IOA Gets OK to Build New Structure

By Paul Kozakiewicz

The SF Planning Commission gave a controversial project in the Richmond District a thumbs-up in April.

The Institute on Aging, in harmony with another non-profit group, Bridge Housing, plans to develop the site of the closed Coronet Theater on Geary Boulevard into 150 units of senior housing, senior services, a conference center and office space for employees of the organizations.

Almost everyone who testified at the commission hearing cited the need for more senior housing and services in the City, but they differed on some of the project's proposals.

At the commission hearing, which was held because the project needed a Conditional Use Permit, numerous community members told commissioners during a five-hour hearing that the project was out of scale with the neighborhood, that the six-story building was too tall, and that the 67 underground parking spaces in the plan were inadequate.

Rich Warner, president of the Jordan Park Improvement Association, asked the commission to investigate the possibility of adding another level of underground parking to accommodate the needs of residents, visitors and workers at the site. He also expressed concerns over the use of the conference center in the evening, when parking in the neighborhood is most impacted.

According to Bridge President Carol Galante, parking at the project is sufficient because the SF Planning Code requires 56 parking spaces, 11 less then is being proposed. She said an extra story of underground parking could add another $5 million cost to the project, a large sum of money for a non-profit group.

She also said the conference center would mostly be used during the daytime so impacts to neighborhood parking should be minimal.

According to city Zoning Administrator Larry Badnier, the site of the project is zoned NC-3 (neighborhood commercial), which would allow for an 80-foot-tall building.

After hearing the concerns of local residents, the members of the Planning Commission unanimously OK'd the plan after adding a provision for 35 more parking spaces - to be provided by a valet parking service. After two years, an analysis will be undertaken to determine whether or not the valet parking should continue.

The Institute on Aging's new site, located at 3575 Geary Blvd., will allow the group to consolidate its 103 employees currently working at three Richmond District locations.

It is unknown if neighborhood groups will appeal the Planning Commission's decision to the SF Board of Supervisors. The district's supervisor, Jake McGoldrick, has said he would support the project if it comes up for appeal.