Housing Crisis

Environmental Review Process Underway for Balboa Reservoir Development

The environmental review process for the Balboa Reservoir housing development project kicked off in November. It will be completed in early 2020. CLIFF FERNANDES/INGLESIDE-EXCELSIOR LIGHT

By TRACI DAUPHIN

Editor’s Note: This article first appeared in City College of San Francisco’s student-run newspaper The Guardsman’s Nov. 7 edition. 

“More housing, less parking” was the message echoed by most residents at an Oct. 30 public meeting on the proposed development of a massive housing project next to City College of San Francisco’s Ocean Campus in Ingleside.

Around 40 attendees at Lick-Wilmerding High School gave comment to the San Francisco Planning Department about the Balboa Reservoir Project, which would replace City College’s parking lot west of the Multi-Use Building, which is owned by the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, with more than a thousand housing units.

The comments will be considered for an Environment Impact Report, which will evaluate how project impacts its surrounding areas. It will analyze two different options.

The first, created by developers Avalon Bay Communities and nonprofit BRIDGE Housing, proposes 1,100 residential units with 550 parking spaces for residents and a 750-space public garage.

The second, created by city planners, proposes 1,550 units with 650 residential parking spaces — and removes all public parking on the west reservoir basin for the City College community.

“If we take away parking, it will impact students’ opportunity to education,” City College engineering professor Wynd Kaufmyn said.

Several others also questioned where students will park, expressing the desire to have City College parking included in the plans. However, most advocated for additional housing.

“The housing shortage is the single most important issue in the Bay Area,” Excelsior resident Theodore Randolph said. “There is not enough housing.”

Randolph was joined by at least six other residents calling for more units to be included in the project, which is slated to begin construction in 2022.

Attendees Corey Smith, Jonathan Randolph and Zack Suden said they want planners to build as many homes as possible. 

Smith added that he does not want city planners to later wish they had studied possibilities for additional housing. 

Several attendees suggested the city should build a total of 5,000 units.

However, not everyone supported additional housing. Ken Crizer, an Ingleside resident and former City College professor, walked to podium donning a sleep mask and took the microphone.

“This looks like a wonderful project,” Crizer said. Then, he took the mask off.

“Now I see. It’s nothing but a large pile of manure,” he said. “Public property stays public property. It should not go into private developers hands.”

Others expressed concern about the project’s impact on quality of life, traffic congestion, ride sharing and animal habitats when more than a thousand units are added. Most agreed that public transit is currently inadequate, and transit alternatives and upgrades are necessary for reducing car dependency. Some suggested additional biking lanes, better pedestrian access and more Muni lines that run with more consistency.

The project would designate 50 percent of units as affordable low- and middle-income households. There would be open space, retail space, childcare facilities, new streets and other infrastructure. A new residence park would be created around a central park and within the surrounding communities of Westwood Park, Sunnyside, Ingleside, the Ocean Avenue commercial corridor and City College.

A Draft EIR will be published next summer, followed by a comment period, with the final EIR anticipated in early 2020. This would end the formal planning review — it would not mean the project is approved.

“It’s not unusual for projects to evolve during the environmental review process,” said Jeanie Poling, an EIR coordinator with the Planning Department.

The public comment period for the environmental process ended Nov. 12, 2018. 

For more information about the project, visit www.sf-planning.org/balboa-reservoir.

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