Board shuts down contentious condo tower plan 

The proposition to raise a 400-foot tower near the Transamerica Pyramid in North Beach was toppled Tuesday by the Board of Supervisors.

The 555 Washington St. development turned into one of the most politically charged proposals in recent years. The corkscrew-shaped condo tower would have stood 38 stories tall, or 400 feet, with 248 residential one- and two-bedroom units. The developer had scheduled a 2013 completion date.

On Tuesday, the Board of Supervisors approved two appeals of the state-required environmental impact review of the development, effectively killing the development. The vote was 10-0 in favor of the appeals; Supervisor Sophie Maxwell was absent.

“At this point, the project sponsor has spent $6 million to get to this stage,” project developer Andrew Segal said. “I have to be honest, I can’t recommend to my client that it’s worth spending an additional $1 million with no clear potential avenue for success. If we have to recirculate the EIR, I think we’re done.”

The California Environmental Quality Act is a state law that requires an environmental impact report detailing the significant environmental impacts of a development and recommendations on how to avoid or mitigate impacts.

The appeals were filed by San Franciscans for Reasonable Growth and the influential Telegraph Hill Dwellers, which said the report fails to adequately address such effects as traffic, shadowing effects and wind hazards.

Segal had told the board the report was “the subject of unparalleled public scrutiny” and is “accurate and complete.”

But opponents of the project have criticized the development on a number of fronts, saying it would cast too large of a shadow, is a taller building than the parcel was zoned for, would generate hazardous wind gusts and harm birds.

Supporters of the development said the project is desperately needed for the jobs it would create and add much needed housing.

“This appeal is probably less about environmental issues than it is about resistance to change,” said development supporter Tim Colen, executive director of the San Francisco Housing Action Coalition.

The Planning Commission had voted 4-3 to approve the environmental impact report.

Spiralling controversy

Details of proposed 555 Washington St. development: 

248 Residential units

400 Height, in feet

38 Height, in stories

332,000 Square feet of floor area

4,640 Square feet of ground-floor retail space

4 Levels of subsurface parking

215 Parking spaces

2 Car share spaces

Source: Planning Department

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