The Balboa Reservoir site, currently in use largely as a parking lot, could eventually hold a proposed 1,100 units of housing. (Daniel Kim/Special to S.F. Examiner)

Approval looking likely for Balboa Reservoir development

Project would bring 1,100 units to 17.6 acre site near City Collegee

The 1,100-unit Balboa Reservoir development picked up key support this week on its path to the full San Francisco Board of Supervisors for a final vote.

The Budget and Finance Committee on Wednesday unanimously voted to move forward approval of the project’s development agreement and sale of public land to the developers for $11.4 million. Following on another unanimous forward by the Land Use Committee on Monday, the vote makes the project’s passage appear highly likely despite some lingering opposition from members of the City College of San Francisco community.

The project includes 1,100 units to be constructed on 17.6 acres west of City College of San Francisco’s Ocean Campus and south of Archbishop Riordan High School. Half of those units will designated as affordable, with 17 percent of the total units to be funded by The City.

The developer has agreed to pay $10 million in transportation fees to the San Francisco Municipal Transit Authority for improvements to surrounding lines, though congestion remains a concern. Four acres would be reserved for public use, including a childcare facility with a $1 lease, play space and two-acre park. About 150 affordable units would be reserved for City College faculty.

“Overall, I believe this project is thoughtful and includes many of the things the community wanted to see,” said Board President Norman Yee, who represents the area. “It’s been 30 to 40 years talking about it…this is as close as we’ve ever gotten.”

The Planning Commission in May greenlit the environmental impact report and developer agreement. Developers Avalon Bay and BRIDGE Housing have not yet reached a memorandum of understanding with City College of San Francisco but are expected to do so in the coming weeks. The college Board of Trustees will discuss the agreement at its Thursday meeting.

A group of City College community members filed an appeal in June against the EIR. It took issue with the EIR’s lack of transit access, affordability and lack of coronavirus impacts.

The appeal is backed by the Public Land for Public Good Coalition, which is calling for all units built on the reservoir to be affordable housing.

Several public commenters expressed enthusiasm for the development, including some neighborhood residents happy to have open space and a childcare center. Others argued that enough time had been put into the project already.

“We need to be approving these projects now to help push through the economic recovery period while keeping an eye on the future for San Francisco,” said Sarah Oglivie, a District 9 resident and San Francisco YIMBY member. “I urge you to support and approve and move this project as soon as possible. It’s been a long time coming.”

Others, however, echoed the language of the pending appeal, urging the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission land be converted into all affordable housing, or for The City to at least explore the option. Some also took issue with the $11.4 million price tag for the land, describing it as a fraction of the market value. Developers said they had three independent analyses to land on the amount and sought a waiver for a final review.

“It is possible and should be done because building on public land is the best deal The City can make,” said Dyan Ruiz of the group Richmond District Rising. “The City should not be in the luxury housing business, especially given the economic disaster facing this city.”

Supervisors acknowledged that they would prefer all affordable housing on the land but said the costs would be a major obstacle. Yee said he is working on sending the deed of the land back to The City after a period of time.

The Budget and Legislative Analyst report recommended that The City include an option to purchase the affordable housing properties

“Ideology-wise, we would love 100 percent affordable housing on public land,” said Supervisor Sandra Lee Fewer. “One of the main barriers to build affordable housing is really also the finances. To do that on this piece of property would, I think, not be feasible, especially during a $1.7 billion deficit.”

Affordable housing by BRIDGE Housing would be built first in 2022, followed by projects by Mission Housing and Habitat for Humanity. Should the Board of Supervisors approve the project, it is expected to be completed by 2028.

This story has been updated to clarify the items were forwarded to the full Board of Supervisors.

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