Francisco Reservoir Aerial

The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission has approved a transfer of the long-shuttered Francisco Reservoir on Russian Hill to the City’s Recreation and Park Department.

If San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors and Mayor Ed Lee agree, the city will pay $9.9 million over twelve years for the prime 4-acre parcel between Hyde and Larkin.  Neighbors have pledged $9 million of the estimated $11 million which will be needed to turn the parcel into a park and prevent any housing from being constructed on the site.

The SFPUC had floated the idea of selling off the Francisco Reservoir to developers with hopes of getting as much as $50 million for the site back in 2008, an idea which was sunk by neighbors with local Supervisor opposition (not to mention a market turnabout at the end of 2008).

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Comments from “Plugged-In” Readers

  1. Posted by Sierrajeff

    Such a ridiculous waste, given the housing market and the value of the land. The NIMBY neighbors should be require to cough up every $ for both the acquisition and the future park maintenance costs.

  2. Posted by CH

    A job well done by the Russian Hill neighbors to protect their views and property values but this is a travesty.

    If the mayor is serious about solving San Francisco’s housing crisis he should veto the transfer and push for a mixed-use development of housing and open space. Instead, it’s more lip service from the mayor and pandering to the 1 percent.

  3. Posted by unwarrantedinlaw

    Yet it’s simple and clean. Better than the bureaucrats, regulators, non-profit mafia, union contractors, and Willie Brown swarming in corruption over the thing like zombies in World War Z.

  4. Posted by Mac

    Site is worth anywhere from $20MM to $50MM+ depending on resi density, and the neighbors are getting away with a $9MM payment. Simply amazing. Deserves attention from an enterprising journalist who has some financial knowledge and sources (i.e. not the Chron). A win-win compromise could have been to sell a piece to add to the city’s housing stock and use the proceeds to finance the park.

  5. Posted by unwarrantedinlaw

    Even as it is, they’re demanding $9 million from neighbors in order to supposedly plant some grass and a few trees.

    So imagine the orgy of theft if our government employees went forward with a complex project.

  6. Posted by anon

    Massive subsidy to the 0.01%. Wow, just crazy.

  7. Posted by curmudgeon

    Travesty is exactly the right word for this. To use so much of the precious open space budget to satisfy some politically connected NIMBY’s is ridiculous.

  8. Posted by observant neighbor

    It’d far better to sell this land for development with a little bit of “corruption” in the process than to let the opportunity for a substantial amount of new housing go to waste.

    Districted elections seem to work against the development of new housing. Farrell is nominally pro-development but not when it comes to his district.

  9. Posted by tom h

    given the animosity any development proposal for this site would receive, this painful deal is probably better than the ultimate litigation and ballot box fight. Would be great to see the old Mies van der Rohe project be re-imagined for the site though – dense housing, active uses along Bay, a park/open space on the podium between the towers.

    • Posted by Sierrajeff

      Then maybe at a minimum this new park should be used as an “offset”, so taller buildings can be built elsewhere (i.e., to get around the anti-shadows rule). e.g. the corner of Kearny and Bush, where they can’t go more than 4 or 5 stories because of St. Mary’s Park. Absolutely ridiculous to limit height there because of a few minutes’ shade at the start of a few days a year…

  10. Posted by soccermom

    Seems fair to me. Big open spaces in the middle of a dense city already owned by the city should remain patrimony for everyone. Neighbors are paying for the construction of the park? Win win.

    I would rather subsidize a nice park than some developer who shook the right hands at city hall. And if we sold it, the funds would go to muni retirement disability packages and the bizarre patronage of the supervisors.

    I would add that if we could build a subterranean parking garage in this space, it could cough up a cash flow perpetuity to fund the public space. But that’s probably overthinking it. And some people hate cars, I know.

    • Posted by Anon94123

      Soccermom’s underground parking idea is excellent. The parking revenue could easily pay for upkeep of the park and security as well.

  11. Posted by nunya

    Get over it, who wants to live in a city with no parks? The more parks and trees the better! If you don’t like it GTFO

    • Posted by soccermom

      I can’t tell you how many speech and debate contests I won in high school with my “If you don’t like it GTFO” trump card.

      • Posted by nunya

        This isn’t a speech and we’re not debating. You are constantly on here wasting your time as if anyone cares what you have to say.

        • Posted by Sierrajeff

          pot… kettle…
          The fact is residents in this area have incredible access to a lot of parks and open space already. Just because parks are a good idea in general, that doesn’t make this specific park a good idea.

        • Posted by emanon

          I care. soccermom’s comments are always refreshing, albeit at times cynical. She’s not reactionary and narrow-minded, unlike may of the commenters on this site.

    • Posted by James

      A city with no parks? What city are you referring to? The photo at top clearly shows Russian Hill Park that already exists.

    • Posted by CH

      A city with no parks? That’s hogwash and hyperbole. The Russian Hill Park is right there. Fay Park is a block away. The George Sterling Park and tennis courts are a block away. This is a massive giveaway to the well connected NIMBY neighbors disguised as fight for open space.

      Neighbors don’t want the parcel to be developed? Fine, have them pay market rate for the land and use that money to fund affordable housing elsewhere. Neighbors don’t want to pay market rate for the land? Fine, they can GTFO…

      • Posted by nunya

        Why should “neighbors” have to pay market rate for a public park? You should be thanking them for the PUBLIC green space they are providing with THEIR money. Of course we have parks, but it seems if you people had your way we would scrap every green space in lieu of a giant towering ugly condo monstrosity.

        • Posted by James

          Nobody is scrapping green space. And nobody has mentioned any towers (except you). You’re fighting imaginary monsters.

        • Posted by KS

          You make the neighbors sound so magnanimous.

          I’m all for having public parks in every neighborhood in the City, but this area already has ample parks and open space–the limited funds available to create new public parks should go to neighborhoods that are not as well-served by green space. The obvious driving force in this situation is not the creation of a new public park, but rather the neighbors’ desire to preserve their views and reduce congestion. There’s nothing wrong with them wanting to do that, but they shouldn’t expect the rest of the City to subsidize them for the money that could be generated if this valuable land was developed–it seems clear that they should have to pay market value to preserve their views and reduce local congestion. Anything less is unfair to the taxpayers of the City and to the many other neighborhoods (like SOMA, the Mission, etc.) that are sorely lacking in public parks.

  12. Posted by jlasf

    The compromises: extend Francisco through and put land for houses on the uphill side. Those view lots would be worth millions to the city. The rest is left as parkland. Or: Put a parking garage under a portion of the park. Provides revenue and eases parking for locals and tourists.

    The reality: the moneyed people in the area would keep this tied up in expensive litigation for years. That litigation would cost the city and it would end up as a ballot initiative, like Washington Street project.

  13. Posted by Hitman

    The comrades speak out of both sides of their mouths. On the one hand, they want housing on the other they utilize prime housing land for open space. Hypocrisy.

  14. Posted by g

    This was really the only possible outcome, regardless of if it is good for the city or not.

  15. Posted by Sam

    I almost forget that there even is a ‘rich part of town’ here, since rents near me on lower 24th are already astronomical. This is a good reminder, as no one’s got muscle like the rich man’s muscle. I wonder why this hasn’t been protested, maybe its too minor. I’ll post this to some facebook groups that enjoy protesting everything, but I doubt it will have an effect.

  16. Posted by alberto rossi

    In my working class neighborhood, when we were discussing the fate of the Phelan loop, we were told by the city that surplus city land by law could only be used for subsidized housing. And that is what’s under construction now.

    Spending the entire open space fund in this wealthy neighborhood already full of parks just boggles the mind.

  17. Posted by BigV

    I would like a few new parks here in the mission. why don’t we get new parks? oh right, the rich a$$hats in pacheights don’t care about parks they cannot personally walk too….

    • Posted by soccermom

      Have there been any examples of the city selling off city-owned space in the Mission that could have been converted to a park?

      I think that’s part of the issue – the city should not be selling off city-owned parcels in areas like the Mission that lack good parks. Once they are sold, it is very unlikely that the city ever goes out and purchases land to make into a park. Why should we let go of the open spaces?

      • Posted by BobN

        The City shouldn’t be selling off any parcels in existing neighborhoods, not for offices, not for housing. This City is eventually going to be home to a lot more people and we don’t have enough open space.

    • Posted by suburbanoid

      Local residents have been treating this area like a park for a long time which was a problem back when they were having their dogs urinate on a leaky reservoir.

  18. Posted by justice herman

    “This land is too valuable to permit poor people to park on it.”
    Justin Herman, Executive Director, San Francisco Redevelopment Agency, 1970

    ‘This land isn’t too valuable to permit rich people to build a park on it.’
    San Francisco, 2014

  19. Posted by unlivable city

    Thank god a new park instead of just another pile of condos.

  20. Posted by The Milkshake of Despair

    The Parks Dept. should sell this parcel for development and use the proceeds to establish more parkland in other parts of the city where it is needed.

  21. Posted by soccermom

    I would be all for this if it were possible.

    Is there a site (sites?) conducive to a park location that the city could purchase and turn into a park without knocking down an existing home or business use that would prompt an uproar?

    Also, when the city buys property, the city pays dearly (recall that central subway drill entry point in North Beach)? If I was the seller I would argue for eminent domain pricing.

    Which blocks of the Mission (or even the Bayview) can we level or take over to create a new park? This is not meant sarcastically. Maybe there are good sites out there.

  22. Posted by alberto rossi

    The city has a list of potential Open Space fund acquisition sites. But I guess if you’re rich you get to ignore the list.

  23. Posted by Dan

    There is a new park coming to the Mission: http://www.sf-planning.org/index.aspx?page=2273

  24. Posted by Futurist

    Make it a park. Underground parking would make sense as well.

    The City can always use more parks. Parks are for all citizens.

  25. Posted by soccermom

    I googled for a list of Open Space fund acquisition sites.

    I found the fund but not the sites. If anyone has a link with physical locations listed, that would be interesting.

  26. Posted by 4oceans

    Gotta love people arguing against parks. Too many parks? Who likes that town? And for those who think SF has a “housing crises” think again. SF has upwards of 50,000 housing units on the planning board. The problem is that existing residents can’t afford them and never will be able to. You think an average resident could afford a new lux condo on Russian Hill?? Why give away this property to wealthy out of town investors? At least residents can visit the park occasionally.

    • Posted by KS

      Nobody would “give away” anything. Developers would pay top dollar for the land, and that money could go to create parks in neighborhoods that actually need them.

    • Posted by Futurist

      YES! excellent commentary.

  27. Posted by alberto rossi

    People here aren’t “arguing against parks”. The objection is to spending the entire fund for new park acquisition on this one park in this neighborhood that’s already full of parks while there are plenty of other neighborhoods with few or no parks that have been kept waiting for years.

  28. Posted by eddy

    File this in the never gonna happen category but what should be considered is trading the current park that fronts Bay St and building modest 3 story THs or multiple condos that would not hurt views and figure a way to tie it into the new park in the reservoir location. Underground parking should be mandatory. Oh well.

  29. Posted by Wai Yip Tung

    We are not only losing housing in Russian Hill. We also losing the affordable housing fund. That alone would be worth 9 million. We need to stop this misuse of public resources for the rich.

  30. Posted by Wai Yip Tung

    I propose we develop the reservoir for housing. The city gets property tax and the affordable housing fund. The rich neighbors love park so we will take their 9 million and build them a roof top park.

    9 million sounds like insanely cheap for this prime real estate. One penthouse can sell for this amount.

  31. Posted by formidable doer of the nasty

    This is an outrage for all of the above reasons. I hope this park becomes infested with drug addicts and gang bangers.

  32. Posted by Pragmatic RE Observer

    It appears to me that the transfer is illegal due to the fact that the parcel isn’t being sold at fair market value as required by law.

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