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Planning Commission Hearing and Starr King Openspace ~ 1321 De Haro Update
The San Francisco Planning Commission’s October 15th public session included a 3-hour hearing towards resolving the juxtaposition of Starr King Openspace and surrounding neighborhood with the proposed new residential development at 1321 De Haro Street, in response to two Discretionary Reviews brought to the Commission, one from the Starr King Openspace Board, and one from the Potrero Boosters. Owners of 1321 De Haro, architects, attorneys, neighbors and members of the Starr King Openspace Board spoke during the public comment section.

1321 De Haro (Now). Viewed From Starr King Openspace
1321 De Haro (Now). Viewed from Starr King Openspace

Update: It is now more than six months since the October 15 hearing. Next scheduled hearing is in Room 408 at City Hall the morning of Wednesday June 23. This will be a Zoning Administration hearing regarding a new front yard variance (in addition to the rear yard variance granted at the October 15 Planning Commission hearing).

The concerning part of this is how much lot coverage this will allow the building to take up. However, if the front yard variance is accepted, there will be room for the front garage with extension of 1300 De Haro’s upper street plus a turnaround and retaining wall, creating parking access. This would effectively remove the “hardship” that has been the basis of the easement that has allowed cars across the Openspace since 1992. Next door neighbors have concerns about impacts to their foundation; soil and other engineering studies will likely be involved.

But if the garage and turnaround are signed off on by the Department of Building Inspection upon their completion, the new 1321 De Haro will have parking access via their main, street front address, and from all indications, the easement would come to a close without a messy and expensive court battle to end it (a battle neither side wants).

1321 De Haro, View From Front. 1323-1325 De Haro Next Door.
1321 De Haro, view from front. 1323-1325 De Haro next door.

October 15 Planning Commission Hearing Outcomes
A three-hour hearing at the SF Planning Commission took place on Thursday, October 15, 2009. At the hearing, the Commission granted the applications for the demolition of the existing structure and a rear yard variance for the project. The Commission also ruled that a garage could not be placed at the property with access across the Openspace (effectively meaning that any garage for the project would have to access the site from De Haro Street), and a height limit on the project was set in an attempt to respect Openspace protections found in the City codes and plans.

Since the hearing, Diego Sanchez, staff planner, stated with regards to any written decisions from Planning: “I’m waiting before I do anything to get a set of revised plans from the project sponsor to see how they intend on meeting the Commission’s motion of reducing impacts – shadow impacts, visual impacts, etc. – to the adjacent Openspace. So I’m going to wait before I do anything, I want to see what their idea is. So, obviously, the number of variances they’re requesting – a lot of the content in the report – is going to depend on what they submit, what their plans are.”

The architects and owners of 1321 De Haro requested to meet, before submission of any new plans or drawings, with one representative each of Starr King Openspace and the Potrero Boosters. Accordingly, talks took place at the offices of the architect Friday October 30, which showed promise in working through a number of issues, including cars on the Openspace being eliminated, De Haro side access, and addressing the impacts Diego mentioned above. The architectural firm is also cooperating by offering their resources to conduct a shadow study that will fairly compare current impacts to projected impacts of the new design. In attendance at the meeting were the current 1321 De Haro owners Lenny Krasowski and Alex Mughannam; architects Theodore Brown and Albert Costa of Theodore Brown and Partners; Tony Kelly, President of the Potrero Boosters; and David Glober, Vice President of Starr King Openspace.

San Francisco Government Television
San Francisco Government Television

The hearing took place from 4 pm to 7 pm. All 3 hours are available for viewing by clicking on the October 15 Planning Commission hearing video link at: online. The 1321 De Haro – Starr King Openspace segment is at about 3-1/2 hours in. Slide the slidey bar under the video itself to find the hearing on 1321 and SKOS. Patience will be rewarded; the video may take some time for streaming and buffering, and the image is small, but it can be enlarged by clicking on the tiny TV-screen looking icon in the lower right corner. The image and sound quality are not-bad to good once it’s running. The deliberation by the Commission is at approximately 5-1/2 hours into the day’s agenda using the slidey bar.

Contacts Between Owner and Board
During early August there were three meetings between Leonard (“Lenny”) Krasowski and SKOS VP David Glober to see if the complexities could be clarified and any tensions defused. It would appear that rapport was established, and some understanding on both sides took place in those meetings, regarding priorities, pressures, urgencies and responsibilities on both sides.

There have been discussions of prior community meetings, Planning Department involvement, access via De Haro Street, the Board’s responsibility to maintain the Openspace as Openspace, and the Board’s accountability to the community that supports the Openspace and elected the Board.

There was also a dramatic and highly interactive meeting of the project owners, architects and attorney, the SKOS Board and attorney, and members of the Potrero Hill and Dogpatch community, at a meeting of the Potrero Boosters a week and two days prior to the October 15 hearing. Ron Miguel, Planning Commission president, was also in attendance at that meeting.

There has also been an attempt at legal mediation of the easement issues involving the judge, now retired, who ruled on the easement in Superior Court in 1992.

Then the Planning Commission hearing took place, and now the current talks.

Parties In Communications on 1321 De Haro Include:

  • Lenny Krasowski, an Owner at 1321 De Haro
  • Alex Mughannam, also an Owner at 1321 De Haro
  • Albert Costa and Theodore Brown, Architects
  • Diego Sanchez, Planner
  • 50-70 Community Members, public Board meeting
  • Ron Miguel, President of the Planning Commission and Other Planning Commission Members
  • Larry Badiner, Zoning Adminstrator
  • Potrero Boosters
  • Sierra Club, local chapter
  • California Native Plant Society, Yerba Buena Chapter
  • Nature in the City
  • Neighborhood Parks Council
  • Bay Area Open Space Council
  • Steve Williams, Land Use Attorney
  • Starr King Openspace Board
All Hearings Take Place At San Francisco City Hall
All hearings take place at San Francisco City Hall

Community Support and Input
Your support – as individuals or members of community or environmentally oriented land use organizations or both – by showing up to the hearing, or combined hearings depending on how they’re finally scheduled, plus your letters of support are deeply valued for two reasons:

  1. To show commmunity interest in preserving the Openspace – as – Openspace, and
  2. To help us build and rebuild our community connections around taking care of, and enjoying, Starr King Openspace itself.
  3. To learn as a community, about ecological restoration and land stewardship at Starr King Openspace. Look for an editorial on this topic in the November issue of the View.

Feel free to let us know your thoughts, concerns, comments or questions.