July 14, 2013

This Week At The Planning Commission: Preschool Vs. Traffic On Cesar Chavez

A look at Noe Valley projects in front of the Planning Commission this week. Information is provided by the Planning Commission, and taken from its published agenda. All hearings are on Thursday at 1:30pm, Room 400 in City Hall.

July 18, 2013

- south side between Guerrero and Dolores Streets, Lots 030 and 045 in Assessor's Block 6577 - Request for Conditional Use Authorization pursuant to Planning Code Sections 209.3(f), 209.3(j), 317, and 303 to increase enrollment at an existing preschool (d.b.a. Gan Noe Preschool) operating at 3771 and 3781 Cesar Chavez Street and establish a religious facility. Enrollment at the preschool would increase from 22 children to 42 children and the project would result in the removal of the dwelling unit at 3781 Cesar Chavez Street. The proposal does not include any significant alteration or modification to the exteriors of the existing buildings with the exception of minor changes to signage and fencing. The subject properties are located in a RH-2 (Residential, House, Two-Family) District and a 40-X Height and Bulk District.

Preliminary Recommendation: Approval with Conditions
In addition:
Request for Variance from Planning Code Section: 151, for parking, for a project proposing to increase enrollment at an existing preschool and establish a religious facility. Two off-street parking spaces are required for the proposed use but none would be provided. The subject property is located within a RH-2 (Residential, House, Two-Family) District and 40-X Height and Bulk District.
In sum, the Project Sponsor asks to expand the preschool, remove a dwelling unit and add a religious facility (d.b.a. Chabad of Noe Valley) that will have services and events throughout the week.

Planning states receipt of 20 letters from neighbors against the project, and receipt of a petition of 40 names in support (but doesn't indicate if those in support are from parents who want their kids in the preschool).

Planning recognizes there are some major issues, including:
The Project Sites are located on a heavily trafficked arterial street that is the main thouroughfare for access to Highway 101 from Noe Valley. It is unknown how the increase in children would affect traffic on the street but the sponsor has agreed to implement a traffic management plans whereby teachers would help facilitate student dropoff within the driveways and within a new loading zone located between the driveways and implement a staggered pick-up and drop-off.
But Planning staff recommend approval because:
Preschool/child care services are difficult to find in the City and those that operate often have long waiting lists. The ability of the City to provide these services will help its ability to attract and retain families in the City. Housing is also a scarce resource in the City. On balance, the need to help preschool/childcare services flourish in the City out weigh the benefit of retaining the existing dwelling unit
The only letters in support of the project included in the Planning Document are from the Project Sponsor.
Opposition has been led by neighbor Richard Rochman of Citizens Concerned about Cesar Chavez St. We've posted the PDF of their opposition here. It's well worth a read as this project will affect anyone who uses Cesar Chavez.

Planning contact is Michael Smith, (415) 558-6322.

Update (7/18): Lots of thoughtful testimony. Commissioners sensitive to both daycare/preschool issues and also use of the site as a religious facility, but want followup to assure that neighbors' concerns are addressed over the long term. Commission approved with conditions about operating hours, strict limits on number of students and noise mitigation, and addition of traffic monitoring on a 6-0 vote.

[SF Planning: 3771 and 3781 Cesar Chavez St Conditional Use (PDF)]
[Citizens Concerned about Cesar Chavez St: Opposition to Gan Noe's application
[Photo: Richard Rochman]


murphstahoe said...

And Murphstahoe's law of politics in SF is satisfied by the opposition.

"we therefore urge the Planning Commission not to approve the project until the project sponsor, the DPT [snip] and the relevant stakeholders including the San Francisco Bike Coaliton can meet and formulate a plan to ensure the safety of all who use this busy street.

Bicycles, people. Bicycles. This is why we cannot have nice things.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for pointing that out.

Next thing the dog lobby will chime in and complain that it interferes with their dog rights somehow.

Anonymous said...

I say let them make it a pre-school. Sorry your Stroller Valley home is going to have more kids around it.

sfthen said...

The Orthodox Jewish family that lives at 3771 bought the adjacent 3881 property after the owner died in 2009. Most likely any children attending will not be from the neighborhood and will not be arriving by bicycle, i.e., there will be a line of SUVs each schoolday afternoon picking up kids.

Anonymous said...

Most of the children who attend today are from Noe Valley and surrounding neighborhoods like Bernal Heights and Diamond Heights. I think 1 parent transports by bicycle. Everyone else either walks or drives.

Anonymous said...

Actually watched this hearing. What a show. This preschool is kind of out of control. Parents maybe should beware....

Anonymous said...

How about figure out a way to improve public transportation to reduce the use of cars in the city, instead of going after pre-schools which are needed to accommodate growth?!