The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency unveiled new plans Saturday for a mixed-use development above the Potrero bus yard: a 13-story building with 560 residential units. At 50 percent, this plan doubles the percentage of affordable units from prior proposals.
That increase came after residents repeatedly asked for more affordable housing, including at a February community meeting.
Saturday’s three-hour event drew more than 75 Mission residents to the open house at The Archery, an art space at 498 Alabama St.
The plan, as it stands, is for 280 affordable units and 280 at market rate. The building — one that will be spread over four acres — will also house Muni bus maintenance and operations on the bottom four floors.
At that February meeting, at Sports Basement, many attendees told the city agency that they not only wanted to more affordable housing, but also no shadows on the nearby Franklin Square Park. They were also concerned about pollution from the buses.
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Licinia Iberri, the Campus Planning Manager at the Municipal Transportation Agency MTA, said that after that meeting, the agency revised its initial plans to address the community’s concerns.
Since the buses housed at the Potrero bus yard are all electric, they have no emissions and should have zero impact on air quality, the MTA said.
The residential units would be stacked on top of the bus facility. To address the neighborhood’s concerns over shadows on Franklin Square Park, the team has designed the building to have more floors on its southern side and fewer levels on the side across the street from the park. At its highest, the building could have 17 floors facing KQED headquarters, at Mariposa and Bryant streets.
The project is still in its design phase, and current estimates put the new facility opening in 2026.
Even with the changes, some attending the laid-back gathering said they were still concerned by the lack of off-street parking.
“Muni employees park on our street, SF General employees park on our street, it’s ridiculous,” Carla Gonzalez said.
Gonzalez, who lives on Bryant Street with her family, said the influx of new residents and businesses had made it more difficult to use a car for casual trips or for her grandparents because parking is hard to find.
“Although we feel that being on a bus or a bike is great for the environment, it doesn’t work for everybody,” Gonzalez said. “There’s only so much street for all of these new housing projects coming up,” Gonzalez said she was happy that MTA was making the effort to get community input before beginning construction.
Another resident, Arnoldo Vixcarra, who saw the flyers MTA posted around the neighborhood, thinks it’s a great project and hopes it brings more jobs to the area, especially for seniors.
“I live in the neighborhood; if they had part-time work I would apply even though I’m retired,” Vixcarra said in Spanish.
Everyone who attended agreed that more housing is good. Some even criticized the low number of units offered, and wrote their criticisms on sticky notes pasted to a board that asked people for further suggestions.
“I’d be all for building even higher. Get more housing in there!” one note said.
“This is great! I’d love to see even more housing,” another sticky said.
Another note suggested they add restaurant space for more foot traffic.
Juliette Teitelbaum, who also attended the February meeting, said that compared to other developers, MTA has been much better in terms of public engagement.
“It’s insane that it takes 10 years to build something. It’s great to engage the community, but there’s a trade-off here. You can’t declare a housing crisis and take 10 years to build something,” Teitelbaum said.
She also derided the agency’s decision to lower the height of the proposal near the park, saying she had read that because of climate change, San Francisco would be as hot as Los Angeles and having shade on a park would be seen as a plus.
The Potrero bus yard was built in 1915 and currently services 138 buses. MTA initially wanted to renovate the facility to increase the number of buses it could handle, but only recently began exploring the idea of financing its project by adding housing to the buildings as well.
The agency is also exploring whether to adopt the Potrero mixed-use model at the Presidio bus yard and in North Beach, two other facilities that it wants to renovate by incorporating housing.
Boston and Los Angeles have also explored the idea of building housing on top of their bus depots, Iberri said, but no one else in the country has built anything like the MTA proposal.