The battle of Brotherhood Way

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Judge Kopp: Did anyone read his brief?
SF Newspaper Co. Inc. photo

Brotherhood Way is a creature of another era. Tucked between the San Francisco Golf Club and ParkMerced, it was long known as Stanley Way. But in 1958, under Mayor George Christopher, the city, which owned all of the land on the south side of the street, turned that property over to a long list of religious institutions and renamed the street to reflect its role as a place for houses of worship. It’s now home to six churches or synagogues and nine religious schools. It has its own (religious) neighborhood association.

And this quiet little corner of the city has been the scene of a pitched battle over a plan to build 182 housing units on an empty patch of land on the north side of the street.

Opponents of the project say the area was set aside for educational and religious uses, not housing -- and they argue that the expansion of ParkMerced will add too much congestion to the area. Supporters say the west side of town needs to acept more housing and more density.

It’s gotten ugly: At one point, the Archbishop himself ordered the pastor of St. Thomas More Catholic Church to quit agitating against the development. Sean Elsbernd, who represented the district for eight years, infuriated neighbors when he supported the project, and later apologized for his insensitivity to their concerns.

And seven years after the Planning Commission and the supervisors gave the project a green light, it still hasn’t broken ground.
Now the developers are ready to go -- and the churches, aided by retired Judge Quentin Kopp, are trying once again to shut it down.

Kopp’s been arguing for some time now that the project needs to go back for a new permit because too much time has passed and nothing has happened. But he’s got another argument, too, and he brought it to the Board of Appeals Jan. 9. See, the original deal had a problem with transit access, since there isn’t enough Muni capacity along Brotherhood to handle 300 or so new residents. So the developer agreed to build two pedestrian walkways from the project up to Font Blvd. in Park Merced. But according to Kopp’s appeal, ParkMerced management never agreed to the easements that would be necessary to build a path through its property.

Instead, in 2008, Zoning Administrator Larry Badiner unilaterally changed the requirement, allowing for one footpath to the edge of Park Merced -- with some vague agreement that later there might be an extension to the Muni stop. That, Kopp argues, should have triggered a new Conditional Use application and a new hearing. Oh, and in the meantime, ParkMerced has just moved to greatly expand the size of its complex, so maybe that should be considered, too.

The Board of Appeals rejected Kopp’s arguments, but he’s petitioning for a rehearing, in part because the board chair wasn’t present for meeting. Kopp argues that this is a quasi-judicial board -- “and you don’t go before the Supreme Court with only eight of the nine members present.” Under city rules, though, four out of five is a quorum and able to hear the matter.

Kopp has another argument, too -- one that’s unusual, perhaps unique: He claims none of the board members actually read his original appeal brief.

Kopp, see, asked during the hearing if all of the members had read the papers he submitted, and none of them responded affirmatively. “It is appearent and inferable that no members of the short-handed Board of Appeals had read Appelants’ brief before the hearing, or at all,” the motion for rehearing states. “The manifest failure of the four members present to real Appellants’ carefully-prepared brief constitute extraordinary circumstances and injustice.”

I’ve been able to reach two of the board members, Frank Fung and Darryl Honda, and both insist they read the brief. “I read every case in its entirely,” Fung said, “and so does everyone on this panel.” Honda, who is new to the board, also said he read the documents. “I bust out the highlighter pen and go through all of the briefs in every case,” he said.

So why didn’t they answer Kopp’s question? Well, Fung says, it took them all by surprise: “I don’t think any one has every asked that before.”

I'll let you know if the petition for rehearing is accepted.

Comments

Judge Kopp's efforts are entirely in keeping with a longstanding, entrenched culture among older residents on the City's westside where I live that opposes ANY new housing or increased density. They believe that an implicit contract exists between the single-family homeowners and the City that entitles them to preserve the current suburban land use patterns in perpetuity. More sensible land use? More transit? Absolutely not, it threatens free parking! To say that they're privileged and entitled doesn't convey the fullness of their opposition to change.

A view I've heard expressed with startling frankness over the years in meetings held in very comfortable living rooms in D7 is that, "New housing can be built here only when Hunters Point and the Bayview are filled up."

Unfortunately for Judge Kopp, the opponents of 800 Brotherhood Way filed a lawsuit in court attempting to stop the project and lost. Its permits have been upheld at every stage. When financing is secured, it will get built. Other NIMBYs have also filed suit against Parkmerced and should expect similar results.

Simple fairness demands that westside residents agree to accept their share of new housing and increased density.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 22, 2013 @ 10:49 pm

into neighborhoods composed of single-family homes? There's no open space in most of the neighborhoods of D7 and even when a detached home is demolished it's not possible to cram in an apartment building into that space.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Jan. 22, 2013 @ 11:03 pm

1. And if there is open space, as in this case, they'll fight it anyway.

2. Somehow people knew how to "cram" apartment buildings into spaces 100 years ago. Must be one of those lost arts...

Posted by baklazhan on Jan. 25, 2013 @ 11:27 am

I would expect than that your neighborhood be it st. francis woods, west portal, Ingleside, or any other home area, is ground zero for the next development project for the west-side.

lets hear where you live, and than discuss the density that is needed in your neighborhood.

Posted by goodmaab50 on Jun. 14, 2013 @ 5:48 pm

There's LOTS of room to put housing on the Westside and still stay out of RH-1 single-family neighborhoods. Besides 800 Brotherhood Way, there's Parkmerced (coming), Ardenwood, Crestmont, not to mention the Taraval and Judah transit corridors that are woefully underused. Geary, too, in the Richmond. These corridors have had enormous investments in transit. But they're characterized by small, old one- and two-story commercial buildings as well as small parking lots.

It's part of the NIMBY narrative - we can't possibly accept new housing out here - it's completely built out! Build on the Eastside - it's already dense there and our parking is tough enough as is!

Posted by Guest on Jan. 23, 2013 @ 6:08 am

typically has no truck with the kind of mindless, kneejerk, self-defeating NIMBY'ism that we see on the east side.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 23, 2013 @ 6:49 am

I do believe the real term for nimby ism are those groups and individuals that were opposed to density behind stonestown or along ocean ave and west portal prior. If your theory is that tearing down older neighborhoods without proof of deterioration is AOK, you are accepting of the Fillmore displacement, future Bay View Hunters Point and Treasure Island Displacement, and should be AOK with any future plans to demolish St. Francis Woods and Ingleside Terraces if your ok with Parkmerced's destruction......

Judge Kopp is dead on the money and is the only real sheriff on the west side of town in regards to planning. Without the infrastructure in place and by ignoring joint impacts per CEQA the cummalatively important impacts such as SFSU-CSU's master plan and Parkmerced's vision projects along with Ardenwood and possibly stonestown must be revisited especially 800 brotherhood way where the prior owners of Parkmerced in a back room development landgrab by the famous firm of Farella Braun and Martell garnered this land development and pushed though its approval with Sean Elsbernd vs neighborhood groups.

A conditional use permit expired and an issued statement by than suspect Zoning administrator Laurence Badiner should be reviewed and the conditional use permit re-submitted for review by the public with adequate time to submit comments.

That is the publics right!!!!!!

Posted by Guest on Jan. 23, 2013 @ 4:51 pm

In the case of the Fillmore displacement people were forced to sell their homes. I (and many proponents of density) would be happy just to allow people to make decisions about the properties they themselves own. In addition, much of the result of the Fillmore displacement was LESS dense than what it displaced.

Posted by baklazhan on Jan. 25, 2013 @ 11:32 am

I do believe the real term for nimby ism are those groups and individuals that were opposed to density behind stonestown or along ocean ave and west portal prior. If your theory is that tearing down older neighborhoods without proof of deterioration is AOK, you are accepting of the Fillmore displacement, future Bay View Hunters Point and Treasure Island Displacement, and should be AOK with any future plans to demolish St. Francis Woods and Ingleside Terraces if your ok with Parkmerced's destruction......

Judge Kopp is dead on the money and is the only real sheriff on the west side of town in regards to planning. Without the infrastructure in place and by ignoring joint impacts per CEQA the cummalatively important impacts such as SFSU-CSU's master plan and Parkmerced's vision projects along with Ardenwood and possibly stonestown must be revisited especially 800 brotherhood way where the prior owners of Parkmerced in a back room development landgrab by the famous firm of Farella Braun and Martell garnered this land development and pushed though its approval with Sean Elsbernd vs neighborhood groups.

A conditional use permit expired and an issued statement by than suspect Zoning administrator Laurence Badiner should be reviewed and the conditional use permit re-submitted for review by the public with adequate time to submit comments.

That is the publics right!!!!!!

Posted by Guest on Jan. 23, 2013 @ 4:51 pm

I took my dogs for a walk down Brotherhood Way. I was devastated to see what had been done to the area. The trees are gone as well as the green vegetation for what? More housing? Do you stupid people even know what you have done? No trees, no birds, no racoons, no more nature.... You destroyed something with a purpose...Selfish, selfish bastards.........I believe in all mighty God not in the almighty dollar.....

Posted by Guest 1 on Mar. 01, 2013 @ 5:14 pm

There was a family of coyotes living there too. Wonder where they went when construction started?

Posted by Guest on May. 10, 2013 @ 2:25 pm

Hi there, I saw the mother coyote two nights ago 5/26/13 at 10:33pm in Parkmerced at the Eastern corner of Chumasero and Font.

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Posted by Milwaukee Locksmith on Apr. 22, 2013 @ 1:08 am

Funny how you can characterize Brotherhood Way like that, implying it needs to make way for a new era, and yet expect the the southeast side of the city to be frozen in amber.

Posted by Hortencia on May. 29, 2013 @ 6:47 am

we suggested utilizing the Mills-Act preserving the low-scale of parkmerced, while replacing the existing un-retrofitted towers, and infill.

that is not freezing anything....

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Brotherhood Way is a four-lane, tree-lined promenade that stretches from Lake Merced, across Junipero Serra Boulevard and ends at Alemany Boulevard. It is the home of the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church, the Krouzian-Zekarian-Vasbouragan Armenian School, the Congregation Beth Israel and the Brandeis-Hillel Day School. It is also the home of the San Francisco Golf Club and a pair of small parks.

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