Photo Credit: J. Ash Bowie
Well, that was close. The Supervisors voted yesterday 6-5 to approve the Parkmerced plan, a proposal to tear down much of the 1940s-era low-rise buildings and displace tenants into new high-rise buildings. The demolished buildings and much of the mid-century vintage landscaping by Thomas Church will be replaced by new multi-story buildings designed by Skidmore Owings Merrill- the same people who are bringing us the America's Cup infrastructure and a new Treasure island. According to Craig Hartman, one of SOM's senior partners in today's Chronicle:
What I really hope for is a neighborhood that will be really, truly of San Francisco? It is an example of what can be done to make new, intelligent forms of human settlement.Which probably is a euphemism for "cheaper to maintain and more profitable" as the owners seek to add 7200 new units (of which about 1500 are replacements for demolished units) that will also be more sustainable, in development to be phased in over thirty years. Parkmerced is currently owned by a private equity firm; previous owners had let the property decline, there have been recent problems with deceptive lease terms. It's also holds the last bits of developable land where one can shoehorn a in few thousand rental units. Some current residents and the five Supervisors who voted against the proposal remain skeptical about future tenant protections. A small (teensy) minority is upset about the loss of its period design and landscaping. Meanwhile, Parkmerced says:
Imagine a shared commitment to turn a blighted landscape into an international model of urban sustainability.So far everyone's been concerned about rent control, but we can't imagine who's going to hold Parkmerced's feet to fire to ensure the plan gets completed. As in "how many years before they build the promised new elementary school?" Parkmerced was one of many residential complexes built by the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company- in the days when insurance companies invested in bricks and mortar instead of other people's mortgages- begun in 1940 and completed after WWII. It absorbed retuning GIs who wanted something fresh and new for their families after the war, perhaps unwilling to return to the neighborhood they grew up in. The idea of setting low-rise and high-rise residential buildings in a park-like setting was new. People had cars. One of Parkmerced's advantages was its location- far to the west, between two golf courses and a mall, not far from the beach and the zoo, overlooking Lake Merced, a walk to SFSU, with easy access to Route 280. And in the recent battle over expansion, its isolated location probably worked against keeping it intact. Many San Franciscans probably don't even know where Parkmerced is- it's not Victorian or blocking anyone's view- just some towers in the fog behind Stonestown Mall.
· Parkmerced Transformation Wins Approval [SF Gate]
· Parkmerced Vision For The Future [Parkmerced]