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In depth look at the concerns surrounding the 55 Francisco condo project
Here are some of the many letters, faxes and emails that were sent to Mr. Art Aguilar, Art.Aguilar@sfgov.org, environmental analyst in the SF Planning and Zoning commission who is in charge of the 55 Francisco project at this time.

These letters illustrate many of the reasons why the 55 Francisco condo project is not in the best interests of the neighborhood residents or the city of San Francisco, and why we are asking the city at this time to require a full Environmental Inpact Report (EIR). This is the only way to insure that the true facts will be on record before permits can be considered for this project.

Health Concerns

Subject: 55 Francisco

Dear Mr. Aguilar:
I would like to introduce myself.  I am the Property Manager of Wharf Plaza I & II.  Wharf Plaza I & II complex(es) are comprised of 230 units of subsidized apartments primarily housing the elderly and disabled.  We are directly adjacent to the proposed 51-unit condominium building at 55 Francisco Street in San Francisco.  The property is currently a parking structure and the proposed project poses an enormous health and safety risk to the senior and disabled community here at Wharf Plaza. We are very concerned about the negative effects on our residents, property, neighbors, and neighborhood.

These concerns are summarized below:
A) During Construction
 Construction this close to the buildings would be detrimental to the health of our residents. The units at 1855 Kearny are primarily studios with the only ventilation to their apartment being the balcony sliding door.  The developers would virtually have to put our buildings in bubbles to protect the residents' health and property.  The developers would have to incur heavy costs to relocate many of the residents with breathing and allergy problems to handicap-accessible hotels in the area.  
The area of Kearny (from Francisco to the terminus) is already so narrow that the EMT vehicles cannot drive down the center if cars are parked.  One does not have to use much imagination to envision the congestion and risk once debris chutes, dumpsters, trucks, and other vehicles are introduced.  Noise is a major concern as well due to the delicate health conditions that are exacerbated by stress and lack of sleep for the senior and disabled community .

 B)  Once Developed
 A building this size and height would block light, direct and indirect, as well as interfere with views and privacy. These units house the elderly and disabled community.  This community suffers from health issues which can be adversely affected by lack of light.  (Everything from depression, failure to thrive, and rheumatoid arthritis)  Not to mention other severe health issues such as emphysema, asthma, allergies, etc. that can be adversely affected by dust and debris in the air. There are two residents that I can think of immediately living on that side of the building that are on breathing assistive machines and excessive dust could be potentially fatal.
Parking confrontations and parking issues are a daily part of life here.  Management is constantly battling with outsiders parking in our residents' parking spaces.  Because of the tight quarters in this area, towing is seldom an option. Visitor parking virtually does not exist due to the office building employees and the tourists seeking free parking.  Our residents have to make special arrangements if they have visitors from out of town to ensure they have a space for them to park.  As we all know, Bay St. is not a safe option.  Cars on Bay St. are broken into on a daily basis.  Between the Mills Project and these proposed condominiums, our residents will be battling to used their own parking spaces every day, let alone the hope that their family, visiting nurses, or aides will have any opportunity at parking on the street.
C) Developer
I understand that the developer already owns the parking garage.  Ownership/Management have already shown a lack of responsible behavior by neglecting to hire a competent security staff during special events.  This past 4th of July actually became violent due to the streets and parking garages becoming a huge parking lot.  Emergency vehicles, including motorcycle police, could not even get down the street.  There were incidents of violence, vandalism, and health emergencies, M-80's being thrown off of the garages, etc. They could not be resolved due to the lack of controls at the garages. The attendants told me they don't even bother hiring security because "it doesn't do any good, there isn't anything they can do" and that it was too costly to hire off-duty police officers.

D) Right to Privacy
These units will practically be on top of our residents, again looking right into their apartments, and again, because the balcony door is the only source of ventilation they have, they will have to compromise privacy for air.  

E) Traffic
The traffic density in this almost cul-de-sac type street, is an existing problem.  We have had one accident-related fatality several years ago and two other injuries where residents were hit. This intersection at Bay and Kearny is already problematic. Cars turning from Bay onto Kearny at an escalated rate of speed create an atmosphere of danger.  More cars in the neighborhood only increase the potential for disaster.  Francisco/Montgomery are the only two-way streets and are often turned into one-way streets by impatient and frustrated tourists trying to get out of the neighborhood and parking structures after an event.  

F) Maintaining Our Property 
In addition, I have maintenance concerns because these units propose one and two bedroom units, therefore there is the potential for more adults, children and animals using our promenade area.  This further escalates misuse of our property and additional maintenance.
I want to assure you that we intend to fight this project and plan to be an active part of the neighborhood resistance to protect our residents, staff and property.  We would like to invite you down to meet with us and walk the proposed area so that you can see first hand the detrimental effects this project will have on our community if it is built.


Re: Case No. 2003.1183E-55 Francisco Street (aka 1789 Montgomery Street)

Dear Mr. Aguilar:

Many years have gone by since the four blocks of existing high-density housing were developed in this unique neighborhood at the foot of Telegraph Hill. The wide variety of concerns being brought forward by the residents at the prospect of the development of 55 Francisco indicates to us the need to access the degree to which existing planning and service standards are meeting current needs, and what changes may be required to accommodate future demand.

We are particularly concerned about the level of demand for on-street parking that may have resulted from the substantial parking variances for reduced on-site parking capacity granted to the Parc Telegraph and Wharfpark complexes. Not only do the residents of Telegraph Hill residing on the east slope, and without vehicular access to their streets, rely on parking on the streets below, but also the "A" Permit Residential Parking area boundaries have been expanded over the years in response to demands from the residents of the northeast waterfront.

As we have witnessed the loss of neighborhood services in North Beach, andits impact on the quality of life of residents who now must travel outside the neighborhood for almost all of their shopping needs, one cannot help but be concerned for the residents of the northeast waterfront who also face such service inadequacies, and are confronted as well by the lack of any public transit connection to the nearest full-service shopping district on Polk Street or even the more limited offerings at the Northpoint Centre on Bay Street.

We offer the following potential environmental impacts for your consideration in evaluating the need for extended environmental review of the project proposed at 55 Francisco Street.

Aesthetics-The potential degrading impact of the extremely low quality and totally out of context proposed architectural design on the visual character of the surrounding neighborhood and historic resources.

Air Quality--Impact of increased capacity, conversion from self-serve to valet parking, queuing and hours of use of open-air garage, and any health threat this might pose to the handicapped and senior population across the street, many of whom rely on oxygen to relieve respiratory problems. Impact on the prevailing odor problem from the venting of the underground sewage system.

Geology & Soils-Is there any seismic risk posed to additional construction atop the garage by the adjoining office building which sits on fill and is not anchored to bedrock, and is there verifiable evidence that the structural integrity of the garage itself is adequate and that it will not have to be demolished and replaced with a new structure that meets present-day seismic standards?

Noise-Impact of noise from squealing tires and idling engines associated with the operation of the garage as a valet parking operation, for extended hours, in an open-air structure lacking any sound barriers. Public Services-Impact of the project on the City's ability to meet established criteria for acceptable levels of police, fire and medical emergency service.

Transportation & Traffic-In addition to transportation and parking issues noted in the opening paragraph above, the impacts of the following factors need to be considered:

To what extent will the project impact traffic on Kearny, Francisco, and Chestnut Streets relative to existing load and capacity and service standards?

Need to assess the adequacy of current police and fire services, particularly during periods of peak congestion, and the impact of this and pending development on medical emergency response times.

Based on current levels of "A" Permit use in area, on-street parking capacity, and documented willingness of residents to use and pay for valet parking, will existing parking supply meet demand or will on-street conditions be further degraded?

What is the potential impact of this development on local traffic and parking conditions resulting from the poor level of public transit service in the area and the decline in service on the F-line, which faces service cuts and currently frequently bypasses the stops between Bay Street and the Ferry Building due to overloading?

The pending EIR for the Mills project on Piers 27-31 is rumored to identify significant impacts on traffic and transportation as well as an insurmountable deficit in parking supply. While the you may find the impact of the addition of a relatively small number of housing units limited, we urge you to fully consider the cumulative impacts of all anticipated future projects once they are built and operating at capacity-particularly in view of the fact that the findings of the Mills EIR are not likely to be made public prior to the completion of your preliminary environmental review period.

We are currently experiencing a low point in tourism and office occupancy levels in this area, but once these economic conditions return to normal levels, there is going to be a dramatic change in usage and demand in this small neighborhood, and this factor must also be considered in assessing the potential impacts of this project.

We thank you for this opportunity to present our concerns.


Subject: 55 Francisco - PLS REQUIRE A FULL EIR

Dear Mr. Aguilar:

While I forwarded a packet to your attention on behalf of the Stop 55 group, I write now as a local resident to urge you to complete a full EIR on the proposed development of 51 condominiums on top of the existing parking garage at 55 Francisco.

The pervasive fear throughout our tiny, quiet neighborhood is that the Northeast Waterfront will be irreparably altered by not one, not two but three massive proposed developments if the City, through its Environmental & Planning departments, does not regulate what is happening. I implore you to look at the totally of the circumstances and see that a development of 51 condos in addition to the Piers 27-31 development and new Exploratorium location all within a block of each other threatens to unravel the very fabric and uniqueness of our neighborhood.

I live one block away from the proposed at 55 Francisco project site. The proposed developments and relocation, if successful, are more than our streets, our neighbors and most important, our environment can bear. Many of us have attended several community meetings and Port Commission hearings concerning the Piers 27-31 development proposed by Mills Corp. We have also held a well-attended community meeting concerning 55 Francisco. Residents have posed basic questions that developers in both instances are unable to answer -- the only way to obtain answers concerning the environmental impact of 55 Francisco is to require the developer to conduct a full EIR.

It seems that the only way to accurately evaluate the cumulative impact of the 3 projects is to require a full Environmental Impact Report for this project. The following reasons necessitate a full EIR for 55 Francisco:

1. Traffic/Transportation Nightmare - As is stands, it is very tricky navigating the narrow one-way streets surrounding us now on weekdays and especially weekends. Holidays pose special challenges beyond that. The traffic congestion will only increase with all of these projects being built. We will certainly have continuous gridlock all the time instead of intermittent gridlock that we now have.  The developer is proposing to add valet parking for the bottom two levels of the existing garage - I thought I could not imagine the back up that would cause until I remembered the back up caused on Lombard by the Bay Club valet parking garage in the mornings, afternoons and evenings !

There will be an influx of visitors for both the Mills project and the Exploratorium that will peak at the very same times that we experience the peak traffic backups on the Embarcadero, and when that happens, significant numbers of drivers detour through our streets (Montgomery, Lombard, Chestnut & Francisco) to get around the gridlock on the Embarcadero.  Rumor has it that the parking and traffic analysis for the Mills project is going to be very site-specific and will not study the impacts on the surrounding neighborhood. This is a problem and we are worried.

2. Massive Parking Deficit - The Mills project will add approximately 220 parking spaces but will bring in the need for 1,500 more parking spaces that our neighborhood doesn't have. The Exploratorium will be using the parking garage next door to the (80 Francisco), which will decrease parking. The proposed 55 Francisco project will take away public parking spaces because the first floor of condos will sit on the top floor of the parking structure and 50 spaces will be deeded to the new owners. The Mills project has also referred to both of these parking garages in various presentations at public meetings. However, these garages could not possibly provide enough overflow to accommodate the folks at Piers 27-31, the Exploratorium and 55 Francisco. The Pier 39 parking structure is usually full during peak times so additional visitors to our neighborhood won't be able to use that parking garage.

3. Our Neighbors.  45 feet away from the proposed development at 55 Francisco is a complex on Kearny St called Wharf I and Wharf II, which houses seniors, low-income and disabled residents. This housing complex has co-existed with the commerical spaces and other housing complexes in our area peacefully for years; 55 Francisco is threatening that peaceful existence. I understand that the property manager for Wharf I and II and their counsel have submitted separate letters to you concerning their deep concerns over the environmental impact 55 Francisco will have. Suffice it to say, our neighbors' concerns are our concerns.

4. We Are Saturated in an Already Extremely Dense Area. Our area is saturated with condominium complexes. There are approximately 1,000 condo units in the existing developments of Parc Telegraph, Telegraph Landing, 101 Lombard, Wharf I and Wharf II. Office buildings use the remaining space in our area. Our immediate area does not have a park. Wharf I and Wharf II (residence for seniors, disabled and low income) on Kearney has a small courtyard for their residents. Several of the office buildings and Parc Telegraph have small courtyards and landscaped walkways but we do not have any other open space in our area. I understand that the 55 Francisco parking garage is considered an open space as it is now. Enclosing the garage and adding 3 additional floors for condos will take away that open space and give our neighborhood a more boxed-in, claustrophobic feel.

5. Noise - Additional visitors, cars, motorcycles, buses on our narrow, mostly one-way residential streets will create additional noise as well as trash.

7. Air Quality - With the advent of 3 massive developments totaling over 23 acres, the air quality in our neighborhood will necessarily suffer. We are located at the bottom of Telegraph Hill and we have multistory buildings throughout the area. The hill shelters much of the area from wind and the taller buildings channels the remaining breeze. The extra traffic will increase air pollution. The valet parking and buses unloading tours and groups at the Exploratorium will increase the number of idling vehicles thereby increasing the pollution in our area. Many of the residents at Wharf I and Wharf II are disabled senior citizens that have respiratory problems. Idling cars across from their complex could pose serious problems for those residents. The idling cars will back up to the Wharf I and II complex and courtyard. Opening the windows is their and our only source of ventilation and air conditioning. The breeze for my unit comes is channeled directly from the proposed 55 Francisco project. In other words, the project would cut off this channel.

8. Aesthetics -Our neighborhood is quiet and quite clean compared to other areas of the City. With the large number of new visitors to our enclave I envision dirtier streets and a considerable increase in noise in our area.

Thank you for taking the time to read and consider this message.  

The cumulative effect of the three massive projects being proposed within a few blocks of each other is disconcerting to our entire neighborhood.  

We are looking to the City to protect the vital environmental resource that the Waterfront is.  An EIR would afford maximum public comment; let our voice be heard.

Once again I urge you to complete an Environmental Impact Report; please do not hesitate to contact me .

Thank you,
 Dear Mr. Aguilar:
On March 31, 2004,I sent you an email regarding the impact we believe the proposed project at 55 Francisco Street will have on the neighborhood, primarily the senior and disabled communitylocatedjust feet away from the proposed project. (See letter above) One very important issue that I failed to mention in the e-mail, was the issue of mold/mildew. For many years, management has had to constantly remain extremely diligent in minimizing mold/mildew in the units.  We believe that this project will not only impact the residents in the ways mentioned below, but also because of the elimination of the existing lightand airto the buildings, it will exacerbate our constant battle with mold/mildew and our resident’s exposure it. Over the years, we have found that sunlight is a natural warrior in the battleagainstmold.  While lifestyle, areahumidity and moisture, air circulation, etc. are contributing factors, we have found that the apartments that get direct light have minimal mold concerns.  This project threatens to eliminate sunlight (direct or otherwise) from many of our residences.
We have circulated a petition since receiving your letter (as have the other neighborhood communities) and have already received nearly 200 signatures!  As you know, while the senior, disabled, and immigrant communities are avid voters, they are less likely to sign petitions and get involved in political issues unless the "fight" directly impacts their lives or is something in which they strongly believe.  They have far too many other obstacles to overcome in their daily lives than to get involved infrivolousmatters.  This proposed project will not only directly impact their lives, their livesmay actually depend on whether or not the proposed condominium project at 55 Francisco is built. We believe their show of support in this matter indicates how important this is to all concerned.
We urge you to consider this matter andonce the public comment period is over, we ask that you be willing to have a dialogue with us (Stop 55 Group) and ask that you come out to walk the propertywith us to see how this project will directly impact this entire community.


Thank you for your anticipated consideration of this matter.