Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 12 / 22 March 2018

Celebration marks Western SoMa plan approval

Community leaders and elected officials are set to celebrate the approval of the Western SoMa neighborhood plan.

The Board of Supervisors approved the plan, which has been in the works for over eight years and addresses a range of issues in the South of Market neighborhood, by a 10-1 vote March 19, and Mayor Ed Lee recently granted his approval.

The celebration will be held from 6-8 p.m. today (Tuesday, April 2) at DNA Pizza, 371 11th Street.

“For many of you in the South of Market community, it has been eight long years of continued engagement and process,” Sunny Angulo, an aide to District 6 Supervisor Jane Kim, who represents the neighborhood, said in email to project supporters. “Thank you for sticking it out – this is a historic model of community planning in partnership with the Planning Department’s resources and technical skills to create a community-driven vision for complete neighborhoods and mixed-use development.”

The project prioritizes “the creation of residential development with incentives for affordable housing, while highlighting our alleyways and protecting unique assets,” such as arts and entertainment industries, Angulo said.

She added that Kim fought to get away from “the ‘either/or’ scenario with amendments that ultimately ensured development fees for both affordable housing and transportation.”

Western SOMA has been home to a number of gay leather bars since the 1970s and plays host each year to two fetish street fairs. Discussion of the Western SoMa project has included an LGBT Cultural Heritage District. But it looks like that part of the plan may be a long way off.

Last year, the Planning Department announced that there was no funding to create the LGBTQ district and a planned Filipino Cultural Heritage District.

In an interview last week, Jim Meko, a gay man who chaired the Western SoMa plan’s task force, said the gay project “is going to be coming about, but at the moment, it’s in the hands of the preservation planners at the Planning Department.”

Meko sounds pessimistic about that agency’s ability to move the process along quickly.

“The actual crafting of the legislation has been put off to them, and they’re not exactly up to full speed on this,” Meko said. Planners are starting with a heritage project in Japantown, he said. A planning department official didn’t respond to a request for comment for this story.

“We presented draft legislation to them, but apparently they just didn’t think it was good enough,” Meko said.

Including the LGBTQ historic district is “a promise we made and that I still intend to deliver on,” Meko said. “Nobody has given me a clear explanation as to why they could not work with the legislation we sent to them. They feel they know better than us.”

The Planning Department is “no good at planning people’s neighborhoods, which is why we devoted as much time and energy as we did,” he said. “… Now, they’ve kind of taken back control of this process, and I just couldn’t begin to tell you when we’re going to see anything ready to go, anything fully baked.”

Despite his concerns, Meko said “it feels great” to know that the long process for the general plan is “finally over.” He also praised Kim, saying, “she really stuck with us. She knew what she was talking about, and she really dominated the entire discussion at the Board of Supervisors.”

— Seth Hemmelgarn, April 2, 2013 @ 5:47 pm PST
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