It’s been some time since we’ve heard anything about the plan to build several new homes on the “secret lot” bordered by Hampshire, Peralta, York and Cesar Chavez in northeast Bernal Heights. An East Slope Design Review Board meeting about the project was last held in May 2014, and that session was so contentious and so depressing that it prompted one Bernal neighbor to write a powerful analysis about the dark, NIMBY heart of San Francisco’s housing crisis.
Neighbor Margo lives in a home adjacent to the proposed development site, and she brings news us about another East Slope Design Review Board meeting to discuss this project, scheduled for this Wednesday, Dec. 9 at 7 pm in the Precita Valley Community Center (534 Precita Ave).
Neighbor Margo tells Bernalwood:
There’s another hearing coming up about the infill development project in the interior lot bordered by Hampshire, Peralta, York and Cesar Chavez.
As far as I know, the project was stalled for about a year and a half (no idea why), and now the city has asked the owner and architect to go back to the East Slope Design Review Board with revised plans. Below is a note I sent to our neighbors.
You probably got in your mailbox, as we did, a flyer inviting us to the Precita Neighborhood Center next Wednesday, Dec.9, at 7 pm to see revised plans for building in the interior lot behind our homes on Hampshire Street.
I called Terry Milne of the East Slope Design Review Board to find out what the revisions are, and he says the board doesn’t know much. The owner and architect were asked by the city to return to the neighborhood review board with revised plans. He doesn’t know if the revisions are big or small.
We plan to go to the meeting, and hope that others who are interested will go as well.
Here is some history and background, for newer neighbors:
Patrick Quinlan, a local contractor, has owned these two interior lots and an access lot on York Street for many years — he had plans to build on the interior lots before we moved here 28 years ago, in 1988.
According to its web site: “The East Slope Design Review Board was established in 1986 by order of the San Francisco Supervisors. For building projects within the East Slope Design Review Area, a letter of recommendation from the Design Review Board is required before the San Francisco Planning Department will accept any permit application.”
The design review board’s volunteer members solicit neighborhood comments, hold hearings on a project-by-project basis, and forward their recommendations.
About 15 years ago, the board heard arguments for and against Quinlan’s plan for 10 units (5 duplexes) on the two moderately steep interior lots now covered with fennel and ivy. As the plan advanced through the Planning Department pipeline, concerned neighbors retained land-use attorney Sue Hestor and testified in opposition at a hearing before an appeals board of the city Planning Commission. The commissioners rejected the development.
Then about 10 years ago, Quinlan proposed a modified plan for 8 units. The design review board heard comments by neighbors. There was opposition, but not as fervent as against the earlier 10-unit plan. As far as we know, those plans were in the pipeline when the economy collapsed in 2008. As you know, the vacant lots are still vacant.
The next plan, reviewed by the board in 2014, was for a gated community of 6 units: 4 three-story single-family houses on the two R-2 interior lots and 2 small townhouses on a structure erected atop the entrance tunnel and gate on the access lot on York Street. Quinlan installed story-poles to indicate the heights of proposed buildings on the interior lots, but after a year and a half, some of them are now askew.
Along the cliff-like slope on the north edge (toward Cesar Chavez) of the interior lots, the plans called for a large retaining wall topped by a private street/driveway that would end in a cablecar-style turntable to turn cars around.
At the board hearing on the 2014 plans, some neighbors supported the development, saying the plan dealt with many of the neighbors’ previous concerns, including the project’s density, sufficient parking, space for garbage cans, and fire safety. Others voiced concerns, including the stability of the steep hillside above the properties on Cesar Chavez Street, the density of auto traffic in an interior lot, potential changes in rain runoff during and after construction. One other open question is the apparent need for a homeowners’ association to maintain the common structures and areas: the retaining walls, the private street and parking spaces, trash storage area, automatic gate, and the car turntable.
The review board is now set to see “revised plans.” We’ll see what’s new on Wednesday.