Tuesday, April 6, 2010
St. John’s School, Glen Park
Notes by Elizabeth Weise, Glen Park News
There’s been much concern among some Glen Park residents over BART’s possible plan to build something (most likely housing) on its parking lot on Bosworth.
San Francisco’s city policy specifically supports more housing density close to mass transit, and you can’t get closer or more mass than an apartment complex across from a BART station.
Some in the neighborhood feel that things are plenty dense enough and that Glen Park’s idyllic character is being destroyed by more people and more cars.
Others like the idea of more people, as it means that more shops of all sorts can be supported, making the neighborhood more self-sustaining, in addition to being more environmentally friendly.
Thus far no one’s really heard much from BART on this; It’s all been conjecture and guesses by other city agencies that really don’t have any say over what BART does.
To get some real facts, the Glen Park Association and the Glen Park Merchants Association invited representatives of the SF Planning and BART Planning departments to provide a status update on village development.
The meeting took place on Tuesday, April 6th from 7:00 – 8:30 pm. St. John’s School, at 925 Chenery St., very kindly lent its gym for the event. And apologies to the girls waiting for their volleyball practice who had to wait while dawdling adults stuck around talking.
There were 56 residents at the meeting. Of those, about ten offered comments or questions, and a few spoke multiple times. Most who spoke were long-time neighborhood residents and home owners.
The sentiment of the majority in attendance was that the neighborhood needed no more people or development and that it’s too crowded and traffic-ridden as it is. There was much anger and frustration that there wasn’t enough parking in the neighborhood. Each time these points were made by residents, there was applause.
One resident asked for a show of hands on how many supported BART building housing at its current parking lot. Six were in favor, 50 opposed.
Tom Radulovitch, BART board: The Glen Plan plan came about for two reasons. I was elected in 1996 and it was my feeling that we’d been neglecting neighborhoods around BART stations and that we had public spaces at BART stations that weren’t really working.
Another thing we hadn’t attended to was access to BART stations. The connections between stations and the community can feel unsafe. In many ways it felt that the GP station wasn’t connected to the village. How do we take the village, on one side of Bosworth and the station on the other and connect them? How can we use the plaza better?
But the real trigger for that plan was the library/marketplace project. That was very controversial at the time and I heard a lot of discussion and frustration about 40 years of frustration over the BART station. We never said “What do we need to make this livable and workable?”
I decided that even if the library/market project didn’t happen, we needed to address those topics. We had a weeklong series of workshops where people in the neighborhood could come in to talk to planners about what they wanted.
The plan was endorsed, not adopted by the City Planning Commission in 2003. And it’s been sitting there since because it needs one more step, environmental review and clearance. It’s very comlicated, the city is very twitchy these days about environmental clearance. I don’t know when it will be done. But it’s important to know that we can’t do anything with that parking lot until that environmental review is done. That’s the milestone, until the Environmental Review is done and the plan is adopted and the site is rezoned for another use, if that’s what comes out of the plan.
Also Supervisor Dufty worked with Congressman Lantos to get some federal money. So there’s $3.5 million in federal money waiting to implement the public improvements of that plan, but because of the city’s twitchiness about ER we can’t use any of that money without having the plan in place.
So why is BART talking to developers if it can’t do anything?
We used to do a process called request for proposals. You say I’ve got a parcel I want to develop and you get a developer to submit a very detailed proposal and then you’d accept it and then you’d end up in a big fight with the community over the proposal. We ended up backing into the process, slowly changing it to create something that the community wanted.
Pleasant Hill: we’ll be breaking ground soon. That started as a theater and ended up as a green common and housing.
So now we talk to the community. At the time GP said it wanted something that would knit the village to the station, that would allow the commercial district to extend towards the station, that would make it feel safer at night.
So now we do a new process, it’s a request for qualification. We pick a developer that we think has the qualifications to do a project and then ‘here you are, go, work with the community, come up with a proposal’ and then we decide.
So the developer is on board the entire time. One, so the developer can hear what you want, and two, so they developer can tell you what’s possible.
So we felt that running these processes in parallel, choosing a developer, going through planning process to decide what’s the most sensible path for the site.
We’re now in the process of choosing a developer. That developer will be working with you and the city as they finish the GP plan.
We want the developer there hearing that so they can incorporate it into their design. We also want them to talk to you and the City about what the constraints are.
So at the end of the day we end up with something that pleases you and is buildable.
The site is currently zoned P for Public, it can only be a public use right now.
Questioner: How can the site go from being a public use into a profit center for BART.
Tom: It’s all for the public good. Why do we develop housing and other uses on BART sites? There’s a reason we do that, Jeff can answer that.
Questioner: When they built the market place and the library we lost 24 parking places. The idea of losing 40 something parking places in the BART lot, if we lose any more parking places I will go shop in West Portal. I’m disabled and I can’t park here. The issue I want spoken to clearly here is how that can be resolved. I want all the parking places in the village made bluewhere disabled people can park as long as they want.
Tom: The BART parking lot is not meant to be used to go to the merchants, in fact if we see you parking there and then walking to the shops we’re supposed to ticket you.
Same Questioner: But I use it to go shopping.
Tom: There are many people who want to use the spaces. The question is how we can intelligently manage those parking places?
Questioner: I’ve lived in GP on Monterey two blocks up from BART for over 49 years. I’ve seen many changes, some good and bad. The good part is the new library, the park, the school, the 280 and the new BART station. The bad part is the congestion and the traffic problems. On my block a lot of people from other areas park there, I have a hard time getting out of my garage. I would suggest that the BART parking garage should be two levels, two entrance and two exits.
Tom: The agency that does that is the MTA. We really need to look at all the parking in the neighborhood and how it’s managed. It just moves the parking further out.
Jeff Ordway, Manager of property development at BART for 20 years: When we embark on this process to identify a developer, it’s for qualifications only, we didn’t want a proposal, we wanted to create a relationship with a developer who would create a relationship with the community. The board will meet Thursday morning to decide if the developer is acceptable.[GPN Note: The BART board selected as the developers, Linda Sobuta of Architecture + Urban Design, and Monica Finnegan of Urban Real Estate Equities.]
Our question for them is: What experiences do they have working with community groups. We wanted to know from the folks who worked with them if they were amenable to change. So it wasn’t as if this group would come in and say I’m going to do this or I’m going to do nothing.
Also, they have a rather large, diverse set of individuals to make sure they can deliver on the promise of interaction with the community. We’ll sign a negotiating agreement with them and then come out to the community to see what’s the most effective way to create this.
Some cities tell us to go to the planning dept. In Oakland and San Francisco they tell us to go to the community and merchants.
You raise the issue of parking. We said specifically we need an access study to look at how much parking will be lost, how much parking will be replaced. When we solve a problem here, we’re creating one over here. We need to look at the whole are and do what’s right for the community. We tell the developers you do understand you’re going to need to underwrite a parking study
So I look at this as if we’re beginning the journey. Then we need to build an awful lot of trust, which I’m not hearing. We need to come out here and gain that trust.
Questioner: One of the issues I see is the BART board asked for an Request for Qualifications two years ago and then it was that it would take six months to a year to find a developer. But now a lot of time has elapsed and a lot of misinformation has been circulated and why did it take so long?
Jeff: I appreciate that. We lost time with the city, we needed to strengthen our relationship with the city before we could get moving forward. The other part of the process is we had 7 development teams submit qualifications, two dropped out of the process but we had 5 teams left. It was difficult to select, it took us a long time. We did initial interviews and then two rounds of questions. It took a long time.
From tonight forward we don’t have an excuse.
Questioner: One of the issues in the community is about replacement parking. You said a parking study is part of what you’re planning. That’s clearly an important issue in the community. There are 35 parking slots, 4 car share, 3 handicapped, several motorcycle spaces. That’s the largest amount of parking available in the neighborhood. People are smart they understand that if that parking goes away, there’s going to be spillover.
Jeff: That’s what we have to look at. Should all of it be replaced, some of it? How will we pay for it?
Questioner: All of us in San Francisco have always paid that extra tax for BART and I’m within walking distance of BART and I can use it. But there are many people in Diamond Heights and Miraloma, they aren’t from out of town, but they can’t get to BART. You’re talking about build for the common good, what about our common good? I’ve lived in Glen Park since 1975 and it’s just gotten more and more congested. You build this housing here ad you’ve totally changed the the feel. You say in your office ‘oh, we should build housing’ but you don’t live here. We’re not building housing for families. We’re losing families in the city. All the housing that gets built are for single people. People have to have parking to use BART. The congestion is too much. You are not being realistic. There are many people who need a car, they have to take their kids to school and then get to BART. So realistically there’s a need for cars. You’re cutting off your nose to spite your face, you’re not checking with us in the neighborhood. The city wants housing there, you want to make money, I feel like it’s being shoved down my throat. I wasn’t at the charette. But “boom!” the people that were there got to make decisions about our lives. You’re not checking with those of us who living the neighborhood.
I have always been on the side of change and growth and I find myself wanting to say to you ‘Leave it alone.’ When you say we’ll do a study, we’ve watched studies slip away from conventional people. If your qualifications don’t include protecting that number of parking places in this neighborhood, I don’t want it to go forward. This is maybe a very conservative, aging position, but I feel if it ain’t broke don’t fix it, there’s nothing broke about the parking lot except that it’s a little small, a second story would help. We chose our neighborhood because it was rural and quiet and it’s less rural and quiet with each of these improvements.
Questioner: I totally support this lady’s statement. During rush hour BART is a problem and if we add new housing it’s going to create additional problems.
Jeff: One of the questions we ask the developers on our short list is in the event that we go through a process, I believe that doing studies is interesting but they’re not real. A reality check is absolutely critical. Being able to turn to a developer and say ‘Can you do this, yes or no?’ is absolutely critical.
One issue is those two hours parking on Bosworth. At the time there were people concerned with the loss of those two hour spaces, high turn around spaces. The developers suggests taking all the spaces to and making them two hour spaces. I think it was an overshoot. We can and should undo that, not we BART but the Parking and Traffic Dept. Those could be open a little longer for make it possible for people to park longer for BART trips. The problem is the Parking and Traffic Dept. doesn’t think in these broader terms.
Ric Lopez: GP Merchants Association president. We want to address the big picture.
Tom: When you do a big transportation study you have to look at the broader neighborhood, and all the projects that have been approved, even if they haven’t been built.
The important thing for you, and we’re not there yet, is that we need to look at scope, so we need help making sure we know about everything that’s going on in the neighborhood, all the projects.
Questioner: Is your intent to be a landlord and rent the units built?
Jeff: We don’t know. Our disposition of the property is subject to the BART board.
Same Questioner: How many units?
Jeff: We don’t know. When you do an Environmental Review you have to look at the maximum impact, but that isn’t necessarily what’s going to be built. What’s going to be built comes out of the discussion process. We won’t know until we work with the developer and you all to figure out what we’re going to built. We don’t know yet.
Questioner: How many low income?
Tom: We don’t know. We are only beginning this process. We don’t know yet.
Questioner: I live at the park end of Chenery. There didn’t use to be anyone parking on our street but now there’s people parking all over our street. Where can we push it out? There’s no more room? We’re a village. That’s one of the reasons why we moved here, we were a little neighborhood village. I’m really grateful for the store and library and I really like it, but it’s a concrete square building and it took away from our village feel. I feel like if there’s another building in the neighborhood, it’s going to be another concrete building with housing for whomever it’s going to be for, it’s going to take away from our neighborhood feel. You say you want to hear what we have to say but I feel like you’re trying to push it.
Jeff: I’m trying to push a relationship. I think if you give us a chance.
Questioner: Give us a chance to build another concrete building…
Jeff: No, give us a chance to bring a developer to the table. We warned them you could go through a process with the community and not be able to build anything, are you okay with that.
Questioner: We want to stay a small San Francisco neighborhood.
Tom: This process is not meant to make it easier for people commuting on BART from other areas to park in Glen Park. San Francisco is very clear, commuters are the last priority, they should only get parking if there’s something left over, but it doesn’t sound like there’s anything left over in the neighborhood. One of the problems is we’ve never had a good strategy for parking in Glen Park. Clearly we need t prove that we can begin to solve some of these problems, because if you see progress you might come to believe that some of these things are workable. The good news is that there are a lot of people here who are hearing this. I’m hearing loud and clear that it’s a problem we have to solve.
Questioner: I submitted a comment to the Glen Park community plan and I got no response. So here are my questions: Is BART planning to build condos? What’s ‘affordable?’ Are you going to raise the height of the buildings? You’re going to build to six stories. Decrease in parking spaces. Businesses will have apartments over them, bottom floors must be businesses with living over. Stop commercial development beyond the commercial area. There’s a feeling that you can put in a really minimum number of parking spaces and they seem quite pleased with themselves that they can get away with only one parking place (per unit?). I think they should have to have two or three stories of parking under the building. BART says they can’t do it but they put a tube under the Bay, the can do it if they want to. (Sally Ross)
Jeff: I don’t know how to defend myself. I can’t tell you what we’re going to do because we don’t know. We’re not trying to hide anything, we don’t know, we haven’t decided yet.
John Bilvitz, Planning Dept: Please note that what you’re seeing on the Glen Park Plan that’s up at the Planning Dept. website is a document that tries to set the maximum possible building parameters for the neighborhood. No one’s saying we’ll definitely built to those parameters, they are a beginning. During the process of planning and environmental review we decide what would actually work. They’re not what will necessarily be built.
Previous Questioner: I was at a lot of the committee meetings for building the library. I heard Mr. Radulovitz talking about the issue of building on that parking site, but he said it was a difficult engineering issue. If you put a lot of units in that area, it’s going to cause more congestion in the area. I just think it’s insanity in terms for the traffic patterns. We also have the Genentech buses coming in, those take up two lanes to turn. Environmental Review, think about this — it’s insanity as it is now.
Questioner: How many people want a building on that site? (There were six hands raised out of 56 people.)
Questioner: I don’t categorically accept that a parking lot is the best solution for that space. That’s why I want to hear what they have to say and what they propose before I make up my mind.
Questioner: If the community decides, if we do not want or need a building structure there, will you go along with the community?
Jeff: We will respect the community. If we can’t come to a solution that’s comfortable for the majority of people, then we won’t.
Questioner: Right now we’re at the point of crisis in terms of traffic. I think you need to de link the building and the other issues, focus on fixing the other problems first and then we can see about the building.
Planning Dept.: Later in the summer is the prospective release of the draft Environmental Review. That has to be finished, voted on and cleared before we can being doing anything at all.
We’ve been working with SFMTA (San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency), we’ve been talking to them a lot about ‘The P Word,’ (i.e. parking.) The MTA is conducting a parking survey. They’re going to mail out a Questionnaire and then they’re going to have a parking meeting. We’re well aware of it, we’ve been discussing it with them.
Tom: This is the first of many conversations we’ll be having.
Questioner: At what point would the rezoning of the parking lot happen and at what time would the community have a say in that?
Planning: That would be a City issue, our view is that the appropriate use of the BART parking lot needs to go through this process. We wouldn’t be proposing rezoning this without. It’s zoned public use, it’s a public entity, we would only rezone in response to a proposal that had real legs.
The meeting ended at approximately 8:35 pm.