Housing Policy

Housing-Starved San Francisco Shoots Down New Apartment Project Because It Would Cast Shadow on Nearby Park. Again.

This is not the first time the city has tried to delay a project over shadow concerns.


San Francisco lived up to its reputation as the nation's NIMBY capital this week by voting to reject a proposed apartment project over concerns that the new building would cast too much shadow on a nearby park.

On Tuesday, the city's Board of Supervisors unanimously voted to delay the approval of a 63-unit apartment building slated to be built on Folsom and Russ Street in the city's SoMa neighborhood. The project is being sponsored by developer Golden Properties LLC, and has been working its way through the approval process since August 2017.

Despite the fact that Golden Properties' development would add new units of housing to a city in desperate need of it, supervisors thought the building's costs would outweigh any benefits.

"We absolutely need more housing and affordable housing," said Supervisor Matt Haney to the San Francisco Chronicle, but "this isn't a meaningless shadow on someone's backyard. This is a shadow that falls on the only multi-use public park in SoMa."

Indeed, the proposed six-story building would, on the longest day of the year, cover an additional 18 percent of nearby Victoria Manalo Draves Park—which boasts a community garden, basketball court, and softball field—in shade, according to a study performed by the city's Planning Department.

That might not sound like much, but it has been a sticking point for the South of Market Community Action Network (SOMCAN), a neighborhood group that has fiercely opposed the project and the additional shadow it would cast. Thanks to the byzantine nature of San Francisco's development regulations, the group has had ample opportunity to delay the Folsom project.

San Francisco's planning code prohibits new buildings from casting shadows on public parks managed by the city's Parks Department if those shadows are found to have an "adverse impact." However, what exactly counts as an "adverse impact" is ultimately left up to the city's Planning Commission to decide. In a heated commission hearing on the project in December 2018, community activists spoke about the perceived damage the project would do to the neighborhood.

"The scale and size of the project seems to be monstrous," said one member of SOMCAN, who also stressed the severe impact of the building's shade, saying "any wet surfaces in the park that are shaded will continue to be wet, damp, and cold for a longer period after the shadow passes."

Other neighborhood opponents expressed concern about the displacement of existing commercial tenants at the lots that were to be redeveloped into housing, or otherwise bemoaned the impacts on precious open space in an area of the city sorely lacking in it.

These arguments proved persuasive for some commissioners, with one saying that she'd "never supported any shadow on any park unless a project was 100 percent affordable or served a community purpose larger than private development."

Nevertheless, commission voted to approve the project in a tight 4-3 decision.

That did not end the controversy, however. SOMCAN then appealed to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, arguing that there had been insufficient study of the shadow question.

This time, the group was luckier, convincing a unanimous board to send the project back to the Planning Commission for further review. Given how fast costs for materials and labor are rising in the Bay Area, a delay of even a few months can cost developers hundreds of thousands of dollars.

This gives SMCAN incredible leverage to get more concessions from Golden Properties; possibly getting the developer to agree to a reduction in the size of their Folsom project, or an increase in the number of below-market-rate units it will include.

This series of events is hardly unique to the Folsom project. Indeed, it bears a striking similarity to another proposed San Francisco apartment project profiled by Reason.

In that case, property owner Robert Tillman has struggled for years to get permission to redevelop a laundromat he owns into 75-unit apartment building in the neighboring Mission District over the objections of community activists who've argued that his laundromat is a historic resource, and that the shadow it would cast on a nearby school park would be detrimental to the health and safety of neighborhood children.

A big difference between the two cases is that the Board of Supervisors' decision to delay the Folsom project has earned it some sharp criticism from San Francisco Mayor London Breed.

"You cannot claim to be pro-housing and then reject projects like this one," tweeted Breed, a self-identified YIMBY (Yes in my Back Yard) who won election in June 2018 on a pro-housing platform. "Low- and middle-income folks continue to be pushed out of our city. Average rent for a one-bedroom apartment is ~$3,600. We. Need. More. Housing."

The irony is that Breed, in one of her last acts in her previous job as city supervisor, bowed to the demands of neighborhood activists, and voted to delay Tillman's project for lacking sufficient shadow study.

NEXT: He Was Tased, Arrested and Totally Innocent. Now He's Suing.

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  1. Don’t those damn fools know that sunshine CAUSES CANCER??!!!
    AND contributes to global climate warming change???

    1. I basically make about $6,000-$8,000 a month online. It’s enough to comfortably replace my old jobs income, especially considering I only work about 10-13 hours a week from home. I was amazed how easy it was after I tried it?

      HERE? http://xurl.es/Reason43

  2. Leftists have no perspective.

  3. Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows! And he knows these “good” people would rather have others living on the streets, what evil sacks of shit.

  4. The irony is that Breed, in one of her last acts in her previous job as city supervisor, bowed to the demands of neighborhood activists, and voted to delay Tillman’s project for lacking sufficient shadow study.

    Priceless! You cannot make this stuff up; truth is stranger than fiction, because fiction has to sound plausible.

    Although their self-eating destructive binges will make an unholy mess before they are done, they are sowing the seeds of their self-destruction, and sometimes it seems like they aren’t even sowing those seeds, just eating them right from the seed corn bin. Chowing down like pigs at a trough.

  5. Well of course they’re not pro-housing. They already have houses and a housing shortage only drives the price of their houses up. That kind of economics they do understand.

  6. lacking sufficient shadow study

    ROFLcopter. That has to be one of the best prog do-nothingisms I’ve ever read.

    At the risk of repeating the obvious, I think it’s clear that the point of the SFO Planning Commission and all of the “Community Action Networks” is to make sure no housing ever gets built in San Francisco, especially the “affordable” kind. The dirty little secret of progs is that they don’t want to live next door to poors and druggie trainwrecks any more than I do; they’re just a lot less honest about it.

    1. “affordable housing’ is a ridiculous buzzword from the left. That concept needs to die. Housing is Housing.

      What these idiots mean is well you can build that housing complex if you charge some people more and other people less for the same units. How about you can charge whatever for your own property.

      Seriously though, why would anyone want to life in SF. I live in San Jose and SF is literally a shithole. There is almost nothing appealing about that city at all. People lie to themselves about how great it is to live there

      1. In SF, ‘affordable housing’ is set at some percentage below ‘market-rate housing’ average prices.
        It will come as a surprise to the idiots occupying the Board seats that a developer, in order to make a profit, raises the prices of the ‘market-rate’ units in order to sell the others at below-market, thereby raising the average market-rate’ prices.
        Rinse and repeat.
        And BTW, I disagree about SF. It is one of the loveliest places on earth, great restaurants, music, etc. The problems have nothing to do with geography, and everything to do with the city (and state) government(s).

  7. Other than the cool name, Breed first brings to mind that NY upstate House rep who was highly rated by the NRA, but as soon as she sniffed Hillary’s Senate seat, she pivoted on a thin dime to gun control to get those NYC votes and DNC spotlight.

    If it weren’t for spin, politicians wouldn’t have nuttin.

    1. Sniffed Hillary’s seat? Now how am l supposed to get that image outa my brain?

      1. You can’t, it won’t twerk, I mean won’t work.

  8. They should be afraid as fuck of Shadows. The Shadow Knows.

  9. This is a shadow that falls on the only multi-use public park in SoDoSoPa.”

    1. Move it to Shi Tpa Town.

  10. All Hail Their Most Royal and Holy Board of Supervisors and Their Most Holy and Royal Plans to Keep San Francisco not only Expensive but a Literally Shitty Place to Live !!!

    All Hail. !!!!

    1. Hail yes!

    2. You know who else liked hailing a lot?

      1. Mother Nature?

  11. Yes, we need more housing, but this new apartment building would cast a shadow on the homeless encampment nearby!!

    1. You can hardly expect the junkies to shit and shoot up in the shade, now can you?

  12. living in the bay area —- progs refuse to understand economics. its everyone elses fault for high housing costs except them and the predictable outcome of how they vote

  13. the new building would cast too much shadow on a nearby park.

    Umm.. I’m pretty sure that’s racist.

    1. Have you never heard of The White Shadow?

      1. Not THAT’s racist!

        I watched it back in the day, but a white man giving advice to black kids? Couldn’t get made today.

  14. This is baffling.

  15. It’s absurd. $3600/mo rents are ridiculous.

    1. They really are. In Denver, prices have risen dramatically the last decade, but without SanFran levels of stupidity, developers are busy building more apartments, so eventually they’ll over build and prices will drop.

      1. Can’t wait. Kind of more expensive then I thought it would be, but then again I fucked up and live in Boulder.

    2. “It’s absurd. $3600/mo rents are ridiculous.”

      Anyone claiming to know what a ‘fair price is’ is full of shit.

  16. Meh. I kinda get it. At least, I would someplace that gets cold and snow. 65 units is a pretty tall building, and 18% less sunlight would keep the shady parts covered in ice all winter. I’m not sure why the one guy thinks shade being cast on public property is worse than it being cast on “someone’s backyard”.

  17. Britschgi didn’t specifically mention this, but you can infer it from this:
    “Indeed, the proposed six-story building would, on the longest day of the year, cover an additional 18 percent of nearby Victoria Manalo Draves Park”
    The reason it would do so on June 21st is simple; it’s to the north west of the park, and it’s only in Summer when SF is south of the apparent path of the sun. Further, it is only a couple of hours near twilight when that is true; the rest of the day, the sun angle is south of the park.

    “…said one member of SOMCAN, who also stressed the severe impact of the building’s shade, saying “any wet surfaces in the park that are shaded will continue to be wet, damp, and cold for a longer period after the shadow passes.””
    Folks, being that it doesn’t rain in coastal CA in the Summer, and the shadow will affect the park after whatever day-time Summer heat SF gets, this idiot should have been flagged for outright bullshit and penalized to Oakland.

    1. “this idiot should have been flagged for outright bullshit and penalized to Oakland.”

      Having to live in SF will have to be punishment enough, I guess.

      1. “Having to live in SF will have to be punishment enough, I guess.”
        You have obviously not lived in either place, or you are blind.

    2. “The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.” – Mark Twain

      And he lived a few years in Buffalo.

      1. Pretty sure he never wrote that.

        1. “I definitely wrote that” – Mark Twain

  18. The Democrats reject reality for ideological purity.

    “Many states have sexual orientation and gender identity nondiscrimination laws, and all of them still have women’s sports. Arguments about transgender athletes participating in sports in accordance with their gender identity having competitive advantages have not been borne out,” Nadler said in his opening statement.

    In Connecticut, one of the states to which Nadler was referring, two male runners have dominated girls’ high school track. A female competitor called the male runners’ advantage “demoralizing.”

    Julia Beck, the head of a self-described radical feminist organization, testified against the bill.

    The Democrats’ bill would lead to a male invasion of female spaces, including on the athletic field, Beck said in her April 2 testimony. “Men will dominate female sports,” she warned.”

    1. “Men will dominate female sports,” she warned.

      Men and women aren’t the same? Stop the presses!

    2. “Julia Beck, the head of a self-described radical feminist organization, testified against the bill.”

      Is she one of those Trans Exclusionary Radial Feminists (TERFS) I sometimes hear about?

      1. Sorry, Julia, you’re going the way of the Mensheviks. Or Womansheviks. Whatever, history will pass you by on the way to a bright and more glorious etc. etc.

  19. Kapu! The park is stealing the apartment’s mana.

  20. So will the 49ers take the NFL’s best prospect, Ohio State defensive end Nick Bosa, if he isn’t taken with the 1st pick?
    Bosa, brother of LA Chargers pro bowl DE Joey, came out this week to say he’s deleting all his pro Trump tweets… because he might be drafted by San Francisco.
    I wonder if there will be protests?

    1. *best 2019 draft prospect

  21. Housing-Starved San Francisco Shoots Down New Apartment Project “Because It Would Cast Shadow on Nearby Park”. (*snicker*) Again.

    We all know that’s a bullshit excuse for NIMBYism. Everybody’s in favor of affordable housing the same way they’re in favor of mass transit and homeless shelters and free health clinics – build that shit for the poors somewhere else because we sure as hell don’t want it anywhere near us.

  22. It is an interesting point, how NIMBYism screws stuff up and is essentially hypocritical, but this one project is not going to make a dent, not even a scratch in the City’s perpetual housing crisis. SF is a beautiful place with lots to do, and lots of high paying jobs, and other jobs too. Even the crappy horrible neighborhoods are sought after, because they are slightly cheaper. That place is never getting any cheaper to live. But there is already a great low cost housing option. It’s called West Oakland. It’s cheap and located just next door. However, nobody talks about Oakland. It’s funny. I live in the Riverside County area, east of LA because it’s affordable, but read endless articles bitching about how expensive the rent is in La La land. People don’t want to adapt, and move, they want the government to step in and fix their problems for them. Sad.

    1. “…However, nobody talks about Oakland…”

      Not true; there’s plenty of talk. Unfortunately, Oakland is governed even worse than SF, and it you want to work in SF, there is one access only: The Bay Bridge.
      Yes, it’s far cheaper than nearly any place in SF; the market says Oakland is less desirable, and there are reasons for that.

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  24. Leaving the specifics of this OP aside, the use of “NIMBY” is as offensive as always. Almost invariably, the term is used in an attempt to shame people who object to having uncompensated losses inflicted on them by more powerful insiders wielding public power.

    Make it a point to notice how that works. Not infrequently, the people proposing the inflictions, and using the term, plan to escape those losses themselves, by imposing them on others elsewhere. Sometimes, the people accused have already been singled out for previous losses of a similar sort, which they have endured without too much complaint, and thus marked themselves as easy targets. Would-be libertarians, at least, ought to think twice before resorting to “NIMBY.”

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