City Hall Watch: Creative use of Octavia empty lots a boon for city 

Two parcels along Octavia Boulevard that could have sat fallow for years after a planned development was sidelined by the recession will instead be filled using creative temporary means.

The plots of land, between Hayes and Linden streets, will be filled with containers about 8-by-20 feet that will be ventilated, connected to electrical and water networks and filled with commercial activity like eateries and art galleries. One business expected to move in is Suppenküche, a nearby German-themed restaurant, which plans to operate a family-focused beer garden.

The deal to fill the sites, which was approved Tuesday by the Board of Supervisors, is with Oakland-based design firm Envelope A+D for a three-year lease on one parcel and a four-year lease on the other. Combined, The City will collect $7,000 per month.

“I like this idea very much,” said Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, whose district includes the parcels. “This swath of land in District 5 in the Octavia Boulevard has great prospects for great development, but because of the downturn in the economy those plans have been interrupted.”  

The parcels were among 12 vacant lots created when the Central Freeway was torn down in the 1990s after being damaged during the Loma Prieta earthquake.

The deal was spearheaded by the Mayor’s Office of Economic and Workforce Development. Michael Yarne, Mayor Gavin Newsom’s development adviser, has said realizing this creative use of the parcels was helped by the fact that The City owns the land.

“We’re lucky in this case because The City is the landowner,” Yarne said. “We can be proactive in what we do on the site.”

The idea of rolling out similar agreements for other vacant properties was brought up Tuesday.

“This is a fine template for other neighborhoods that also want to move forward in smart land use,” Mirkarimi said.

• Legislation to enact Laura’s Law, which would permit The City to order mentally ill people to receive out-patient treatment for those who do not voluntarily seek treatment, was sent back to a Board of Supervisors committee for further discussion.

• In a 9-2 vote, legislation was approved increasing the penalties from $500 to $1,000 for two crimes on Muni lines or near stations: “aggressive pursuit” — defined as “the willful, malicious or repeated following or harassment of another person” — and loitering while carrying a concealed weapon. Supervisors Chris Daly and John Avalos
opposed it.

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