A man walks into the Balboa Reservoir parking lot near the CCSF Ocean campus on Tuesday, May 26, 2020. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

Planning Commission greenlights 1,100 unit Balboa Reservoir project

Development near CCSF expected to include 50 percent below-market rate units

The Balboa Reservoir project, expected to bring 1,100 units to a City-owned parking lot near City College of San Francisco, received key approvals Thursday.

The San Francisco Planning Commission unanimously approved the mixed-use project’s environmental review and agreement with a private developer, and recommended that the Board of Supervisors rezone the 17.6-acre area.

The project would construct 1,100 units just west of City College’s Ocean Campus and south of Archbishop Riordan High School. About four acres would be reserved for public use, including childcare and play space. Half of the units would be designated as affordable, with the City responsible for funding 17 percent of the total units to boost the number of affordable units.

About 150 of those affordable units would be reserved for City College faculty — a proportion that Planning Commissioner Sue Diamond said should be increased if possible.

“That’s very much because the community pushed for that, we’re very proud of that fact,” said District 7 legislative aide Jen Lowe on behalf of Board of Supervisors President Norman Yee. “We intend, we want, and we’re committed to making sure that these units are going to be dedicated for affordable in perpetuity, were tightening language there.”

But fears that the project could increase displacement and worsen affordability persist, as the below-market-rate units would be reserved for those making up to 120 percent of the area median income, or about $143,000 for a household of four by the City’s numbers.

Groups like the CCSF Collective and the faculty union, the American Federation of Teachers 2121, are advocating instead for the public land to be used for 100 percent affordable housing units. A combined petition seeking to make the Balboa Reservoir project 100 percent affordable and keep City College’s Civic Center and Fort Mason campuses open has received more than 2,600 signatures.

City College, which currently uses the site for parking, has not yet reached an agreement on the development, Lowe said.

“We are in support of keeping the Balboa Reservoir for CCSF community and to not have that public land privatized in the interests of developers without community input,” said Eira Klein of the CCSF Collective. She added that they “wish for the Board of Trustees to prevent further gentrification, especially in the face of potential CCSF Fort Mason and CCSF Civic Center closures.”

Meanwhile, more than 400 people signed a petition organized by YIMBY Action and San Francisco Housing Action Coalition commending the project, while some neighbors spoke during public comment in support of the development.

“In the midst of San Francisco’s acute housing shortage, the Balboa Reservoir project would provide much-needed homes and affordable housing,” the petition read. “After four years of process, it’s time to say yes to housing at Balboa.”

Transportation remains another sticking point. With thousands more residents coming in, congestion around City College and residential areas is of community concern, as is the loss of parking space.

Developer AvalonBay would be required to pay $10 million in fees to the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Authority for improvements to surrounding transit lines. Commissioner Theresa Imperial wondered if that would be enough, while newly-confirmed Commissioner Deland Chan encouraged developer investment in City College’s transportation development management program to offer incentives to students and faculty to take public transportation.

“I would encourage the project sponsor to think about supporting and paying into the City College TDM program,” Chan said. “It could also potentially benefit residents of the project.”

The project would be built in phases, with affordable housing first built by BRIDGE Housing in 2022, then Mission Housing and Habit For Humanity in the second phase. It is anticipated to be completed by 2028, should the Board of Supervisors approve it.

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