The affordability crisis rapidly changing the city is not equally distributed. The Broad-Randolph corridor and the OceanView Village shopping center continue to struggle as evident by the many vacant storefronts and buildings.
Much like in the Dot Com Boom of 2000, rent hikes are forcing nonprofit and community-based organizations to look across the Bay to Oakland. They would do well to look as well south to the urban, transit-rich Ocean View neighborhood. City Hall would do well, too, by trying to direct retail uses to the historic Broad-Randolph retail corridor of the Ocean View, which is well served by the M-Ocean View streetcar line, and not to the failed suburban shopping mall at OceanView Village that is much better suited to nonprofit tenants as they are now.
OceanView Village, the residential and retail center on Alemany Boulevard, has struggled for several years to maintain its commercial tenants. Ocean View Supermarket closed two years ago, a branch of Sterling Bank followed and so has the Walgreens.
OceanView Village as a shopping center is an abject failure, a piece of suburban design totally out of place in San Francisco. Moreover, pushing for retail at Ocean View Village constrains the growth of retail business along the Broad-Randolph corridor.
City Hall is trying to bring new retail tenants to the vacant spaces of Ocean ViewVillage. Usually, I am very much in favor of filling ground floor vacancies with retail tenants to offer wares and services for the surrounding community, but not in this case.
What OceanView Village needs is an influx of activities and people that nonprofits can bring. The arts—painting or dance, for example—would certainly bring students of all ages for classes and events.
To make this happen, City Hall should rezone the ground floor spaces exclusively for nonprofits, especially with those that can provide the community with needed services and programming.
The construction of mixed-use buildings along Alemany Boulevard with ground floors for nonprofit offices and programming spaces and residential units above would make OceanView Village an attractive, lively urban place.
The Broad-Randolph corridor, following the tracks of the M-Ocean View streetcar line, is the busiest part of a previously successful and prosperous retail district. Today, there are many vacant and dilapidated commercial storefronts. This route could return to its former glory as a functioning and useful commercial corridor for the Ocean View. City Hall should focus its enforcement, planning and design review tools on improving the commercial corridor storefront availability at a variety of locations. Too many of the storefronts have been abandoned by property owners who seem to be waiting for renters to rebuild them. These derelict commercial buildings, which in many locations dominate the streetscape, will not improve without City Hall’s assistance.
Restoring the blighted and abandoned properties alone is not enough. The corridor will also need new retail spaces to attract new businesses and more housing to support additional retail services. Every new building on the streetcar line should include ground floor retail. A handful of businesses struggle on Broad-Randolph, but they need more patrons. The Ocean View commercial district should be addressed by a comprehensive city planning process, similar to the Better Neighborhoods planning that focused on the Ocean Avenue corridor.
If a few of the nonprofits from the Mission, Tenderloin or South of Market moved their offices to the Broad-Randolph corridor as well, their workers and clients could patronize neighboring businesses. If the existing places were more successful, new cafes, restaurants and stores could be attracted. Throw in a drug store, a credit union, and a full service grocery store to complement Ana’s Market.
All told, the Ocean View could be set up to attract new public amenities and landscaping investments to better serve residents and attract new ones.
This article first appeared in the Ingleside-Excelsior Light’s September 2015 edition. To submit an article for Community Voices, please send a proposal or draft to publisher [at] inglesidelight.com.