May 15, 2019

Upper Noe Neighbors
May 15, 2019


UNN Board members Olga, Chris, and Laura were joined by an additional twenty or so neighbors.  And of course, it was raining!

Our guests included Recology Public Relations Manager Robert Reed, Paolo Ikezoe from SF Planning Department, and Kyle Smeallie from Supervisor Rafael Mandelman’s Office.

First, Robert Reed (a neighbor who lives over on Bernal) from Recology discussed Recology’s efforts to ensure San Francisco manages its waste responsibly.  Highlights from his talk:

  • The big issue with recycling right now is that China is no longer accepting plastics and paper, when it used to be the largest buyer of this recycling in the world.  So, now it is a struggle for waste management agencies to find places to send recycling.
  • The good news is that San Francisco and Recology are leaders in recycling, and have good relationships with recycling mills.  Currently:
    • Recology has been able to recycle all paper.
    • Glass is recycled nearby in Modesto.
    • Compost is sent to California vineyards and farms.
    • However, there is no market for plastics anymore.  So far, though, Recology is still able to find places to recycle everything.
  • Statistics from Recology:
    • Receives 700 tons of recycling daily that’s sorted into 14 types.
    • Receives 800 tons of compost daily.
  • Since switching to larger recycling bins and smaller trash bins over the last 18 months, recycling in SF is up 10%, waste is down 10%, and composting is up 2%.
  • Even with recycling, plastic is a problem and polluting the planet.  Recology recommends the following measures to reduce plastic use:
    • Refuse single-use plastic containers
    • Reduce consumption of goods that use excessive plastic
    • Support pro-zero-waste efforts
  • One point of confusion was cleared up. Recology does not recycle items from the top bin of those new round public garbage receptacles and has no plans to do so. Logistically, that would be difficult because they use different trucks for waste and recycling. So, at best, those bins assist individual scavengers and reduce the need for them to dig through the trash. Bottom line, those receptacles are not official recycling points and shouldn’t be treated as such.
  • Check out more information on what Recology is doing at

Next, Paolo Ikezoe from the SF Planning Department provided an unbiased, “just the facts” presentation regarding SB 50.  (While this bill was tabled the next day, similar bills are likely to be proposed in the future, so the information is nonetheless helpful!).  Highlights from Paolo’s talk (full presentation can be viewed here:

  • SB 50 would:
    • Remove density limits in “jobs rich” and “transit rich” areas, and would increase height limits in certain of those areas.
    • Legalize 4-plexes statewide.
  • SB 50 would not:
    • Apply to properties where there has been any tenant in the last 7 years, or an Ellis Act eviction in the last 15 years.
    • Apply to communities sensitive to gentrification for at least 5 years.
  • SB 50 would most likely apply to:
    • Vacant properties
    • Non-residential properties
    • Owner-occupied single-family homes
  • In SF, the Richmond, Sunset, and SW SF would be most affected. Noe Valley would not see much effect because of the type of housing preferred here. Cardiotone at the corner of Day, would be an example of a property that could develop under this legislation to add 2 – 4 floors of apartments above the commercial space.
  • SB 50 and similar bills have been proposed because there is no debate at the state level that there is a housing shortage.  The governor has stated that California must build 3.5 million new units of housing by 2025.

Finally, Kyle Smeallie from Supervisor Mandelman’s office took questions and comments on blight and empty storefronts on Church Street.  Sup. Mandelman is aware of these issues, and the supervisors have been working on some options to combat commercial vacancies:

  • For example, opening a small business is currently very onerous.  On average, it takes 220 days. Supervisors are working to streamline the process Citywide, starting with Upper Market/Castro.
    • Another issue is that people may request discretionary review of applications to fill vacant properties.  It is not prohibited to use a pseudonym on DR filings, and this can result in more filings that slow projects.
  • Another approach proposed by Supervisor Peskin is a vacancy tax on properties sitting empty, to encourage landlords to lease them.
    • Under Supervisors Peskin’s proposal, owners of commercial properties in Neighborhood Commercial Districts — areas where stores and services are clustered — that are vacant for more than six months would face a fine of at least $250 per day. Landlords with three or more residential units that are vacant for six months would also pay $250 per unit per day until the unit is leased.
    • Note: In March, the Board of Supervisors passed an ordinance requiring registry of vacant storefronts.  Landlords must register a vacant storefront within 30 days and pay a $711 annual vacancy fee, or face a $2,844 penalty.
  • Finally, Supervisor Fewer has proposed a residential rental registry, to gather data on renters and vacancies.

Kyle was also asked whether the enormous property taxes that new owners face were adversely affecting their ability to provide affordable units. He said that tax relief for a period is something they can look at.

Please send your concerns, suggestions and comments to


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