Monday, February 12, 2007

The "Goldilocks Syndrome" ... and San Francisco's kinky Armory ....

  Call it the “Goldilocks Syndrome” in land use:  Some local residents won’t accept any land use except for the precise type of use that they want.  If this desired land use isn’t economically feasible or forthcoming, the opponents block other uses … with the result that land and buildings often stay vacant for many years, and with an eventual use that may be far from what the picky local protagonists wanted.

Sfarmory    Such a tale is playing out in San Francisco, where the landmark Mission Armory sat unoccupied, in effect, for more than 30 years.  As various proposals for its commercial use were floated, such as a computer center and a skating track ( it is not easy to adapt to modern uses a 90-year-old castle-like landmark designed as an arsenal) each was shot down by local opposition.  Here is a link to an entertaining history from the San Francisco Chronicle, from the year 2000, about the frustrating efforts to find an acceptable land use, and an update from earlier this year.      

   Some advocates wanted affordable housing –- a land use of critical need, of course, in the exorbitant city by the bay.  But such a project was not forthcoming, and activists mobilized again to oppose a new plan for … condominiums, of course.  (In San Francisco, a unit behind two feet of masonry and without windows would still likely generate a princely sum.)  Such a plan to gentrify the Armory was “too cold,” perhaps. 

   What the Mission District has finally got is something different –- a business that makes kinky sex videos.  The company reportedly bought the Armory for more than $14 million.  And neighborhood protesters have been picketing, arguing that the business is degrading to women and offers only demeaning jobs.   Perhaps such a usage is “too hot.”

   If the protesters get their way, the Armory would once again sit vacant, and would once again wait for that beautiful land use prince (Wait a minute –- am I confusing fairy tales?) who never seems to come.

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