases + MUR zoning) $16/gsf (Res) $14/gsf (Non-Res)

Increased Affordability: UMU projects will be subject to higher requirements, but will have more compliance options. New on-site requirements range from 18% to 22%, and off-site requirements range from 23% to 27% depending on if the site received a height increase under the Plan. Other new alternatives: middle-income affordability and land dedication (in lieu fee still available).

Entitlement Processing (Faster?): The Plan attempts to provide greater certainty by permitting more uses as-of-right, and by eliminating many conditional use authorizations. Planning Commission approval will be required for “Large Projects” that (1) add more than 25,000 sf of floor area, (2) add or construct above 75-foot height, or (3) contain more than 200 linear feet of street frontage.

CEQA Streamlining: The anticipated use of Community Plan Exemptions (“CPE”) for projects in the Plan area could result in a more streamlined CEQA process, which in turn could reduce total entitlement processing time. A CPE is available for projects that are consistent with the Plan. While the exact process has yet to be worked out, we are hopeful that it will allow entitlement applications to move faster.

The Plan becomes effective 30 days after the Mayor signs the legislation, which means the effective date could fall anywhere between January 8th and January 19th, 2009. Note that this email only scratches the surface of this major piece of legislation: the package is large and complex. Please call Andrew Junius, Joel Yodowitz or Tuija Catalano on specific questions.