The problem with Park Merced


It's no secret that Park Merced, the sorta-suburban mega-housing complex in the southwest corner of the city, wants to expand. New mid-rise towers would house some 7,000 apartments, with space for maybe 12,000 new residents -- which is fine if you like the idea of more rental housing in the city (although much of it not affordable). But it also means a huge amount of new traffic in the area, particularly on 19th Avenue, which is pretty crowded as it is.

Now, the developer and the city talk about adding new transit to the area -- an underground Muni rail station at Park Merced, more buses, all that good stuff. Sup. Sean Elsebernd, who represents the district, is (properly) demanding it.

But here's the hitch: Never once in the history of this city has a major new development paid enough fees or brought enough money into the city to pay for the infrastructure required to serve it. And that's going to get even worse if the mayor gets his way and defers development fees.

The cost of the level of transit necessary to serve the new residents of Park Merced, along with the expanded number of students at San Francisco State, and the expansion of the Stonestown shopping center, is gong to be massive. Park Merced may pay to build a new station -- but the developer won't pay for the cost of buying new buses and trains, hiring operators, and paying them. The increased property tax revenue from the project won't cover that, either -- particularly since it also has to cover water and sewer expansion, police and fire expansion, new schools and parks, and all the other expensive things that 7,000 new residents will want.

I don't think the city's even come close to figuring out the total bill for all the infrastructure improvements this project will require. Let's add that up first -- before the city issues any permits -- and present the developer with the bill. Then we can decide if this project is a good idea.


Should we actually expect a development to being in enough money to pay for its infrastructure? That seems unheard-of. Not just in San Francisco, but anywhere. Why is fiscal profitability a criteria for new development?

Is it appropriate to expect a developer to pay for neighborhood infrastructure?

Not to mention, that seems like a sure-fire way to exacerbate economic divides. A developer in a Bayview, for example, probably wouldn't be able to spring for as much infrastructure as a developer in the Marina. So you would wind up with really fantastic amenities in rich areas and bare-bones utilities in poorer ones. In contrast, it seems as thought the city could ensure a more equitable provision of services by spreading around city/state/federal funds.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 09, 2010 @ 12:57 pm

Actually developer fees to pay for required infrastructure is TOTALLY NORMAL out in the suburbs. A developer has to pay for new schools, roads, sewer lines, etc. in just about every suburban area. San Francisco started to require expansion of affordable housing and Muni in 1980. There was a LONG HARD community struggle to get those fees to build up community services. The new area plans (Market/Octavia, Rincon Hill, Eastern Neighborhoods) required development fees to expand infrastructure. Which the Mayor's office is currently attempting to gut. When new neighborhoods are created, someone needs to invest in infrastructure and affordable housing. Upper income neighborhoods seem to take care of themselves just fine.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 09, 2010 @ 3:00 pm

"Why is fiscal profitability a criteria for new development?"

If it wasn't very little would be built. Charities can only do so much.

Posted by Chris Pratt on Apr. 09, 2010 @ 2:06 pm

Yes, developer fees are normal, and they're supposed to pay for the amenities that are needed for any residential development -- schools, roads, parks, etc. But in San Francisco, the fees are so low that they typically cover less than a third of the cost of servicing those developments. The rest comes from the taxpayers.

Posted by tim on Apr. 09, 2010 @ 6:05 pm

San Francisco lacks adequate public transit for the developments and people it already has. Build up the public transit for what we already have before building more developments like this. We need subways, and physically dedicated bus lanes and synchronized lights that turn green for buses so that they don't have to stop for them. AND, we need a lot more public transit. People should not be crammed into buses and trains like cattle going to slaughter (neither should cattle, but that's a different issue). None of this will happen without taxes to pay for it, and those taxes should come from people who drive in the form of a gasoline tax, and from the rich who can easily afford it and have far more than their fair share.

Posted by Jeff Hoffman on Apr. 10, 2010 @ 9:56 am

Like Park Merced - along with the attendant mass transit to service the residents? We're on a 7x7 peninsula and there's only so much space to build. The only way, really, is up.

Posted by Lucretia the Trollop on Apr. 10, 2010 @ 11:35 am

Comment: If you want areas to renew them self’s' then you must provided for the means to get it done. In these times of large budget problems with the various local and state government bodies I do not see anything coming from them to off set updating of the various SF neighborhoods’. So do we do nothing?

We still have an increase in demand for housing and the need services that come with it. I am sure that all areas of the City have needs. But being the article is dealing with the Stonetown I would focus on it in my comments here.

A) The local City and County government has NO say in what SF State is going to do, which seams to be to add 6,000 to 8,000 permanent type housing units in the area.
B) Park Merced is getting old and needs to be updated, if you limit the number of people who can live in this area to what is their now then the rents to cover these updates will need to reflect today’s cost. “Or would you like it to become a blight on the neighborhood?”

Being neither of the above items are wanted what it the compromise which might have a way of addressing these concerns and everyone approve.
I. Spread the cost over a larger base.
II. Work with the City in improving a very poor transit/traffic system in area. “I do not think that a single private project can be expected to fix a long term area/neighborhood problem on its own”. But I feel it needs to pay its fair share. This should go for SF State also!

That’s how I see it,

Don Dutil, Long time resident of the Sunset.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 11, 2010 @ 8:32 am