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The Student News Site of San Francisco State University

Golden Gate Xpress

Impact of planned housing apprised

The Balboa Reservoir housing proposal would eliminate 1,007 parking spaces currently used by City College of San Francisco students. (Photo by William Wendelman/ Golden Gate Xpress)

Housing developers plan to transform one of San Francisco’s last stretches of undeveloped land into a residential neighborhood, but doing so would compromise the surrounding air quality, bicycle safety, flow of traffic and noise levels.

The San Francisco Planning Department published these findings in an Aug. 7 analysis of the environmental impacts that would come with building housing atop the western segment of the 28-acre Balboa Reservoir. The deadline to publicly comment on the findings is Sept. 23.

Located across from the City College of San Francisco Ocean Campus, the Balboa Reservoir comprises an eastern and a western basin that together provide CCSF’s student body with approximately 2,000 parking spaces.

The Planning Department’s analysis, called a Draft Subsequent Environmental Impact Report (DSEIR), studies two proposals for building housing on the western basin. Each would build residential units, a child care facility, a public community room, retail space and a 2-acre park.

Developer Avalon Bay and nonprofit BRIDGE Housing are proposing the first option: build 1,100 residential units, up to 550 residential parking spaces and a 750-space public garage. The second option, proposed by city planners, would build 1,550 residential units, 650 residential parking spaces and no public parking.

The DSEIR concludes that both proposals would produce unpreventable negative impacts for the surrounding neighborhoods.

Construction would generate toxic air contaminants, particularly to vulnerable populations like young children, according to the DSEIR. Construction could also create noise levels that violate the standards of San Francisco’s noise ordinance, the report states. 

Upon project completion, nearby public transit would face significant delays. Travel times could more than double for nearby Muni buses like the K/T, 29, 43 and 49 during peak hours, according to the DSEIR. Congestion along Lee Avenue could also create potentially hazardous conditions for bikers.

Yet, despite its warnings, the DSEIR dismisses the most contested factor of the project: parking.

The proposed elimination of 1,007 student parking spaces has been the most controversial aspect of the project since its 2009 inception. Longtime CCSF advocates have warned at dozens of community meetings that removing parking would bruise CCSF enrollment, which numbers at tens of thousands of students every semester.

“It’s like the city of Hercules comes to campus every day,” said CCSF Music Department Chair Madeline Mueller, a longtime opponent of the project.

Yet the DSEIR states that while parking fills up 78% to 90% of Ocean Campus’ parking in the first week of instruction, the figure plummets to 50% to 60% afterward. It concludes that “secondary impacts related to the loss of City College parking would be less than significant, and no mitigation measures are necessary.” 

But that hasn’t convinced Mueller and other local CCSF advocates that the parking should be replaced.

My house is empty most of the day,” Mueller said. “Does that mean it should be taken over?”

Community members against the project have publicly commented that developers should offer 100% affordable housing, given that the western basin is owned by the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission.

The project, which would transfer public land into private hands, states that it offers 50% affordable housing. But developers are subsidizing only 33%, leaving San Francisco to shoulder the last 17%.

All the while, that affordable housing is reserved for those who earn 55% to 120% of the Area Median Income, or $47,400 to $103,450.

It doesn’t allow for affordable housing for very low income people,” said Jean Barish, a former CCSF biology teacher. “It doesn’t meet the needs that the city [has] for low-income housing, which is one of our most desperate needs.”

Nonetheless, housing advocates, such as Corey Smith of the San Francisco Housing Action Coalition, said that building homes is critical in solving San Francisco’s housing crisis.

“I feel like [the project] is trying to balance a lot of different concerns and different constituencies while also coming to the very real reality of people needing places to live,” Smith said.

Mueller said that the proposal could potentially offer housing for faculty, staff and students “that would be truly affordable.”

“The students should be very worried, and we are trying to get the word out to them to show up at Planning Commission meetings, in particular the one scheduled for Sept. 12, and express their concern,” Mueller said.

The Sept. 12 Planning Commission hearing on the DSEIR will take place at 1 p.m. in Room 400 at City Hall. The public comment period for the DSEIR will end on Sept. 23.  

The Balboa Reservoir Community Advisory Committee will meet on Sept. 30 to discuss the project at the City College Multi-Use Building, Room 140, at 6 p.m.


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  • M

    monica collinsSep 17, 2019 at 7:28 am

    Thanks for article. Corey Smith should be honest and make clear that this is a big money making venture by a mega rich developer and that little will be truly affordable. It will plop thousands of peoplee on a one lane street that’s got stalled traffic six days a week. We do need more housing and there are sites all over SF and Daly City that are vacant & available for develoopment. Why attack a school that provides free or low cost education to the poor & working classess? Palaver like “transit rich” should be classified like “affordable housing” as a fairy tale concocted by the city to rake in developer funds & to shun their responsibility to plan, budget & spend for this sudden exponential growth in the neighborhood. How long since the Powers That Be had to be to class or work on time? They can’t remember. They are the bosses. 100% of this is about for profit mega development. The poor will be left behind again and their school weakened & slashed further.

  • N

    neigh -borSep 12, 2019 at 3:54 pm

    I can’t wait until the new park (shown painted in green) replaces that horrible empty parking lot.

  • A

    A.GoodmanSep 11, 2019 at 7:49 am

    The impacts of the SFSU-CSU project are very similar to the balboa reservoir. Housing traffic and open space infrastructure. It’s more complex as we have multiple large institutions jostling for expansion plans while transit sits stagnant between them and students rush for 3-4 years to survive to be replaced by ongoing waves of students who cannot afford any of the housing built or purchased. The CCSF balboa team has done a good effort to showcase a decent infill project. The concern is still the traffic and transit portions and if the city similar to the tech-hub downtown is going to ignore the traffic impacts on muni and public services or amp up the solutions on public transit through balboa park station the second largest hub in the city? The CCSF planners also are slow to figure out positive solutions as was SFSU-CSU ignoring the connection to Daly City Bart as part of the solution. Without planners planning transit adequately the cart is in front of the development horse and we will have more gridlock and problems if students who attend the hearing cannot see the similarities and impacts of infrastructural lacking investment in these proposals. I personally see the garage as not needed and could be better located with CCSF on the eastern side adjacent to the freeway with buildings above and a direct off ramp and cross over to Balboa Bart station. The e-shuttles and pedestrian walkway would extend from south side of CCSF from phelan down and over to Tony Sacco way with new infill and opportunity for student housing towers on CCSF’s eastern and southern edge. They need to be more inventive (CCSF) between the PAEC building completion and balancing priorities for redevelopment of their site.

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Impact of planned housing apprised