Noe Valley Voice July-August 1997

Controversial Clipper Street Development Gets Go-Ahead

By Loren J. Bialik

The San Francisco Planning Commission stunned many Noe Valley residents this spring by approving a large housing development on the Clipper Street hill between Douglass and Hoffman streets.

At a May 22 hearing, 20 people lined up to voice opposition. Only one person spoke in favor of the project. Then, with little debate, the commissioners voted 4 to 3 to sanction the development. After the vote, several people at the meeting just stood there with their mouths open.

The project site consists of 36,295 square feet, a little over half an acre of land. Developer Raymond Wong will divide the six existing lots into 13 lots and build 22 homes.

There will be four one-family homes and three duplexes along Clipper Street, plus six duplexes on 25th Street.

Project architect and spokesperson Douglas Fong, of the San Francisco firm Design + Build, says the houses will range from 1,728 to 4,375 square feet. The homes are expected to sell for anywhere from $300,000 to $450,000.

After two years of revising plans, the architect is relieved to have the green light. "We're pleased with the Planning Commission's vote," said Fong. "We feel they understood the work we did with the community. We anticipate moving ahead with the project and would like to begin building before the rainy season."

But the residents who opposed the development are still reeling.

Noe Valley resident Barbara Martin, who has been fighting development on these lots for more than 16 years, says she was shocked by the commission's decision. "Three commissioners said the developer and neighbors should go back and work out their differences, but before I looked around, the vote was taken, and it was a done deal." Her Hoffman Avenue home will be dwarfed by the new houses.

The residents' group Friends of Noe Valley was also alarmed. The Friends have continually supported the neighbors in their quest for a more modest development on the Clipper Street hill.

Friends planning chair Claire Pilcher, a founding member of the 27-year-old organization, thinks it's important for the neighborhood to draw a line in the sand. "We're losing the very things we came to Noe Valley for -- charming houses, convenient shopping, and a sense of community -- because of the mayor's current policy on housing. His commission is approving larger developments than they would have accepted in the past," she maintains. "Do we have to be like Calcutta? For Noe Valley to be livable, there have to be restraints."

Last month, the Friends joined Martin in filing an appeal to the Board of Supervisors on the Clipper Street project. They need at least eight votes to overturn the Planning Commission's decision.