Saving local industry

Pub date July 25, 2006
SectionEditorialSectionNews & Opinion

EDITORIAL It’s almost an axiom in San Francisco planning policy: High-end housing drives out industry. That’s only logical: When people buy million-dollar condos, they don’t expect to get woken up in the middle of the night by delivery trucks or deal with the smell of diesel fuel or look out their windows at barrels of chemicals. When the dot-com boom turned parts of South of Market into a housing mecca for the newly rich and hip, the problem became serious: Businesses (including some nightclubs) that had been around for years and were operating entirely within the law, conducting operations that were well within the existing zoning, found themselves under attack from an influx of residents who considered many of the traditional uses of the area to be nuisances.
As high-end housing creeps farther and farther into San Francisco’s industrial areas and the Planning Department continues to push for expensive housing in the southeast neighborhoods, the potential for even more clashes — which tend to end with an industrial business being forced either to leave or to spend a fortune revamping its operations — just grows.
The simple answer, of course, is to stop building pricey condos in industrial areas. But it’s unlikely that anyone at City Hall is going to put a total halt to housing construction in or near industrial areas, so at the very least there ought to be some protection for existing businesses. Sup. Sophie Maxwell has introduced legislation that would bar newcomers to an area from taking legal action to define existing legal industrial activities as public or private nuisances. That means people who move within 150 feet of a business that’s been around for two or more years and conforms to the local zoning laws would simply have to deal with the regular impacts of living next to industry. The law would also require that anyone selling a housing unit adjacent to an industrial area inform the buyers in clear language that there might be noise, odor, or visual issues. If that brings down the price of condos in the southeast, so much the better.
It’s a simple proposal that makes perfect sense. The supervisors ought to approve it. SFBG