Commission rejects housing project after residents fight against shadows at park 

click to enlarge Victoria Manalo Draves Park could still retain 100 percent of its current sunshine allotment after a project that would have built a six-story housing unit adjacent to the park was rejected by a commission. Residents complained that the complex would cast a shadow on the park. - MIKE KOOZMIN/2014 S.F. EXAMINER FILE PHOTO
  • Mike Koozmin/2014 S.F. Examiner file photo
  • Victoria Manalo Draves Park could still retain 100 percent of its current sunshine allotment after a project that would have built a six-story housing unit adjacent to the park was rejected by a commission. Residents complained that the complex would cast a shadow on the park.

Dozens of South of Market residents donned "Don't evict the sunshine from VMD park" stickers Thursday in light of a vote on a proposed six-story, multi-family housing project they say would cast a shadow on the only public open space in their neighborhood.

The message was in reference to the developer, Sergio Iantorno, who is known to have evicted residents using the state Ellis Act, project opponents said. Residents opposed to Iantorno's new proposal at 190 Russ St., which would add shade to Victoria Manalo Draves Park, consider it his latest encroachment.

Following public comments at the Recreation and Park Commission meeting -- an overwhelming number from the Filipino population that resides near the park -- commissioners voted 5-0 to reject the residential project and advised the Planning Commission to follow suit.

"As stewards, we have to protect that park and increase the accessibility in high needs neighborhoods like District 6," said Commission Vice President Allan Low, who motioned to reject the project by Golden Properties, which Iantorno owns.

Created in 2006, the 2.5-acre park between Folsom, Harrison, Sixth and Seventh streets is the only multi-use park in the neighborhood, where there is an average of .17 acres of open space per 1,000 residents, compared to more than 25.01 acres in District 2.

The proposed multi-family housing complex reaching 78 feet would cast a shadow on the northern corner and entrance of the park from early April to early September and last between 16 and 42 minutes depending on the season, in the late afternoon to early evening, according to a shadow analysis report conducted by PreVision Design.

Currently, the park already experiences some shadowing. The shadow increase from the project would be .07 percent, which is below the threshold of 1 percent additional shadow recommended to be permitted under a 1989 memo with quantitative and qualitative considerations for evaluating shadows cast by structures.

Aside from the quantitative, it is the qualitative aspects that make the shadow a problem for the community, Supervisor Jane Kim said.

"Some may laugh about the importance of sunlight and the relevance of a shadow on land processes," she said. "But let's face it, San Francisco is a cold city and affected by sunlight."

Golden Properties held various meetings with community members and added one two-bedroom below-market-rate unit to the nine market-rate units proposed although not required, and would pay $140,724 in development impact fees to The City.

Some groups refused to come to the table, said Ryan Patterson, an associate with the law firm Zacks & Freedman, adding that community members had qualms over Ellis Act evictions the developer served.

"I feel like I have been pinned against the wall unfairly for actions that I personally have not done," said Paul Iantorno, son of Sergio Iantorno.

Among the residents who spoke against 190 Russ St. was Teresa Dulalas, 53, who received an Ellis Act eviction from the Iantornos and has resisted her eviction date on Dec. 27. She called the commission's rejection "a big victory against gentrification," particularly because three more multi-family housing properties are proposed on Sixth Street, ranging in height from seven to nine stories.

"It's something that we have been fighting for so many years," Dulalas said. "We just don't want any developer to build something and say, 'It's only a shadow.' No -- you're talking about our life, you're talking about our community."

About The Author

Jessica Kwong

Jessica Kwong

Bio:
Jessica Kwong covers transportation, housing, and ethnic communities, among other topics, for the San Francisco Examiner. She covered City Hall as a fellow for the San Francisco Chronicle, night cops and courts for the San Antonio Express-News, general news for Spanish-language newspapers La Opinión and El Mensajero,... more
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