Staff Editorial: Parkmerced's unnecessary growth

What does $1.2 billion buy?

Well, over the next few decades, it could potentially buy a complete transformation of the aging Villas Parkmerced development.

If the plans go through, Parkmerced, which is already the largest apartment community in San Francisco with 3,221 units, would grow to 8,900 units of housing. The existing town homes, originally built for veterans in the 1940s, would be demolished and the community would be revamped from its current car-centric model to a transit-first community.

This is a potential waste of money and an unnecessary inconvenience to its residents.

Despite Parkmerced’s promise to residents currently living in rent-controlled units that they would be relocated and their current rent would remain the same, many of the residents who opposed the Planning Commission’s approval of the plan don’t believe such a promise would be kept.

Neither do we.

If those running Parkmerced were to, for any number of bureaucratic reasons, renege on their promise, students living there would be left behind in the dust of the demolition.

Also built into the plan are the additions of a new pre-school, grocery store and an expansion of the M-line. All of these shiny new, environmentally-friendly attributes are designed to attract families and revitalize the neighborhood so that residents won’t have to leave for basic amenities.

This is gentrification at its worst; it aims to keep residents from going north of the University, where the most worthwhile parts of the city reside.

At first, the remodel sounds wonderful. The dated, beat-to-death buildings would be demolished. The area around SF State would get a much-needed facelift. The M-line would run more frequently.

This would cost an obscene amount of money over a three-decade period.

And since the University also owns a portion of the town homes and uses them as student housing — these homes are left out of the initial conception on Parkmerced’s website – it is unknown whether SF State would pay for part of the costs. With the University’s current budget woes, even a cent is unacceptable.

Also, it appears the demolition in general is unnecessary.

The project would provide an estimated 60 percent savings in energy usage and a 40 percent savings in water consumption. Obviously, this would be good. The problem is that the Environmental Impact Report found that demolishing the rent-controlled units is not necessary to improve the property and that the demolition would displace current members of both Parkmerced and the SF State community.

Opponents of the plan can relax – at least for the time being. According to an article in the San Francisco Chronicle, it could be months before the plan comes before the San Francisco Board of Supervisors for a final decision, and before that can happen, parts of the plan still need to be approved by the board of the Municipal Transportation Agency and the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission.

But months can quickly turn into weeks and days, and soon enough a vital community neighboring the University could be left in the lurch.

Before such a large and disruptive plan is approved, the Parkmerced suits need to convince the existing community that this plan will benefit everyone.

For now, we are not so sure.