January 23, 2015

The Big Reveal: Real Foods Building Presentation

Last night there was a pre-application community meeting for the project to (finally) replace the Real Foods building on 24th Street. Turnout was solid – all the chairs were filled, mostly with longtime Noe Valley residents who touted their tenure in the neighborhood as a badge of honor when giving comments. Few look like they take a shuttle bus to work. One person described herself as an “oldster” - a term that generally described the room.

Scott Wiener was the MC of the meeting, first giving the floor to Peter Gabel. Peter spoke of the recent passing of Greg Gutknecht and noted that there will be memorial potluck Sunday at 3pm at Valley Tavern.

Then Scott took the floor. We didn’t record what he said, but here’s a close approximation:
The Real Foods space has been vacant for more than a decade. In my 4 years in office, a week doesn’t go by that I don’t get an email or tweet from someone in the neighborhood asking why it’s empty and what can we do about it.

A year ago, someone in the neighborhood who wishes to remain anonymous introduced us to the head of Neutraceutical Corporation, the owners of the building. Three of us flew to Park City, Utah for a meeting with senior management that was supposed to take just half an hour and ended up being a very friendly 3 hour meeting. By the end of the meeting, Neutraceutical had committed to moving forward to make good use of the space and build a mixed use retail and housing space. Those plans are now moving forward.

As is common in a conditional use development that needs to appear before the planning commission, we are convening a community meeting to hear feedback on the plans. There are a lot of politics associated with this space and we're all entitled to our opinion. However, tonight we are looking to the future - to something we've all wanted, which is not a vacancy in the former space. The goal here is to listen with an open mind and have a productive dialog.
Scott then turned the floor over to Sergio Diaz from Neutraceutical (who was involved in the labor settlement with the employees of Real Food). Sergio nervously thanked everyone for coming and hastily handed the meeting over to Brian Liles and Julie Jackson, principals at Jackson Liles Architecture (Julie is also a proud parent and member of the PTSA at James Lick Middle School). They proceeded to go through a series of slides about the existing site, the plans, and the things they took into consideration when thinking about the design.

First, let's make sure we know what's allowed at the existing site:
  • The lot is 50' wide and 114' deep, requires a 28.5' rear yard and is zoned for 40' in height. Rear yard required: 28.5'.
  • The Noe Valley Commercial District prohibits office space on the 2nd floor of new construction.
  • A Conditional Use permit may (or may not) be required for whatever moves into the ground floor.
Here's what was proposed last night:
  • The retail level has 14' ceilings and is 3345sf – slightly smaller than the former Real Foods space. The space could be divided into two storefronts with 1470sf and 1875sf.
  • Four 2bd/2ba loft-style condos. The two facing 24th St are 1226sf; the south-facing units are 1540sf and all have decks.
  • The terraced design will allow more light onto the street and keep it inline with the surrounding buildings like Fresca and The Bagel Shop.
  • The façade will have wood siding on it's upper levels and stone facing the sidewalk at the retail level. Trees will green the sidewalk.
  • Neutraceutical pledged once again to not open a store on site - they will lease the ground floor.

The meeting was then opened up to public comment, paraphrased here to give a sense of the tone and who goes to these meetings:

  • Neighborhood architect says: Thoughtful, addresses the streetscape, good usable units on 24th St. I have no negative comments.
  • I applaud Scott Weiner for his efforts here – we have an opportunity to create a great space. Good things have come out of Real Foods closure including the Farmer’s Market and Town Square – here’s to more.
  • The façade is ugly– the masonry blocks look better suited for Van Ness than 24th St.
  • The drawings are generic – there's an opportunity here to do something that defines the neighborhood instead of 2 small skinny retail spaces.
  • The terraces are very hipster-like – too hip for our neighborhood. I'd like hipsters to stay away.
  • “Where are the people going to park? This is bullsh*t!”
  • Angry lady living at 3933 24th St/next door over the bagel shop: The building is dilapidated because Neutraceutical ripped off the roof – they’re a bully of a company that doesn’t give a crap. Don’t know why we’re all praising them.
  • The street doesn’t warrant those terraces. I don’t to know who’s living there and what they’re doing – I don’t think there should be terraces.
  • I live near the senior housing down the block – relatively new project – a year later there was no parking, there are 3 residences with 6 cars and it’s a nightmare; also, the design is hideous and doesn’t fit in.
  • No amount of bike lanes is going to make parking easier.
  • What about trash bins and recycling? The design doesn’t show bins for those.
  • What about parking and middle income housing?
  • I live on Jersey with my backyard facing this building – I’m worried about privacy from the decks and the placement of mechanicals (noise).
  • I’d love to sell my single family home and live out my retirement in a one bedroom on 24th St and walk my grandchildren down a sidewalk without curb cuts.
  • Why have a two story elevator to a two story loft with stairs?
  • Please make the retail not be a nail salon, title company or bank.
  • Design is nice contextually. Different heights and styles. Why not make more units that are smaller to attract younger buyers instead of car owners?
  • No matter what is built, please continue to work with the neighborhood.
  • Our community is happy to see change – it’s been blighted for 10 years. Let’s not shoot for lowest common demoninator. I’d like to see better options than a brew pub or having Whole Foods use it for their food use facility. Let’s make it like the Ferry Building with food stalls or carts – something innovative.
We asked Jackson Liles today what they thought of the process and what changes they may be considering. They said they enjoyed the process and are sorting through all the info. They will work with the design team over the coming weeks, but have not settled on a direction yet. We'll keep you posted.

[NVSF: Coming Soon: Plans To Develop Real Foods Building]
[Photo: Noe Valley community meeting #realfoods]


Anonymous said...

Cole Hardware! Please! Please! Please!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the synopsis of the meeting. Public comments are always both entertaining and interesting.

Overall, I think that this is a really good plan, one that I hope the majority of Noe Valley residents would embrace. I agree not everything in the plan is perfect but overall it is better than I expected. Also, I applaud them for using a local architect.

I agree that the terraces in the front of the building are not ideal, only because it would detract from the front elevation on the street and I can't imagine that a north facing terrace would be that pleasant anyway. I would instead bring the building elevation level with the store front below and give the residents upstairs larger windows.

I disagree with the comment about parking. There is a generational shift to not owning a car - on purpose. I don't think that these units would attract car people. They are so well located a car would be a hindrance.

I see how the back neighbors on Jersey street would object to the terraces overlooking their property, but I hope that some design changes could easily remedy these issues.

Another thought would be to increase the residential units to 6, four one bedrooms in the front and two in the back. Perhaps though the lot is only zoned for four units. I think that density is a good thing, others may disagree.

Overall, I am pleasantly surprised and I hope that this project goes forward quickly.

Anonymous said...

Given that we have lost steet parking spaces to designated zip cars or the like, I am okay with no garage. They can Zip it!

Anonymous said...

They cut the comment about "no hipsters". I thought that was the best one :)

Anonymous said...

@Anon 3:37 - The hipster comment is there under Meh