On a sunny day last summer the crisp smell of fresh vegetables could be detected on Texas Street’s southern slope, as families and individuals harvested produce at the Texas Street Farm. The farm, where the crops raised are eaten by those who work the garden, is managed by the Potrero Hill Sustainable Living Group and BRIDGE Housing.
Lauded by the San Francisco Parks Alliance, the project teaches children and adults the mechanics and science of urban organic farming. Some garden volunteers live in recently built Dogpatch or Potrero Hill condominiums; others are among 600 Potrero Annex-Terrace housing complex residents, almost all of whom are poor.
Seven years into Annex-Terrace resident meetings, community workshops, City Hall hearings and budget battles, Rebuild Potrero, the name given to the Annex-Terrace reconstruction effort directed by BRIDGE Housing, continues to progress. “We are in the process of securing our environmental approvals for the site,” said Emily Weinstein, director of Rebuild Potrero.
Rebuild’s environmental impact report/statement was submitted to the Planning Department almost a year ago. Since then, the 500-plus-page document has undergone several changes to satisfy concerns relating to asbestos exposure to the surrounding community and the possibility of increased air pollution triggered by greater automobile traffic.
“The next step will be to secure land use entitlements for the first phase and complete the design. Both of these processes are underway,” Weinstein continued. “On the community-building front, daily community building activities are continuing and we are working with the City to expand programs and services onsite.”
According to Weinstein, BRIDGE believes that for the redevelopment project to be successful the families living at Annex-Terrace need to be brought together, through such activities as gardening at the Texas Street Farm, the Potrero Walking Club and Zumba classes, which are held at the Potrero Hill Neighborhood House. All of these happenings are open to Potrero Hill residents.
Since 2010 Rebuild Potrero has sponsored monthly meetings of the Community Building Group. The gatherings give Hill residents an opportunity to voice their input and concerns about the project. At a recent meeting attendees discussed Block X, which will be the first building to be constructed. Dozens of residents attended and contributed ideas for the structure’s design. A few expressed worries about what they perceived as the too lengthy delay in actual construction.
The project isn’t without controversy. Hill residents have criticized Rebuild’s budget, its potential adverse impacts on the environment, its design, and its possible effects on the City’s skyline. A Change.org petition, spearheaded by Hill resident Reynolds Cameron, called on the Board of Supervisors to abandon current designs and start fresh. According to the petition, “[The] proposal includes building an auto-centric L.A. street grid and building a luxury condo tower that would block expansive public views of San Francisco Bay… BRIDGE’s self-dealing/no-bid practices are counter-productive and harmful to San Francisco’s goals of increasing housing and creating more walkable, sustainable neighborhoods.”
The petition only received 24 signatures, less than the 100 required by Change.org for it to be presented to the Board.
“Through the Master Planning process and our ongoing community building efforts we make every effort to include the community’s input on all aspects of the development,” said Weinstein. “It is a large initiative that must balance the goals of the City, the needs of public housing residents, the impacts on the surrounding community and the overall vision expressed in the Master Plan.”
Under the Master Plan, 1,600 residential units – affordable and market rate – will be built, along with 1,100 off-street parking spots and 415 bicycle spaces. “The progress of the development is not inhibited by finances,” said Weinstein. “We are working with the City to ensure a full financing plan for the entire site. The timing of the development process will be timed to accommodate onsite relocation of existing residents to the extent possible…I believe strongly that people are a product of their environment and that we have a responsibility as a society to create neighborhoods where everyone can thrive.”