More info, pictures and rebuttals are shown in red type

By Marisa Lagos , Staff Writer

Elderly residents at a low-income housing project and their neighbors in The Northeastern Waterfront are sounding the alarm about a 51 unit housing project slated for 55 Francisco Street, though the developer insists the concerns are overblown.

Located on Kearny Street and butted up against Telegraph Hill, Wharf Plaza I & II houses 230 low-income residents-most of whom are either seniors, disabled, or both. Wharf plaza residents, along with other residents and community groups in the highly desirable neighborhood, are worried that the proposed condominium project will increase traffic, take away parking and block sunlight from apartments and the outside plaza where many seniors spend their days.

(to see photos showing blockage of light and air click here)

The Group, Stop 55, also complains about the noise and dust during a long construction project will add further stress and impose health risks to an already ailing population.

Attorney Vedica Puri, a neighbor of the project and head of Stop 55 said they have over 1,200 signatures on a petition decrying the development. Supervisor Aaron Peskin also expressed concern that the project could negatively impact the seniors.

(For health and other concerns click here)
“We have sick people here who must be taken care of ,” said Alfred Frerick, a 74 year-old resident. Many of the apartments, residents pointed out, depend on one sliding balcony door for ventilation, which will be facing the new development. “I’m pretty healthy, but I’m very concerned about others..They will die when all the dust comes in.”

Developer Douglas Rosenberg, who completed 12 buildings in The City, refutes the claims.

Rosenberg insists he has worked hard to ensure that all of the concerns are allayed to the best of his ability, pointing toward an extensive shadow study he commissioned and plans to submit as part of public record, and his willingness to minimize the impact of construction by any means necessary.

“We have looked into portable air handling units that suck up air and dust, and I would be happy to purchase and bring them in as part of the project, “ he said adding he is also looking at ways to enclose the garage and is “happy” to relocate residents if necessary.

The shadow study shows a minimal impact on the buildings and the plaza, which is confined to about 2 hours right after sunrise year round.

(The shadow study only included public open public space - the plaza area across the street and down the block from the proposed condos. The study did not take into consideration the senior/disabled one room apartments with a single balcony door for all light and ventilation. These units are located only 45 feet across Kearny from the west wall of the 65' tall proposed new project.)

Rosenberg pointed out that the building – currently a parking garage, which he says is usually at about 70 percent capacity-will only lose about 14 parking spaces, and will offer new residents parking.

(Rosenberg’s claim of only 14 parking spaces lost and only 70% current occupancy is false according to his own Transportation Impact Study, faxed to Art Agular, San Francisco Planning Dept. 1-5-2005 and Preliminary Mitigated Negative Declaration Draft submitted 12-2004. These studies show a loss of 81 public spaces (current available public spaces - 284 - all self-park; total new public spaces - 203 - all valet) and currently 80% of the spaces are occupied. He also fails to factor in that his adjoining office building has 21,000 sq. ft unoccupied office space (3-9-2005) which will require additional parking. Also 2 other large office buildings directly across the street from his property currently have another 85,000 sq.ft vacant (3-9-2005). Also, the Mills project at Piers 27, 29 & 31 is only 2 blocks away and is planning on using nearby public parking. It is clear that the demand for public parking will increase greatly in the near future in this small area.)

Rosenberg also said the development – 12 percent of which will be permanently affordable units – fits in both with The City’s general plan and the Northeast Waterfront’s plan.

The City’s Planning Department is still reviewing the project, according to planner Art Aguilar. He said nothing has been finalized, including the negative declaration, an analysis of environmental impacts done on projects where the supervising agency deems that a full-blown report is unnecessary.



Letters to the Editor - March 26. 2005

55 Francisco St. development

A community meeting scheduled by the Stop 55 group concerning this development was held in April 2004 (Elderly tenants worry about new condo construction, March 5).  The developer attended this meeting but made no further community outreach efforts until 2/05.  Further, the developer has made no substantive changes to this project in response to the community's concerns.  The scope of the developer's private shadow study is very narrow and fails to take into account the shadows that will fall onto the seniors' apartments.
As anyone living in the neighborhood knows, the traffic on this block of Francisco is already snarled on a regular basis.  Traffic and shadow studies bought and paid for by the developer can't change what is obvious to local residents.  The cumulative impact on the northeast waterfront neighborhood of the Mills project (Piers 27 - 31), Embarcadero Hotel, the Exploratorium relocation (Piers 15 -17), and 55 Francisco could be devastating.
We are talking about changing the face of the waterfront and affecting the quality of life of hundreds of residents. 
David Mauldin
The City

Regarding the 55 Francisco St. project, The developer’s claim of 14 parking spaces lost and a current occupancy of 70 percent is completely wrong according to a study paid for by the developer himself.

The study shows a loss of 81 public spaces and currently 80 percent occupancy. The developer also fails to factor in that the historic adjoining office building has 21,000 sq. ft of unoccupied office space, and 2 other large office buildings directly across the street from his property have another 85,000 sq.ft vacant. When these are leased, and the Mills project at Piers 27-31 is completed 2 blocks away, the demand for public parking will increase greatly. If the developer's 51 luxury condos go up, vital parking resources will be taken from the increased demand.
Caren Zisson
The City

The oversized 90’ (grandfathered in) office building already on the property for which the garage was built is an historical 1917 freestanding structure. The extra mass of this oversized building, plus the additional mass of 3 stories (total 65'+) added to the parking garage (currently 35') would be well over the total mass permissable on the site.

Rosenberg is trying to get this project underway before the impact studies related to the Mills project for the neighborhood are started.

Rosenberg has been criticized in the past in relation to his residential housing projects. See the recent expose in the San Francisco Chronicle concerning 88 Townsend, printed February 22, 2005.