Let’s get a move on 

If there was a Mission District history book, these years might go down as the “Golden Age of Affordable Housing.” There’s been a recent rapid-fire launch of affordable units like La Fénix, Avanza 490, and 2060 Folsom (just to name a few), all which are now ushering in tens of San Franciscan families. 

Dairo Romero said that his organization, Mission Economic Development Agency, has so far helped around 54 families move into these new homes since October, 2020. Navigating the DAHLIA process can be tricky, he told me — for example, one missing document can imperil the whole bid. But the pandemic year has wrought a unique harmony among city organizations that used to do a lot of interagency squabbling, he said. That means a lot more progress has been made in a time that coincides with a deluge of development. 

“This crisis taught us that we were able to work through it,” Romero said. “I think we accomplished more.” 

Turning the wheels

For Rick Girling, a Bernal Heights resident and longtime bike rider, bike safety is an issue that literally hits close to home. His son had a “bad accident” on Cortland Avenue last year while he was cycling to work at a nearby bike shop, of all places. Now, after noticing more kids on the hill, Girling is signaling the need to change.

“I just decided I wanted to do something about it,” Girling told me. “I can see some kids are going to get killed.”

Girling started an online petition that requests the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Authority add three bike lanes in his neighborhood: one along Cortland Avenue, from Bayshore Boulevard toward the Good Life Grocery; one from Mission Street up Cortland Avenue to the New Wheel Electric Bikes store; and one from Cesar Chavez Street to the top of Bernal hill. 

Girling argued that the steepness of the hill may impede bikers’ ability to travel in a straight line, amplifying the chance of collision as cars zip by and buses take up space on the narrow street. “Without bike lanes up to Bernal, accidents are waiting to happen,” he wrote on the petition. 

So far, the petition for “Bike Lanes to Bernal” has obtained 30 out of its 100-signature goal. He’s aware that people will oppose it; even his own son (no, not the one who got hit; the “one who likes cars”) gripes about the potential loss of parking spots. But Girling, who was on his bike when he got hit by a Muni bus 16 years ago, said he believes it’s a matter of safety. 

“I was in the hospital for three months. I was out of commission from my job for a year, and I still have pain every day,” Girling said. “But I am just one person out of hundreds of thousands that [got hit by a car on their bike].”

An evergreen space

Sounds like a walk in the park. Groundbreaking on the India Basin Shoreline Park in the Bayview is planned for June 17. The ambitious project promises to be the “biggest project in a generation,” a Recreation and Parks Department spokesperson told me via email. It will be fit with shoreline trails, recreational space and restored tidal landscape. The addition seeks to narrow the gap to park equity and access, the spokesperson continued in an email. “Everyone deserves safe, beautiful parks, regardless of neighborhood.”

And it’s a part of a larger project, titled the India Basin Mixed-Use project. The proposed plan includes about 1,250 dwelling units and commercial and parking spaces. 

Ramp up the power  

This week, the city was abuzz with conversations regarding the Potrero Power Plant project, which promises to redevelop the former coal-powered facility into thousands of housing units, a hotel, life-science lab, commercial space, parking, entertainment, and open space. 

Now it turns out that the first phase, which is in the works, aims to be more ambitious than originally planned. Initially, the project’s first phase including constructing 660 housing units, 76 of which would be 100 percent affordable. But The Chronicle reported the building company has increased the total to 735 units, of which 100 are completely affordable. This is thanks to the project’s partner, Associate Capital, which also agreed to increase spending by $200 million to develop parks, plazas and sidewalks. An extra commercial building was thrown into the mix, too. 

All told, eventually 2,601 dwelling units will be there with about 30 percent reserved as affordable. Don’t hold your breath, though, as city planners expect up to six phases of building over 30 years

Housekeeping: What you missed, and what I’m reading

I’m thinking a lot about parks right now. A new report I covered revealed that San Francisco’s park system is one of the best in the nation, when considering factors such as accessibility, amount of money spent, and equity. But there still are stark differences between who has access to these urban oases; and, while this might not seem like a big deal, studies argue that living near greenery provides numerous mental and physical health benefits. The pandemic, too, emphasized the importance of nature. That’s where people could safely picnic and/or take a Covid-19 swab up the nose. 

In line with infrastructure and greenery themes, Bloomberg’s City Lab wrote about how environmental advocates are asking President Biden to drop $10 billion on the “Greenway Stimulus,” to fix up American “greenways.” These are bike and walking paths that ideally — but not always — combine green spaces. One such trail that could get a boost in funding if this goes through is the 500-mile Bay Trail, which traverses through San Francisco and all nine Bay counties. 

I also revisited Berkeleyside’s article, “Berkeley has a ‘tree equity’ gap between richer and poorer neighborhoods,” originally published in March, which looks at where more trees are growing and highlights a city program that aims to plant 1,000 trees. It lays out how a lack of trees can cause “aesthetically lacking streets, harsher air pollution and an unpleasant heat-island effect,” which can be considered contributors to health disparities. 

Annika Hom

Annika Hom is our inequality reporter through our partnership with Report for America. Annika was born and raised in the Bay Area. She previously interned at SF Weekly and the Boston Globe where she focused...

Join the Conversation

6 Comments

  1. The Bernal bike lanes are an excellent idea. I don’t feel super safe riding up Cortland and there isn’t really a lower traffic alternative route. Should totally happen.

  2. It’s fantastic than this guy’s car-loving son is concerned about the loss of parking spaces. I mean, “parking space” > “human life” must be true somewhere. If he’s really concerned about the loss of parking spaces, I hope he’s pushing hard to stop (and get rid of) the misnamed “shared” spaces program.

  3. I am sorry. Our Golden Gate Park is not the best when comes to lacking accessible parking spots. At least 18 Blue Handicapped parking spots were remove on the JFK Drive and it’s the closest to the deYoung Museum. What are you talking about?

    1. They’re replacing every single one of those handicapped parking spaces to be on MLK. Plus, you’re still allowed to drive up to the front door of the deYoung to drop off mobility impaired passengers if that’s easier. This fight over disability access is such a red herring, if opponents of car free JFK really cared about that they would be pressuring the deYoung to convert some spots in their 800 car garage to be handicapped only.

      1. Your solution by just converting a few parking spaces far away from where handicapped people want to go is the TRUE red herring. Lying and gaslighting handicapped people into thinking that JFK Drive is so close to Fulton or Lincoln is insulting and discriminatory.

  4. Bike lanes on transit routes (truck routes too) are prescriptions for conflict. Bike lanes don’t make riding up hills any easier. If riding a few blocks up Bernal Hill is that traumatic, one can always put one’s bicycle on the 24 bus and let it heft your freight safely up the hill.

    Or, get this, you can just ride around to the SW corner of Bernal where the hills are less steep and traffic sparse on streets like Highland.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *