On the Horizon for the Fall: Central SoMa Plan; TDM Program; and PDR Replacement

​As we return from the summer recess for the Board of Supervisors and Planning Commission, we recap three of the summer’s significant planning policy proposals: 

Central SoMa

On August 11, the Planning Department made a presentation at the Planning Commission regarding the long-awaited update to the Central SoMa Plan. In broad terms, the Draft Plan proposes to rezone a large portion of SoMa to allow for future residential and commercial development, while protecting production, distribution, and repair (“PDR”) uses.  The Draft Plan will increase height and FAR, and  allow for the production of significant office space and housing. It will also increase development impact fees, including a new Central SoMa Impact fee, and provide for a Mello-Roos Community Facilities District. The Plan Area is smaller than that originally proposed in 2013, now bounded by 2nd Street, 6th Street, Townsend Street, and an irregular border to the north generally south of Folsom Street east of 4th Street and Howard Street, Clementina Street between 4th and 5th Streets, and Natoma Street between 5th and 6th Streets.

The Draft Plan centers around the philosophy of “achieving neighborhood sustainability” through implementing regulations related to increasing affordable housing (targeting production of 33% affordable units), creating publicly-accessible open space, increasing environmental sustainability of sites, retaining neighborhood character, and protecting PDR uses. The Draft Plan has new bulk and “skyplane” controls that are applicable to new construction and significant additions.  The Draft Plan will include several “key development sites” that will receive significant height increases. Although those sites have been preliminarily identified, further information regarding additional requirements for the sites is expected to be released later this fall. 

Transportation Demand Management (TDM)

On August 4, the Planning Commission voted to recommend approval of the new TDM Program, which is expected to go to the Board of Supervisors in the fall. Under the Program, Development projects would be required to incorporate features that support sustainable transportation. It would bring together requirements currently found in different Code Sections, including those related to pedestrian conditions, automobile parking, bicycle parking, shower facilities, transportation marketing services, on-site child care, car share, unbundled parking costs, and on-site affordable housing, as well as new measures, to develop a comprehensive TDM program. 

Projects are currently being requested to prepare a TDM Checklist that contains many of the measures considered for the TDM Program, but the program is not yet a condition of approval. If adopted, the TDM ordinance would add a new Section 169 to the Planning Code that would apply to most projects proposing construction of more than ten dwelling units or 10,000 square-feet of non-residential space, as well as those proposing a change of use of greater than 25,000 square-feet. Projects would be required to submit a TDM plan with the first development application, choosing a combination of measures to meet the total points required for a project. The program would also require monitoring and reporting throughout the life of a project. The way the program is currently structured, in order to meet TDM requirements, many development projects would have to significantly decrease parking or increase affordable housing to achieve enough points for a qualifying TDM package. 

We will continue to track TDM as it moves towards adoption by the Board of Supervisors. In the meantime, many projects will be in a grey area in which TDM checklists (which may continue to change) are requested by the Planning Department during environmental review before the Program is actually adopted.  

PDR Replacement

In our June 27 update, we provided a summary of a PDR Replacement Program introduced by Supervisor Jane Kim that would require replacement of PDR, Institutional Community Use, and Arts Activity Use in many of the zoning districts in the City. On August 2, the Board voted to include the legislation on the ballot for the November 8 election, with Avalos, Breed, Campos Kim, Mar, Peskin and Yee voting yes, and Cohen, Farrell, Tang and Wiener voting no. 

The initiative will go to the voters with a few important changes from the legislation as originally introduced. The replacement requirement would no longer apply City-wide. Instead, it would be limited to the Mission, Eastern SoMa, Western SoMa, and, once adopted, Central SoMa plan areas. The initiative also now contains a grandfathering clause for project converting less than 15,000 square-feet that submitted on Environmental Evaluation Application by June 14, 2016 and a partial grandfathering clause for projects converting at least 15,000 square-feet that submitted an Environmental Evaluation Application by June 14, 2016 (the partial grandfathering reduces the replacement ratio to .4 square-feet required for each square-foot converted).

If approved, the following replacement amounts would be required for most projects: for SALI zoned property, one square foot of PDR, Institutional Community Use, or Arts Activity Use would be required for each square-foot proposed for conversion; for UMU, MUO or SLI zoned property, .75 square-feet would be required for each square-foot proposed for conversion; and for MUG or MUR zoned property, .5 square-feet would be required for each square-foot proposed for conversion.

It is not clear how much the voters will connect with a PDR replacement ballot initiative, in contrast with the strong voter support for the affordable housing initiative in the June election. If the initiative fails, we may see alternative PDR protection or replacement legislation coming from the Board. Moreover, under the current initiative, PDR replacement requirements may be changed by a two-thirds vote of the Board. Therefore, what PDR regulation looks like going into 2017 could be impacted by the makeup of the Board after November’s election.

The issues discussed in this update are not intended to be legal advice and no attorney-client relationship is established with the recipient.  Readers should consult with legal counsel before relying on any of the information contained herein.  Reuben, Junius & Rose, LLP is a full service real estate law firm.  We specialize in land use, development and entitlement law. We also provide a wide range of transactional services, including leasing, acquisitions and sales, formation of limited liability companies and other entities, lending/workout assistance, subdivision and condominium work.