On February 26, 2013, the West SoMa Area Plan (“Plan”) was introduced, along with implementing ordinances, zoning map amendments, height and bulk revisions, and administrative code revisions, at the Board of Supervisors’ Land Use Committee. A map of West SoMa is included at the following link.
The West SoMa Community planning process began in 2001. A draft West SoMa Community Plan was published in September 2008, and updated in October 2011.
The Planning Department seeks to adopt and implement the final West SoMa Community Plan. The core policies and supporting discussion in the Plan is proposed to be added to the General Plan. The Area Plan, together with the General Plan, Planning Code and Zoning Map Amendments provide a comprehensive set of policies and implementation programming to realize the purposes of the Plan. The Plans and Planning Code Amendments outline public improvements, funding mechanisms and interagency coordination the City must pursue to implement the Plan.
The Plan lays the policy foundation for additional changes that are detailed in the Planning Code and Zoning Map amendments and other proposed implementation measures. The following key principles are the basis for the objectives and policies contained in the Plan:
Encourage new housing at appropriate locations and make it as affordable as possible to a range of City residents;
- Reserve sufficient space for production, distribution and repair activities, in order to support the City’s economy and provide good jobs for residents;
- Generally maintain the existing scale and density of the neighborhood, allowing appropriate increases in strategic locations;
- Plan for transportation, open space, community facilities and other critical elements of complete neighborhoods;
- Protect and support the social heritage resources of the Filipino and LGBT communities within the plan area;
- Plan for new development that will serve the needs of existing residents and businesses; and
- Maintain and promote a diversity of land uses, and reserve new areas for arts activities and nighttime entertainment.
The core policies and supporting discussion in the Plan have been incorporated into an Area Plan proposed to be added to the General Plan. The General Plan, Planning Code, and Zoning Map Amendments, along with the Implementation Document, provide a comprehensive set of policies and implementation programming to realize the objectives of the Plan. The Implementation Document outlines public improvements, funding mechanisms, and interagency coordination the City must pursue to implement the Plan.
Residential neighborhoods play a major role in the West SoMa. The scale and character of the residential neighborhoods on the existing alley system break up the otherwise large SoMa block pattern. The residential enclaves are a defining element of the neighborhood character. For example, preservation survey work in this neighborhood recognized this pattern and determined that much of the West SoMa is potentially eligible for designation as a “Light Industrial and Housing Preservation District” for. The Board of Supervisors legislation enabling the West SoMa Citizens Planning Task Force (Ordinance 731-04) highlighted the need to evaluate, identify and protect these residential enclaves.
The current zoning in West SoMa does not allow nighttime entertainment as a permitted use in any district, including the 11th Street corridor, which is currently zoned as SLR (Service Light-Industrial Residential). Since the broader South of Market rezoning in 1990, all nighttime entertainment uses have persisted as legal nonconforming uses, with some allowance for expansion of existing venues via the Conditional Use process. The West SoMa Plan proposes to rezone the 11th Street corridor and the surrounding area as WMUG (West SoMa Mixed-Use-General), which maintains the prohibition on new entertainment venues, and generally permits housing along with a broad range of small-to-moderate scale commercial activities.
The Plan will Create Several New Zoning Districts
The Plan proposes to allow new nighttime entertainment venues as principally permitted uses in the SALI (Service Arts Light Industrial) and WMUO (Western SoMa Mixed Use-Office) districts, which are proposed broadly south of Harrison Street. The SALI district will not permit housing or office uses, and could generally be characterized as a PDR district. The WMUO district also will not permit housing, but it will principally permit office uses. The proposed zoning also prohibits new nighttime entertainment within a 200-foot buffer around all RED (Residential Enclave Districts), which currently exist or are proposed along many alleys throughout the Plan area. The net result will be additional areas zoned for office use, entertainment, residential use, and continued protection for certain PDR areas.
Planning Code Amendments
The major zoning Planning Code Amendments that are included in the West SoMa Plan include the following:
Many SLR districts (Service Light-Industrial Residential) will become RCD (Residential-Commercial District); WMUG (West Mixed-Use-General); RED-MX (Residential Enclave District- Mixed) Folsom NCT (Folsom Neighborhood Commercial Transit); WMUO (Western SoMa Mixed-Use-Office); and SALI (Service Arts Light Industrial). The Planning Department website identifies the proposed new zoning for each block and lot within the West SoMa area, along with the permitted and conditional uses for each zoning district.
The SLI district will allow nighttime entertainment venues as principally permitted uses. The WMUO districts, which are primarily south of Harrison Street, will allow office use. The WMUO district will not permit housing. The proposed zoning also will prohibit new nighttime entertainment uses within two hundred feet of RED (Residential Enclave Districts), which are proposed along many alleys throughout the Plan Area. Note that the proposed boundaries for the new zoning districts may be adjusted during the Board of Supervisors hearing process.
Existing nighttime entertainment uses would be able to request a conditional use authorization to expand. WMUO districts will principally permit nighttime entertainment uses, office uses, and a broad range of commercial uses, including PDR (Production Distribution and Repair) uses. No new residential uses would be permitted in the WMUO district. No new residential uses would be permitted within a buffer area around existing nighttime entertainment uses. The buffer area is expected to be approximately 200 feet.
Merger with Eastern Neighborhoods Area
The current proposal provides that the West SoMa area will be merged into the Eastern Neighborhoods Area, and will be subject to approximately the same infrastructure fees as well as, in the case of new office space, transit fees, jobs housing linkage fees and childcare fees, the latter applying only to office projects of 50,000 square feet or more.
The Plan also includes changes to a number of existing height and bulk districts within West SoMa.
Please contact David Silverman if you have any questions pertaining to the proposed West SoMa Area Plan or implementing ordinances.
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.