Balboa Park snarls projected

Traffic and parking chaos is expected to engulfthe Balboa Park Muni and BART station as developers fill the area with new businesses and 1,800 new homes, under recently dusted-off blueprints that also aim to rejuvenate one of The City’s biggest public-transportation hubs.

Funding shortfalls delayed by five years a newly released environmental impact report for the planned overhaul of the biggest station outside of The City’s downtown area, according to planner Kate McGee, who is overseeing the project. The report was released late last month.

McGee said feedback gathered from locals between 2000 and 2002 helped plan new projects at the station, including streetscape changes and new underground wiring, but she said plans to build homes and stores nearby, including at the Kragen Auto Parts site and above Muni’s Phelen Loop bus layover area, were stalled pending preparation of the 520-page report.

Parking spots around the station will fall short by between 1,000 and 3,000 spaces by 2025 because of the project, the new report warns, while motorists exiting Interstate Highway 280 near the station during afternoon peak hours will sit in traffic jams that will spill onto the freeway.

Traffic will also deteriorate to “unacceptable levels” at the southeastern corner of the City College of San Francisco, where Geneva Avenue meets Ocean and Phelan avenues.

The report said traffic jams at the intersection of Ocean Avenue and San Jose Avenue, and at the intersection of Ocean Avenue and Junipero Serra Boulevard, will become “unacceptable” whether or not the project moves forward.

The executive director of the San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association on Wednesday said that he’s “very positive” about the Balboa Park project, and that not much can be done about the predicted traffic problems. “Everything good for The City triggers impacts like that,” Gabriel Metcalf said.

The Balboa Park Station Area Plan includes a new library, a new bus terminal area, a new deck over Interstate Highway 280 between Ocean and Geneva avenues, a new pedestrian plaza at the station along the north side of Geneva Avenue, and the rehabilitation of the historic Geneva Office Building.

Save Muni member and frequent Balboa Park station customer David Vartanoff on Wednesday welcomed plans to improve the tired-looking station. He was especially enthusiastic about plans to rebuild Balboa Park’s M-Ocean View line Muni stop. “It’s not only not a high-level platform, it’s no platform at all — you’re just dumping people in the middle of the street,” he said. “That was OK in 1900.”

The draft environmental impact report is due to be discussed at a public hearing next Thursday.

Changes coming to Balboa Park area

» New stores and as many as 1,800 new homes above Muni’s bus layover area, on the current Kragen Auto site and in the surrounding area.

» A branch library at the corner of Ocean and Plymouth avenues.

» Rehabilitation and use of the Geneva Office Building, which has stood for more than a century at the southeastern corner of Geneva and San Jose avenues.

» A public plaza above Muni’s Phelan Loop bus layover area, which is on Ocean Avenue between Phelan and Plymouth avenues.

» Pedestrian plaza at the station along the north side of Geneva Avenue.

» Pedestrian-friendly deck over Interstate Highway 280 between Ocean and Geneva avenues.

» A new bus terminal area behind the existing fire station.

» Sidewalk improvements along Geneva, Ocean and San Jose avenues.

jupton@examiner.com

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