Dogpatch and Potrero Hill Thick with New Developments
Although the 2007 recession temporarily halted most new construction in Dogpatch and Potrero Hill, since 2009 contemporary-style apartments and condominiums have been emerging in the neighborhoods at a steady pace. Mixed use projects that are in some development stage include 2051 Third Street, 2121 Third Street, 616 20th Street, 2235 Third Street, 650 Texas Street and 480 Potrero Avenue. “It’s been a slow steady drum beat,” said Susan Eslick, Dogpatch Neighborhood Association’s (DNA) vice-president.
According to Eslick, when she first moved to Tennessee Street in 1996 crack was being dealt nearby. Today, the drug dealers are gone, replaced by young families and gourmet restaurants. Development is inevitable, though it can be managed, said Eslick. “We are not afraid of development,” she said, “We just want good development.”
Potrero Launch, located at 2235 Third Street, will be ready for occupancy this September. The apartment complex consists of four buildings, two new and two renovated, with 196 lofts. Rents are expected to range from $2,400 to $4,500 a month.
At 616 20th Street, around the corner from Potrero Launch, a new project is emerging. After demolishing a one-story building that had housed a long shuttered restaurant, construction crews have started on a five-story facility that will include 16 residential units, a ground level commercial space suitable for a restaurant, and 11 off-site parking spots. According to Eslick, the building’s look will be “contemporary and well designed.” The principal designer’s, Stanley Saitowitz, project plans were well received by DNA members. The condominiums will be completed in September 2013. “We want the buildings to be vibrant, with engaging architecture and as much open space as possible,” said Eslick, who served as DNA’s president for the previous nine years.
Architect and developer Sternberg Benjamin’s original plans to replace a commercial fueling facility with an apartment building at 2121 Third Street were less enthusiastically received by DNA. The association worked with the developer to design a greener and more colorful 65-feet-tall building with 105 residential units and 79 on-site parking spaces. According to David Sternberg, principal architect, DNA thought that the original colors were too subdued, and that there weren’t enough planters at street level. In response, Sternberg changed the plans to incorporate brighter colors and more planters, though the pigments haven’t been finalized. The fueling facility has been demolished; excavation should begin next month. The completion date is estimated sometime in late 2013 or early 2014.
A block from the Sternberg Benjamin development another housing project is in the works. The Planning Department is currently reviewing plans to demolish a two-story structure at 2051 Third Street, and replace it with a six-story, 65.4-feet-tall building with 97 residential units and 45 off-street parking spaces.
Not all community activists are as enthusiastic about emerging developments as Eslick. According to Tony Kelly, Potrero Boosters Neighborhood Association president, for years developers have been jamming his association’s monthly meetings to present their building plans. Although Kelly agreed that attractive architecture, trees and open space make living with increased density easier, he worries that the thousands of new residents moving into Dogpatch and the Hill will tax existing infrastructure, increase traffic congestion and put pressure on already well-loved green spaces.
Kelly—who ran for the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 2010, receiving the second most first place votes—believes that neighborhood associations have only a marginal influence on development, and what’s needed is leadership at City Hall. “How will we be able to handle all these new people? How do we expect people to get around?” asked Kelly. “We don’t have enough room. We need better transit, better parks and better schools. We desperately need to add city services.”
Kelly pointed to widespread rezoning in the area over the past 10 years— which replaced industrial-designated land with residential and mixed-use districts—as sparking current development trends, and causing the Hill’s population to nearly double. As part of the rezoning process the Boosters advocated for more parks and better transit. But, according to Kelly, the development impact fees adopted under the rezoning plan are insufficient to pay for needed infrastructure.
When Potrero Launch and Archstone Apartments’ two housing projects at Daggett Place and the San Francisco Opera Scene Shop, at 800 Indiana, are fully occupied they’ll bring upwards of 4,000 additional residents to an area that already struggles to accommodate its existing 12,000 people. “There is going to be a lot of unhappy new tenants,” Kelly said. “No services, no parking, and by the way you can’t even flush your toilet because we don’t have adequate plumbing and sewage.”
Build, Inc.’s preliminary plans for 800 Indiana Street are to demolish an existing steel warehouse and build a 340 unit housing complex with six subdivisions that partially rest atop a subterranean parking garage. The project hasn’t been approved by the Planning Department, and is currently undergoing environmental review. Shovel will soon hit dirt at Daggett Place, at the corner of Hubell and 16th streets. The project was designed by David Baker and Partners. When completed it will consist of two buildings with 468 units, and include a public park.
Sherman Little’s plans to develop two connecting lots at 650 Texas Street and 790 Pennsylvania Avenue into a large housing complex have been unfolding for more than a year. The area is currently occupied by California Mini Storage, which Little has owned and operated for 18 years. After the Boosters and Planning Department objected to elements of his plan, Little and his architect, Michael Leavitt, went back to the drawing table. Although the revised proposal isn’t finished yet, it could include between 240 to 256 dwelling units, with a parking garage on the adjoining lot which would feature a rooftop garden park.
At the request of the Planning Department, Little has reduced his proposed building heights. Originally designed as a 10-story vertical building, current plans call for an eight-story edifice that staggers or stair-steps into the hillside behind. Little has also made design alterations to accommodate Hill residents’ desire for a wide stairway connecting 22nd and Missouri streets that features landscaping and seating. Little didn’t want to spend that much money on the hillside stairway, but is now proposing to develop an 18 to 20 feet wide public stairway with landscaped seating areas. The compromise didn’t come easy for Little, who said that the new design is significantly more complicated and costly than he anticipated. “It is much to swallow giving this much land to the City,” said Little. He expected to submit the revised plans to the Planning Department sometime in the summer of 2013.
A large pit at 480 Potrero Avenue, locating on the edge of a parking lot, is being developed into a six-story building with 75 residential units atop an underground parking lot with 35 spaces. Commercial space will be located at street level. The project hasn’t been approved yet.
City Guides volunteer and eight-year resident Sam Breach was attracted to Dogpatch because of the neighborhood’s mix of housing, dilapidated shipyards and industrial buildings. She worries that the onslaught of new development will encourage her landlord to sell his building, forcing her to move out of her Third Street apartment, pricing her out of the area. She wouldn’t want to live anywhere else, but fears that she won’t be able to afford skyrocketing rents. According to the San Francisco Tenants Union, the average monthly rent for a studio in the Hill is $2,067, a 25 percent jump from last year. Rents for a one-bedroom increased 44 percent, to an average $2,910 a month. Two-bedrooms rent for $3,327, a 15 percent rise.
Breach admitted that the migration of high income residents to the area has its perks. “It’s nice to be able to go down the street and get a coffee at Piccino or a fancy chocolate,” said Breach. And the corner stores now offer fancier foods for their higher-end clientele. Breach pointed-out that development, overcrowding and high prices are happening everywhere in San Francisco, not just in the Dogpatch and Potereo Hill. The quiet charm and abundant parking of past years have been a luxury that the rest of the City gave up a long a time ago.
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