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Balboa Reservoir development to have 50 percent affordable housing

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City officials are looking for a developer to build at least 50 percent affordable housing as part of a mixed-use development on the vacant Balboa Reservoir site near City College of San Francisco.

The Balboa Reservoir is a 17-acre parking lot owned by the Public Utilities Commission, offering San Francisco a rare opportunity to control the parameters around how much affordable housing is built there at a time when the cost of living is booming.

According to a Request for Qualifications for the site released last Thursday, the Mayor’s Office of Economic and Workforce Development wants the development to be from 25-feet to 65-feet high, with at least four acres of open space.

The RFQ issued for developers is the culmination of years of discussions among city leaders and community members over what exactly should be built on the site.

At least 18 percent of the affordable housing on site will be for low-income individuals who earn up to 55 percent of the Area Median Income, according to the RFQ. Another 15 percent of the units are for moderate-income individuals who earn up to 120 percent of AMI, and the last 17 percent for “middle” income households that earn up to 150 percent of AMI.

Peter Cohen, an affordable housing advocate, said he is concerned that the breakdown of affordable-housing units will not accommodate the vulnerable portion of San Francisco residents who make between 55 percent and 120 percent of AMI, since developers will not likely build less than 120 percent of AMI.

“That’s probably half of San Francisco’s households that are missing,” Cohen said. “They basically are priced out.”

Supervisor Norman Yee, who represents the neighborhood that includes the Balboa Reservoir, convened a Community Advisory Committee for residents to have a voice in the development process.

“I pushed for the 50 percent and there was very strong support from CAC members and residents at large,” Yee said in a text message. “The process used for community input with 16 meetings is a model of how to build consensus. I look forward to seeing a good project come out of this for all San Franciscans.”

But Cohen, who is co-director of the Council of Community Housing Organizations, isn’t satisfied with the decision. He said San Francisco has a unique chance to build as much affordable housing as desired at Balboa Reservoir since it is publically owned.

He proposed 60 percent affordable housing for the site, with 40 percent of those units for low-income individuals.

“It’s just a huge missed opportunity,” Cohen said.

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