For 80 years, the citizens of Bernal Heights and La Lengua have fantasized about creating a train station on Mission Street around 30th Street. Indeed, the fantasy is even older than BART itself. Yesterday, the idea of a BART 30th Street Station was revived again.
Standing in the half-empty parking lot of our historically joyless Safeway, D9 Supervisor candidate Joshua Arce unveiled his “Mission Street South of Cesar Chavez Plan,” a proposal to build 2000 of units of new housing in La Lengua and add a new BART station at 30th Street.
The development, part of a proposed “Mission Street South of Cesar Chavez” plan, would “not touch any existing housing,” Arce said. The housing built would be a mix of market-rate projects and affordable housing.
“There’s never really been a plan for this neighborhood,” he added, standing with some 20 supporters in the Safeway parking lot at 3350 Mission St. where the new station would go. The Safeway itself could be incorporated into the new station, Arce said, or a new store could be built elsewhere.
The triangular slice of the Mission District between Mission and Valencia streets below Cesar Chavez Street — known by some as “La Lengua,” the “tongue” of the Mission — has no integrated transit plan, Arce said, and is ripe for housing needed to address the “displacement crisis” in the gentrifying neighborhood.
“This is a neighborhood that can play a part in the solution,” he said, saying the BART station could be the cornerstone of a new corridor. “What if that solution is just right here below our feet? And that solution, I propose, is the potential for a brand new BART station right here at Mission and 30th streets.”
The plans for the new transit station and housing are preliminary. Arce said the development “might take a long time” and estimated that the BART station alone could cost $200-$300 million. He said a mixture of developer’s fees from new market-rate housing in the corridor and state or federal funds could finance the project.
Innnnnnteresting! Bernalwood contacted Arce to find out more about his proposal. “I sat down with neighbors, local business owners, workers, and transit riders to talk about this unique part of the District,” he said. “What became clear in each and every single conversation is that people feel there is no clear plan for the housing, local business, and transportation needs of the neighborhood.”
Arce says the 2000 units of housing would be built on under-utilized sites in the area that have already been identified by the San Francisco Planning Department. Today, these sites are parking lots, empty buildings, and locations that could be repurposed for alternative or mixed uses. Here’s the Planning Department’s site map:
The basic idea, Arce says, is that the new housing and the new station would be mutually inter-dependent. BART is pretty tapped out financially, so investment in housing and local businesses would generate impact fees that would be used to pay for affordable housing and funding for a new BART station.
Of course, Bernalese have been dreaming about convenient access to a rail link for decades. Here’s a futuristic image from 1948. That’s Cortland Avenue heading up the hill to the right:
Let’s zoom and enhance, to take a closer look at our retrofuture:
San Francisco abandoned the whole Mission Freeway idea, thank goodness, but It sure would be nice to be one of those whispy people in the rendering, fashionably boarding and disembarking from a train that stops right at Bernal’s front doorstep.
The idea of adding a 30th Street Station to the existing BART line that runs under Mission Street has been studied from time to time, most recently in 2003:
The 2003 study estimated that a 30th Street Station would cost around $500 million to build, in part because of the challenging grade on the site. The 2003 study also assumed that 30th Street station would include a secondary “pocket track” that could be used for parking or reversing trains as needed.
Arce says that based on conversations he’s had with BART officials, things may be different today. The requirement to level the grade of the track would not be as extreme, the pocket track could be eliminated, and tunnel-boring technology (like the machines used to create the new Central Subway downtown) could simplify construction. The result could be a 40% to 60% reduction in the cost of building a 30th Street Station.
Well, maybe. Hopefully. There’s a lot to like about all this, because we desperately need more housing, and a new BART stop would dramatically improve transit for thousands of current Bernal residents. But is this for real, or is it just a campaign stunt?
“This is a beginning,” Arce says. “Doing all this will take time, maybe a long time. But every plan starts with a first step, and we think this a great place to start.”
IMAGE: 1948 station proposal image courtesy of Eric Fischer.