Balboa Park Reservoir Site

Of the nine teams that submitted their qualifications for redeveloping the western 17 acres of the Balboa Reservoir site, which is currently a 1,000-space parking lot under the jurisdiction of the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, the following three have been selected as the finalists and will be allowed to respond to the City’s formal Request for Proposals:

  1. AvalonBay Communities and BRIDGE Housing with Mission Housing Development Corporation, Pacific Union Development Company and Habitat for Humanity of Greater San Francisco
  2. Emerald Fund and Mercy Housing
  3. Related Companies with Sares Regis Group of Northern California, Curtis Development, and Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corporation

The six teams which were eliminated:

  1. AGI Avant
  2. Equity Residential with David Baker Architects
  3. Gilbane Development Company and Tidewater Capital
  4. The Integral Group
  5. Raintree Partners
  6. Signature Development Group

The Balboa Park Reservoir, which represents one of the largest underdeveloped sites in the city, was built in the 1950’s, has never held a drop of water, and is one of San Francisco’s Public Lands for Housing sites identified for priority redevelopment (back in 2014).

Currently designated for “Public” use with a height limit of 40 feet, the site will need to be re-zoned.

And based on years of community input and planning, the rough parameters and expectations for the site call for building heights of 25 to 65 feet, with at least 50% of all proposed housing to be designated as permanently affordable to households with incomes of 55 to 150 percent of the Area Median and 4 acres of new parks and open space.

Balboa Park Reservoir

The proposals from the finalists are due on June 2, 2017, with public presentations to follow.

Comments from “Plugged-In” Readers

  1. Posted by archiwhatnow?

    the site is literally in a pit, and some of it is zoned for 25-ft? incredible! hopefully the winning team somehow manages to rezone and build more than 2 stories in those portions…

  2. Posted by unlivable city

    My editorializing of the three finalists (I truly have no dog in the fight but I do know all the players):

    Group 1: My favorite because Mission Housing has, since its shakeup and shakeout lo those many years ago consistently managed its properties skillfully without playing the old “us versus them” game. Plus of the three I think this group would have the best odds of delivering creative, possibly even attractive and interesting architecture versus just another stucco hulk.

    Group 2: Emerald Fund and Mercy are sort of the solid but dull choice. They never color outside the lines and would likely build something pretty straight-forward, cost efficient but long term nothing that would sparkle or lend vitality to the neighborhood.

    Group 3: TNDC in my experience has consistently proven itself to be a bad neighbor with the projects it manages. Granted its often managing a fairly marginalized and difficult population that simply is not interested in being “neighborly,” but rather than make an effort to overcome that, the mentality at TNDC is to hunker down and ignore problems rather than address them. Plus I don’t see TNDC caring enough about the critical but esoteric notion of really great architecture, which I cannot state enough is sorely missing in housing development in this city with a very few exceptions.

    • Posted by donjuan

      Do you have examples of how TNDC is a bad neighbor?

      • Posted by unlivable city

        Well, call it a stretch but let’s start with THE TENDERLOIN.

        • Posted by archiwha?

          are you saying TNDC should be blamed for the blight of the whole tenderloin neighborhood?

    • Posted by Orland

      Most “positive” you’ve ever contributed, but really, you deriding an “us versus them” mentality? That seems your default approach.

      • Posted by unlivable city

        I have never hidden that I absolutely abhor most developers. They are ruining our city. Recent Art Agnos article in Chron pretty much sums it up IMHO.

        • Posted by Tony

          Yeah, well people need housing and we can’t be expected to fix your emotional problems.

    • Posted by AnonAnon

      Thanks for the comments. I live nearby and know nothing of any of the developers so am very interested to hear other opinions on the them. I imagine things will be a little clearer once their proposals are submitted. I drive up Sixth Street every morning and Mercy has a nice looking brick building almost completed.

      • Posted by unlivable city

        Agreed about the new bldg. My concern is more the culture at Emerald. If you go to their website it says it all, boating that they’re “The Most Prolific.” That adjective just doesn’t scream to me: “a lasting contribution to the beauty of one of the world’s most beautiful cities.”

      • Posted by Hunter

        yeah, the structure on 6th is one of the best looking affordable (and market rate) buildings I’ve seen built recently. Hopefully mercy will do more of that!

    • Posted by curmudgeon

      Good analysis overall. I note that TNDC isn’t a prime in the 3rd group, so they are probably window dressing for bonafides. Which to my mind makes the third group even less attractive.

      You hit the nail on the head with MHDC. They had a golden era in the 90’s with Daniel Hernandez at the fore; they developed sensitive, architecturally distinctive properties in the Mission (and yes, they’ve ALWAYS been a good landlord). They had a truly awful period during the first dot com boom that almost killed them where their leadership played the us vs them card in an incredibly self-dealing way. But now they are back to doing what they do best, and it’s been refreshing to see.

      (Parenthetically, I’m amused to see MEDA become a housing developer, and attract the same sh*t they’ve been throwing at other people for years…but that has nothing to do with this thread).

  3. Posted by Philip Campbell

    Art Agnos is a prat. He was a failed mayor and crappy Asst Secretary of Housing. Agnos and people with mentalities like unlivable city are why we have a housing crisis. Oh, and Prop 13’s disincentive for cities to build housing.

    • Posted by Tony

      He also proposed an idea to buy an aircraft carrier to put all the homeless people on like it’s Snow Crash. The guy’s a nutjob.

    • Posted by Dandywhatsoever

      He was a good mayor, who actually tried to something about homelessness He stopped the city’s opposition to the consent decree eventually that opened the way for hiring and promotion of African Americans and women in the Fire Department. He was responsible for the tearing down of the Embarcadero freeway. (And nothing to do with Prop 13).

  4. Posted by Aaron Goodman

    I would not cross out any of the three, as they have shown ability to create more positive and modern solutions when pressed. The bigger concern is that the transit connectivity to BART via CCSF or along Ocean and out to Geneva Harney is not being discussed adequately. With (6 other developments on the eastern side of Balboa Park Station) and this number may increase, there is a bigger need to address aging transportation infrastructure and amp up the station redevelopment process vs. just cosmetics…

  5. Posted by Aaron Goodman

    second note is that the image shown should extend out and show the BPS station, and distance, to the station entry, along with difficulty of the freeway and bridge overpass…

    this is the crux of any development problem, and TDM does not fix it….. nor does “shuttle-service” lyft or uber..

  6. Posted by tahoebound

    I don’t think judging Emerald Fund based on their website is a particularly thoughtful way to assess the company. Look at what they’ve actually built. Their new projects around Civic Center are architecturally interesting, with attractive ground floors and good tenants.

    Key here is that Emerald Fund gets things built. And Mercy Housing has proven to deliver some very good projects with some of the best architecture of recent times — 6th Street as well as the affordable family housing in Mission Bay at 4th and Channel. Mercy also has good folks doing their retail tenanting (look at again at both mission bay projects- Philz, many independent businesses). They also helped get a new branch library in one of their Mission Bay buildings.

    I’d say the Emerald and Mercy combination would deliver the best project — and actually deliver!

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