A lengthy dispute over a proposed housing development in San Francisco’s Mission District near the Marsh Theater is coming before the San Francisco Board of Appeals this evening.

A plan by developer Mark Rutherford with Shizuo Holdings Trust calls for the demolition of the current structure at 1050 Valencia St., next-door to the community theater The Marsh.

The new structure with 12 residential units will be five stories tall with commercial space on the first level.

The proposal involves demolishing the existing 1,670-square-foot one-story Sogui Sushi restaurant. In its place will be a 55-foot-high building occupying a nearly 17,000-square-foot space. All parking spaces would be eliminated under design plans.

The city’s Planning Department approved the project in 2012. The project initially came about in 2007, according to the project’s architect Stephen Antonaros.

A group of residents from the neighborhood and staff and supporters of the theater have opposed parts of the project and have appealed its approval.

Last month the San Francisco board of supervisors narrowly rejected 6-5 an appeal by the Liberty Hill Neighborhood Association, who filed an appeal along with another filing through staff at the theater.

The two appeals, although separate, will both be heard at tonight’s meeting.

The theater and its advocates claim to support housing developments coming into the neighborhood, but want to formalize certain conditions to keep theater operations running smoothly during and after construction.

Marsh executive director Stephanie Weisman said issues with sound from the demolition, construction and eventual everyday use of building is “what’s most important to us.”

She said she does not want loud construction sounds to “upset performances,” and after building, she wants to ensure that whatever business opens on the first floor is not a loud bar or other entertainment venue.
As to the condos design, Weisman said the theater is worried noise from decks “are going to bleed right into our theater.”

Weisman also is asking for consideration for the theater’s youth programs that are held during various times during the week and would be disrupted by loud construction and heavy machinery noises.

She said the theater is asking that the developer officially agree to limitations on various items, such as sound levels of equipment, hours of construction and a lease agreement for the commercial space to become a restaurant or other business that doesn’t have entertainment uses, such as a bar.

“Recommendations are nice, but we have no recourse if the developer doesn’t follow the recommendations,” she said.
“Also we’re a metaphor for everything going on in the Mission” Weisman added.

She said the theater, that moved into the space in 1996, wants to preserve culture and arts and support artists.
She called the housing project the latest part of displacement of longtime residents and merchants in the neighborhood.
Rutherford said his team and Marsh staff have met as part of ongoing negotiations, and concessions and changes to the plan and building process have been made over the years, including design plans.

Project architect Antonaros said the theater is concerned with noise during construction, while the neighborhood association has focused on the building’s design and height.

“They’d like to see it lower,” he said about the plans that call for a five-story building.

As to the Marsh’s noise concerns, Antonaros said those worries are speculative—and he said the building may help block existing sounds from the street that interfere with theater performances.

If the appeals are rejected today, Antonaros said construction is set to begin mid-2014. Construction is anticipated to last about 18 months, he said.

Sasha Lekach, Bay City News

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