City Seeking More Diverse Local Feedback For Balboa Reservoir Redevelopment

City Seeking More Diverse Local Feedback For Balboa Reservoir RedevelopmentThe future housing development is currently a parking lot for San Francisco City College. | Photos: Will Carruthers/Hoodline
Will Carruthers
Published on March 15, 2017

City officials and the community advisory board for the Balboa Reservoir redevelopment project hope to involve a wider cross-section of the community in an upcoming meeting in which developers will present proposals for the site.

On March 9th, the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission announced the three developer teams chosen through a request for qualifications to submit proposals for a 50 percent affordable housing development on the 17-acre PUC-owned lot. San Francisco City College is currently using the site, located off Ocean and Phelan avenues in Balboa Park, as a parking lot.

The three competing developer teams are:

  • AvalonBay Communities and BRIDGE Housing with Mission Housing, Pacific Union Development Company, and Habitat for Humanity of Greater San Francisco

  • Emerald Fund and Mercy Housing

  • Related Companies with Sares Regis Group of Northern California, Curtis Development, and Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corporation

At its March 13th meeting, the Balboa Reservoir Community Advisory Council considered how the city could reach people outside of what the council’s chair, Lisa Spinali, called the “die-hard” meeting attendees who’ve come to the council's bi-monthly meetings from the start.

Two city officials presented their plans for advertising a community meeting with all three developer teams. The meeting will be held sometime after the June 2nd deadline for the developers' project proposals.

Among the groups the city officials said they hope to reach are non-English speakers, working parents, people without internet access, younger community members and residents of the nearby neighborhoods who have not attended earlier meetings.

To reach these groups, the council discussed distributing fliers and emails in multiple languages, posting on Nextdoor, and contacting local community groups and media outlets. Jeremy Shaw, a planner with the Planning Department, also called on council members and meeting attendees to reach out to their networks about the meeting.

The council discusses community outreach plans.

Parking & Congestion Concerns Persist

Despite the focus on community outreach, public commenters aired concerns about increased demand for parking and additional congestion once the development is complete—a reoccurring topic at the bi-monthly meetings.

A few residents said that the current plans have not fully answered concerns that the development will increase traffic on Ocean and Phelan avenues by increasing the number of drivers and reducing the number of parking spaces.

In response to questions about the possibility of offering a shuttle to and from the Balboa Bart Station to calm traffic, Shaw said that, although he could not officially speak for the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, funding for a shuttle would be unlikely due to high demand for the SFMTA's resources.

Disappointed by Shaw's statement, Spinali suggested that the MTA had to "think outside the box" for the Balboa Reservoir project.

"If we continue to do things following traditional bureaucratic processes, [the traffic] is going to be an even worse situation and, frankly, I think you'll have people say, 'We don't want anything built here,'" Spinali added.

However, Shaw cautioned that this summer’s meeting to review the developer’s proposals will not be the time to shape such logistics.

"This meeting is focused on the proposals that we see from the developers. So we're not going to get a chance to get to the nitty-gritty at this meeting," Shaw said. "This is a long process, but there will be an opportunity to hone in on some of the transportation, open space and urban design issues in the future."