San Francisco's Francisco Street Reservoir

In early 2008, the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission floated the idea of selling off the Francisco Reservoir to developers with hopes of getting as much as $50 million for the site which has sat unused for 71 years, an idea which was quickly sunk by neighborhood and local Supervisor opposition, not to mention a market turnabout at the end of 2008.

While San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors passed a resolution reaffirming the reservoir’s status as open space, the resolution was non-binding, the site remains undeveloped and in disrepair, and the market for developable property is picking up.

Perhaps sensing another turning point, a consortium of four neighborhood groups is holding a community-wide meeting to review “proposed ideas and conceptual plans for public open space uses” for the reservoir on May 23, 6pm in the Galileo High Auditorium.

We’ll keep you posted and plugged-in.

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Comments from “Plugged-In” Readers

  1. Posted by wrath

    that eyesore is now a Russian Hill landmark

  2. Posted by jlasf

    While I understand why residents on Chestnut don’t want anything to block their views, I don’t see why this is an all-or-nothing situation. The City is strapped for money; this is asset that could be used to help pay for other services. Why not just continue Francisco, as it is on the other side of Hyde? That would create at least 20 high-value residential building sites for houses and still leave the existing park. That seems like a compromise between doing something and doing nothing.

  3. Posted by Mark

    I checked this location out the other day — the brown patch is actually a very large roof… I can’t image what it would take to make this a park… Imagine the number of trucks that would have to pull up full of dirt to fill it in!

  4. Posted by tipster

    ^Are you kidding? That hole is a ready made olympic sized pool (or a nice parking garage for a high rise). It’s not a bug, it’s a feature!

  5. Posted by NoeValleyJim

    A great spot for a high rise apartment building. If San Francisco is going to get serious about trying to make middle class housing, we can’t let prime developments sites like this one sit idle.

  6. Posted by EH

    Is it just me, or does $50MM sound low for that size and location?

  7. Posted by invented

    It’ll probably end up looking something very safe like the stepped low-rise condo project on Chestnut shown in the photo that was built about 20 years ago. Typical Russian Hill, safe, blend-in, no-risk.
    As much as I would like something that pushes the design envelope and takes risks, I can’t quite imagine that. And it might not be a bad thing given that there’s experimentation happening elsewhere.

  8. Posted by lolcat_94123

    Found this website when poking around trying to read up about the reservoir. Has some interesting information about the history and such. I always wandered what the deal was with that place.
    http://franciscoreservoir.org/Francisco_Reservoir/Home.html

  9. Posted by guest

    It seems like this could be of historic interest, with an operating flume from the 1800s which circumscribed the northern part of the city to get potable and firefighting water from Mountain Lake.
    this could be a historical momument to the engineering savvy of SF’s original engineering community.
    Right up there with the GGB and the historical Retaining Wall at Fort Baker

  10. Posted by Wai Yip Tung

    Chestnut St is so much higher than Francisco St. I’m sure you can built on lot there and still have minimal impact to their up hill neighbor’s view. Also there are already green space on Bay St. Having more green space on Francisco does not help that much. They will probably remain two separate pieces due to elevation difference.

  11. Posted by James

    If the neighbors want a park and the city wants cash from a sale, chances are it’ll remain in limbo for another 80 years. The potential for a spectacular terraced park is hard to deny.

  12. Posted by Charlie G.

    Let’s not forget that it’s not just the $55M, but getting a primo property on the tax rolls = a tremendous annuity for the City of millions of dollars each year.

  13. Posted by yentu

    I can’t see this going high-rise, though that doesn’t mean someone won’t take on the challenge. But even if high density housing gets built, I don’t think it will be middle class housing. Except, perhaps, for on-site inclusionary units.

  14. Posted by Jackson

    The PUC should sell the surplus reservoir land and use the proceeds as an installment for much needed water main replacement.
    San Francisco has gone too long without maintenance of the water system mains.

  15. Posted by The Milkshake of Despair

    The park plans at the bottom of http://franciscoreservoir.org/Francisco_Reservoir/Plans_Ideas.html look nice. One modification could enable a park plus allow development of the part that is labelled “native plant garden”. That part is too steep for a park but could be developed into high value view homes. The capital proceeds could fund the park construction and the taxes would more than cover maintenance costs.

  16. Posted by Brahma (incensed renter)

    yentu, that’s exactly what I was thinking. Where are all the affordable-to-the middle class units in all of the high-rises that have been built over the last decade or so; at The Infinity, One Rincon, Millennium, etc.? Most of the units that are less than $700K in those buildings are sized for (wealthy) single people with few belongings.
    I think what NoeValleyJim wrote makes sense in the abstract, high rise equals higher density and therefore should result in a lower per-unit price, but in real world S.F., high rises seem to almost always be aimed at the luxury market and the 1%.

  17. Posted by futurist

    This is a somewhat similar, though not completely, issue regarding that old school site on outer Broadway, that went from Broadway to Pacific. The City eventually sold it for a lot of money and some very high end homes were built on the site.
    This site has that potential, whether for luxury, single family homes or medium density (semi) high rise housing. It’s possible to have housing as well as some new public open space. Both are viable and would work well on this site. The City would make a nice bundle of money as well as new tax dollars on the residential portion.

  18. Posted by soccermom

    It’s a beautiful location, city patrimony. Foolish to put it in private hands. We will never get spots like this back.
    I vote for 75% park, + 25% city-owned pay parking for Fisherman’s wharf overflow as revenue stream.

  19. Posted by Dppp

    The windfall from a sale would be gobbled up in two days to pay for some new parking meters and then what next?

  20. Posted by Stucco_Sux

    I really need to hone my skills at numbingly-amateur-SF-planner-speak, as it is as common as Art Speak at the Whitney Biennial ’round up in here. Common as bitter couples with 1.5 ADHD afflicted children in a Dwell magazine. Common as the low sperm count in a foodie’s bedroom. You get the idea.
    My 1st stab:
    “This beefy soil is Prius-primed and dying to get down & dirty for something densified, loamy and freeze fried like a middle class but urban cul de ball sac,” said Portly Planning Director Hector Hestor from his squeaky chaired laptop laden lair.

  21. Posted by unwarrantedinlaw

    If this were privately owned, they should be able to build on it. But because it’s city owned, if it’s sold the money just goes down a rat hole.
    So as a citizen, you own this land. As soon as the city sells it, the money vanishes, and you don’t own anything.

  22. Posted by JustLooking

    I am having one of those days. So….
    To twerk almost every special interest group in the area. Build: 15-20 stories of high density, low/moderate income housing with parking for each unit and no bike stalls.
    And in case you think I am serious – I am not. This would never get built.

  23. Posted by sparky-b

    “So as a citizen, you own this land. As soon as the city sells it, the money vanishes, and you don’t own anything.”
    As soon as you move, your ownership of it vanishes and you don’t own anything. The city won’t give you a portion of the asphalt

  24. Posted by DanRH

    I get why it’d be nice, but there’s already a park up the street at Hyde/Lombard with great views that we, the city, own. And there’s a park down at Bay, that we, the city, own. And Fort Mason isn’t too far of a walk (technically not sure who owns that). And then there’s Aquatic Park close by that we, the city, own.
    That’s 4 parks in this area already (!). If we want to dedicate something to the citizens, plug money (that we don’t have) into those existing parks!
    If there wasn’t already a lot in the area, I’d say put a high % of the space to a park, but there is. Thus, build on it. Maybe save 20%? for park space / open space if you have to. And I agree with others, I think you could do it w/out blocking a lot of views.
    Figure out what brings in more tax $ over time and use some of the space toward that (ie, put underground parking you charge for and let the city keep that or something).
    I know it’s “short-sighted”, but right now, we/the city own an eyesore that’s doing nothing for us. So let’s not act like there’s already something there that there isn’t.

  25. Posted by DanRH

    BTW, thanks for the history to this place that @lolcat_94123 posted.
    What’s I noticed:
    – the interesting thing that was done to this land was putting in those flumes and reservoir. That was done by a private company. It was actually used for something then.
    – since the purchase by the city from the private company..in 1930(!)..nothing has been done! It’s been sitting this way since 1930. Oh, except city-employee’s time has been used to manage proposal after proposal.
    Wow.

  26. Posted by NoeValleyJim

    Once this is built on, The City gains a permanent flow of tax money into city coffers. We all gain the improvements that having a few more neighbors give us. And the environment thanks us for not forcing a few more people out into the suburbs. It is really hard to understand the opposition to growth here. Some people are just afraid of change of any kind.
    Look at something like Soma Grand rather than The Millenium. It is definitely possible to build for more middle class tastes and prices, though this neighborhood would probably fight that.

  27. Posted by Concerned Citizen

    This site is a public property and as such belongs to the public. This site could be developed into a beautiful multi-use open space for everyone, our residents and visitors alike, to enjoy for years to come. We have an enormous opportunity here to save this public land for public use!

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