San Francisco's Recreation and Parks Department has struck a deal with Ares Commercial Properties to potentially buy five parcels of prime SoMa land on 11th Street between Minna and Natoma Streets that together constitute about half an acre. The Examiner reports that the department's capital committee will discuss and vote on the purchase today, which would cost $10 million in total from Rec and Parks' Open Space Acquisition Fund. That fund's coffers received another layer of lining this year with the passage of Prop B in June, increasing the fund's budget by anestimated $3 million per year.
"Yes, we need more housing," Supervisor Kim, who represents the district, wrote to the Examiner. "But in order to plan and build more complete neighborhoods we must plan for open space and recreation as well."
The site could yield about 67 housing units, but “that’s not really the point here,” or so John Updike, the director of the Department of Real Estate, tells the Examiner. “The question is not how many additional units of housing could be derived but rather how we accommodate all the incoming new residents of western SoMa by creating a more livable neighborhood, and that must include provision of park/open space land,”
As the Budget and Legislative Analyst wrote in its Policy Analysis report from 2013, "Parks are available in all Supervisorial Districts but park acreage per 1,000 residents ranges from a low of 0.17 in Supervisorial District 6 (which includes SoMa) to a high of 25.01 in Supervisorial District 2." As of now, there are nine parks in District 6 that average 1.4 acres and 20 parks in District 2 that average 87 acres, and yes, that includes the Presidio, which naturally skews things.
“Parks play a vital role in improving public health, the environment and our communities,” Rec and Parks spokesperson Elton Pon said in a statement to the paper. In this case, the SoMa properties could be razed in order to provide accommodations for one active use like a playground, tennis or basketball courts, and a passive green space. Still, that could be meaningful, as a Rec and Parks staff report remarks, noting that “the location is in a relatively park-poor area where the nearest public open spaces are ½ mile to 1 mile away.”
In 2012, Kim put together an open space task force that eventually identified the 11th Street properties as a viable set of parcels. However, since existing retail tenants would be given the opportunity to remain until 2024, a new SoMa park would still be on the far end of the horizon if approved.