By An Pham
An appeal of the final Environmental Impact Report (EIR) certification of the Balboa Reservoir Project was proposed to the Board of Supervisors on Aug. 11, and all 11 members of the board rejected the appeal.
The Balboa Reservoir project is a public-private partnership with the city of San Francisco to develop a 17-acre parcel located adjacent to City College and is currently owned by the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission.
The appellant’s, including City College faculty, community members and public education advocates, indicate that the project’s EIR had failed to address some existing problems and key issues. Stuart Flashman filed the appeal on behalf of Music Department Chair Madeline Mueller, Alvin Jah and Engineering Instructor Wynd Kaufmyn.
The appeal said that the EIR failed to: give an accurate and complete description of the project area and existing conditions; give stable, accurate, and finite descriptions of the affordable units it promises; fully identify and mitigate significant noise impacts, air quality, transit delay, pedestrian and bicyclist safety; include feasible alternatives, including 100% truly affordable housing; and it ignored the changed circumstances presented by the COVID-19 Pandemic.
Many listeners were in support of the appeal. And their support for the appeal, aided the effort to buy more time to raise awareness about the project. Student Trustees Vick Chung said, “I think since it’s potentially going to be sold this year, and since the Diego Rivera Theater and STEAM building may be built nearly simultaneously, we would lose a majority of the 980 parking spot at the ocean campus.”
There are a lot of issues stated in the appeal, but people who commented in favor of the appeal at the Board of Supervisors meeting were mostly focusing on the project’s affordable housing plan.
“One of the glaring problems is the affordability aspect, which should be one hundred percent affordable, and that option was not even considered,” said Kaufman at the meeting.
Jeanie Poling, who represented the Balboa Reservoir Project Planning Department in the meeting, supported the EIR and said that the team responded thoroughly to the appellant’s concerns.
“None of the issues raised by the appellant in writing or heard today are new with the exception of one related to our current public health emergency,” Poling said. “We thoroughly respond to the prior issues and the new issue during the EIR’s public review and in our appeal responses.”
After the hearing of the appeal and the rejection of the appeal, students who were in support of the appeal were livid. But the Balboa Reservoir Project has other promising offers that could help benefit students.
Sam Moss, the executive director of Mission Housing Development Corporation, said “I know that there are a lot of negative connotations around the project when it comes to City College’s students. I felt really unfortunate that that was the case.”
Moss said that Mission Housing will be pursuing the test runs of an internship program. The program would include paid internship positions in every position that work for the project, from law to architecture firms.
Avalon Bay Director of Development Nora Collins presented a new project overview to show how beneficial it could be to the community. The overview said that the project has a family friendly approach; an “Academic Village”; 1100 family-sized housing units 50% (550) of which would be permanently affordable.
“As we think about San Francisco as a whole, there’s no doubt that we’re in a housing crisis,” Collins said. “We’re all students of San Francisco, and residents here. We go to school here, we live here. I think we feel like we’re jointly responsible for helping to solve that crisis right?”