Caltrain and property owner Prologis may resurrect an Ed Lee-era plan to turn 20 acres of SoMa and Mission Bay railyard into a “mixed-use development” full of housing, retail, and the new electrified Caltrain tracks.

One of the biggest hot potatoes in San Francisco politics right now is something called the “Housing Element,” basically a piece of a state requirement demanding that California cities to produce a plan for a certain number of new housing units by the year 2031 in order to continue receiving state funding. (For San Francisco, that number is a staggering 82,000 new units.) We are clearly going to have to think outside the box to hit this goal.

But some of that heavy lifting may come from an unexpected source: Caltrain, and an SF-based real estate firm that owns the land beneath the 4th and King Caltrain station, called Prologis. The Chronicle reports today that Caltrain and Prologis are exploring a plan to build housing complexes on what is currently Caltrain tracks and railyard, that chain-linked fence area that straddles between South of Market and Mission Bay.  

The same plan was originally proposed under Mayor Ed Lee in 2013, but never materialized. But the plan is getting a fresh look again amidst looming housing element deadlines, radical changes to Caltrain vis a vis the electrification of their tracks and the linking to the Salesforce Transit Center, and perhaps most significantly, because there is a great deal of money that could be made off this real estate.

“I think everybody can agree that a chain-link fence along multiple city blocks between neighborhoods, with trains idling and spewing diesel fuel, is probably not what everybody wants to see,” Prologis vice president Genevieve Cadwalader told the Chronicle. “So there is an opportunity to generate excitement about what (the site) could be for the neighborhood, for the city, for the region.”

The plan is enormously ambitious, and involves an almost inconceivable number of different moving parts.

The Chronicle scratches the surface of these moving parts. “Among the questions have been: Could the Caltrain tracks be underground there as part of the downtown rail extension that will eventually bring both Caltrain and high-speed rail to San Francisco’s Transbay Transit Center? Could Caltrain relocate its rail storage yards to a less dense area to the south in order to free up land for housing and other public uses? What might a new Fourth and King Caltrain station look like and could it be connected to Muni’s Central Subway, set to open in November?”

Because these unknowns are so significant, there is no number of proposed units submitted, nor even a sense of specifically where said housing and retail developments would be located. But this is a plan this is under active consideration, and Caltrain is holding a community meeting on the railyard project this Wednesday, October 5 at 5 p.m., which the general public can watch on Zoom.

Related: Caltrain Mulls Adding Another Bayview Station, Possibly at Oakdale Avenue [SFist]

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