By Kate Snyder
At a time when municipalities across California are trying to find ways to create more housing, one proposal for the redevelopment of a mall on the west side of San Francisco could be an opportunity for the city to make strides in the right direction. The San Francisco Planning Commission held a discussion during its most recent meeting on the draft environmental impact report for the 4.7 million square foot Stonestown Development Project.
The Stonestown Development Project is a mixed-use, multi-phased masterplan for the redevelopment of the Stonestown Galleria mall area located at 3251 20th Ave. The plan involves keeping the vast majority of the existing 775,000 square foot Stonestown Galleria as part of the future development but with 26.9 acres of surface parking lots transformed into a predominantly residential neighborhood. The residential portion would support up to 2,900 housing units. Along with the residential portion, the site would include up to 160,000 square feet of new retail and service space, up to 200,000 square feet of non-retail and service use, up to 100,000 square feet of hotel use, about 53,000 square feet of institutional uses, approximately 4,250 parking spaces and six acres of open space.
Brookfield Properties is the project developer. The design team includes SITELAB Urban Studio, EinwillerKuehl Landscape Architecture and David Baker Architects. Carlson, Barbee & Gibson, Inc., is the civil engineer for the project. The entitlement process began when the project application was initially filed in December 2021, according to city records. Construction is anticipated to begin in 2024.
The existing parking garage in the southwest corner of the site, the vacant UA Stonestown Twin Theater – which had been designated as a historic architectural resource – at the northwest corner of the site and the commercial building at the northeast corner of the site would all be demolished and redeveloped as part of the project, according to proposed plans. The draft EIR includes alternative proposals designed to reduce impacts on any portion of the site that has been designated as a historic resource, including full and partial preservation solutions.
Public comments given on the draft EIR during the planning commission meeting were mostly positive, with some commenters expressing concerns that the study was insufficient as is but many others sharing their support for both the proposed project and the scope of the draft EIR.
Members of the planning commission were also generally positive about the draft EIR, praising the overall thoroughness. Planning Commissioner Kathrin Moore particularly noted that the number of alternatives included in the study exceeded what is generally expected in this kind of document.
Planning Commissioner Sue Diamond pointed out that if the project should change, such as if the planned hotel were not developed and instead more housing were included in the proposal, then supplementary EIRs might be warranted. However, Diamond also highlighted the opportunity the proposal has to bring more housing to the city.
“We’re at this pivotal point in time where not only is [the California Environmental Quality Act] a very important consideration and the approval of the project, which is not yet in front of us, but we are also now dealing with a new housing element that’s been adopted and certified that mandates we find room for 82,000 additional units with the focus being on the west side,” Diamond said. “This is one of the prime opportunity sites where we can add a significant amount of housing so long as it is done in an appropriate manner with urban design and with the appropriate infrastructure in part to ensure that whatever we add here is still beautiful and livable and adds to the quality of life in the city.”
The Stonestown Galleria was originally constructed in 1952 and subsequently renovated between 1987 and 1988. Brookfield originally purchased the asset in 2018 as part of a larger, $9.2 billion deal to acquire General Growth Properties, according to The Registry’s previous reporting. At the time, General Growth Properties had owned the mall since 2004. According to Brookfield’s website, the property currently has 803,837 square feet of retail space and is home to 112 retailers. The property sits on about 40 acres. About 10 acres of the property is utilized by mall building area, and 30 acres are surface parking lots.
Brookfield Properties is the real estate investment arm of Brookfield Asset Management, which is one of the largest alternative asset managers in the world, according to the firm’s website. Brookfield Properties operates in a variety of sectors, including office, retail, logistics, multifamily and hospitality.