Eds Note: The next Glen Park Planning Meeting is Wednesday, Sept. 16th from 6:30-8:30 at the Glen Park Recreation Center in the park. The date was printed incorrectly in the Fall issue of the Glen Park News. We’re really sorry!
From the Fall (released Sept. 10) issue of the Glen Park News:
By Elizabeth Weise
Imagine an above-ground creek running through the heart of downtown Glen Park, or what is now the neighborhood’s most chaotic intersection made more welcoming for pedestrians, cyclists and drivers. Imagine a large housing complex for mixed-income residents built across from the BART station.
Those are just some of the ideas percolating, as government agencies contemplate new development plans for Glen Park.
While nothing has been decided, planning is under way on two fronts: City Planning’s creation of the Glen Park Community Plan, and BART’s anticipated makeover of the train station and development of the parking lot it owns across the street at 42 Bosworth.
The decisions—whatever they are—are sure to shape the neighborhood for years to come.
The first process is the currently six-years-and-counting creation of the Glen Park Community Plan—a roadmap for neighborhood improvements related to transportation, streets, parks and open spaces. Think of it as a template for future development.
While City-initiated community plans don’t dictate what gets built, they do include recommendations for code and zoning changes for the targeted areas.
Other neighborhood plans that have recently been completed or are under way include the Octavia/Market Plan (http://bit.ly/MarketOctavia), the Japantown Plan (http://bit.ly/Japantown), the Balboa Park Plan (http://bit.ly/Balboa) and the Eastern Neighborhoods Plan.
Here in Glen Park, our Community Plan is being created under the auspices of the San Francisco Planning Department. Planner Jon Swae heads up the project. You can read the City’s current information about the plan at http://bit.ly/GlenPark. You can contact Swae at 575-9069 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Basically, the Glen Park Community Plan consists of concepts and policies aimed at creating a more livable neighborhood, from calming traffic around Diamond and Bosworth streets to the more audacious idea of bringing Islais Creek above ground, allowing it to merrily burble along Bosworth from Glen Canyon Park to somewhere near the BART station.
The biggest and most contentious portion of the plan-in-progress is the possibility of allowing the areas closest to the BART station to have higher residential densities—more units packed into a development—with an affordable housing component.
Under existing City law, new multi-family residential developments above a certain size are required to provide a certain percentage of affordable units, or the developer can contribute to a City-run fund to build affordable housing elsewhere. So-called affordability covers a large range. For a family of four, for example, the income could be as high as $80,000 a year.
At the same time, BART is exploring the feasibility of developing high-density housing on its parking lot on Bosworth Street, between Diamond and Arlington. However, the zoning would have to be changed to allow residential or commercial development there.
Skyscrapers are Unlikely
City policy already endorses the idea of higher-density projects along transit-rich corridors such as downtown Glen Park. City officials also have made a big push to build more housing for low-income and middle-class residents. With that in mind, the trick is to balance those citywide goals with the desire of residents to preserve the character of their neighborhood.
Downtown Glen Park already is zoned as “neighborhood commercial,” which allows commercial and residential mixed-use development with heights up to 40 feet, which equals three to four stories. Most of the design concepts in the 2003 draft Community Plan reflect this overall envelope.
Trying to build something outside of those design concepts—for example, a really tall building or another project out of character for the neighborhood—isn’t strictly illegal, but developers likely would be pressured by City planners to scale back or revamp such plans. Meanwhile, neighbors opposed to a project would start mounting campaigns at City Hall. It’s a San Francisco tradition, and Glen Park is no exception when it comes to battles over development.
So what are the next steps? First, some background.
The Glen Park Plan got under way in 2003 with a series of community meetings that generated ideas from residents about what they would like to see. The process was put on hold for a while until additional funding became available to proceed. Once that happened, the community planning component resumed.
At the same time, the requisite environment review of the plan began.
“This is the process legally where a lot of issues get documented and concerns are addressed and options analyzed and recommendations made at the end,” says Lewison Lem, who chairs the Glen Park Association’s traffic and parking committee.
The City is seeking public comment on the related but separate planning process and environmental review process. The Planning Department held the first in a series of community meetings in April, followed by another in July, minutes of which can be found at http://bit.ly/EIRmeeting
September 16 Meeting
The next meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, Sept. 16, 6:30–8:30 p.m. at the Glen Park Recreation Center (Please note: This was wrong in the Glen Park News print edition). The meetings will continue through the end of 2010, Swae says.
While there’s no guarantee that by the end everyone who participated in the public meetings will get what they want, the City is legally required to listen.
The environmental review will not be completed until the full Glen Park Community Plan is updated with neighborhood input so that the plan can be evaluated in the Environmental Impact Report (EIR). The EIR must be “certified” before the City can adopt the Community Plan.
Under the environmental review process, the City must address the project’s potential impacts on such things as traffic, parking and noise and, if significant, how they could be mitigated. However, there’s no legal mandate that every anticipated problem will be resolved.
This of course runs straight into the NIMBY and BNAANA phenomenon, as in Not in My Backyard and Build Nothing At All Never, Anywhere.
A debate has already started among the 260 or so participants on the Glen Park Bulletin Board electronic e-mail list. (See the e-mail listing on page 22 for instructions on signing up.) A number of residents decried the entire process, saying the City will just do what it wants and this is all window dressing. Several of the most vocal said things are fine as they are (or as they were 10 or 20 years ago, depending on when that person moved here) and that nothing should change. Others applauded the City’s efforts to encourage higher-density housing near BART.
Bart Development Undecided
As for the BART development project, six developers have submitted what amounts to conceptual plans, said BART representative Bruno Peguese. BART is evaluating the developers’ finances, references and previous community interactions. BART then will create a short list of contenders.
Even at this point, BART has not decided whether to transform the parking lot. “There has been no determination whether development will be pursued on the BART lot. Development is one of the alternatives being considered in the planned collaborative study conducted by City Planning, BART, SFMTA [San Francisco Metropolitan Transportation Authority] and the Glen Park Association,” Peguese wrote in an e-mail to D.K. Valentine, the Glen Park Association’s chair of zoning and planning.
Two years ago, students participating in a design competition at UC Berkeley created development plans for the Glen Park BART parking lot. The winning entry envisioned 58 units of housing. That student design caused a big stir in the neighborhood and took on a life of its own. But Valentine said the mock-up has no official standing and is not under consideration by BART or the City.
The 2003 draft Community Plan contemplated 36 to 50 housing units for the BART lot, which if realized would far surpass the size of any existing developments in downtown Glen park.
BART is not expected to move forward with any possible development until the Glen Park Plan planning process is completed.
Meanwhile, the City and BART are discussing how to spend $3 million in federal transit money that the late U.S. Rep. Tom Lantos secured to improve traffic, transit, pedestrian and bicycle circulation around the train station.
There’s a lot happening right now in Glen Park that will have a long reach into the future. There’s also plenty more opportunity for neighbors to weigh in, starting with the meeting on Sept. 15. So if you want the City to hear what you think should happen in Glen Park over the next 20 or so years in terms of neighborhood infrastructure improvements and development, come to the meeting. Notices of future events will be posted on the Glen Park Association web site.