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Balboa Reservoir Project Heads Into Building Design Process

A major housing project on a 17-acre parcel adjacent to the City College of San Francisco approved by the S.F. Board of Supervisors last year is set to move forward with design planning for Phase I.

Representatives of the joint development team from Avalon Bay Communities and BRIDGE Housing spoke about the plans at a Community Advisory Committee meeting held on March 15. They indicated that a master infrastructure plan is currently being devised as part of the development agreement that will yield a total of 1,100 housing units, 4 acres of open space, a community room, a childcare center and a new multimodal street network. About 50% of the units will be designated affordable, including 150 dedicated to educators. At least 40% of the units will have two or more bedrooms.

Rendering of Balboa Reservoir project in San Francisco.

"We've been kicking off selecting architecture teams, selecting design teams, interiors, landscaping — to help bring these buildings to life,” Avalon Bay Communities Development Director Nora Collins said at the meeting.  “And we're doing the exact same thing with the park, figuring out who the master landscape architect is, taking all the conversations we've had and starting to put together some conceptual designs.”

The first phase of the project includes 250 market-rate units, 110 moderate-income units, 140 affordable family-sized units, a street network and Reservoir Park. In addition to seeking both public and private financing for the project, the development team plans to seek community input on the building design process over the next year, according to Collins. Construction is anticipated to begin in late 2022, and the first residents could move into the Phase I buildings in 2024.

“We’re feeling really optimistic,” BRIDGE Housing Senior Project Manager Kearstin Dischinger said at the meeting, explaining that though hurdles caused by the coronavirus pandemic still exist, the outlook for new development is looking more positive than last year.

Leigh Lutenski, Office of Economic and Workforce Development project manager, said that the need for subsidized affordable housing in the city is still vast, with “over-subscribed” lottery drawings for every unit. Lutenski had responded to a question posed by a CAC member regarding the state of current demand for affordable housing given the drop in multifamily rental rates due to the pandemic.

“Our vacancy rates have remained constant, and our rent payment rates have remained constant over the past year,” Dischinger said regarding BRIDGE Housing’s buildings in both Southern California and the Bay Area. “That is to say that people are continuing to pay their rent in affordable housing all up and down California.”

Dischinger added that certain affordability brackets might have some slight downward fluctuations or stay flat in the short term.

“The Mayor's Office of Housing will require us to do current market rate studies to make sure that we're offering housing that's below the current market,” Dischinger said. “It’s not a public good if you can just get it in the private market.”

The project site is a surface parking lot under the S.F. Public Utilities Commission's jurisdiction and used by the CCSF campus community. Phase I will include devoting some surface parking spaces for use by CCSF. Part of the development agreement approved by the Board of Supervisors involves selling the publicly owned land to the developer for $11.4M, with part of the property to be leased back to the city.