Friday, May 11, 2012

Potrero HOPE-SF EIR process is moving again

The long-discussed rebuilding of San Francisco's Potrero Terrace and Annex public housing may have hit a new stage May 2 with a Federal Register notice (PDF here, text here). I'm not close to this planning process, but on its face the notice looks like early warning that the public comment schedule for the project is getting back in gear for the first time since 2010.

That, and would-be commenters need to get in the loop but soon.

More specifically: the notice says the city Mayor's Office of Housing is about to prepare a draft Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Impact Statement for the project. It also appears to be saying that, although this report doesn't exist yet, interested parties need to write in advance now to explain that they'll be wanting to comment on it when it does appear. Here's relevant text (emphasis added):
"A Draft EIR/EIS will be prepared for the proposed action described herein. Comments relating to the Draft EIR/EIS are requested and will be accepted by the contact person listed below. When the Draft EIR/EIS is completed, a notice will be sent to individuals and groups known to have an interest in the Draft EIR/EIS and particularly in the environmental impact issues identified therein. Any person or agency interested in receiving a notice and making comment on the Draft EIR/EIS should contact the person listed below within 30-days after publication of this notice."
That's by June 1st, right? (And could we be looking at one of these "Beware of the Leopard" situations?)

Also this (emphasis, again, added):
"A public EIS scoping meeting will be held on a date within the comment period and after at least 15 days of publishing this Notice of Intent. Notices of the scoping meeting will be mailed when the date has been determined. The EIS scoping meeting will provide an opportunity for the public to learn more about the project and provide input to the environmental process. At the meeting, the public will be able to view graphics illustrating preliminary planning work and talk with MOH staff, and members of the consultant team providing technical analysis to the project. Translators will be available. Written comments and testimony concerning the scope of the EIS will be accepted at this meeting. In accordance with 40 CFR 1501.7 affected Federal, State, and local agencies, any affected Indian tribe, and other interested parties will be sent a scoping notice. Owners and occupants within a 300-foot radius will also be notified of the scoping process. In accordance with 24 CFR 58.59, the scoping hearing will be preceded by a notice of public hearing published in the local news media 15 days before the hearing date.
The scoping process associated with the CEQA process took place from November 2010 through December 2010. A CEQA public scoping meeting was held on November 22, 2010."
I think this is the city's notice for that November 2010 scoping meeting. A lot of detail there about the plan as it stood then.

The idea of the project is to tear down and rebuild the whole venerable 606-unit complex, which covers 39 acres of lately quite valuable real estate crowning the south and east slopes of Potrero Hill. And, while replacing those units, to add in a whole lot of far more upmarket stuff.

(For non-locals, it may help to know that the north side of Potrero Hill has been poshly restauranted for years. The Dogpatch neighborhood, in the flats between there and the Bay, is catching up fast.)

Here's a favorable SF Chronicle overview on several HOPE-SF public housing replacement projects in the city. The public-private HOPE-SF group planning the rebuilding involves Bridge Housing and architects Van Meter Williams Pollack as well as the city housing authority and the Mayor's Office of Housing.

HOPE-SF, a successor to the displacing HOPE VI projects, has been criticized, e.g. here,  for displacing poorer tenants to build mixed-income housing in other locations. This CitiReport piece criticizes the city for deferring maintenance on existing properties while the HOPE-SF replacement plan moves slowly into place.

On the other hand, Sara Shortt, a solidly pro-tenant housing advocate, wrote in 2007 that community members might be overly fearful about the Potrero rebuilding process because of worse planning in past HOPE VI projects from which lessons actually were learned about avoiding displacement.

HOPE-SF's Potrero page promises:
"HOPE SF will provide all qualifying residents a new home in the revitalized community. The project will undertake a phased approach to rebuilding housing so that, where possible, disruption to residents’ lives will be minimized."
Erm, yes, but there's that whole lot of other development planned as well. Here's how the project looked to the SocketSite real estate blog in 2010. Whether people with very little money land well on their feet in the new mixed-income complex -- well, it seems worth discussing in detail, hm?

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