Mission Bay’s Population Almost Doubled in Last Decade

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Mission Bay’s population almost doubled over the past decade. According to the 2020 U.S. Census, the neighborhood grew from 9,000 residents in 2010 to more than 17,400 two years ago. 

What wasn’t long ago a marshy area with few built amenities has emerged as a mixed-income community with parks, open space, multiple dining opportunities, 6,060 market rate homes and another 1,456 affordable units. Between 2010 and 2020 alone 2,782 market rate and 633 affordable units were built, according to the San Francisco Office of Community Investment and Infrastructure (OCII). 

“It is an example of what a city should look like when we build it from scratch,” said District 6 Supervisor Matt Haney. “Despite the pandemic, much of the development has occurred in the last three years. Before that, storefronts on Fourth Street were vacant. Now they’re full, with pet stores, restaurants, coffee shops, furniture stores, and boba shops. Since the pandemic began, there have been fewer community meetings and less opportunities for people to connect. Yet Mission Bay proper is almost built out. The most significant coming addition will be Mission Rock, the San Francisco Giants-linked development with approximately 1,200 residential units on the way.” 

In the past 10 years the neighborhood has also seen completion of the Chase Center and construction of University of California, San Francisco clinical offices and laboratories. Mission Bay is defined by Berry Street to the north, the west by 7th Street, the east by the Bay, and the south by 16th Street. 

“We’re thrilled that so many folks have found our area appealing and have added to the vibrance of our urban neighborhoods,” said Alice Rogers, president of the South Beach|Rincon|Mission Bay Neighborhood Association (SBRMBNA). “We are looking forward to the time when each of our individual neighborhoods, South Beach, Rincon, and Mission Bay, reach some critical mass.” 

SBRMBNA was formed in part to foster community cohesion in the three emerging areas, with a “…long-term plan to split into three groups once there was enough community interest to support each neighborhood. For a while, it seemed that much of the housing in Rincon was purchased by non-resident investors. That had the effect of keeping the area feeling empty and lacking life on weekends. Thanks to the considerable work being done by The East Cut Community Benefit District, that’s changing, and neighborhood activity is being galvanized,” said Rogers.

The East Cut Community Benefit District (CBD), a nonprofit, was founded in 2015 by property owners and others to improve the quality of life in the Rincon Hill, Folsom Street, and Transbay areas. The organization is supported by an annual assessment on properties. 

According to Rogers, activities like Thrive City, which is sponsored by the Golden State Warriors at the Chase Center, have helped build a community hub.

“The streets have begun to bustle with folks of all ages and incomes, with a particular growth in families with small kids. All that work by planners over decades seems to have come to fruition with the well-integrated open spaces and public realm amenities…with everyone living in multi-family housing and the many different homeowner associations vying for attention with their own community building, it remains to be seen as to how neighborhood associations will morph to support this type of population,” said Rogers. 

Bruce Agid, a SBRMBNA board member and San Francisco Eastern Neighborhoods Democratic Club president, sees Mission Bay as split into halves. 

“Mission Bay North is a sliver of land north of Mission Creek. Mission Bay South is south of the creek. That area contains most of the population and activities in the neighborhood,” said Agid. 

Agid said Mission Bay started coming to life in 2016.

“That’s when you stopped seeing as many vacant lots and you began to see the influx of small businesses. Now, when you cross Mission Creek, Channel Street and Long Bridge Street, you feel like you’re entering into a real neighborhood. Spark’s Social, a food truck park at 601 Mission Bay Boulevard North, Mission Bay Park along the Creek, the Dogpark and the children’s playground have become meeting places for the neighborhood. In the last three years, Mission Bay began to come alive. Then COVID stopped it all. Now it’s starting up again, with most activity outdoors,” said Agid.

Peggy Fahnestock, SBRMBNA treasurer, said the influx of new residents has dramatically improved neighborhood life.

“Before that, this area between the UCSF campus and the Giants ballpark was very remote. Now I’m part of a weekly walking group. The Mission Bay branch of the San Francisco Public Library has a nice book club…as well as Stagecoach Greens, the outdoor mini golf course at 1379 Fourth Street…There are nice parks and playgrounds for families. One of the things that could change is that individual apartment complexes have gyms. That means there are not a lot of gyms in the neighborhood for people to mix,” said Fahnestock.

Fahnestock said Mission Bay could use more activities for children and teenagers.

“826 Valencia’s after-school programs to assist under-resourced students with writing skills are great. We could use more outreach programs like that, as well as the development of the Mission Bay school,” said Fahnestock. “There’s a lot of petty crime, especially car break-ins. We haven’t seen much visibility of law enforcement officers. There are a number of people experiencing homelessness in the neighborhood. There are people who sleep in front of the Mission Bay Branch library every night and on benches in Mission Creek Park. There are also many people who wander along the CalTrain tracks where King Street turns into I-80.” 

According to Sarah Davis, a second-generation Mission Bay resident who has lived in the neighborhood for more than 35 years, the community is at the point where “the dream is almost done. There are only a handful of new buildings left to build. Thirty years ago, the only thing here was Mission Creek Harbor and some industrial warehouses. For years nobody in the City paid much attention to Mission Bay. When the pile driving started to happen, everyone was in shock.” 

Davis said new residential towers now block her view of the sunrise over the Oakland hills.

“Yet it’s wonderful to see the families with children and all the activity. We’re still missing big pieces of the puzzle. These include the Mission Bay school, the last big parks for active outdoor activities, and better public transportation to link Mission Bay to the rest of the City,” said Davis. 

According to Laura Kurtzman, UCSF senior public information representative, the University serves Mission Bay in multiple ways. 

“This includes providing patient care at Mission Bay, where we have a pediatric emergency department…will have an urgent care clinic for adults in a building that is scheduled to open in late 2024. We continue to help members of the public get vaccinated against COVID-19. We have been instrumental in the City and County of San Francisco’s successful vaccine drive,” said Kurtzman. “Our gyms and pools, including those at Mission Bay, provide wellness benefits for the community. While in-person attendance was interrupted for 16 months by the pandemic, the Mission Bay facility reopened in August to those who can show proof of vaccination. We have invited members to return.” 

Kurtzman said UCSF is negotiating final details on the land to be transferred to serve as the Mission Bay school site. The campus will host a prekindergarten through fifth grade school, a linked learning hub for high schoolers, and professional development space. The San Francisco Unified School District is looking for residents interested in serving as community liaisons for the campus, to increase engagement and help design academic programs. 

“In fall 2020, UCSF and SFUSD agreed on a letter of intent that defined the general terms for transfer of Mission Bay Block 14. (We hope to) complete (negotiations) shortly,” said Kurtzman. 

It’s almost certain that Mission Bay will be assigned to a new Board of Supervisors district next year. After 2020 U.S. Census data became available, the San Francisco Redistricting Task Force began to recraft the City’s supervisorial districts, with the goal of having 79,545 people in each district. 

“Redistricting is certainly going to be a challenge. District 6, the district in which Mission Bay sits, is going to shrink. District 10, which contains Potrero Hill, Dogpatch, and Bayview-Hunters Point, and District 6 have grown. If Mission Bay goes to District 10, District 10 will likely need to be reduced,” said Haney.