Planning Commission Approves Trinity Plaza — Again

by Paul Hogarth on January 26, 2007

It’s déjà vu all over again. Yesterday, the Planning Commission once again voted 6-1 to approve the Trinity Plaza project – which will create 1900 units of rental housing at 8th and Market. This is the second time that the Planning Commission has approved this project – a product of intense negotiations between Supervisor Chris Daly, property owner Angelo Sangiacomo, and the Trinity Plaza Tenants Association. If it wasn’t for two Supervisors on the Land Use Committee, there would have been no need to send it back to Planning at all. What yesterday’s vote proved is that the project enjoys a broad consensus of support in the community, and should be seen to fruition.

The Trinity Plaza project will preserve 360 units of rent-controlled housing (possibly the first time that a landlord has ever agreed to put newly constructed units under rent control), in addition to the 285 affordable units required by law. It is the largest rental housing project that San Francisco has witnessed in 50 years – in a part of the City that desperately needs re-vitalization. Amazingly, the project will not expend any public funds – such as intervention by the Redevelopment Agency.

In August, the Planning Commission voted to approve this project. Once the Planning Department approves a project, it goes into effect unless the Board of Supervisors act within 90 days. On Election Day (right before the 90-day deadline), Supervisors Sophie Maxwell and Jake McGoldrick held a Land Use Committee meeting where the developer was not invited, and began asking questions about the project’s affordability.

Besides the questionable implications of holding a Board meeting on Election Day, Maxwell and McGoldrick’s actions came close to jeopardizing the entire project – as Sangiacamo threatened to walk away from the whole deal. Also, common protocol at City Hall is that if a project is in one Supervisor’s district, the other Supervisors will generally defer to his or her judgment. Trinity Plaza is in Chris Daly’s district — who helped negotiate this project.

Now the question on everyone’s mind is if the same shenanigans will happen all over again. Board President Aaron Peskin has chosen to keep both Maxwell and McGoldrick on the Land Use Committee, allowing for the possibility for further shenanigans. It also means that 1900 units of rental housing might never be built.

“Will the Board again allow two Supervisors from preventing the full Board from approving this project?” asked Randy Shaw, executive director of the Tenderloin Housing Clinic and editor-in-chief of Beyond Chron. “Will they continue to delay hundreds of tenants from obtaining improved living conditions at the same rent?”

If the Planning Commission’s actions say anything, it is unfair to give two Supervisors the power to scuttle a historic housing project in a district that they don’t even represent. “We just want to move on with our lives,” said Ken Werner, president of the Trinity Plaza Tenants Association. “It’s time that the project was approved and finalized.”

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