A new BART station and thousands of units of housing may transform the area of the Mission District south of Cesar Chavez Street, if a candidate for District Nine supervisor has his way.

Josh Arce, a community liaison for laborers union Local 261 running to replace Supervisor David Campos, laid out plans on Thursday to replace the Safeway and its parking lot at 30th and Mission streets with a new BART station, and to develop dozens of parcels in the area to increase the neighborhood’s housing supply by 2,000 units.

The development, part of a proposed “Mission Street South of Cesar Chavez” plan, would “not touch any existing housing,” Arce said. The housing built would be a mix of market-rate projects and affordable housing.

“There’s never really been a plan for this neighborhood,” he added, standing with some 20 supporters in the Safeway parking lot at 3350 Mission St. where the new station would go. The Safeway itself could be incorporated into the new station, Arce said, or a new store could be built elsewhere.

The triangular slice of the Mission District between Mission and Valencia streets below Cesar Chavez Street — known by some as “La Lengua,” the “tongue” of the Mission — has no integrated transit plan, Arce said, and is ripe for housing needed to address the “displacement crisis” in the gentrifying neighborhood.

“This is a neighborhood that can play a part in the solution,” he said, saying the BART station could be the cornerstone of a new corridor. “What if that solution is just right here below our feet? And that solution, I propose, is the potential for a brand new BART station right here at Mission and 30th streets.” 

The plans for the new transit station and housing are preliminary. Arce said the development “might take a long time” and estimated that the BART station alone could cost $200-$300 million. He said a mixture of developer’s fees from new market-rate housing in the corridor and state or federal funds could finance the project.

BART is hoping to pass a $3.5 billion bond in November to updates its aging infrastructure, but none of that money would go towards expanding service lines or building new stations. The current system “was built about 45 years ago to last 45 years,” said a spokesperson, who added that a new stations is “not a top priority.”

“We’ve not had any interest generated until just now in a 30th Street station, it’s not really on our radar,” said Taylor Huckaby, a spokesperson for BART. The system will look to expand services and add stations to existing track, but Huckaby said it would take time.

“It’s something that we’re interested in doing much further down the road,” he said, without giving a specific timeline.

A 2003 study by BART looked at the 30th and Mission streets site as one of several in San Francisco for an “infill” station that would sit atop existing track, Huckaby said, but nothing has been done since then. That study put the cost of the station at between $440–$530 million, but Huckaby did not know whether construction cost might be cheaper or more expensive today.

Candidates Pledge Thousands of Units of Housing

The proposal for a new BART station is only the cornerstone of what Arce said would be a transformation of the entire La Lengua corridor, however.

The thousands of units pledged would be contingent on rezoning dozens of parcels to allow for taller buildings, Arce said, up to 65 feet. Many of the lots are “soft sites,” those identified by the Planning Department as being underdeveloped with the potential for housing.

Those sites could add more housing by building atop parking lots and other empty spaces, though some sit on existing buildings like single-story storefronts.

The "soft sites" identified by the Planning Department on Mission Street south of Cesar Chavez Street. Photo by Joe Rivano Barros.

The “soft sites” identified by the Planning Department on Mission Street south of Cesar Chavez Street. Photo by Joe Rivano Barros.

Arce’s plan parallels that of one of his opponents, Hillary Ronen, who is also running for District Nine supervisor and currently serves as chief of staff for Supervisor Campos. Ronen announced in January her intention to build 5,000 affordable housing units in the Mission District in the next decade, saying she would develop empty lots and raise heights to accomplish the feat.

The Mission District has seen no new units of affordable housing constructed in the last decade and just 455 units approved across four sites for the next four years. Those will be joined by a couple hundred more once funds from the housing bond passed last November are disbursed, but that would still be a fraction of the total Ronen has pledged for her term in office.

On Thursday, Arce said he doubted Ronen’s plan, saying it lacked detail.

“I don’t know that she has a plan,” he said. “I’m someone who thinks things should be very specific.” 

Arce’s plan does identify specific sites but would require that private developers construct market-rate housing on their own, feeding impact fees into the proposed BART station and affordable housing in the area. To incentivize developers to build there, dozens of parcels in the area would need to be rezoned for taller buildings.

A similar rezoning effort that would have granted height bonuses to projects with higher percentages of affordable housing was bitterly opposed earlier this year, and it is unclear how Arce would accomplish the change needed to incentivize construction.

At the press conference on Thursday, Arce was joined by Assemblymember David Chiu, who represents the eastern half of San Francisco in the State Assembly. Chiu , and quipped that he would have gotten to the conference earlier himself if there were a BART station on-site.

“I was supposed to get here at 10 o’clock. I got here at 10:12. I would’ve gotten here on time if we had a 30th and Mission BART station,” Chiu said. “That’s why this vision is so important, this vision of doing something that has not been proposed in decades, and that is to add a new station.”

Nicholas Josefowitz, a representative on the BART Board of Directors, also spoke on Thursday in support of the plan, saying the city needed to make better use of its remaining lots to build up housing and transit infrastructure. 

“We’re sitting here today in a half-empty parking lot,” he said. “Is that really what we want for our communities, half-empty parking lots?”

Josefowitz acknowledged that “there is no point building new stuff if our system is falling apart,” but added that Bart must also look to “move forward” and anticipate greater demand for transit in the area.

“We don’t want to just plan as a system to rebuild what we have,” he said.