Did You Know? The Board of Supervisors Eliminated Off-Street Parking Requirements

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EDITOR’S NOTE 8 Jan., 2014: This article and its headline has been revised to reflect updated information provided by the San Francisco Planning Department. Writer Brandon Powell reached out to the Planning Department several times while reporting, but the Department provided clarification only after the original article was published.

There are two topics about which many Bernalese — nay, many San Franciscans — tend to have very strong opinions: parking and housing.

Neighbor Brandon Powell calls our attention to a change that was recently made to planning requirements here in Bernal Heights — a change which will impact both the design of new housing and the inventory of on-street parking here. Neighbor Brandon sits on the Northwest Bernal Heights Design Review Board, and in that capacity he shares these details about changes to the City’s planning requirements that have come to his attention. Neighbor Brandon reports:

This is the language establishing the planning rules that govern the Bernal Heights Special Use District:

“In order to reflect the special characteristics and hillside topography of an area of the City that has a collection of older buildings situated on lots generally smaller than the lot patterns in other low-density areas of the City, and to encourage development in context and scale with the established character, there shall be a Bernal Heights Special Use District.”

Since January 1991, new construction in Bernal, or alterations to existing structures which expand the building’s envelope, are subject to the restrictions of the Bernal Heights Special Use District outlined in Section 242 of the planning code. One of the key elements of Section 242 is the requirement to provide off-street parking, with the number of off-street spaces tied to the square footage of the building.

The City’s approach to parking—and the philosophy behind that approach—has evolved since 1991, and today Transit First is the order of the day. Rather than enshrining the automobile and its use in the Planning Code, the City has progressively scaled back parking requirements for new developments, especially for multi-unit buildings near transit nodes.

In July 2013, the Board of Supervisors approved the addition Section 150(e) to the Planning Code which allows for the substitution of permanent bicycle parking for off-street automobile parking:

(e) Reduction and Replacement of Off-Street Parking Spaces. Notwithstanding subsection (d) above, off-street parking spaces may be reduced and replaced by bicycle parking spaces based on standards provided in Section 155.1(d) of this Code. Once bicycle parking spaces replace an automobile parking space, such bicycle parking shall not be reduced or eliminated. Such bicycle parking spaces may be converted back to automobile parking space, provided that the required numbers of bicycle parking spaces subject to Sections 155.2 and 155.3 of this Code are still met after removal of bicycle parking spaces.

In practical terms, the City no longer requires that new construction (or substantial additions to existing homes) include off-street car parking. This is a fairly radical change to the Planning Code, but there are strong arguments in favor of having market forces determine the demand for car parking and letting developers figure out how best to satisfy that demand.

A holistic approach, however, demands that the City simultaneously address the issue of free street parking. If there is no longer a requirement for property owners to provide car parking, there likely will be increased demand for the limited number of street-parking spaces and more conflict between neighbors.

PHOTO: Folsom Street in Bernal Heights, by Telstar Logistics

Ellsworth Neighbors Frustrated by Overgrown, City-Owned Land Near Bernal Hill

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Neighbor Leslie is frustrated by the neglect of a small parcel of City-owned land on Ellsworth near the summit of Bernal Hill:

The residents on Ellsworth st near the hill have been getting nowhere with the City on maintaining a green space at Ellsworth and Bernal Heights Blvd.

The lot is full of debris and so overgrown that you can’t walk on the sidewalk. For years, a woman who lived next to the lot maintained it herself(!) by hiring people to landscape it.

She passed away or was put in a nursing home years ago… I’ve lived here for five years and no one has touched it.

Since September, I have contacted the city about the lot on a regular basis (first 311 and then DPW). No one has gotten back to me. Since November, I and other neighbors have been talking to Supervisor Campos’ office. Nothing still.

That corner is a gateway to our neighborhood. Instead of being a greenspace, it harbors rats and countless used condoms (we get a lot of prostitutes and johns at night along the hill) and other waste.

PHOTOS: Neighbor Leslie

Bernal Youths Complete Waterway Project in Precita Playground

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Neighbor Ledia reports that with help from the recent rains, the Bernal Heights Junior Civil Engineering Corps has completed an important new infrastructure project in Precita Park:

Children have been working night and day for weeks building a navigable channel from Lago Precita Park Playground to the Precita Park Cafe.

Attention, SF Department of Public Works: These kids are ready for an internship.

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PHOTOS: Neighbor Ledia

Heavy Rains Turn Cars into Submarines at 101 Hairball Onramp

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The (much welcomed) rains were intense last night — so much so that a storm drain for the Hairball interchange clogged up and flooded the 101 South onramp from eastbound Cesar Chavez.

When I drove past the site at about 8:45 am this morning, the onramp was closed and a DPW crew was vacuuming out the offending storm drain with a giant sucker-truck.

But a tweet from Neighbor Brian informed us that the flooding had been so intense before sunrise that a few cars became thoroughly submerged:

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Meanwhile, Neighbor Anita reports things looked similar around the Alemany 101/280 Spaghetti Bowl:

 

PHOTO: @brianhollinger

Meet the Man Who Makes Tuesday Emergency Siren Tests Go “WAAAAAAAAAAAA!”

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Every Tuesday at noon, for about as long as anyone cares to remember, the City of San Francisco has conducted a test of its emergency alert siren system. If you need  reminder of what that sounds like, just listen right here. Or, wait a few minutes, and the siren will play today. At noon. Like always.

If you’re out of town, and feeling nostalgic for the weekly test, you can also get it via Twitter:

San Francisco’s Outdoor Public Warning System has been in place since 1942, and the system now includes 109 siren towers sprinkled around the City. Here in Bernal, there’s one (strategically) perched on Bernal Hill right next to Sutrito Tower, as well as one atop Leonard Flynn Elementary School in Precitaville.

The Tuesday tests are managed from the Department of Emergency Management headquarters in Western Addition. The test features a 15 second “wail” tone, followed by a recorded message that says, “This is a test. This is a test of the Outdoor Public Warning System. This is only a test.” (FUN FACT: Apparently, the voice on that recorded message is Dave Morey, the former KFOG DJ.) In the event of real emergency, the sirens will play continuously for 5 minutes, followed by instructions and announcements for the general public.

Another fun fact: The Tuesday siren tests are actually conducted manually, by a guy named Cesar. This awesome little video will introduce you to Cesar and show you how he makes the siren tests go “Waaaaaaaaaaaa!”

PHOTO: Telstar Logistics

Sexy New Parklet Completed In Front of VinoRosso on Cortland

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A few weeks ago, I noticed that construction had started on the new (and mildly controversial) parklet on Cortland Avenue at Anderson, right in front of VinoRosso Enoteca and the Inclusions Gallery.

Last weekend I noticed that construction was complete, and the parklet was already in use. Though last weekend’s warm weather certainly helped, the sidewalk scene in the new parklet night was booming. Very chic. Ridiculously glamorous. Rather cosmopolitan.

Opinions may vary, but I’m innnnnterested to see how/if this new parklet will influence Cortlandia’s robust social ecology.

PHOTOS: Telstar Logistics

Hey Muni, We Need a Bus to Dogpatch & 22nd Street Caltrain via Cesar Chavez

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Neighbor Mark lives on Alabama Street in Bernal Heights. He’s not a transit planner, but he’s a transit rider, and he sees a gaping hole in Muni’s bus service along Cesar Chavez Boulevard to the (booming) 22nd Street Caltrain Station.

To remedy this, Neighbor Mark wants MUNI to create revive a bus line that goes from Noe Valley to Dogpatch via Cesar Chavez. Here’s his modest proposal:

There isn’t very much industry along the eastern part of Cesar Chavez, east of Hwy. 101, anymore. But there are two big reasons for a line that goes along Cesar Chavez to Third Street and thence to the 22nd St. Caltrain station.

First, Yellow Cab and FedEx drivers could take the bus to their workplaces, which are within a block of this stretch of Cesar Chavez. But primarily, Caltrain has become an essential way for SIlicon Valley workers to get to their jobs. Catrain ridership is at historic highs, and 1500 workers now board Caltrain at 22nd St. every morning, headed for points south.

Right now, there’s no easy way to get to the 22nd Street Station. Yes, you can take the 48-Quintara down 24th St. and over the hill, but this takes a very long time. It would be so much quicker for the bus to head down our remade Cesar Chavez, bypassing Potrero Hill, making a turn at Third St., and heading straight for the station. I’ll bet it would save at least 15 minutes vs. a comparable trip on the 48.

You could start the route at Castro and 26th, or (as I have it) at Church and Cesar Chavez to connect with the J-Church.

Curious as to whether Muni ever had a line down Cesar Chavez, I looked around and found a 1947 Muni map posted by Eric Fischer.

Sure enough, this map shows that a 54M bus began at Castro and 26th, went down 26th and Army Streets all the way to the very end of Army, east of Third Street. Here’s a highlighted version of the 54 line from that 1947 route map:

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As a recovering Caltrain/22nd Street commuter, your Bernalwood editor would like to second Neighbor Mark’s proposal.

Muni, let’s do this.