New zoning changes passed for Geary, Clement

by Ed Moy

At a SF Planning Commission meeting on July 14, commissioners passed a new ordinance, proposed by SF Supervisor Eric Mar, to amend the existing planning codes affecting neighborhood commercial businesses in the Richmond District. Later, the SF Board of Supervisors voted to OK the legislation.
The ordinance allows for several notable changes, including removal of a prohibition on large fast-food restaurants and the prohibition of formula retail pet supply stores and formula retail eating and drinking establishments in the Geary Boulevard "fast-food sub­district."
Additional changes include making video stores a principally permitted use on the ground floor in NC-3 and the Inner Clement and Outer Clement Neighborhood Commercial Districts (NCDs), along with allowing eating and drinking uses as principally permitted uses in the Inner Clement and Outer Clement NCDs if the total street frontage dedicated to using the sidewalk does not exceed 30 percent. If it exceeds 30 percent, a Conditional Use Permit would be required.
"We're trying to create a vibrant neighborhood, revitalize the neighborhood in the Richmond District, enhance the diverse fabric of the Richmond District, which is what I think brings a lot of people into the district from newcomers and old-timers and we want to maintain the unique character of our neighborhood," Mar said. "We don't want it to be a suburban strip mall of a neighborhood but a diverse, beautiful neighborhood that brings people from all over the world. The legislation is not targeting any one company, it's really about supporting a more livable community and we're working together with many groups to do that."
According to Mar, the ordinance came about after "many meetings with small business leaders, especially pet supply store owners, but also many other small business folks in the Richmond District and throughout the City."
For many, the major topic of discussion was the prohibition on formula retail pet supply stores.
Ann-Marie Rodgers of the SF Planning Department, did not like the specific limit on large pet stores.
"The department considered the prohibition on formula retail pet supply stores and believes this portion of the ordinance should be removed," Rodgers said. "The commission has recently considered proposals to add formula retail pet supply stores under the existing controls, which do require a Conditional Use hearing. It seems the existing controls, which allow you to use your discretion of each proposal and consider it on its own merits, is appropriate as this process allows for either an approval or disapproval as specific conditions warrant."
Mar said the Geary Boulevard corridor is a "key lifeline to the neighborhood and much of the legislation deals with that area."
"The zoning changes will encourage residents to access neighborhood-serving small businesses, lessening the environmental impacts of people coming to more formula retail stores while strengthening the neighborhood's vitality," Mar said.
Mar also stated that he would like to modify controls for the Inner Clement District from Arguello Boulevard to Funston Avenue and for the Outer Clement NCD, which includes Clement Street from 19th to 27th avenues.
"I think there's some great restaurants out there," Mar said. "So, we're modifying the NCD to state that eating and drinking uses are regulated to prevent over-concentration so the Conditional Use Permit process will apply there, as well."
A last-minute modification Mar made was to strike an amendment referring to a five-foot-high height bonus for active ground use units.
"We will not amend section 263.20 to permit a height increase of five feet to permit tall ground floor ceiling heights in ... bulk districts and NC3 zoning ... because we need to study this much more. Increasing the heights is an important feature in the legislation so we will be exploring future legislation, but not at this time.
"I want to preserve our unique character as a neighborhood and support our small and locally-owned businesses, and establish a new standard for how to support neighborhood-serving commercial districts," Mar said.
For more information on the SF Planning Commission and the NCD ordinance, visit the website at or contact Ann-Marie Rodgers at (415) 558-6395 or Mar at (415) 554-7410 or [email protected].