STOP 55 ADDRESSES
ISSUES AND CONCERNS
WITH DEVELOPER ROSENBERG
In May 2005 the following letter was sent to Douglas Rosenberg on behalf of
Stop55 Preserve Our Waterfront
May 16, 2005
By E- Mail
Mr. Douglas Rosenberg
The Rosenberg Company
153 Townsend Avenue, Suite 530
San Francisco, CA 94111
Re: 55 Francisco
Response to Rosenberg Letters dated 2/4/05 and 2/21/05
The Proposed Project. As we understand it, you are proposing to add three floors of luxury, waterfront condos on top of the existing 3-story garage at 55 Francisco and adjacent to the historic McGraw Hill Building (9-story office building standing at 90 feet in height) also part of the 55 Francisco property. You propose this project as an addition to the hundreds of developed units that exist within one, two and three blocks of Francisco Street known as the Parc Telegraph Condos, Telegraph Landing Condos, 101 Lombard Condos and Wharf Plaza I and II.
The Francisco block on which you intend adding these condos runs the short length between the extended parts of Montgomery St. and Kearny St. and dead ends into the extended part of Kearny Street. You and/or your real estate development company own the entire 55 Francisco lot, including the McGraw Hill Building and parking structure. You intend to build 51 luxury condo units, a grand total 6 of which would be below-market-rate. The block of Francisco on which you intend to build lies directly beneath Telegraph Hill and the Filbert Street steps and is completely surrounded by the existing sets of condo buildings referenced above.
Opposition to the Proposed Project. Stop 55 Francisco: Preserve Our Waterfront, as you well know, is a group of local residents, merchants and associations, in existence since the Fall, 2003 dedicated to preserving our waterfront. The group is now several hundred members strong, comprised of local renters, merchants, homeowner associations and owners. Stop 55 has garnered broad community support and has received overwhelming endorsements of its efforts to oppose the proposed project at 55 Francisco.
One of the key concerns of Stop 55 made clear to you from the beginning is the vast mass, height and density your proposed project brings with it to our already dense, congested and small neighborhood. This is chief among many, many other concerns. This concern was made clear to you as early as February 2004 at a meeting before the Telegraph Hill Dwellers Associations (THD) Planning & Zoning Committee.
Contact with Our Group & Your Current Position. Since that meeting on 2/04, and until very recently, you have made no direct contact with the Stop 55 group. A full year after the 2/04 meeting, in February 2005, you asked for a meeting with representatives from Wharf I and II (who represent this senior/disabled rental community). We offered to meet with you as long as all the key Stop 55 representatives, not just some, were included. We then met with you in 2/05 in the spirit of cooperation and hoping that you had made real changes to your project based on months and months of community input.
However, at the 2/05 meeting, you explained there had been one and -- one only -- primary change: the type of windows you intend to use. We were and remain extremely disappointed that the lone primary change you have made to your project relates to a minor cosmetic issue as opposed to any of the several substantive issues raised by our group, other organizations and listed clearly on our website for over a year.
Rejections Of All Stop 55 Proposals. You have flatly rejected any of Stop 55s (and other organizations) most important proposals, such as set backs to your building, place parking underneath the building and/or reduce the number of units in your building. The reason given for refusing any of these proposals from you is economic viability. There is only one way for us to read this: that taking into account the neighborhoods concerns would not allow you to make enough of a profit on your project. Since this seems to be your final position, given that you have had a year to propose substantive changes and have chosen not to, it appears we are at an impasse unless you are willing to truly change your project.
The History of Stop 55 Francisco. In April 2004 Stop 55 sponsored a major community meeting to inform neighbors of the scope of the project you are proposing. You personally attended the meeting; we made time for you to provide an unscheduled presentation and allowed any time necessary for the community members in attendance to ask questions directly of you. At that meeting, you circulated a flyer accusing Stop 55 of spreading misnomers concerning your project and urging residents not to sign a petition until reviewing the flyer. However, since then, hundreds upon hundreds of local residents have signed our petition and Stop 55 continues to gather more and more community support.
In April, 2004 the City issued its Notice of Environmental Review and the public response was overwhelming. Hundreds of letters and e-mails poured into the MEA voicing concerns over the vast scale and mass of the proposed project.
Then, In June 2004, a vital and well-respected local organization, the Chinatown Community Development Center (CCDC), issued a letter to you detailing many concerns its Board had regarding your project. Stop 55 has never seen any response to that letter. Specifically, the CCDC requested that you consider setting back your project. However, as we understand it, as of a presentation you made to the THDs Planning and Zoning Committee, on May 5, 2005, you refused to set back the project.
In the Fall of 2004, given the surrounding projects immediately within the vicinity of your proposed project (such as the Mills Corp. 19-acre project at Piers 27-31) and the Exploratorium at Piers 15-17, an MTA study (this is the City of San Franciscos transportation authority) was commissioned to determine the cumulative impact of these projects, including your proposed project, in the area since the private traffic study for which you are paying a consultant you hired does not take into consideration cumulative impacts. As you know, the Mills Corp. project is projected to bring thousands of visitors to its site on a weekly basis and the Exploratorium brings 500,000 children and teachers to its facility on a yearly basis. The results of this cumulative traffic study are not final yet.
Current Status of 55 Francisco. Despite the extensive history of neighborhood concerns about this project, your only significant proposed change is to alter the windows of the 51 unit building you are proposing. You confirmed that this was your intent at our meeting on 2/05 and at your presentation before the THD on 5/5/05. Most recently, the press has become interested in your projects. From John Kings detailed article in the San Francisco Chronicle regarding your only other residential development (88 Townsend) to the Independents article regarding 55 Francisco. These articles are linked to our website, www.ziss.com/stop55.
After our meeting with you in February 2005, we received your two letters dated 2/4/05 and 2/21/05 purporting to summarize the only concerns of Stop 55 and both addressed to only Wharf I and II and not to Stop 55 as a whole. We ask that in the future, you please address your comments to our group as reflected on this letterhead.
We respond to your recent letters, and your comments at the 5/5/05 THD presentation that you were unsure of exactly what the Stop 55 campaign issues were. That you do not understand Stop 55s concerns is a disingenuous position at best. Our groups concerns run deep, are valid and have been expressed numerous times over to you directly and to the City and are posted clearly on our website. Instead of re-listing our issues here, we invite you to visit our site again and review the many letters and in-depth explanations contained therein (www.ziss.com/stop55). To the extent your 2/4/05 letter addresses partial concerns we have raised, we respond as follows:
(1) Light & Air & Privacy: You state that because there is only a current 11-foot overlap between 55 Francisco and the Wharf Plaza buildings, the impact of our proposed project seems minimal. First, this overlap does not take into account what overlap the new project will have. Second, your representation that you personally believe there be a seemingly minimal impact does nothing to address the core issues or assure the senior, low-income and disabled residents of Wharf Plaza I and II. As it stands, there is shadow cast by the McGraw Hill Building; your own privately funded shadow study shows that the new project will cast new and different shadows on both Wharf Plaza buildings and the promenade between those buildings in the morning time. Regardless of whether the overlap is currently11 feet or more (assuming your representation as such is accurate), the light and air and privacy impact once you have transformed the entire Francisco block into a solid, 65 foot and 90 foot high structure will be obviously great.
(2) Construction Noise & Debris. While we understand that no project can be built without some degree of noise and debris, the behemoth nature of the project you are proposing, and refusing to reduce whatsoever in size, is estimated to take 1-2 years to build. For the entire neighborhood to live with years of construction in an already dense narrow and locked in area is simply not reasonable. Also, in your 2/4/05 letter you state categorically We do not envision driving new piles either, which are typically the noisiest and most disruptive aspect of any construction project. Then, in your presentation to the THD on 5/5/05, you stated the opposite categorically that you would have to drives piles in but that they would be micro piles or words to that effect. Which is it? Do you have the opinion of a structural team regarding whether piles are needed? Given that this garage was set up to be deconstructed quickly, it appears pile driving will be necessary; this would require parking cumbersome equipment, creating a further on-street parking crunch and causing a cacophony of noise and debris - contrary to the assertions in your 2/4/05 letter.
(3) Set Back. You state that you considered a set back and refuse the idea because a set back does nothing to address our concerns and speak for our group in stating we would agree. While you take an extraordinarily presumptuous position, we seem to be in agreement that even a large scale set back may not even provide relief given the vast proportions of your planned luxury condos.
(4) Meetings. In your 2/4/05 letter to Wharf Plaza, you state that if you are given a chance to present your project in a fair and unbiased manner, they [the residents] will see it is really not as bad as they have been led to believe. No one has led anyone to believe anything but the basic facts as set forth in your own plans and presentations. And, in any event, we had a community meeting in 2/04; you were there to provide what you call a fair and unbiased presentation; you presented and you fielded questions. Supervisor Peskin attended for a brief time. Representatives of the Stop 55 group met with you upon your request in 2/05. The key representatives of Stop 55 remain open to meeting with you, and are keen to do so, if and when you propose real and qualitative changes to the project.
(5) Parking/Traffic. The City requested that you perform a traffic study to determine whether your project will have a significant impact on the neighborhood. Unbeknownst to our group, you selected the traffic consultant, retained the traffic consultant and paid the traffic consultant to conduct this study. Not surprisingly therefore, the preliminary results of the study in the Citys files, show that based on a one day study, and not taking into account any of the surrounding projects, there may not be significant traffic or parking impacts. It does not appear that this study takes into account that 55 Francisco is the prime parking garage for cruise ship passengers either. Clearly, this study contains inherent bias, is not representative of any sort of real time frame and is extremely narrow in its scope. Until the MTA study is complete, we will not have a realistic view of the traffic/parking scenario in this neighborhood.
Finally, at the recent meetings in which you have presented, you have indicated that the City intends to publish a Negative Declaration exempting you from performing a much-needed full Environmental Impact Report (EIR). We are unsure of how you seem to know what action the City will take when the traffic study and visual impact study are not yet complete. However, based on our efforts and proposals and your outright rejection of each and every one of them, you have left us with no choice but to oppose the project.
At a minimum, we will most assuredly be opposing any exemption that allows this project to proceed without a full EIR. Should you have any questions or concerns, do not hesitate to contact our group. For the sake of clarity and cohesiveness, all correspondence should be directed to the group through Vedica Puri and Ms. Puri will ensure its distribution to the group.
Stop 55 Francisco: Preserve Our Waterfront
cc: Tammy Anderson/Kereen Stoll
Vedica Puri Stop 55/THD
Paul Scott - THD
Rev. Norman Fong, CCDC
Supervisor Aaron Peskin