After Decades of Failure, 1,000-Plus Homes Coming to the Balboa Reservoir in San Francisco

Four developers tried, and four developers failed, until the San Francisco Board of Supervisors changed the story in August 2020.

August 13, 2020, 9:00 AM PDT

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell


"San Francisco’s west side will get its biggest influx of housing in several decades, after the Board of Supervisors [August 11] approved more than 1,000 new units on the Balboa Reservoir site," reports Trisha Thadani

"The board voted to rezone the 17-acre property off Ocean Avenue. The agreement allows the developers —Bridge Housing, AvalonBay and Mission Housing — to build 1,100 units of housing, 550 of them affordable, on the lot," adds Thadani. 

The property, now used as a parking lot for City College of San Francisco students, has created generations of controversy, as detailed in an article by J.K. Dineen that previewed the vote. Since the 1960s, four development proposals, by Dineen's count, fell to neighborhood opposition. "All of the proposals were blocked by a combination of neighborhood opposition and resistance from City College staff and students looking to preserve the land for future expansion," writes Dineen. 

For additional details about the scope of the project, Thadano adds: "Of the 550 affordable units, 150 will be set aside for City College teachers and staff. The project will also include a community center, 4 acres of open space, a 100-slot child-care center — 50% of those would be set aside for low-income families — and $10 million in fees for transit and infrastructure improvements."

As noted in both articles, controversy followed the project right to the end, as numerous faculty and students of City College joined members of the community to urge the San Francisco County Board of Supervisors to reject the proposal. 

The breakthrough for this latest, ultimately successful iteration of the development proposals for the Balboa Reservoir site came in April, when Mayor London Breed negotiated an agreement with the developers to include the affordable units in the overall development scheme.

Wednesday, August 12, 2020 in San Francisco Chronicle

Chicago Commute

Planning for Congestion Relief

The third and final installment of Planetizen's examination of the role of the planning profession in both perpetuating and solving traffic congestion.

May 12, 2022 - James Brasuell

Twin Cities

Minneapolis Housing Plan a Success—Not for the Reason You Think

Housing advocates praise the city’s move to eliminate single-family zoning by legalizing triplexes on single-family lots, but that isn’t why housing construction is growing.

May 13, 2022 - Reason

Single-Family Housing Construction

New White House Housing Initiative Includes Zoning Reform Incentives

The Biden administration this morning released a new program of actions intended to spur housing construction around the United States.

May 16, 2022 - The White House

University of Arizona

Proposed Transit Line Would Connect Downtown Tucson to Airport

Based on community input for a 15-mile transit line, residents want to see a focus on affordable housing development and anti-displacement measures.

May 22 - KGUN

Shuttered strip mall in Niland, California

Strip Malls as a Housing Solution

The American strip mall may be a dying breed of commercial development, but could the buildings serve a new use as sustainable housing?

May 22 - Yale Environment 360

Complete Street Vancouver

Study: Most of Vancouver Is a ‘15-Minute City’

A large majority of Vancouver residents can access a grocery store in 15 minutes or less by bicycle or on foot.

May 20 - Vancouver Sun

HUD’s 2022 Innovative Housing Showcase

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

Expanding HUD’s Eviction Protection Grant Program

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

New Updates on The Edge

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Hand Drawing Master Plans

This course aims to provide an introduction into Urban Design Sketching focused on how to hand draw master plans using a mix of colored markers.