Affordable housing project reaches Excelsior
Following a community-led effort to redevelop the underutilized Upper Yard of the Balboa Park BART Station, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency passed a resolution on Nov. 6 releasing the land for sale to the Mayor’s Office of Housing–an important step in the development of a proposed affordable housing project on the currently empty lot.
Community members and advocates met with representatives of the Board of Supervisors, the SFMTA and the MOH on Dec. 13 to discuss the terms of the sale and to ensure that the planning of the affordable housing development serves the community’s best interest.
“There’s a real interest in the community because there are often barriers in affordable housing that don’t give access to everyone,” said Charlie Sciammas of People Organizing to Demand Environmental and Economic Rights (PODER), one of several community groups involved in the planning. “We want to make sure that whatever housing gets built is accessible to all low-income people, regardless of their background or language.”
The effects of rising rents and foreclosures reflect a citywide need for affordable housing that is especially visible in San Francisco’s low-income neighborhoods, where residents often live doubled up in households and displaced families are forced into in-laws that are not always up to code.
“We need to be building to make sure that we have enough units for people to live in that are habitable,” said District 11 Supervisor John Avalos, whose office has pushed to transform the experience of people living near the Balboa Park station. “This is the start of a lot of work that needs to be done over the next several decades to build a new neighborhood here that works for all people.”
During Thursday’s meeting, the SFMTA presented an appraisal that estimated the value of the land to be around $5.2 million, commencing the negotiations between the two agencies before the land transfer can be finalized. The appraisal also proposed that 100 to 150 affordable housing units could be feasibly built on the site.
The SFMTA currently owns a large portion of the land proposed for redevelopment–the other parcel is owned by BART.
“We are not completely in agreement with that (amount),” said Theresa Yanga, director of Housing Development at MOH, stating that there are several factors that determine the land’s value, such as testing the soil for contamination. “We have to do our own independent analysis to determine what can be built on the site.”
According to BART spokesperson Alicia Troust, the agency has not taken an official stance on transferring its parcel to MOH, but is cooperating with the Mayor’s Office and the SFMTA.
For advocates of the affordable housing plan, the SFMTA’s approval of the transfer and the passage of Proposition C on the November ballot, which sets aside $1.5 billion over the next 30 years for affordable housing projects, are a step in the right direction.
“We are really excited that this is moving forward,” said Christina Canaveral, campaign organizer at Coleman Advocates for Children and Youth, who has helped to campaign for the land transfer. “Affordable housing in the Excelsior District is non-existent, and we are glad that this project is becoming a priority for the city.”
Once MOH acquires the land, it could take up to two or three years to bring the project to fruition in terms of development, design and the actual building of the affordable housing units.
“Before the summer, I think that all community members and organizations that came together couldn’t imagine that this would happen–we’ve been pushing this for several years,” said Sciammas. “Now there is momentum and dedicated public funds in place that could help pay for the financing and development–it feels like it’s much more within our reach.”