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CCSF board disagrees over future of Balboa Reservoir development

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The proposed Balboa Reservoir housing development would include up to 1,100 homes. (Daniel Kim/Special to S.F. Examiner)
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City College of San Francisco trustees last week declined to take a stance against a proposed housing project on city-owned land adjacent to campus.

A resolution introduced by CCSF Trustee John Rizzo and Board of Trustees Vice President Brigitte Davila urging the college to claim ownership of the 17-acre Balboa Reservoir was tabled Thursday after failing to win sufficient support by the trustees. A housing development is planned for the site, which is owned by the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission.

The resolution called on the college to enter negotiations with the SFPUC on transferring its ownership of the lot, which provides over 1,000 parking spots.

In early November, the SFPUC is set to vote on entering an exclusive negotiation agreement with private developer AvalonBay Communities and the nonprofit Bridge Housing Corporation. The developers’ preliminary plans for the site include up to 1,100 homes, with up to 50 percent designated as affordable to low- and middle-income households.

Rizzo said the resolution wasn’t drafted to oppose developing the land into housing, but to ensure that any project destined for the site continue serving the needs of the college community.

“It was surplus city property — it has traditionally been CCSF land,” Rizzo said, adding that the college operated student housing for veterans and other campus facilities on the site in the mid-1940’s. “The City has told us they can’t specify any of the land for students or faculty, but as a college we could that if we owned the land.”

Over two dozen supporters spoke in favor of a transfer at Thursday’s board meeting, but were met with less enthusiasm by other trustees.

“We have expressed [our] priorities before,” Trustee Rafael Mandelman said, adding that Thursday’s resolution mirrored one passed by the board in July 2016.

In that resolution, the board originally called for the Balboa Reservoir development to include at least 50 percent permanently affordable housing, coordination with other projects slated in the area and a replacement parking structure to prevent a decline in student enrollment due to the loss of parking, among other priorities.

“We are hoping to see housing for some combination of faculty, staff and homeless students, as well as a parking solution that works,” said Mandelman, who is also running for District 8 supervisor.

The City is expected to give an update on the developers’ proposal at the next Board of Trustees meeting, scheduled for Nov. 9, according to CCSF spokesperson Jeff Hamilton.

Mandelman said CCSF leaders will know more about the details of the project after the presentation and will continue to push for the college’s priorities to shape the housing development, but that he supports the developers’ initial plans.

“If the choice is between a project that is 50/50 [affordable and market-rate] or 0 percent both because no housing gets built, then I’m on the side of 50 percent affordable,” he said.

Other trustees echoed that sentiment.

“I think that right now, I and many of my colleagues are optimistic that the developers … incorporated a lot of the concerns that the [board] had articulated in a resolution that we passed last July,” Trustee Tom Temprano said.

Still, the resolution discussed Thursday shed light on the ongoing controversy surrounding the project. More than 30 students and staff who attended the hearing questioned the housing project’s affordability and decried a potential loss of student parking spaces.

“There are seven other AvalonBay developments in San Francisco. Their rents hit up to $7,000 a month per unit,” CCSF student Angie Quinn said. “These units are not being built for almost anyone in this room.”

During public comment, staff presented CCSF Chancellor Mark Rocha with a symbolic shovel and pressed the chancellor to move on the construction of a voter-approved Arts and Education Center, slated to rise on the eastern portion of the reservoir. Supporters of the center expressed concerns that the housing development could interfere with its construction plans.

Plans for the center date back decades but were suspended when CCSF nearly lost its accreditation in 2012. In February, the board voted to revive the project and build the center in phases.

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