Public Comment

An Open Letter to the Mayor and Councilmembers: What’s the Real Intended Usage of the 2707 Rose Street Structure?

By John English
Thursday April 22, 2010 - 09:23:00 PM

I strongly urge you to either hold your own full public hearing on the 2707 Rose Street project or remand the matter to the Zoning Adjustments Board. The ZAB's glaringly flawed January decision to approve the project needs reconsidering for multiple reasons--one of which this letter discusses. 

The following intriguingly pertinent statement appeared in reporter Chris Carrassi's article about the project in the February 23 issue of the Daily Californian: "[Mitchell] Kapor said in an e-mail that a substantial part of the home would be used to raise funds for community and campus groups, including scholarship programs for low-income and under-represented students enrolled at UC Berkeley." 

Gee, that sounds nice--but wait a minute! Would such "substantial" usage jibe with the property's R-1 zoning? 

The fund-raising mentioned by Kapor's e-mail sounds like what's done by the Mitchell Kapor Foundation, a 501(c)(3) organization whose directors evidently are Kapor and his wife. That foundation and/or others closely linked to it have several staff members who presently work in offices at 543 Howard Street in Downtown San Francisco. 

What would the fund-raising at 2707 Rose Street involve--and who would be doing it? 

Would it be just a sort of hobby pursued only by the house's residents, Mitchell Kapor and his wife? 

Would using a substantial part of the proposed very large house for fund-raising constitute, and qualify as, a "home occupation"? The Zoning Ordinance prescribes maximum square footage for such occupations. And its very definition of "home occupation" includes the relevant key words "operated only by the inhabitants of the subject residence." 

In reality, would non-resident staff members of the Kapors' foundations regularly or frequently work at 2707 Rose? This well may explain why the building would be so big--and why there'd be 10 or 12 parking spaces! 

If the fund-raising would qualify neither as a purely residential hobby nor as a home occupation, how would it be classified? Arguably it would be an "office use," which the Zoning Ordinance defines as "A building or portion of a building used for conducting the business or affairs of a profession, business service, non-profit organization, agency, public utility and/or government entity." It might also be called a "charitable use," which the Zoning Ordinance defines as "A use which is conducted by a charitable institution, organization or association organized for charitable purposes and conducted for charitable purposes only, as defined under state or federal tax laws." 

But now look at the Zoning Ordinance's Section 23D.16.030, which lists the specific uses allowable in the R-1 District. This mentions some non-profit-type uses such as "clubs" and "community centers," both of which would require a Use Permit--but it doesn't list general "office use" or "charitable use." 

The project application failed to disclose anything at all about using part of the building for fund-raising. The staff report said nothing about such use and whether or not it would be allowable in R-1. 

For this and other compelling reasons the whole project should be thoroughly--and even-handedly--reconsidered.