Over 100 District 11 residents discussed the future of their neighborhoods with city officials and developers at an initial meeting for a year-long city visioning process called the Excelsior and Outer Mission Neighborhood Strategy.
Representatives from city departments including the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, the Office of Economic and Workforce Development and the Planning Department spoke to residents about current projects and the resident’s desires for the neighborhoods at the Saturday, May 6 meeting.
“One of the big goals [of the neighborhood strategy] is to coordinate between all of the city agencies to make sure that we’re all working together and that we can leverage the projects,” said Rachael Tanner, a planner at the Planning Department.
To determine priorities for the neighborhood, attendees were invited to write the strengths and weaknesses of the neighborhood on a poster board.
Participants stuck Post-it notes on the board with notes about included long-standing complaints like garbage piled on the streets, a lack of parking, and the high number of vacant storefronts along the district’s commercial corridors. Notes on another board praised the neighborhood’s diverse population, its proximity to the Balboa Park BART Station and the activity of existing neighborhood organizations.
Just The Beginning
District 11 Supervisor Ahsha Safai, who urged the city to develop the strategy, said the process is the beginning of completing his campaign promise to revitalize the district’s commercial corridors by “stabilizing existing businesses and then expanding opportunities to new businesses.”
In his introductory remarks, Safai said that his ultimate goal is to create a Community Benefit District for the Excelsior corridor. A CBD is an organization based around a commercial corridor and funded by an annual assessment on property owners tasked with maintenance and improvements.
The initial plan, which the Planning Department has billed as “envisioning a future for more vibrant, inclusive, and stronger neighborhoods” is only a litmus test for determining what residents want the city to do.
“The initial document will act as a road map and a vision for the neighborhood,” Safai said after the event. “In six months we may see that the community wants to start work on an Area Plan.”
Residents Weigh In
As the city kicks off the visioning process, investment in the Excelsior is already accelerating. The Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development listed ten projects for a total of 578 housing units currently in the planning process and, if Safai successfully creates a CBD.
Charlie Sciammas, a lead community organizer with People Organizing to Demand Environmental and Economic Justice, would like the city commit to a set of development principles to help keep low income residents and small businesses in the neighborhood before the neighborhood “jumps into” a CBD, which he says could attract even more investment around the Excelsior.
Serving existing businesses is possible if developers go through a proper planning process, Sciammas said, pointing to a recent victory in the neighborhood.
When Bridge Housing proposed to replace the funeral home at 4840 Mission St. with a 134-unit mixed-use development, the community got the developer to promise to house the Mission Neighborhood Health Center’s Excelsior Clinic in a new commercial space.
The developer’s promise came after the community voiced concern that the proposal to attract a CVS Pharmacy to the space. The clinic was facing uncertainty with its current landlord and would like to expand, and the community argued that the neighborhood did not need another pharmacy.
Better communication between city departments is the top priority for Stephanie Cajina, executive director of the nonprofit Excelsior Action Group.
“It would be a big win if SFMTA representatives knew about the developments that are planned in the neighborhood [when they plan to work on bus lines in the area],” Cajina said. “That’s not what happens now.”
The next step is to create a 20-member working group representative of resident interests, at least one youth, up to six business owners and up to two real estate developers.
All members will be expected to attend four to eight meetings, one mini-retreat and two public workshops between June and September.
Applications for the working group are due by 8 a.m. on Monday, May 29.