SF looks to buy 3 sites, including former reservoir, for parks 

click to enlarge A defunct reservoir in Russian Hill, a 3-acre site, is one of three locations The City is purchasing in order to provide parks to areas that currently lack lots of open space. - NATHANIEL Y. DOWNES/S.F. EXAMINER FILE PHOTO
  • NATHANIEL Y. DOWNES/S.F. EXAMINER file photo
  • A defunct reservoir in Russian Hill, a 3-acre site, is one of three locations The City is purchasing in order to provide parks to areas that currently lack lots of open space.

San Francisco plans to spend more than $16 million to purchase space for three new parks, ranging from a 3-acre defunct reservoir in Russian Hill to a former ship building site in India Basin.

In addition to the $9.9 million reservoir purchase -- with payments spread out over 12 years -- are the $2.975 million acquisition of property at 900 Innes Ave. and the $4.5 million purchase as part of a housing development on the former Schlage Lock factory site.

The purchases, approved last month by the Recreation and Park Commission, will be funded through a portion of tax revenues in The City's Open Space Acquisition Fund, which currently totals $9.1 million.

The reservoir proposal was criticized by longtime developer John Stewart, who supported using the site for housing development as part of Mayor Ed Lee's goal to build 30,000 units by 2020 to address the housing crisis.

Other concerns came from park advocates in District 6's South of Market and Tenderloin neighborhoods who, despite the addition of new city parks, worried the large purchase would mean insufficient funds to buy open space in their area. A May 2013 budget analyst report found there was a low of 0.17 park acres per resident in District 6 compared to a high of 25.01 in District 2, which includes the reservoir site.

At the June 19 commission meeting, Recreation and Park Department General Manager Phil Ginsburg said that "the secret to that, to increasing density in the city, is to actually have open space side by side with it."

Ginsburg agreed there was a need for more open space in District 6, but said the department expects to have the resources in the fund to make future purchases. The fund is expected to drop to $7.2 million next fiscal year with the new properties and is expected to increase by about $2 million annually from a portion of collected tax revenue.

The purchase of the reservoir from the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission will require approval by the Board of Supervisors. Residents in the area have pledged $9 million to pay for transforming the site into a park.

The City will purchase the 2.4-acre Innes Avenue site from current owner, the nonprofit Tenderloin Housing Clinic. The waterfront site, which includes an historic Shipwright's Cottage, was once home to a booming boat building industry and notably was where author Jack London's Snark was built. The site requires remediation with cost estimates of up to $2.8 million.

As part of a proposed development deal for a 1,679-unit housing development on the former Schlage Lock factory site in Visitacion Valley, The City will buy from the developer, at about 50 percent of its appraised value, a linear park. The property will feature the Leland Greenway of about 33,000 square feet, and a Square Park of about 40,000 square feet.

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