March 30, 2019
The Planning and Transportation Commission on Wednesday divided over zoning changes and impacts in the sensitive Baylands location as they voted 4-3 (Lauing, Summa, Templeton dissenting) to recommend accommodating a 48 foot tall, combined Mercedes and Audi car dealership in at 1700 and 1730 Embarcadero Road. The prospect of tax revenues from car sales seemed to carry the day, despite concern that the proposed project was far “out of scale” with the surrounding area and incompatible with the Baylands Master Plan.
The former Mings Restaurant site at 1700 Embarcadero had been previously up-zoned to allow a proposed hotel, introducing much more lenient development standards regarding height and density to the area. Although the hotel plan fell through, the new underlying zoning for that individual site remained, allowing the new owners to seek a similar intensity of use, still inconsistent with the surrounding area. The current application then sought to extend the more lenient zoning to an additional parcel to facilitate the combined Mercedes/Audi project.
Former PTC Chair Lauing encouraged his colleagues to resist doubling down on the controversial practice of project by project re-zoning and stay true to long established policy to maintain compatibility with other development across the surrounding area. Instead, the PTC majority relied on the existing, up-zoned Ming’s site to justify extending the zone to the neighboring parcel as “generally consistent” with area zoning.
Other concerns included both ecological and traffic impacts. The PTC voted to recommend conditions of approval to ensure that night-time lighting did not exceed that of other area properties and require that construction impacts on migratory birds would be mitigated. As for traffic, the adjacent intersection at Embarcadero and East Bayshore Roads is deemed one of the worst congested in the city. However, even with a requirement that the project pay a fair share of traffic mitigations associated with its impact, short term mitigations will be insufficient to manage the new traffic load and long term mitigations remain years away.