The proposed Balboa Reservoir housing development would include up to 1,100 homes. (Daniel Kim/Special to S.F. Examiner)

Approval process for Balboa Reservoir project gets underway

The mixed-use development would turn 17 acres of public land into housing by CCSF

The Balboa Reservoir project received the first approval on Thursday needed to rezone 17 acres of public land into housing.

At its first-ever virtual public meeting Thursday, the San Francisco Planning Commission unanimously approved the initiation of a General Plan Amendment for the 1,100-unit Balboa Reservoir project in Ingleside.

The vote begins the process to rezone a parking lot for a proposed large mixed-use development adjacent to City College of San Francisco that has been under discussion for decades, and sets the stage for a public hearing scheduled to take place on or after April 30.

It remains unclear, however, whether that meeting will be held in person.

“If not, we’ve really done a robust job of meeting and hearing concerns,” said Brad Wiblin, executive vice president of BRIDGE Housing, one of the project’s affordable housing developers. “The scale of the project warranted this kind of effort.”

The project, which the City began looking at in 2014, would turn a parking lot owned by the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, located west of City College of San Francisco’s Ocean campus and south of Archbishop Riordan High School, into an estimated 1,100 units. Half of those units would be permanently affordable to those with up to 120 percent of the area median income — about $143,000 for a household of four, as set by the San Francisco Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development.

About 150 below-market rate units will be reserved for City College faculty. But City College advocates, like instructor Wynd Kaufmyn and faculty union AFT 2121 President Jenny Worley, maintain the project needs to be 100 percent affordable housing and accessible to the community.

“It’s public land, it should be used for the public good,” Worley said. “The PUC shouldn’t be handing it over to private developers.”

BRIDGE Housing will build and operate 227 units during the first phase and Wilblin said hopes to break ground by 2022; people will start moving in a couple years later and the project will be completely finished by 2028. Mission Housing and Habitat For Humanity will join for the second phase.

Parking was also a major concern but after monitoring the lot with a camera, developers determined 220 spots would be saved to meet the needs of the City College campus for a majority of the time, though not at the beginning of the semester.

Planning Commissioner Theresa Imperial also raised concerns over securing the public funding promised to keep 17 percent of all units affordable. But several speakers were in favor of the project moving forward after six years of community outreach.

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Authority will also build protected bike lanes and connect Frida Kahlo Way to the larger Holloway Avenue route as part of the project while creating pedestrian pathways, including raised sidewalks.

Planning commissioners sought more details from Planning Department staff on mitigating traffic and environmental sustainability, like boosting electric vehicle charging stations, but largely praised the 50 percent of units dedicated to affordable housing.

“I think it’s a very mature, forward-looking project,” said Commissioner Katherine Moore.

The public hearing will occur on or after April 30th and go before the Board of Supervisors for final approval in the summer.

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