Neighbors eye firm’s site

Residents: City should get Ingersoll Rand to sell land

Visitacion Valley residents are hopeful that city planners can pressure a big industrial manufacturing company to sell off a key piece of property to open the way for a major housing and retail development.

Residents and city officials say New Jersey-based Ingersoll Rand Co. is dragging its feet when it comes to cleaning up the contaminated 12-acre site and unwilling to sell the property.

The site was home to Schlage Lock, an Ingersoll company, which made keys and door locks. Over the years, the company released metals and solvents that contained volatile organic compounds into the soil. The lock company closed down in 1999, and ever since the site on Bayshore Boulevard has remained vacant.

“It’s been extremely difficult to get the owner of the property engaged and motivated,” said Rich Hillis, deputy director of the Mayor’s Office of Economic and Workforce Development. He added, “This isn’t a top priority for them.”

Ingersoll Rand declined to comment.

Many neighborhood residents support the development of about 1,000 housing units along with a grocery store, retail and open space on the 12 acres and an adjacent 8-acre site owned by a development company.

“[Ingersoll has] held up development there. We’ve been working on this for nearly eight years,” said Fran Martin, chairwoman of the Visitacion Planning Alliance.

Residents believe Ingersoll will not sell the land until the company is indemnified against future litigation that may result from the contamination of the site. At one point, Ingersoll was prepared to sell off the site to Home Depot, but residents successfully fought against that, not wanting a big chain store in their neighborhood.

City planners have now begun the work to create a redevelopment agency for the 20-acre site. Martin believes this will force Ingersoll into action, because it not only includes the power of eminent domain but also captures tax money that can be funneled into the project. The process takes 18 months and would require Board of Supervisors approval. “They would sit on that land forever because they are a huge million-dollar corporation and they don’t have to do anything, and meanwhile our neighborhood is suffering,” Martin said.

Supervisor Sophie Maxwell, whose district includes the 12-acre site, has pushed for establishing the redevelopment agency project area.

“We’re keeping [Ingersoll] kind of on their toes. They can’t just lay back and let this go because we certainly have not done that as a city,” Maxwell said.

The envisioned development cannot come soon enough for some. “It’s a big gaping hole in the middle of the neighborhood,” Martin said. “We will never be whole until that is developed.”

jsabatini@examiner.comBay Area NewsGovernment & PoliticsLocalPolitics

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