Sunset Blueprint Addresses 5 Major Issues of Concern

By Thomas K. Pendergast

After a year of public outreach and six months of community workshops, District 4 Supervisor Katy Tang unveiled the Sunset District Blueprint last month, a statement of goals her office will pursue to improve life in the Sunset.

Tang describes it as a "living document" in her introduction: "We will revise and update the blueprint each year as we reach our goals and develop new ones," she writes. "When it comes to long-term actions, strategic planning is essential in order to work collectively as a community to ensure the best outcomes for our district."

The blueprint addresses five key areas: Children, families and seniors; public transportation and pedestrian safety; land use; economic development; and, general public safety related to emergency preparedness.

Regarding the first category of children, families and seniors, the blueprint says it will be addressed through targeted events, programming and infrastructure improvements.

"Our office will focus on city initiatives that target these populations, ensuring that the Sunset District is included in existing resources and programming and receives adequate funding for programming. We will continue to support our existing non-profits and encourage the creation of more organizations that will support our community.

"Given that the Sunset District has a small number of non-profits compared to other districts, we need to engage and bring more resources from outside the district to provide opportunities for them to interact with our residents directly. This, however, will take space and funding, and we must be creative in developing partnerships and opportunities to provide such services," the report continued.

Regarding resources, the blueprint recommends increasing early care and education provider participation in Preschool for All programs; facilitating more public and private partnerships between schools and businesses to enhance students' learning experiences and job opportunities; and creating one-stop shops to assist residents with social, educational and health services.

Among the goals identified for public transportation and pedestrian safety, the blueprint recommends:

• identifying the most utilized transit stops and transit connections to improve those locations for commuters;

• identifying the most hazardous intersections for pedestrians and motorists and implementing traffic-calming measures;

• working with city and state agencies to develop, design and implement traffic pedestrian and bicycle improvements along Ocean Beach, Great Highway, Sloat Boulevard, Lincoln Way, 19th Avenue and Sunset Boulevard, including pedestrian safety elements for pathways to heavily-used gathering spaces, family recreation areas and schools;

• installing pedestrian safety measures along the south side of Golden Gate Park, along Lincoln Way; and working with Muni on a pilot program to install cameras on light rail vehicles to ensure that drivers yield to embarking and disembarking passengers.

As for land use, the blueprint calls for keeping the Sunset residential but allowing for taller buildings, more local shops and restaurants.

"The City's housing production has not kept pace with the growing population. This has led to increasingly unaffordable housing prices and has made it more difficult for people to stay in San Francisco," the blueprint says. "Our City should respond to the housing challenge by prioritizing the creation of more housing to meet the high demand, particularly for those who do not qualify for subsidized housing but are still struggling to live in San Francisco. We must ensure that our City provides a diverse mix of housing supply to serve individuals and families of all economic levels. It is also crucial that we promote and enhance our city's assistance programs for homeownership."

The blueprint recommends identifying areas where additional housing can be built on underutilized lots and along transit and business corridors; creating more mixed-use developments; encouraging development of housing that serves a variety of household types; and supporting housing for middle income households.

A pie chart in the report shows what appears to be evidence that the middle class is getting squeezed out of San Francisco. Based on 2010 census data, it shows that 43 percent of the more than 800,000 people who call the City home are of either "low" or "very low" income levels, while 39 percent are of "upper" or "above moderate" incomes. This leaves 18 percent of the population in the middle-income bracket.

"A recent look at the cost of building in San Francisco shows it costs nearly $470,000 per 800 square feet, including costs to build affordable below-market-rate housing," says the report. "It is no surprise, then, that single-bedroom units are most commonly built to achieve the most financial benefits. However, these types of projects do not adequately accommodate families with children or seniors."

As for economics, the document focuses on the commercial corridors running along Irving, Judah, Noriega and Taraval streets.

Among the recommendations for these areas it says: recruit "anchor businesses to support and attract other neighborhood-serving businesses;" create an inventory of existing businesses and develop a plan to attract a wider variety of businesses that are currently not available to the community; develop a balance of day- and night-time businesses and activities; and create incentive programs, such as a Small Business Development Program, to attract small business to vacant storefronts."

As for emergency preparedness, it is noted in the report that the relatively low crime rates in the district mean that public safety resources can be extended further to things like dealing with really big disasters.

"Emergency preparedness is a large public safety concern for a district that borders the Pacific Ocean. The Sunset District, built on sand dunes in an earthquake-prone city, has a majority of attached, wood-frame houses. This makes our neighborhood prone to fire conflagration.

In addition, the growing body of evidence about climate change elevates the need for Sunset residents and stakeholder organizations to be better positioned to respond to and recover from issues such as powerful storms, heat waves, severe beach erosion and pandemics."

To address this issue, the document recommends developing: a program to create neighborhood stockpiles of food, water, medical and survival supplies; a district-wide emergency communication plan; a program to establish neighborhood emergency groups to facilitate an effective, coordinated response in the event of an emergency; and support for repairs and improvements to critical infrastructure that will allow San Francisco to quickly respond to and rebuild from a major earthquake or disaster.