by Dennis Richards, Land Use Chair
I am sure that you will agree that Duboce Triangle is one of the most livable neighborhoods in the city, and it’s right in the city’s center. Step a block in from busy Market Street and you find yourself in a verdant, peaceful oasis, conveniently situated right in the middle of all the major MUNI Metro lines.
Part of DTNA’s origin story in the early 1970s is the way we had the foresight to work with City Planning under then Director Alan Jacobs to create a conservation area to protect that peaceful feeling. At the time the neighborhood was in decline, with many buildings owned by absentee landlords and a great deal of “deferred maintenance.” Working with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and then what was the city’s building inspection department facilitating implementation of the FACE program, DTNA, along with a lot of hardworking local renters and residents, helped foster Duboce Triangle’s first renaissance.
Unfortunately before the construction of the MUNI Underground in 1982, new development was centered around the automobile. At many of the corners of Market Street and streets leading into Duboce Triangle stood service stations. In fact, there was even a service station at the corner of Duboce and Steiner Streets across from Duboce Park! Today the last remnant of that era are the two gas stations at the corners of Market and Castro.
At the turn of this century San Francisco started a planning project, dubbed the “Better Neighborhoods Plan,” that encompassed the eastern side of the city south of Market Street. The local implementation of the Better Neighborhoods Plan was the Market and Octavia Plan, which included most of Duboce Triangle, east of Noe Street.
DTNA was heavily involved in not only formulating the Plan and its objectives, but also the rezoning that accompanied the Market Octavia Plan to support its goals. The results of our hard work can be seen in the developments that were built with the new zoning such as the Whole Foods building at Market and Dolores, which replaced an auto dealership, as well as the buildings on three of the corners of Market, Sanchez and Fifteenth streets, two of which replaced gas stations. That rezoning, which “de-suburbanized” most of Upper Market, could be considered Duboce Triangle’s second renaissance.
If all goes well, Duboce Triangle will be experiencing its third renaissance in the next couple of decades, as the result of rezoning under the city’s Housing Element, which was required by the state of California as part of its long-term plans to address the dire undersupply of housing in California.
At DTNA’s February General meeting senior Planning staff presented their suggestions for rezoning the Triangle, and launched discussion on the Housing Element and its ensuing rezoning. The DTNA Land Use Committee has begun meeting again every month on the fourth Monday.
The Committee met in late April to lay down a plan for how the neighborhood will work with City Planning Staff to balance the additional units which Duboce Triangle will need to incorporate with the continued livability of the neighborhood.
On Monday May 15 twelve residents did a “walk around” of parts of the Triangle to get a feel for and to provide valuable feedback on what they liked about what exists today, and what could be improved to accommodate additional growth.
The group was unanimous that the Safeway site at Church and Market streets was the biggest opportunity site to build housing in the entire Triangle. Dehan Glanz, an urban design consultant and lecturer at Stanford University currently has one of his classes designing preferred alternatives for the Safeway site, and a team of DTNA Board members recently reviewed some of their ideas in an on-line presentation.
The walk-around group also agreed that there is room for taller development on Market Street, due to the width of the street, and the existing pattern of development of much taller buildings, compared to the interior blocks of the Triangle.
With the height limits on Market raised through the Market Octavia rezoning 15 years ago, we discussed why there are still many lots on Market Street where development hasn’t yet commenced, even with the benefit of a State Density Bonus Law which allows for a 50% height increase for a certain amount of affordable housing provided on site. High construction costs, doubtful financial institutions, and some amount of developer gamesmanship are all to blame.
The group ended our walking tour in the middle of an interior block on Fifteenth Street, where we discussed the appropriateness of adding additional height and bulk on individual lots, as well opportunities on lots that could be merged together. The general consensus was that increases in height should be limited in the interior blocks of the Triangle, and that it’s important to maintain the fine grain pattern of development in which the buildings provide front steps or “stoops” along our narrow lot lines, complexifying the pattern of the streetscape, with no long and blocky buildings.
We are encouraged by the neighbor engagement indicated by the strong turnout for the walking tour, and hope that it continues as DTNA works with the Planning Department to ensure that the rezoning, while creating development opportunities to provide the housing and the growth we need, also makes the Triangle an even more liveable and loveable place to be.
The DTNA Land Use Committee meets every fourth Monday of each month in the Gazebo, Plaza Level, Davies Campus, Sutter Health CPMC. All residents of the Triangle are welcome to attend. For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org, or check the website Upzoning 2023 page for updates.
DTNA and I look forward to working with all our Duboce Triangle neighbors as we pursue Duboce Triangle's third renaissance.
Upzoning 2023–2024 Blog