Glen Park Planning Meeting
Sept. 14, 2009
This meeting was coordinated between the Glen Park Association and the San Francisco Planning Dept. as an open forum for the neighborhood to hear from Planning and for Planning to hear from the neighborhood. More such meetings will be coming in the future.
Sixty-five residents attended the meeting, which was held at the Glen Park Recreation Center in Glen Canyon.
Speaking for the San Francisco Planning Dept. were John Billovitz and Jon Swae.
Billovitz told the audience that he environmental review process began a year ago.
A draft is expected to be published in 2010. Then it goes out for comment, then they get comment hen they revise 3 or 4 months later it’s done. So one year from now the EIR will be done and we’ll be able to say what the impacts of the various suggestions might be.
Nothing can happen on the BART project until 2011 at the earliest, this all has to take place after the EIR is done
One idea was to normalize San Jose, turn it from a thoroughfare to more a boulevard like Octavia Street.
It’s a tremendously expensive project, said John, the plan might call for it but there’s no money set up for it.
One thing to take into account is that the EIR doesn’t last forever, after a certain number of years the presumption is you have to redo it because the conditions might have changed.
What is traffic calming – the idea is to get people going the proper speed limit, to stop them from speeding. It’s not to stop traffic, but to make it safer.
Sydney Clemmens, who is 70 and lives in the next neighborhood and has lung disease said that she’s not opposed to dense housing on traffic corridors. But if she can’t park in the village, “it’s dead to me. I’m a locovore, I want to use my neighborhood..”
She said that the neighborhood had been promised four handicapped parking spaces in the village but there was only one. “If I can’t find a parking space here, I have to go shopping in Bernal Heights.”
Boe Hayward from Bevan’s office told her that Bevan has heard that parking is a sensitive issue and that many in the neighborhood don’t support development of the BART parking lot. “Bevan will stand up for the community wants,” he said.
Clemens said that the neighborhood had lost 17 parking places “without being asked” when they built the library and the market.
Billovitz said one nice thing about Glen Park is that there’s a community organization that can help bring together neighbors for just this type of issue.
Mark on Tudor street said he commended their attempts to improve traffic. He’s been in Glen Park for 36 years and said there have been “innumerable” illegal housing units added, especially after the 1989 earthquake. People are now using O’Shaughnessy and San Jose as East/West corridors through the city. Traffic has become intolerable.
Question from eh audience: How tall could an apartment building or condominium building be near BART?
Billovitz: Normally a building would be allowed to be 4o to 60 feet, which is generally four to five stories, about the side of the library complex.
However he noted that the Dept. of Planning was not proposing any buildings, it is only tasked with developing an overall plan for Glen Park, not for building anything.
Someone in the audience asked why BART is putting a “requests for qualifications” from developers if it’s not actively planning on building anything at the BART parking lot.
Swae said that BART wouldn’t itself build anything, nor would it even begin the process of discussing building something. Instead, it asks for developers who have proven that they can finance building projects in San Francisco, and negotiate the San Francisco building process, and lets them see if a given project is financially and politically feasible.
So only after BART has found a developer to take on that role for the Glen Park BART lot will there even be anyone to even discuss the possibilities with, Swae said.
That seems very inefficient, the speaker said.
“Planning in inherently inefficient,” Swae answered.
How accountable is BART to the community, someone asked.
If BART wants to use the lot for anything but a transit-oriented project (for example, a workshop or a car barn, both basically impossible on that land) it has to put the project through San Francisco’s Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors. BART can only supercede local zoning if it’s using the land for public infrastructure, which would be a school, a power plant or sewage treatment plant, none of which are really possible at that site.
Miriam Moss, a long-time neighbor and park activist, said “The Glen Park Association doesn’t speak for us.” She also noted that the City originally put its Transit First policy into effect for downtown, but it’s now spread to include the whole city.
“We’ve reached our point of density here in Glen Park,” she said. “These things may look very nice in your (meaning the Planning Dept.) offices, but it doesn’t look good here. We want space. The next thing you now, we’re going to look like Manhattan.”
Billovitz said that planning wasn’t there to force anything on the neighborhood, but to figure out what it wanted.
He said that the original Glen Park Plan, which was worked out in many many meetings in 2003 in the neighborhood, looked pretty good. But that clearly the neighborhood of 2009 feels that it needs input into the process.
Carolyn asked about the turn-around lane, referring to the GP Plan that considered the construction of a bus lane circumventing the BART station, to cut down on congestion.
Billovitz said that City engineers were looking at the possibilities but he wasn’t sure it was likely.
A woman who had previously lived in Hayes Valley stood up and said that that neighborhood had improved mightily since its planning process had gone through and that she had been very impressed with the work the city planners did. “These meetings tend to be around peoples fears,” she said. “I’m just saying, what if these guys (i.e. the planners) aren’t the bad guys?”
One neighbor stood to say that the meetings in 2003 had been very poorly attended and he didn’t’ feel they were a legitimate process. But then others stood to say that they had attended those meetings that that there were upwards of 30 and 40 people at many of them.
A question was asked about the idea of bringing Islais Creek to the surface, which has been proposed in the 2003 Glen Park Plan.
Billovitz said that there might be ideas in the plan which people thought were great, but then you had to find the money to do them. “You might find later that it’s not feasible.” Bringing the creek above ground for part of the way down along side Bosworth might be one of those ideas, though the Public Utilities Commission does want sustainable ways of dealing with storm water, he noted.
Sarah, a relatively new resident, said is seemed to her that increasing housing and density would help increase diversity, which was something she supported.
She suggested that car trips might be lessened if Glen Park Elementary became a popular school, as many families now drive to schools across the city.
Another thing the neighborhood lacked was a pharmacy, which she would welcome.
Greg, another newish resident’s aid what drew him and his wife to the neighborhood was in part reading the Glen Park Plan online and the possibilities it held.
Billovitz said that parking is a big issue in Glen Park and that planning is discussing it with the Municipal Transportation Agency.
“We don’t regulate on-street parking,” he said.
AS for what BART wants to do with the land it owns at the parking lot, Billovitz noted that BART’s going to want to maximize the lease revenue from the space. Right now it makes no money as it’s a free parking lot. BART wants to increase its revenue so it can use it to help the system as a whole.
A resident asked if the planning process includes thought on how plans affect housing values. It doesn’t Billovitz said.
Glen Park Association officer Mic Ames said that one local merchant had suggested to him that BART consider putting a commercial parking lot on the space.
Billovitz said it would be extremely unlikely. Basically, a parking structure would cost so much to build that by some estimates you would have to charge $30 a day for parking to make it financially feasible. If the city put a parking structure there, it would have to subsidize parking to a high degree to get people to use it. “It doesn’t’ come close to penciling out,” he said.
Besides, “if you want to have more congestion, build a parking structure,” he said.
Someone asked about affordable housing.
City policy is that the first priority of the use of public lands being for affordable housing, Billovitz said. In return for allowing BART to build housing on the BART lot (if that’s what BART ends up deciding to do and if the City decides it’s going to let them) would be that the City would look for ‘give backs’ from BART in terms of affordable housing or public outdoor space or a retail space that doesn’t quite pencil out. “Where there’s an entitlement, they’re going to try to capture value from it,” he said of the City’s dealing with BART.
In effect, San Francisco’s going to try to get the use out of the space that best fits its stated goals, while BART’s trying to get the most money it can out of the space. And the Planning Dept. will listen to public comment and insert that into the debate as well.
“It’s not a done deal. There’s a lot of process left to go through,” Bilovtis said.
He noted that Planning and specifically not asked BART to come to the meeting, in part because they didn’t want it to be about the BART lot (which the Glen Park Plan isn’t about) and partly because he knew that BART isn’t ready to even start talking about possibilities for the parking lot because it doesn’t have a developer who’s even thinking about it yet.
He left the audience with this thought: “What the highest, best use (of land) is in San Francisco, is what is politically feasible.”