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Neighbor Opposition to Potrero Hill Apartments Lasted Only 30 Seconds

Appeal on the strict legal definition of a bedroom held up the 127 unit project for weeks

Neighbors in Potrero Hill moved to block a 127 unit apartment development on Arkansas and 17th Street earlier this year, citing the technical, legal definition of a bedroom and holding the project up for weeks even after the Planning Department approved it back in March.

But after all was said and done, it took the Board of Appeals only 30 seconds to throw the objection out yesterday and send 88 Arkansas Street to its last stage of approvals.

The case against the building hinged on the "nested" design of the two-bedroom apartments, which places one room entirely inside the unit with no exterior window. Under the Eastern Neighborhoods Plan, that may not technically count as a bedroom, meaning that the building might not be allowed for lack of enough apartments of sufficient size.

Where things got weird was in a legal time warp over changes to the planning code last year. Speaking for the neighbors, lawyer JR Eppler said, "We’d be fine with nested bedrooms. What’s at issue is what’s required for an exception" to the planning code. The Planning Commission’s decision created "an absurdity" in the law, Eppler argued.

Apparently the city isn’t too worried about looking absurd now and then, because after half an hour of legal argument, it took the board members exactly 30 seconds to cast a unanimous vote against the appeal. A particularly long yawn would have been sufficient to miss the whole thing.

The Arkansas Street proposal, first floated in 2013, calls for five stories and 118,000 square feet worth of new apartments just across the street from Jackson Playground, backed by local developer Martin Building Company. MBC's Patrick McNerney defended the nested bedrooms, calling it "superior design" and pointing out that the company has built hundreds in the city already.