As part of the commitment to preserve the scale, well-being, and character of Noe Valley, NNC does far more that just help neighbors address monster houses, "McMansions," starter castles, and trophy homes. We also take a long view on City and State planning proposals to ensure that the best interests of Noe Valley are considered. Here are some of the current issues and initiatives meriting scrutiny.
Residential Expansion Threshold
How much of a house can be removed before it's considered a demolition? You might be unpleasantly surprised. That's because the code that determines whether a project is a demolition (is “Tantamount to Demolition”) is not adequately applied or enforced. The City's Planning Department now is proposing a new Residential Expansion Threshold, contending it would further "streamline" the review process. It’s a shortcut, "one-size-fits-all" approach that could result in 6,000 square-foot structures in RH-2 zoned neighborhoods. NNC opposes the easily manipulated language.
Urban Design Guidelines
The City's Planning Department is proposing new "Urban Design Guidelines" that, while well-intentioned, are seriously flawed and far from complete. The current draft allows for a potential myriad of “exceptions,” language that is easily exploited and cedes adequate controls. Unless rewritten, it stands in direct conflict with the Residential Design Guidelines, perhaps the most valuable tool in maintaining the character of our neighborhood. The draft fails to consider structures abutting residential areas, and contemplates “anticipated” structures, at the potential expense of current homes and businesses. NNC continues to voice these concerns and opposes adoption until they are resolved.
By-Right Legislation, Senate Bill No. 35, and Threats to Local Oversight
If resurrected, "By-Right" legislation would allow any residential project that complies with local zoning and sets aside a portion of units as affordable to be exempt from local review. Any wildly conceived behemoth would be automatically approved without any certainty that indeed it would meet housing needs and without any consideration of its impacts on the neighborhood - another threat to local control.
The proponents of Senate Bill No. 35 themselves state, "California has a long tradition of broad local control, and in many areas, local communities are in the best position to judge what makes sense for their residents." However, this blanket legislation seeks to "streamline" project approvals by requiring that localities, "...approve projects only on the basis of whether the project complies with the objective SB 35 qualifying criteria and pass design review."
The bill stands to remove all Discretionary Reviews, including Conditional Use, and subvert the Residential Design Guidelines from all proposals that merely contend to add affordable housing. It would allow the demolition of existing homes and construction up to the maximum permitted envelope, so long as one minuscule unit is added that may never be made available as affordable housing! The developer merely has to record a document limiting use of this second unit.