Guest Op-Ed: Build housing at the Balboa Reservoir




Corey Smith, community organizer of The San Francisco Housing Action Coalition sends us this guest op-ed piece about the most critical issue in our neighborhood, if not the city. The viewpoints are the opinions of the writer. (Full disclosure: a founder of FoMB is a member of the Balboa Reservoir CAC)

San Francisco is at a crossroads. Last November, we voted on five measures centered around housing, the most (unfortunately) divisive civic topic of our time. As a City we are firmly aware that 40 years of underdevelopment has contributed to the highest housing costs in the nation. Yep, we’re surpassed New York. My organization, the SF Housing Action Coalition (SFHAC), focuses on increasing housing opportunities for San Franciscans, at all income levels. And one way to do this is build as much housing as possible in a transit rich areas like the hotly contested Balboa Reservoir.

A 17-acre parcel, the Balboa Reservoir can be compared to recent developments that voters have approved last November. Prop D, or Mission Rock Development, the SF Giant’s proposal received an overwhelming 75% voter approval to transform a parking lot into 1,500 new homes, alongside 1.5 million sq ft of office space and 8 acres of parks. Mission Rock is a similar size parcel to Balboa Reservoir if you removed historic Pier 48, the new home to Anchor Brewery. This begs the question, “Shouldn’t we strive to achieve similar levels of housing and open space in an area that is better served by mass transit at the Balboa Reservoir site?”  

A 17-acre parcel in San Francisco is a rare gem, one we should not be wasting. Balboa Reservoir is an opportunity to take an surface parking lot and turn it into a beautiful mixed-use community – including homes for all types of San Franciscans who want to call San Francisco home. Enough green space for neighborhood size recreation, alongside community-focused retail.  Balboa Reservoir could be built to be a very desirable, vibrant place to live.

However, the community members showing up to advocate for what they want to see on the Balboa Reservoir are not imagining what it could be. I’ve attended several Balboa Reservoir CAC meetings and have heard — continuously — about reducing the number of homes to less than 1,000, lowering the heights, and creating an abundance of open space instead of building ample amounts of affordable housing on the parcel. They say, it shouldn’t be tall, dense and for all income levels.

This is why I’m writing to encourage The Friends of Monterey Blvd. to show up and chime in on what you would like to see at the Balboa Reservoir. We’re running out or time to add your voice to this conversation of the future of the Balboa Reservoir. Building guidelines will be determined in the next few months and the next CAC meeting will be the final one discussing housing requirements. Come this Monday night (3/14) at 6:15pm at CCSF. I will be there, hope to see you too.

Community Organizer, SFHAC


5 responses to “Guest Op-Ed: Build housing at the Balboa Reservoir

  1. Mary Ann Dal Porto

    Where are the city college students going to park??….We already lost one reservoir to a building …This affects everyone in Sunnyside and Westwood Park because all the college students will try to park at everyone’s home and the police will be called and the cars will be towed. Ocean Avenue was destroyed by the new buildings that take up half the public sidewalk and are too tall and right now the building at Ocean & Miramar is too close to the first home and too tall and blocks the windows on an existing Ocean Avenue Building. What avout the homes on Kenwood Way that have been converted to 2 and 3 family homes when it is a 1 Family Residential Neighborhood Where are the inspectors????

    • I’d encourage the students to take public transportation to school (or move into the units at Balboa and walk!). My roommate rides two trains to CCSF, it’s possible.

      It does impact everyone. But the impact of not building homes is far worse.

  2. Thank you so much! We live 2 blocks away and 100% support the project, and after seeing so many of our friends forced out of the city due to the housing crisis, are frustrated that so many of our neighbors oppose it. The reason we paid top-dollar to buy a house in a major city is so that we don’t have to drive anywhere, yet it seems like many opposing the project are worried about parking and traffic impacts. For people who want to drive everywhere, SF is surrounded by suburbs to which they can move! We live in a city, and higher density is appropriate. We’ve been to a few of the planning meetings, but 6pm on weekdays is too early for most working people, so a small minority of voices from people who fear change are the ones being heard at meetings. Anyway, thank you for writing this piece.

    • You can email the CAC directly at if you can’t make the meeting Monday. SFHAC is working on a few different mediums for folks to provide input. Thank you for the comment!


  3. jonathan winston

    The meetings tend to go on past 8:30. If 6:15 is to early you can always drop by later.

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