Clogging a city artery 

A slew of construction projects planned near Lake Merced would turn the sleepy suburban neighborhoods into urban destinations, but they would come at a price, adding droves of traffic to the already chronically congested 19th Avenue.

Seven massive building proposals would add more than 7,000 new homes to a quiet 500-acre swath of southwestern San Francisco, The City’s Planning Department recently reported. Another 175 units could be built nearby, north of Sloat Boulevard at 1150 Ocean Ave.

Transit and street improvements are planned along the corridor, which is used by commuters as they travel between the North Bay and Silicon Valley, but the upgrades might not be enough to offset the dramatic effects of expected sudden growth.

“There needs to be a massive expansion of public transportation,” said Supervisor Sean Elsbernd, whose district includes the affected chunk of highway. “I don’t think public transportation in the southwest corner of The City serves the needs of the people.”

Owners of Parkmerced plan to nearly triple the number of apartments in the medium-rise housing complex between 19th Avenue and Lake Merced during the coming two decades. The work, which could begin next year, would replace two-story residential buildings with structures that include three-, six- and 13-story towers.

The planned expansion from 3,221 to 8,900 apartments will have population swell by at least 12,000 residents, creating unprecedented new pressures on transit, roads and parks systems.

The expansion would bring shops and other services into the apartment campus, reducing the need for car-trips, and it would fund major transit improvements. But it would also radically increase the number of onsite car parks.

Nearby, San Francisco State University plans to increase student numbers by 25 percent and more than double the number of on-campus dorms.

The owners of Stonestown Galleria, north of the university, are considering building eight new cinema screens and swelling the number of stores and parking spaces.

A handful of vacant or underdeveloped nearby lots are also the subject of building proposals that would include new homes and businesses.

The developments would increase the number of jammed 19th Avenue intersections during afternoon peak hours from 11 to 19 and overload the 28-19th Avenue, 29-Sunset and M-Ocean View Muni services — even after planned traffic and transit improvements are completed by public agencies and property owners, the department found.

Elsbernd, who directed the Planning Department to undertake the study, said the economic downturn has reduced the likelihood that smaller developments will move forward — but a population boom appears inevitable because of the Parkmerced plans.

“This report lays a foundation and gets people thinking about the potential impacts of Parkmerced, which in the end dwarfs the size of those other developments,” Elsbernd said.

If the Parkmerced expansion moves forward, Elsbernd said, “It’s going to take significant transportation to make it work.”

The apartment complex was built in an autocentric fashion after World War II, according to spokesman P.J. Johnston.

The expansion plans include a reimagination of the dominant modes of transportation into, through and past the neighborhood.

“This was built and marketed as suburban living in The City,” Johnston said. “The buildings, the landscape, the trees and really the concept has proven to not mesh well with 21st-century priorities.”

A major transit improvement proposed under Parkmerced’s expansion project would redirect the M-Ocean View line through the apartment complex, where it would stop twice.

A multimodal transit plaza is proposed as part of the project at the southwest corner of 19th and Holloway avenues. A shuttle bus is proposed to carry residents to BART and nearby shopping centers.

Aaron Goodman, an architect and Parkmerced resident, questioned the appropriateness of rerouting public transit through private property and said apartment residents could be affected by transit-related noise.

Goodman, who advocates for transit-first policies, said some lanes of 19th Avenue should be dedicated for buses and he supports the sometimes-discussed idea of boring a tunnel to shift traffic underneath the corridor.

“Where is there a plan in the vision of our politicians and planners for The City’s western side of the city to get people out of their cars?” Goodman said.

Building up and out

Major developments planned or expected along a milelong stretch of 19th Avenue will alter the face of the landscape in the southwestern part of The City.

Arden Wood residential care facility

Location: 445 Wawona St.

Size: 7.6 acres

Description: Owners of the Christian Science care facility hope to split the lot and sell more than half of it to a developer. The care facility would continue to operate on 4.6 acres and a 142-unit housing development could be built on the remainder of the site, although no formal applications have been filed.

What is there now: 119,000-square-foot residential care facility

What is coming: Additional 142 units of senior housing, condominiums or apartments

Stonestown Galleria

Location: 19th Avenue and Winston Drive

Size: 40.7 acres

Description: Potential expansion opportunities have been identified for the mall, which contains scores of stores including Macy’s, Nordstrom and Border’s, although no formal applications have been filed with The City. The potential expansion would occur on the mall’s western side.

What is there now: 865,000 square feet of retail space, two-screen theater

What is coming: Retail expanded to more than 1 million square feet, new eight-screen theater

San Francisco State University

Location: 19th and Holloway avenues

Size: 144 acres

Description: The university started implementing aggressive expansion plans in early 2009 when renovation work began at its library. As part of an effort to increase the student population from 20,000 to 25,000 by 2020, some buildings will be upgraded or demolished and new ones will be constructed.

What is there now: 1.2 million square feet of classrooms and other educational space; 541 units of on-campus living

What is coming: Education space expanded to nearly 2 million square feet; on-campus living expanded to 1,198 units; new conference center

Former School of the Arts site

Location: 700 Font Blvd.

Size: 2.5 acres

Description: The former high school site was identified for a potential housing development project, but no formal construction applications have been filed.

What is there now: 51,000 square feet of disused educational space

What is coming: 340 units of housing


Location: 3711 19th Ave.

Size: 152 acres

Description: The post World War II-era apartment complex is planned to be overhauled and massively expanded. Over two decades, new apartment towers will replace shorter buildings and new amenities will be introduced, including a pre-K through 5th-grade school and day care facility, fitness center, open spaces including athletic fields, walking and biking paths and a 2-acre farm and community garden.

What is there now: 3,221 apartments, 11,000 square feet of stores and office space, 960,000 square feet of parking

What is coming: Additional 5,677 apartments, taking total to 8,900 units; 230,000 new square feet of stores; 80,000 new square feet of office space; nearly 3 million square feet of additional parking; 64,000 square foot gym

Parkmerced Shopping Center

Location: 77-111 Cambon Drive

Size: 2.8 acres

Description: A pair of single-story commercial buildings are planned to be demolished and replaced with a mixed-use project including housing, new stores, underground parking and a fitness center in buildings ranging from two to four stories. Environmental review of the proposal is underway.

What is there now: 31,000 square feet of single-story shops and office space

What is coming: 199 housing units; 15,000 square feet of retail space, including a gym; 100,000 square feet of underground parking

Vacant site

Location: 800 Brotherhood Way

Size: 7.7 acres

Description: The City in 2005 approved a project that would extend a new street from Brotherhood Way into the presently-vacant land parcel, which is between Parkmerced and city-owned open space, and build low-density housing. Construction has not started.

What is there now: Undeveloped site with no road access

What is coming: New street, 60 single-family homes, 122 homes in two-unit dwellings

Sources: San Francisco Planning Department, San Francisco State University, Arden Wood residential care facility, Parkmerced

19th Avenue headache

86,000 to 123,000 Cars traveling daily on 19th Avenue past Junipero Serra Boulevard

866 Pedestrians crossing the street hourly at 19th and Holloway avenues during peak hours

4 Collisions involving a vehicle and pedestrian at 19th and Holloway avenues, 2003 to 2007

9 Collisions involving two vehicles at 19th and Holloway avenues, 2003 to 2007

8-12 minutes Time between M-Ocean View Muni services at peak hours

8-10 minutes Time between 29-Sunset Muni services at peak hours

Source: San Francisco Planning Department


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