By Amy O’Hair More photos and history about the Balboa Reservoir here.
The Balboa Reservoir is due for big changes, if all goes to plan—perhaps the last of its many transformations since Adolph Sutro’s eucalyptus trees were cleared from this corner of his massive forest in 1894. From these recent images I hope to someday create then-and-now photo sliders, showing dramatic changes after housing and a park go up on this land. These are places that automated street-mapping cameras never went, but later will go, when there are new streets and houses.
On the Lower Reservoir, the planned housing project has yet to break ground, but I have included some images from the developers’ projections. See plans here (under ‘Meetings’ > PDFs labeled ‘Boards for Community Feedback’; the most recent one has been removed unfortunately). More about the planned housing project on the developers website.
Meanwhile, on the Upper Reservoir, City College is presently in the process of building the STEAM Center, for science, technology, engineering, arts, and math; a tall crane rises over the construction area, an unusual but increasingly more common sight in these neighborhoods. More about the new construction at City College here. Rendering and floorplans here.
In related news, the Board of Supervisors has approved naming the extension of Lee Avenue through the housing project after the mayor who set the ball rolling for the housing project in 2014: “Mayor Edwin M. Lee 李孟賢市長街”. The other planned new streets have been given generic plant names–read more at the Ingleside Light.
Traffic calming – planting and saving trees – safe places for children to play – newly revealed local history: the issues on the minds of Sunnysiders fifty years ago were not so different from things that interest residents now. The newsletters of Sunnyside’s local organization from those years have recently been archived and made available online at the Internet Archive, and tell some inspiring stories about actions that still impact our lives today.
Although Sunnyside has seen organized advocacy by residents since the 1890s (more here), the current organization, Sunnyside Neighborhood Association (SNA), dates to late 1974. The 1970s saw a surge of local activism in the many neighborhoods in San Francisco. Five decades later, we still enjoy some of the fruits of that upwelling, for instance in open spaces that were established as parks. There was also a downside to the activism then that still affects the city; in some areas, such as the Richmond district, residents fought density with downzoning measures, working to exclude multi-unit buildings and “retain local character,” resulting in a dearth of housing units in subsequent decades, and de facto residential segregation.
But SNA was, according to the record of these early newsletters, more intent on trees, parks, and calming traffic. Monterey Boulevard had already undergone big changes in the 1950s and 1960s, with an extensive apartment-building boom. The 1970s saw even more upzoning on the boulevard. SNA didn’t oppose more housing, but as we’ll see, it did try to rescue trees that were eventually to fall victim to a particularly determined developer of multi-unit buildings, among many other projects, such as tree-planting and boosting local businesses.
The strange dominance of small single-family homes in San Francisco, with its roots in pre-Quake planning and post-Quake building, has come at last in this century to bite the city in its housing-supply backside. Density doesn’t match need now and it is difficult to see how it ever can. It is as though San Francisco, to personify for a moment, never expected to become a real city. So it allowed builders to fill the thousands of residential blocks with one-story-over-basement structures that cannot reasonably ever be transformed into multi-unit, multi-story buildings—unlike, say, a Mission-District Victorian or a Brooklyn brownstone. And should you be inclined to try, zoning and/or neighbors will prevent you from rebuilding one as a four-story wart on the smooth skin of row-upon-row of SFHs.
In their vast inertial numbers, the Little Boxes will always win. The march of those attached four- or five-room homes, on their narrow 25×100 foot lots, across hundreds of city blocks can only ever be disrupted here and there—a few corner developments, a few big structures on old gas station lots, a few scattered replacements, or the odd added story or ADU.
The die was cast—getting on for a hundred years ago now—and the pattern will persist.