Amendment propels Trinity Plaza project 

After expressing frustration over how the proposed 1,900-unit Trinity Plaza development came to fruition, the Planning Commission on Thursday approved for the second time a zoning amendment that puts the project back before the Board of Supervisors for a vote.

The commission’s second vote on the amendment came after the Board of Supervisors refused to adopt it in November 2006, as the project became bogged down over competing visions for how much affordable housing should be included.

In the coming weeks, the Board of Supervisors Land Use and Economic Development Committee is expected to hold a hearing on the proposed development, which would go in at the four-acre site on Market and Eighth streets.

When the development proposal first came forward it generated a firestorm of opposition, as it would have displaced the existing 360 low-income tenants at Trinity Plaza.

Supervisor Chris Daly, whose district includes the project site, stepped in and helped broker a deal with the developer, Angelo Sangiacomo. Sangiacomo agreed to set aside 360 of the 1,900 units for existing tenants at their current rents and put them under The City’s rent control rules.

At the time, the deal was expected to quell any opposition to one of The City’s largest housing developments.

Supervisor Jake McGoldrick, however, threatened the deal late last year when he asked for more out of the developer.

McGoldrick’s objection to the deal is over the amount of affordable housing. As it stands, 12 percent, or 185, of the total housing units — once the rent-controlled units are subtracted from the total units — would be offered at a below-market rate. "One hundred and eighty-five units is not enough," McGoldrick said. He said he wants to see 46 to 48 more units offered at below-market rate to reflect the recently adopted requirement of developments to set aside 15 percent of the units at below-market rate.

McGoldrick said that if Sangiacomo agrees to this, the project would be "just about across the finish line as far as I’m concerned."

Daly said it’s his understanding that the additional below-market-rate units would not be a problem and was optimistic all the issues could be worked out.

Sangiacomo’s representative, Jim Rubin, declined to comment.

The commission’s approval on Thursday allows the development to exceed zoning height requirements in the area from 150 feet to 180 feet.

"This is really a screwed-up planning process. This isn’t planning. It was a deal that was struck and we were forced to adopt planning code amendments to fit the deal that was negotiated across the hall," Commissioner Sue Lee said.

Commissioner Bill Lee, however, praised the deal along with the development, which he said would bring much-needed housing to the downtown area. "We’re protecting the present tenants that are there. And this is really groundbreaking. It hasn’t been done anywhere in the United States, and this is the key factor. I congratulate the developer here and the tenants for getting this," Lee said.

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