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Where the Sidewalk Ends

The Rincon Hill Plan was approved in August 2005 by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors and Mayor. The general idea was that the land currently occupied by warehouses and other artifacts of days gone by when the Embarcadero Freeway dominated the area could be better utilized as high-density residential housing located within walking distance of downtown jobs and the bay area’s public transit hub. High-density housing located near jobs and transit is one way to help cut down on our region’s reliance on oil and to mitigate the degradation of our environment. For the City, 600 foot towers with hundreds of new residential housing units provide millions in new revenues every year.

In February 2008, folks started moving into their homes in the first development built under the rules of the Rincon Hill Plan – the One Rincon Hill condominium tower at 1st and Harrison Streets. Three years later, after millions of additional new property taxes dollars have been paid to the City and County of San Francisco by residents at One Rincon Hill, there is still no continuous sidewalk on the south side of Harrison Street (see picture below).

New open spaces and improved, safer streetscapes were among the infrastructure needs named in the Rincon Hill Plan. With the City and County of San Francisco facing increasing budget deficits and with funds primarily going towards maintaining existing services and those public resources already built instead of going towards capital improvements in new neighborhoods (outside of redevelopment projects such as Mission Bay), residents of Rincon Hill have had to just make due. The problem is that making due, for those who can afford a car, means getting into their car with their kids or dog(s) and driving to other parts of San Francisco to get the recreation and open space leisure that human beings (and their pets) need. This creates more traffic congestion, adds to air pollution, and increases demand on parking spots and parks in other neighborhoods.

You may have read about Infrastructure Finance Districts in today’s San Francisco Examiner. The proposed IFD for Rincon Hill is very exciting because it may provide a solution to paying for some of the infrastructure needs to help create a decent quality of life in our neighborhood.

Considering the $8 million that residents of The Infinity pay in property taxes each year, the approximately $5 million paid in by residents of One Rincon Hill each year, and several million paid in by Portside, BayCrest Towers, Bridgeview, The Metropolitan, Folsom Lofts, 50 Lansing, and several other residents within the boundaries of the Rincon Hill Plan Area each year, any plan that helps to set aside some tax increment from future developments to help pay for needed parks and open space along with streetscape and pedestrian safety improvements is much appreciated and reasonable.

The San Francisco Giants fans who walk through our neighborhood from the BART stations stand to benefit from the wider sidewalks and safer pedestrian environment. Commuters who park in or south of Rincon Hill walk to their cars and would benefit from the improvements. America’s Cup will probably bring additional foot traffic to Rincon Hill. Finally, there are many childcare facilities in the area, and the 600 or so kids in those facilities each workday along with the 300 kids who actually live in Rincon Hill deserve some park space and playgrounds to help develop their coordination and muscles rather than being tied up in a chain gang and led to Rincon Park each day to just sit on their butts outdoors.

The first project that will likely benefit from the IFD in Rincon Hill, if passed into law, is Rincon Hill Park at 333 Harrison Street. The park design was the result of several community meetings which allowed neighbors to determine the resources within the park. You can learn more about Rincon Hill Park at the project website: www.HarrisonStreetPark.com.

The Board of Supervisor’s Budget Committee discusses the IFD legislation on Wednesday. If it is approved, it will likely go to the full Board of Supervisors on February 8th. Let’s hope they support the IFD legislation. It is a matter of public health and fairness that these parks and streetscape improvements get built.

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