Plan aims to bring transit village to Balboa Park

A library, museum and new entrance into the Balboa Park BART station are among the proposals in a transit-oriented mixed-use development plan The City aims to create around the busiest transit hub in the southern part of town.

TheBalboa Park Station Area Plan calls for 1,780 new apartments and 104,680 square feet of commercial development not far from City College of San Francisco’s Ocean Avenue campus. It also includes a 6,000-square-foot library scheduled to break ground at Ocean and Plymouth avenues next spring, said Mindy Linetzky, a spokeswoman for the San Francisco Public Library system.

On Tuesday, residents will have a chance to offer their thoughts about what should be included in the environmental impact report that’s scheduled for completion later this year.

The report is the first step for the 20-year blueprint that planners hope to get approved in coming months. The plan calls for a deck to be constructed over Interstate 280 behind the BART station. Muni trains that currently have no station could use the deck as a platform, planners say.

“This is a huge transit hub with the freeway, Muni and BART,” said Amit Ghosh, the planning department’s chief of conceptual planning. “You can't tell where you are there [in the Balboa Park neighborhood]. There’s no center or heart to it.”

Cars occupy six lanes of traffic on Geneva Avenue before they roar onto Interstate 280. Nearby, Muni passengers are forced to board from undesignated stops near the BART station.

“Creating a transit pedestrian-friendly area is an excellent idea,” said Monique Koller, who rides Muni to her job in the neighborhood and lives in the Western Addition. “I’m in favor of projects that make it safer and get cars off the road.”

In the late 1990s, city planners created three Better Neighborhoods 2002 plans, including the Balboa Park Plan. A lack of funding thwarted efforts that are now picking up again, said Jim Chappell, president of the San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association.

“The current mayor is adequately funding the efforts,” Chappell said. “It’s excellent neighborhood planning.”

Pedestrian streetscapes along Geneva, Ocean and San Jose avenues, mixed-use development on the Kragen Auto site and open space on a portion of Muni’s Phelan Avenue loop are some of the short-range proposals under the plan awaiting approval from the Board of Supervisors.

“We have to get through the [environmental impact report] and planning process, which involves a lot of groups,” said Maggie Lynch, a spokeswoman for Muni. “This is not something that’s short term. A lot of times, you spend more time planning than actual construction.”

Dan Weaver, chair of Friends of the Geneva Office Building and Powerhouse, said he wants to transform the historical building into a museum, oral history and arts education center as soon as possible.

Community events could be held in the building, which was once owned by Muni and is now boarded up, Weaver said.

“We’ve formed a partnership with [the] Recreation and Park Department to restore it,” Weaver said. “We expect to get design plans done in the next 18 to 24 months.”

mcarroll@examiner.com

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