Balboa Reservoir considered for development

The struggle continues as officials figure out what to do with Balboa Reservoir, located at 50 Phelan Avenue, which is currently used as overflow parking lot for City College students at Ocean campus. (Photo by Khaled Sayed)
The struggle continues as officials figure out what to do with Balboa Reservoir, located at 50 Phelan Avenue, which is currently used as overflow parking lot for City College students at Ocean campus. (Photo by Khaled Sayed)

By Patrick Fitzgerald

The Guardsman


A San Francisco Business Times’ blog post dated Nov. 17 mentioning a possible Balboa Reservoir affordable housing development is premature according to Project Manager John Gavin of the Office of Economic and Workforce Development (OEWD).

Balboa Reservoir located at 50 Phelan Avenue is currently used by City College as a student parking lot. “We are updating a Facilities Master Plan dated June 10, 2004, where the history of this land is discussed,” Vice Chancellor of Finance and Administration Ron Gerhard said.

The land configuration of the parcel in question had changed ownership during this time period as part of a land swap between City College and the Public Utilities Commission. The result, City College acquired land west of Phelan Avenue, contiguous to the existing campus in front of the Science Hall in exchange for an equal amount of land City College owned back of the Multi-Use Building.

“For us college students, it would be hard to find a parking lot of course. It is really hard to find a parking spot here,” said student Mando Bayasgalas. “To take this parking spot which is really big would be also a very big issue for us.”

The City’s OEWD and the Planning Department are leading an interagency effort to look at publicly-owned sites that are underutilized and may better serve the public interest if developed for another use, such as housing, Gavin said.

The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) portion of the Balboa Reservoir site is one of the sites that will be reviewed by the interagency team for inclusion in the program.

So far, the San Francisco Planning Department held two community meetings in October to give an overview of the Public Sites (Land) Portfolio and to solicit public feedback. Information and initial public comments are available at their website.

Gavin indicated more community meetings are planned for early 2015 before any form to the projects takes shape. Gerhard said the city had reached out to the College to have joint discussion in consideration of the property being adjacent to City College facilities.

A 2014 study released by Metropolitan Research Center measuring urban sprawl ranked San Francisco as the second most densely populated city in the United States just slightly behind New York City.  The U. S. Census Bureau Quick Fact Reports estimates that San Francisco had grown four percent or 32,207 people by 2013.

Gerhard shared his understanding was that the city might identify the Balboa Reservoir for affordable housing in hopes of fulfilling Mayor’s Ed Lee’s goal of developing 30,000 affordable housing units in San Francisco by 2020. The mayor articulated this goal in his 2014 State of the City address.

This is not the first time the Balboa Reservoir has been considered for development. Online documents dating as far back as May 1988 indicate an environmental review had been conducted to see if the area could be rezoned into single family housing. Around that time voters rejected a proposition to allow development on the site.

There are no other properties adjacent to City College campuses that are part of Public Sites Proposal. Gavin of the OEWD invited those interested to contact him by phone at (415) 552-6122.

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