Last night, the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency unanimously approved a plan to redevelop the Schlage Lock site in Visitacion Valley, in the southeastern corner of San Francisco. The planning process for this site, combined with myriad delays, have occupied the better part of a decade. Schlage Lock’s operations at the factory were a major source of manufacturing jobs in Visitacion Valley since 1926, and in 1974, Ingersoll Rand Corporation acquired the operation. The plant formally closed in 1999, and in 2000, a controversial proposal for a Home Depot on the site was opposed by community members, who thereafter were encouraged to step up and have a say in how this substantial chunk of vacant land in their neighborhood would be developed. Interim zoning was established to prevent big box retail from settling into the property, and a community planning process for the site was initiated that ultimately led to the creation of a Strategic Concept Plan in 2002. But an obstacle remained — and not the neighbors, who, in the case of Visitacion Valley, actually eagerly welcomed the opportunity to revitalize their often overlooked corner of San Francisco with an influx of housing and reinvestment. No, the obstacle this time was Ingersoll Rand, who was embroiled in protracted litigation with Universal Paragon Corporation. At that time, Ingersoll Rand owned the 12.3-acre Schlage Lock site, and Universal Paragon owned the the adjacent six-acre former Southern Pacific rail yard; their dispute was centered on the groundwater and soil contamination resulting from Schlage Lock’s operations.
The planning process was stuck in limbo once the Strategic Concept Plan was adopted — until 2005, when Supervisor Sophie Maxwell pushed for the initiation of a Visitacion Valley redevelopment survey area that was in turn established in June 2005. Community workshops continued through 2007, and the conceptual design for the redevelopment area evolved into the current form of the plan. June 2008 was a landmark timepoint for the redevelopment — for not only had the Redevelopment Agency completed a draft Environmental Impact Report, but Ingersoll Rand finally agreed to sell the Schlage Lock property to Universal Paragon for $450 million. Under the agreement, Universal Paragon assumed most of the $25 million costs for cleaning up the site, and Universal Paragon terminated a long-standing contamination lawsuit it had filed against Ingersoll Rand. Ultimate buildout of the redevelopment plan lies on the other side of this economic downturn and the costly cleanup of toxic contamination — but can we just say finally? A full decade after Schlage Lock operations ceased, the dream to redevelop this land revitalize Visitacion Valley moves closer to being realized. The Redevelopment Agency has now adopted environmental findings, approved the Design for Development, and approved the Redevelopment Plan. The next steps in the process will be to seek approval from the Board of Supervisors and the Mayor.
Aerial view of Schlage Lock site. Courtesy of S.F. Redevelopment Agency.
|Schlage Lock plan area map.
Courtesy of S.F. Redevelopment Agency.
The 46-acre Visitacion Valley Redevelopment Plan Area is divided into two zones: Zone 1, which is the main 20-acre Schlage Lock site (owned by Universal Paragon) under the purview of the Redevelopment Agency, and Zone 2, 26 acres consisting of adjacent segments of Bayshore and Leland Avenue. The plan may be the perfect embodiment of what one might hope to achieve with city planning. The site epitomizes transit-oriented development, bounded as it is on the north and west by the T-Third Muni Metro line on Bayshore, and on the east by the Caltrain tracks; the southern boundary is the San Mateo County line. Local trips along the Third Street corridor originate from Arleta and Sunnydale T-Third stations, which are both located on the border of the site. Bayshore Caltrain provides regional connections, and it will one day be refashioned into an intermodal when the T-Third is extended from its current Sunnydale terminus. As other redevelopment plans in this section of the city take shape, notably that planned for Hunters Point, Bayshore is poised to become an important southside hub if bus rapid transit is constructed via Geneva Avenue to connect Balboa Park to the Hunters Point Shipyard, which may also be a natural light rail link. In addition, the contaminated Schlage Lock site is a substantial barrier that separates Visitacion Valley from Little Hollywood. Filling in and developing this site would result in a through-extension of the street grid, strengthening connections to adjacent neighborhoods. It would also furnish a direct, apparent, and intuitive pedestrian and bicycle link from the Leland Avenue commercial strip to Bayshore Caltrain. Such a link is synergistic with the Better Streets plan to improve the Leland Avenue streetscape, which would be funded using the proceeds from the Visitacion Valley Community Facilities and Infrastructure Fee.
Leland Avenue streetscape. Courtesy of S.F. Planning Dept.
The redevelopment plan is rather ambitious, and the concept is a fine one, informed by a desire to generate local construction and retail jobs, and to revitalize the area with facade improvements and better marketing of the commercial district. Given the wealth of nearby transit, and the promise for creating a new hub and destination in the southeastern corner of the city, the plan may fall somewhat short in that it could be even denser. Zone 2, Leland Avenue and Bayshore — which contain almost 200,000 square feet devoted to retail and PDR (production, distribution, and repair) uses, but fewer than 200 residential units — make up the neighborhood’s commercial spine. The plan would emphasize this role through infill of underutilized parcels with 26,000 square feet of additional retail, and a modest increase of a few hundred housing units. The majority of the development is planned for Zone 1, on Universal Paragon’s property. The plan contemplates a one-acre Schlage Greenway lined with residences, in the spirit of the Hayes Green, along with three additional parks. The development plan for Zone 1 would add 1,250 new homes and 105,000 square feet of retail, with at least 25% affordable (as either stand-alone or inclusionary). Mixed-use buildings would be constructed along the extensions of Visitacion, Leland, and Sunnydale Avenues through the Schlage Lock site, and the site at the corner of Bayshore and Sunnydale (the southwest corner of the project) has been identified as a promising corner for a 40,000-50,000 square foot neighborhood grocer in the ground floor of another mixed-use building. The plan contemplates structures of 55 foot height limit in most parts of the plan area, and 65 feet at important gateway points. Only two parcels just west of the Caltrain tracks would support taller buildings (85 foot limit) that would act as visual cues. Lastly, the plan would retain an historic resource: an office building from the Schlage factory, to be reused as community space.
Courtesy of S.F. Redevelopment Agency.