Market Octavia Plan
After nearly 8 years of community workshops, meetings and public hearings involving hundreds of residents, one of the most progressive and comprehensive plans in San Francisco’s history - the Market & Octavia Better Neighborhoods Plan - will go before the Board of Supervisors this summer, perhaps as early as June.
Covering an area in the heart of the City encompassing Duboce Triangle, Lower Haight, Upper Market, Hayes Valley and the Northern Mission, the plan outlines a vision that builds upon, enhances and complements the area’s walkability, diversity and convenient access to transit. It sets strong policies that favor transit users, bicyclists and people on foot, rather than cars. It brings more than 1000 units of affordable housing to the city. New developer fees will pay for $68 million of public improvements. The protections for historic preservation and against residential demolitions are the strongest of any plan in the city.
The usual NIMBY forces that oppose affordable housing and reduced parking have attacked the plan, but progressives, including Livable City and the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, embrace the plan. To be sure, some progressives support the plan’s overall vision but are concerned about gentrification.
There is indeed a well-founded concern over gentrification and displacement. But the Market & Octavia Plan is a sound and workable start at maintaining diversity and providing housing opportunities for all San Franciscans. Half of the former Central Freeway parcels are designated for affordable housing - including dedicated accommodation for the formerly homeless and others with special needs.
Importantly, the plan caps the amount of parking that developers can provide. Parking increases the cost of a unit by 20 percent, and reduces the number of units that can be built on a parcel by another 20 percent. Less parking is an effective way to provide affordable housing, support the city’s Transit First policy, and avoid creating more congestion on city streets.
What’s more, the plan expressly prohibits residential demolitions unless they produce more housing, and do not diminish affordability or the number of rent-controlled units.
There are further protections for historic resources, including Landmarks Board scrutiny and mandatory discretionary reviews by the Planning Commission.
Some people find fault with the proposed towers at Van Ness and Market. But these towers would ensure that the plan brings as much housing as possible to San Francisco - and in precisely the right place to capitalize on the city’s transit investments. The proposals for “superinclusionary” on-site housing requirements there will provide even more affordable as well as workforce housing.
But the key to avoiding a surfeit of luxury condos is lower parking caps - 0.25 spaces per unit. Less parking would orient the housing towards the city, rather than catering to commuters using Highway 101.
Towers are not necessarily the province of the wealthy. Other cities have shown, with the right community benefits and design, towers can be family and working-class friendly. Housing with active ground floor uses and street enhancements will enliven what is now a forlorn, desolate and foreboding place.
Every week that we delay passing the plan, more developers come forward with proposals. Development will happen, with or without a plan. But the Market & Octavia Plan makes sure that that development happens according to the vision of the community. It protects historic resources, affordability and diversity. And each new unit will generate upwards of $10,000 in developer-funded community improvements, including parks, childcare, traffic calming and greener streets.
The plan passed the Planning Commission on April 5, with a 5-2 vote. The two dissenters - Christina Olague and Kathrin Moore - actually voted for an even stronger, more progressive version of the plan with less parking. San Francisco’s progressive community needs to unite and ensure that an even stronger plan gets swiftly adopted at the Board of Supervisors. In the next month the Transportation and Planning committee of HVNA will work diligently to get this innovative plan passed undiluted. If you are interested in helping, please contact Jason Henderson at email@example.com