By Meghan Hall
A tract of land controlled by the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission will be getting a new lease on life as a residential project there takes shape. Phase I of the project, located off of Frida Khalo Way, will transform a current surface parking lot into 628 new residential units, according to a recent planning application filed with the City of San Francisco.
The project is a public-private partnership between the City of San Francisco, BRIDGE Housing, AvalonBay Communities, Mission Housing Development Corporation, Pacific Union Development Company and Habitat for Humanity. Master planning will be spearheaded Van Meter Williams Pollack Architecture and Urban Design and PYATOK Architecture and Urban Design. GLS Landscape Architecture will tackle open space design.
The ultimate goal is to transform what the City has deemed an “under-utilized” parcel of land into a vibrant new community. In all–including Phase I–the project will include about 1,100 housing units that will cater to a diverse population.
“Like the best San Francisco neighborhoods, Balboa Reservoir will be a diverse community serving a range of incomes and household types, with a special focus on families and San Francisco educators. Half of the 1,100 new homes will be affordable to low- and moderate-income families, making a meaningful impact on the Bay Area’s housing crisis,” said Brad Wiblin, Executive Vice President of BRIDGE Housing, which is leading the development alongside AvalonBay Communities.
The affordable housing component of the project will be constructed by BRIDGE, along with nonprofit partners Mission Housing and Habitat for Humanity Greater San Francisco. In addition to Avalon Bay’s market-rate multifamily housing, 100 for-sale homes are entitled on the west end of the site. Wiblin stated that BRIDGE is discussing the project with homebuildiers, and that the development team may sell the entitled lots to a third party for development. Any proceeds from the transactions would subsidize the construction of the affordable portion of the project.
Phase I will total 676,000 square feet of space. The entire project will also include four acres of open space, including a two-acre “Reservoir Park” with community gardens and multipurpose lawns, and one acre of “Retained Fee Open Space,” with a plaza and pedestrian paseos.
A new multi-modal street network, a childcare facility and other amenities are also designated in the plans.
“With a large central park and connections to surrounding neighborhoods, our team envisions Balboa Reservoir as a sustainable community that prioritizes walking, biking, and shared stewardship of resources,” said Joe Kirchofer, Vice President of Development at AvalonBay. “We are excited to fulfill the City’s vision of bringing new homes to under-utilized public lands, and grateful for the leadership of Mayor London Breed and former Supervisor Norman Yee, who have been champions of this project.”
The application submittal is the result of more than two decades of planning. The original Balboa Park Station Area Plan was originally launched in 200, with the area plan formally adopted by the Planning Commision in 2009. After two years of community feedback for the development of a master plan on the project site between 2015 and 2017, the City chose the development team. The environmental review process was initiated in 2018 as designs came together and the Master Plan and Development Agreement were subsequently approved in 2020.
Construction is expected to start around mid-2022, and prior to beginning Phase II, the project team will be expected to submit a second Planning Application. Full buildout of the project could be complete by 2026.