S.F. could put housing over Caltrain depot 

Dense development should be built around San Francisco’s Caltrain station, according to a new public policy report that suggests one high-rise project could even be put over the train station’s rail yard.

The Caltrain rail yards at Fourth and King streets divide Mission Bay from neighborhoods to the north. A new report by the San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association advocates for a development project that would be built over the rail yard. Such a project would create a bridge connecting the two areas, concentrate more people near the transit hub and potentially generate funds to improve Caltrain, according to SPUR.

The Caltrain station is adjacent to two Muni light-rail stops and is the starting point for a new Central Subway to Chinatown, now in the planning phases.

"The core message of this report is, we should concentrate as much of the region’s growth as possible in places where people do not have to drive," SPUR Executive Director Gabriel Metcalf said.

The report also advocates for changing the zoning in the surrounding areas — much of which has been used for light industrial purposes — to allow for more housing. But the report focuses on the potential use of the rail yards because the revenue generated from such a development could help pay to extend Caltrain to downtown, a $2.4 billion transit project long-supported by SPUR.

For the right to build a development project — which would include mid- and high-rise office and residential buildings — over the rail yard, Caltrain could receive between $200 million and $400 million, according to SPUR’s estimates.

Caltrain spokesman Jonah Weinberg said SPUR’s idea is not a new one.

"Our station in San Francisco is not adequate for the service growth we’re planning on in the next 20 years," Weinberg said. "We’re going to have to redo that station anyway, and one of the possibilities is going up multiple levels."

Caltrain, Weinberg said, has the right to build 30 feet up for any purposes related to rail travel — above that, Catellus Development Corp. has what are known as "air rights," he said.

Dan Cohen, vice president of planning and development for Catellus, said the transit-rich site was ideal for high-density development and that the company was exploring its options.

Other cities, including New York, Chicago and London, have built high-rises over railroad tracks.

beslinger@examiner.com


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