We love our neighborhood.

Noe Valley is one of the most desirable neighborhoods in San Francisco for very good reason. Longtime residents and newcomers alike are attracted to our neighborhood's vitality. Its shops, restaurants, walkability, and comparatively excellent public transit are its defining features — much more than its individual buildings.  

However, just because the neighborhood is already awesome doesn't mean it can't get even better.

We have a collective responsibility to grow.

San Francisco, and the Bay Area at large, is experiencing an unprecedented housing affordability crisis due to decades of failed housing policy. Housing supply is a classic tragedy of the commons — a situation in which individuals acting independently and rationally according to their self-interest behave contrary to the best interests of the group as a whole by depleting a common resource.

It doesn't have to be this way. For too long, activism has focused on what we shouldn't do rather than we should do. Progress Noe Valley amplifies citywide and regional efforts as one of San Francisco's first hyperlocal neighborhood groups focused on supporting and nurturing smart and environmentally responsible growth. 

Building less in affluent neighborhoods spurs displacement in nearby gentrifying neighborhoods.

We embrace where we are on the map and its urban identity. Noe Valley boasts thriving commercial corridors, proximity to the best that San Francisco has to offer, and easy access to both public transit and freeways for commuters. We may not be in the heart of the city, but we are a city neighborhood and not a suburb.

When urban neighborhoods like ours resist infill in the name of environmentalism or preservationism, it has the perverse effect of creating pressure for sprawl elsewhere. Developing new land on the suburban fringes is far more costly to the environment than densifying existing neighborhoods. 

Noe Valley cannot and should not singlehandedly solve the housing affordability crisis, but we can do our part.

Given current trends, it's unlikely that Noe Valley itself will become very affordable any time soon. However, by accommodating a reasonable amount of additional housing here, it helps satisfy overall demand and reduce market pressure to convert less premium units to luxury housing in other neighborhoods that are struggling with gentrification.

The good news is that existing zoning guides responsible growth.

The good news for those who worry about change is that densifying existing neighborhoods is inherently gradual and most often means an addition here and a new unit there. Much of it can barely be seen except by adjacent neighbors.

Most of Noe Valley is zoned RH-2 for up to two units per lot and up to 40' of height, which feels like 30' due to setback requirements at the front and back. Here's the zoning map. The taller buildings in these areas are three to four stories. We think this is very reasonable for an urban neighborhood. Keep in mind that Paris, arguably one of the world's most charming cities, is generally six stories in a neighborhood like ours.

"One of the things that makes housing development different in San Francisco compared to other major U.S. cities is that building permits are discretionary rather than as-of-right. In other cities, if a developer already matches the existing zoning and height restrictions of the city plan, they can get issued a permit relatively quickly." [1] We value our uniquely San Francisco neighborhood input process, but we aim to be a voice of reason for the greater good.

Best of all, gently increasing density supports more of what we love.

More neighbors to patronize local businesses More shopping and dining options
More neighbors riding public transit  More frequent service and/or higher capacity vehicles
More taxes collected per parcel Better funding for schools, police coverage, new public spaces

 

[1] http://techcrunch.com/2014/04/14/sf-housing/