Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 7 / 15 February 2018

Planning body supports Castro district zoning change for office-type businesses

The construction of new buildings along upper Market Street, like Linea seen here, prompted calls for the zoning change.

The construction of new buildings along upper Market Street, like Linea seen here, prompted calls for the zoning change.

Legislation meant to bring stronger public scrutiny of office-type uses taking over ground floor retail spaces in San Francisco’s gay Castro district and along Noe Valley’s commercial corridor sailed through the city’s planning commission today.

The commission voted 5-0 to recommend that the Board of Supervisors adopt the zoning change. The supervisors are expected to pass it once it is taken up at the committee level in the coming months.

Gay District 8 Supervisor Scott Wiener, who represents both neighborhoods at City Hall, introduced the legislation in order to make permanent the interim zoning rule the city adopted along upper Market Street between Octavia Boulevard and Castro Street requiring office-type uses, such as banks and title companies, to seek conditional use permits if leasing sidewalk-fronting storefronts.

The interim rule was put in place in the summer of 2013 in response to a slew of new mixed-use buildings opening along the busy thoroughfare that combined new housing over retail spaces. Castro residents voiced concerns that banks and real estate firms would rush in and crowd out more traditional retailers, leaving dead zones at night and on weekends when they were closed.

With similar concerns raised about the 400 and 500 blocks of Castro Street, as well as 24th Street between Diamond and Chattanooga, Wiener decided to also extend the zoning rule to those commercial corridors.

At the hearing this afternoon (Thursday, April 23) Wiener aide Andres Power told the commissioners the legislation is about “ensuring our retail corridors remain active.”

Under the new rules, business or professional services wanting to open in a ground floor space on the two blocks of Castro Street, as well as several blocks on 18th Street, would need to seek a permit from the planning commission.

On upper Market Street west of Octavia, limited financial services and business or professional services would need authorization to move into a first story space.

In Noe Valley medical services, business or professional services would need planning commission approval to open in a ground floor retail space, while such uses would be principally permitted in second story spaces.

The planning commissioners recommended that the supervisors also allow them in third story spaces rather than require such businesses to seek conditional use authorization, as the legislation as written currently requires.

“This is good legislation,” said commissioner Rich Hillis, who noted such non-retail uses “tend to be large and dead on the street.”

Hillis suggested that the rule “should be expanded elsewhere” in the city to other commercial corridors.

Commissioner Michael Antonini agreed that the legislation will help “enliven the street rather than having business professionals close at 5 p.m. and have a bunch of dead storefronts here.”

— Matthew S. Bajko, April 23, 2015 @ 3:32 pm PST
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