Many see redevelopment area as way to recycle Schlage Lock site

For more than seven years, a former lock-andkey factory has been abandoned in the heart of Visitacion Valley, creating urban blight and stalling redevelopment.

The Schlage Lock Company closed its doors in 1999 and parent company Ingersoll Rand has vacated the site that contains toxins in its soil and groundwater, accordingto Tom Evans, lead planner with the Redevelopment Agency. City planners aim to create a 20-acre redevelopment area that would give The City the power of eminent domain — the controversial seizure of private lands earmarked for public use.

According to Fran Martin of the Visitacion Valley Planning Alliance, a group that formed in 1999 to address development in the rapidly changing neighborhood, since the property contains volatile organic compounds, the company doesn’t want to sell the land to a developer who would in turn hold them financially responsible for cleaning up the toxins.

“It [eminent domain] is the only solution,” Martin said. “They [Ingersoll Rand] have been totally intransigent unless they get a developer who will indemnify them from toxic concerns.”

New Jersey-based Ingersoll Rand spokeswoman Wendy Bost declined to discuss the site or future plans.

Supervisor Sophie Maxwell said given the pollution, it makes sense to create a redevelopment area because according to California’s Polenco Act — which applies only to redevelopment areas — The City and subsequent buyers would be immune from possible cleanup costs.

In addition, money received from tax assessment in a redevelopment area is reinvested in the designated area. Additionally, special bonds may be issued to pay for future projects.

“This is an extremely important area,” Maxwell said. “It’s right there where a lot is going on.”

The old lock site is near the end of the route of Muni’s Third Street light rail system that’s scheduled to run in January. The $667 million project is to provide service from the Caltrain Depot at Fourth and King streets to the intersection of Bayshore Boulevard and Sunnydale Avenue.

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