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Neighbors Unfazed by Hundreds of New Units Planned for UCSF Laurel Heights Site

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Hundreds and hundreds of new housing units are on their way to what is now a UCSF campus in Laurel Heights that sprawls across more than 10 acres, and, somewhat surprisingly, neighbors seem to be generally unopposed to the plans. Developers Prado Group and SKS Partners hosted a community outreach meeting last night for the Pacific Heights Neighborhood Association, and discussions about the massive new development were refreshingly drama free. Prado Group president Dan Safier and SKS managing partner Dan Kingsley opened the meeting by explaining the efforts they plan for working with neighbors on the project. Both emphasized that they live in Pacific Heights and are themselves part of the community—Kingsley even reminisced about attending Boy Scouts meetings as a child in the church where the meeting was held.

Prado and SKS are still in the very early stages of planning their new development and intend to get plenty of community feedback before submitting an official Preliminary Project Assessment to the Planning Department near the end of this year. One of the reasons that this team was chosen for the site was because of their strong community outreach track record, and they seem prepared to build on that reputation with this project. They are working with neighborhood associations from all of the neighborhoods adjacent to the project, including Pacific Heights, Laurel Heights, Jordan Park, and Anza Vista.

A design team is now in place, but no early designs were on hand at last night's meeting because the developers intend to hold a design session open to community members later this month. They have selected three architects to work on the project because it is so big, and all are local firms, not starchitects, which was noted to reassure neighbors that no dramatic guitar solo designs will be on their way to Laurel Heights. Solomon Cordwell Buenz, BAR Architects, and Jensen Architects will be joined by James Corner Field Operations, the landscape architecture design firm responsible for New York's High Line and the upcoming Presidio Parklands project, along with Meyer + Silberberg Land Architects.

The developers aren't sure exactly how many units of housing will be built on the site, but they mentioned that it is currently zoned for as many as 750. They are leaning toward making the development primarily rentals, but remained vague about the mix between high-end rental and condo. Townhomes could be a possibility, as could rehabbing the existing UCSF building and transforming it into apartments. One of their biggest goals is to make the development a mixed-use site with retail that opens up the California Street side to the neighborhood with a mix of stores in a similar vein to nearby Laurel Village.

When the floor opened for questions, the atmosphere was overwhelmingly civilized, especially for a city where community meetings have a propensity to devolve into shouting matches. Of course, gentrification is not the issue here, but the meeting also stayed free of the NIMBYism that often pops up in neighborhoods from Telegraph Hill to Potrero Hill. Expected questions about height limits, parking, and the green space that now takes up the corner of Euclid and Laurel streets were all raised, but there didn't seem to be any aggression or frustration toward the developers in the room.

The most strongly voiced opinion was from an attendee who mentioned that she can currently hear mechanical noises of the UCSF buildings from her bedroom window two blocks away and politely asked the developers to keep this in mind when planning the mechanical systems of their new building. They assured her that they would do noise studies and use modern mechanical systems that would be much quieter than those of the old UCSF building. Another attendee hoped that more grocery store space would be added because the nearby Cal-Mart is already crowded, and a third wondered if impact reports would look at quality-of-life issues in the neighborhood but didn't press the issue. The topic of affordable housing came up briefly, but the developers didn't have many answers about what the BMR-to-market-rate mix would be.

Prado and SKS are planning a community outreach and design process that will take two to three years. Neighbors will undoubtedly have questions and concerns along the way, but don't expect any Monster in the Mission-style protests or battle-of-the-waterfront uproars coming out of Pacific Heights anytime soon.

· Plans Afoot for Housing to Rise on UCSF's Laurel Heights Land [Curbed SF]
· UCSF Chooses Developers for Laurel Heights Campus Site [Curbed SF]
· Previous Coverage of the Presidio Parklands [Curbed SF]
· Mission Protesters Fight for Housing By Fighting Against It [Curbed SF]
· Potrero Hill NIMBYs Get Ready to Oppose 395-Unit Development [Curbed SF]
· Renderings Released for Controversial Rentals at 16th, Mission [Curbed SF]
· Opposition Organizes Against Jeanne Gang, SOM Towers in South Beach [Curbed SF]

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