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S.F. BOARD WATCH: Neighbors Say Planning Department Pushing Through Potrero Hill Apartments

By 
Josh Wolf
San Francisco Public Press
 — Oct 14 2013 - 5:14pm

A proposed six-story apartment building in Potrero Hill will irreparably change the face of the neighborhood by towering over nearby buildings and blocking sunlight, says a group of residents. They are accusing the Planning Department of pushing through the project and ignoring the environmental impact from construction.

The 77-unit development at 480 Portrero Ave., just south of Mariposa Street, would be the first residential building over three stories in the neighborhood, and residents who oppose the project said at the Board of Supervisors meeting on Oct. 8 that Planning failed to follow the law. They said the department should have required a full environmental impact report.

“The Planning Department will look the other way when they want to,” said Mica Ringel, who lives across the street from the project and is part of the appeal to stop it. “There’s a lot of pressure on the Planning Department to build housing in the eastern neighborhoods.”

Ringel said that after a study determined that the shadow from the buildng would fall on Franklin Park, which would be in violation of city law, a new study was completed using a lower height for the building in order to ensure the project could move forward. But the plans for the building did not change between the two tests, and the original failed test has been removed from the department’s records, Ringel said.

Earlier this month the San Francisco Sunshine Ordinance Task Force found that the Planning Department violated city law when it failed to hand over records that should be considered public, Ringel said. Among the records not provided by the Planning Department were e-mails from Ringel and his family, which Ringel said should have been included in response to the request.

“We normally don’t include every single correspondence in our file,” said city planner Donald Lewis, after Supervisor Malia Cohen asked why Ringel’s e-mails were not included in his request.

When reach by phone, Lewis would not comment on the disputed project or the agency’s changed environmental report. Calls to other representatives from the planning department were not returned.

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HISTORIC MUSIC VENUE: Additional concerns raised by people living near the proposed development include potential damage to the historic building that houses thenearbyVerdi Club, which has been located at 2424 Mariposa St. since 1935. They said they didn’t think that all nearby residents were properly notified about the project and were worried that the naturally occurring asbestosin the serpentine bedrockcouldbe disturbed during the excavation and construction process.

The Board of Supervisors will continue the hearing at the Oct. 22 meeting.

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MAYOR-TURNED-TRAFFIC-COP: In other news, during this week’s question-and-answer session Mayor Ed Lee vowed to crack down personally on double parking on city streets.

“Everywhere I see this, I’m going to stop it myself,” Lee said in response to a question from Supervisor Scott Weiner, who asked why the Department of Parking and Traffic is cracking down on minor infractions while failing to enforce the rampant double parking in his district. “Next time instead of rushing to my appointment, I will ask my officers in my car to get out and issue those citations.”

The mayor did not elaborate on where his vehicle would park while the officers in his security detail write out the parking ticket.

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HEALTH PLAN: Supervisor David Campos announced that the city had released its highly anticipated Health Care Master Plan, a document that has been in development since early 2011. Although the document is more than 180 pages, it predates the national health insurance marketplace, which went into effect in California Oct. 1.

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FINES … FOR THE LIBRARIAN: During public comment, library activist Peter Warfield called on the Board of Supervisors to take action against City Librarian Luis Herrera, who was recently fined by the state Fair Political Practices Commission for failing to disclose gifts he received from the Friends of the Library, a nonprofit organization closely affiliated with the city library.

Although the commission has not released the amount Herrera received, Warfield said that the Friends of the Library gave the librarian more than $130,000 between 2008 and 2011; however, Herrera neglected to disclose this information when he filled out amandatoryannual report detailing his financial interests.

UPDATE: A version of this story that was posted on Oct. 14, 2013, was modified for clarity.