By Jacob Bourne
The San Francisco Planning Department co-hosted a community meeting on May 20 along with representatives from Public Works, SFMTA and the Schlage Lock development team to provide Visitacion Valley neighbors with an update on the progress of area projects. The meeting followed four previous workshops as well as three community surveys conducted to solicit community input. A main finding of the most recent survey was that residents prioritized improvements to playgrounds, bike and transit, McLaren Park and pedestrian safety in terms of how impact fees should be utilized.
“The Schlage Lock development and the Executive Park development are the two big developments in Vis Valley that are in the pipeline for the next several years,” said John Francis, planner. “They’re paying the vast majority of the impact fees that the City is projected to take in over the next decade.”
The total impact fees generated by both projects within the next five to 10 years is estimated at $17 million. Based on survey feedback, five community benefit projects to potentially use the impact fee funding were presented at the meeting. A Visitacion Avenue/McLaren Park Connector costing $1.9 million would provide greater access between the neighborhood and park entrance. Visitacion Valley Greenway Connections are a proposed series of improvements ranging from landscaping to bike safety and public infrastructure, totaling $1 million. Residents discussed ongoing safety challenges near the Arleta MUNI Station, possibly mitigated by the Arleta/Bayshore Pedestrian and Bike Safety Improvements project, which would cost $1.5 million. Some residents said the Herz Playground Renovations project costing $2.5 million would be better funded through other sources. Finally, others expressed that the Blanken Underpass Illumination, estimated to cost $98,000, is necessary for safety given increased traffic experienced in the neighborhood.
Brad Mooney, project director at Bayside Development, LLC explained that the Schlage Lock project’s slowed pace since 2015, is in part due to the scaling back of the EB-5 Immigrant Investment Program, which comprised a major part of the project’s capital strategy for vertical development. Much of Mooney’s work is now focused on finding capital partners to stay on the timeline of completing civil infrastructure by the end of this year and beginning vertical construction thereafter. He commented about the difficulty of finding suitable partners due to the large scale of the project. The current Schlage Lock development plan proposes the construction of 12 buildings on a 20-acre parcel with 1,679 housing units, 45,000 square feet of retail, renovation of an 18,000 square foot historic building and creation of over two acres of public green space.
“Our funding had diminished and construction costs were through the roof so we decided to pause,” said Mooney. “We haven’t done any of the vertical construction in the past year. What we decided to do was focus on civil infrastructure and getting the site ready for development. We passed a milestone just this week and our phase one application is approved. The next big milestone we need to pass is the site improvement plan that defines the balance of the streetscape and infrastructure.”
The green space aspect of the project is mainly comprised by the proposed Leland Park and Visitacion Park. Leland Park, to be implemented in phase one of the overall development is tied to the delivery of the buildings just to the north of the park site. Dean Williams, architect with GLS Landscape Architecture, explained how the costs for the park had exceeded the budget by up to $350,000 and so some changes to the design had to be made. Among other changes, the design team is now working on mitigating wind effects and improving circulation through the middle of the park.