It's not so easy building green

Questions about the plan to build Parkmerced


OPINION The Parkmerced project developers like to talk about how environmentally sound their plans are, but a harder look suggests otherwise.

At a March 29 hearing on the project, Green Pary member Eric Brooks presented graphic evidence of the environmental impacts of the destruction of the garden units and the landscape, and the proposed increase in parking on- site. As a transit-first city, it seems ludicrous to spend so much on below-grade parking. And regrading and replanting the entire site will allow toxins in the soil to become airborne.

Then there's the question of whether the site is really "blighted," as the developer claims — and whether so much housing needs to be torn down in the first place. Sup. Eric Mar questioned the issue of the deterioration of the existing units; he said he'd visited the site and noted that many units appear to be in fine shape.

I agree that the western side of town needs more density — but dumping that density disproportionately on one community seems to be a biased approach. Parkmerced is a renter community. Other areas dominated by homeowners seem to be off the table.

San Francisco should take a broader look at west-side zoning. That would include looking seriously at corridors with light-rail lines — Ocean Avenue, West Portal Avenue, Taraval Street, Geary Boulevard, Judah Street, and others — where some one-story buildings are far more deteriorated than the buildings at Parkmerced.

City officials should look at alternatives that allow other sites to be upzoned or allow owners to build on side sites. This would lessen the effects on one community by sharing the growing pains of a city limited on three sides by water.

We all want the projects, work, housing, jobs, and an expanded tax base for the city. But many of us question whether the current plan for Parkmerced does justice environmentally and sustainably when it ignores infill and preservation-based alternatives that could create more jobs and a better long-term green solution.

I have submitted a proposal to the Planning Commission that shows how to improve transit linkages, how infill housing can be done, and how the 11 towers at Parkmerced can be redesigned (the initial concept was to design new, pencil-thin replacement towers and structurally-reinforced new buildings). I suggest that more infill housing can be built by removing parking garages throughout the site — which would lessen displacement and allow a significant density increase.

Assurances by the developer should not placate the city or the supervisors. If the supervisors lean toward approval, they need to be reminded of the transit, sustainability, and open-space concerns of the project to ensure that the design is changed either through revisions of portions or the whole to make more clear the concerns that the project has been greenwashed to promote the developer's interests.

Aaron Goodman is an architect and Bay Area native.


Indeed so. By the developer and Planning staff's own admission, the Parkmerced project, because it relies heavily on incredibly wasteful demolition and reconstruction of both vast amounts of existing homes, and most of the existing natural landscape in that neighborhood, will cause a major spike in green house gas emissions for the next 25 years (and probably far longer) at a time when it is absolutely imperative that we instead dramatically -reduce- green house gasses.

And insanely adding 6,000 more parking spaces to that area will further raise that green house gas spike through the roof, for the rest of time...

All demolition of existing homes and landscape in this project must be canceled; and the parking component must be drastically cut.

Supervisors should roundly reject this environmentally destructive project in its current form and send it back for a complete redesign.

Posted by Eric Brooks on Apr. 13, 2011 @ 12:08 pm

The may want to ask a certain megalomaniac local green party member and his follicularly challenged pedant sidekick for their opinion first - since everything that gets posted here gets debated ad nauseum by them.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 13, 2011 @ 12:57 pm

nice to know who sends comments, if your willing to sign your comments, are you a disgruntled resident supporting the project?

Posted by Guest on Apr. 14, 2011 @ 6:18 am

You really need to retreat to your NIMBY enclave of single family detached homes with two car garages because you're really starting to enrage the urbanists.


Posted by marcos on Apr. 14, 2011 @ 7:06 am

Agreed. If you aren't for this project, then you should go back to your suburban shangri-la.
Thanks Marc!

Posted by Guest on Apr. 14, 2011 @ 8:15 am

Locating thousands of parking spaces proximate to a freeway IS suburban shangri-la. Short a subway, it is always going to be easier and faster to drive to Parkmerced than to get there via transit.

Fool me once, shame on me, fool me twice, don't get fooled again, especially those who posit themselves as urbanist housing activists but get paid by developers to live in the NIMBY heights.


Posted by marcos on Apr. 14, 2011 @ 8:31 am

the spokesperson stated clearly opposition prior to the Stonestown redevelopment project, on EMPTY parking lots, but was ALL for the demolition of sound rental housing in Parkmerced.... THAT is NIMBYISM...... learn a bit about urban infill and sustainability and perhaps mr. marcos we can call you an urbanist with some understanding of architectural and urban planning principles.....

Posted by goodmaab50 on Apr. 14, 2011 @ 8:43 am

probably another accomplice of the developer, who posted "the may want to ask a certain", its obvious they have no concept of the impacts of this project, nor the people affected. could be spur, tim colen of sfhac, or another stooge paid for by the investor to bad-mouth anyone opposing the development.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 14, 2011 @ 6:17 am

Right, because all of the people mentioned have time or think there would be value in paying someone to post their opinions on the web portal of a paper with extremely limited relevance.
Eric and Marc don't need people to be paid to badmouth them. It's sort of a natural reaction to their tone, their arrogance, their constant use of we as if they're the next jim jones or Che.

Park Merced will happen. The only constant is change, despite the desperate bleatings of the sheep that desire control over everything.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 14, 2011 @ 6:40 am

If Parkmerced WILL happen then the developers would not need to come crawling to the government for entitlements.

This declaration that the imperatives of speculators are sacrosanct and guaranteed does not advance the political position of the speculators, which is pretty much purchased and secure anyway.

The fact that developers must grovel to collect on what they've purchased at least makes for entertaining circuses for the proles and plebes.'

The more we can make Tim Colen cry like a spoiled 4 year old, the better.


Posted by marcos on Apr. 14, 2011 @ 7:57 am

I suppose stalking him on the web and bringing print outs of his home to a public meeting is going to make him cry like a four year old.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 14, 2011 @ 8:16 am

He's lost it twice so far. Once at a meeting at the Planning Department, Tim Colen got all frothed up about passing the Housing Element and made the argument that it was not that big a deal, we've been working on it for so long now, that we should just pass it. When I raised the issue as to why he was getting all worked up about something that was not that meaningful, Colen erupted in an emotional outburst and stormed out of the meeting.

At the Housing Element hearing, the day that Colen was quoted in the Chronicle characterizing the HE as a battle between the new urbanists in favor of density and NIMBYs, then Tim Colen opened the door to his calling his own NIMBY residency, suburban auto-centric living in San Francisco at its finest, into question.

Tim Colen talks the talk, but refuses to walk the walk. He drives to City Hall from his home in the leafy green hills, gets paid by developers to promote denser housing that trashes the transit system that just happens to be right on freeway ramps, and expects a free pass on his rampant speculative contradictions.

Uh, no.


Posted by marcos on Apr. 14, 2011 @ 8:35 am

Doesn't change the fact that you have been stalking him and you appeared at a public meeting with print outs of his private residence.
I am quite sure if someone else with a complete lack of social skills was to follow you around they mind find a contradiction or two. I don't even know you, and I have seen plenty from reading this site. Home equity for example.
I am not sure that paying for improvements to the existing muni lines completely out of pocket = trashing the muni lines. I am also not sure how densifying the existing model (which is near a freeway - not ON the ramps) = making it more suburban.
What is the model of development now then?

Posted by Guest on Apr. 14, 2011 @ 9:02 am

One that I've not come anywhere close to committing.

646.9. (a) Any person who willfully, maliciously, and repeatedly
follows or willfully and maliciously harasses another person and who
makes a credible threat with the intent to place that person in
reasonable fear for his or her safety, or the safety of his or her
immediate family is guilty of the crime of stalking, punishable by
imprisonment in a county jail for not more than one year, or by a
fine of not more than one thousand dollars ($1,000), or by both that
fine and imprisonment, or by imprisonment in the state prison.

Perhaps if developers did not subsidize Tim Colen's presence at each and every meeting where members of the public have an opportunity to be overwhelmed by paid developer hacks, then Tim Colen would not be receiving such a backlash?


Posted by marcos on Apr. 14, 2011 @ 9:14 am

Sorry but the following = stalking in my book
You searched public record for a specific persons address - a person you have no connection to
You then googled that address.
You then printed out several pictures of that person's private home and brought them to a public meeting.
this is just stuff you admitted in a public forum. Who else knows what else you did.
How do you know he drives downtown? Have you been watching his house?
You assumed he drives downtown because he has a car and a garage?

I wouldn't call the sound and fury of one unstable person "backlash"

Posted by Guest on Apr. 14, 2011 @ 9:29 am

I asked a mutual acquaintance if Colen drove or took transit to work and the mutual acquaintance said he drove about half of the time.

The master voter file contains addresses. Anyone can make the trip to the Department of Elections to look up any voter. They can even disclose their address. I've got a master voter file loaded into my database. There was no effort to compose the SQL query: "select * from voters where name_first like 'TIM%' and name_last='COLEN';

I did not disclose Tim Colen's suburban address, that would be wrong. But when a hypocrite like Tim Colen is quoted in the Chronicle as follows:

'"It is sort of like urbanists versus the NIMBYs, not to characterize it too broadly," said Tim Colen, head of San Francisco's Housing Action Coalition, a proponent of high-density development.'

When a NIMBY resident poses as an urbanist he misrepresents himself to San Franciscans. My project here is to pierce the veil of deception that developers prefer to hide their contradictions, such as the notion that greater densities near freeways are Transit Oriented Development, and that any claims of TOD that slows down transit is not really TOD.

The fact that I made Tim Colen cry twice is only icing on the cake. San Franciscans will not win until the income streams that Colen pimps for his developer financiers dries up to the extent that we see Colen and the HAC at fewer than half of all relevant hearings. San Franciscans have a right to a public process that is not dominated by paid lobbyists to our total exclusion.


Posted by marcos on Apr. 14, 2011 @ 9:48 am

So you have the name and home address of every San Francisco voter loaded into a database that you can query at will. And you think this is normal.
I get that you can look someone up online or whatever - but It just sounds wrong that you would be able to take the entire database and use it for whatever creepy purposes you dream up.

I cannot be the only one who thinks this is exceedingly creepy.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 14, 2011 @ 10:03 am

It is normal for someone who provides mail, phone and walk lists to political campaigns as allowed under the state Election code to have a copy of the MVF. There are laws as to how those data may be disseminated, laws which I've followed.

The "creepy purpose" which we've dreamed up is contesting elections and winning them more than half of the time over the past decade.


Posted by marcos on Apr. 14, 2011 @ 10:18 am

These supposed transit improvements (which would only bring a very limited transit orientation to the project in the first place) are not even mandated. They are only vague promises, and dependent on the financial viability of the project over time. (One look at the still wildly staggering housing market shows that such promises are a pipe dream.)

Until vastly ramped up and robust transit improvements are -mandated- to be built at the onset of construction (including a guaranteed rail connection to Daly City BART) the claims of the project being 'transit oriented' are a complete fairy tale.

Posted by Eric Brooks on Apr. 15, 2011 @ 2:52 pm

Is it true that Park Merced causes cancer?
I also heard that it may cause the death of your first born and an occasional plague of locusts.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 15, 2011 @ 5:36 pm

with the lack of rental housing being built/developed EQUITABLY which means 50-50 housing for sale, and housing for rent we have in essence an unbalancing act which forces many people out of the city. this creates the problem of sprawl. we need the FLEXIBILITY in housing type that promotes change, and controls insane increases in rent. The units in parkmerced were already "flipped" by stellar in 2007 when they rennovated during the summer when students were out of town. The new units per the CBRE report on the "conservative" scale noted for a one-bedroom $3,000.00 per month. Which labor union worker on the project will be able to afford that rent, or the future $800,000.00 projected costs of the new units?

there is a disconnect in the reality of the housing being built and for whom.

Parkmerced was the prior solution when met-life worked on a philanthropic level to build housing, social housing, returning vet housing, and essential housing while making a profit. We do not seem to have the civil servants, politically, or financially in the business realm savy enough to see the need and provide or present a better alternative so the city has MORE than just the one solution proposed by a private developers interests.

as the real estate market crumbles under its own largess, so should the plans of such developers.....

Posted by goodmaab50 on Apr. 14, 2011 @ 8:50 am

What's worse about this is that the new owners are crying impending bankruptcy unless government bails them out with a larger development envelope, doubling down on stupid, and that continuing on this "too big to fail" development model, we'll just be seeing whatever speculators hold this property coming back in 10, 20, 30 years pleading impending bankruptcy unless the City triples down on stupid and augments the entitlements.


Posted by marcos on Apr. 14, 2011 @ 8:56 am

Where is the proof that new owners are crying impending bankruptcy?
I have seen nothing in print that discusses this.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 14, 2011 @ 9:38 am

"While Stellar continues to manage Parkmerced, the company was unable to keep up with its loan payments on the property last year, so in 2010, a new financial firm stepped in to take control and save it from default. In Sepetember of 2010, a minor change was entered into San Francisco property records -- the address for the property owner, Parkmerced Investors Properties LLC, was changed from one Manhattan skyrise to another. The new address is identical to that of Fortress Investment Group, a private equity firm."

Posted by marcos on Apr. 14, 2011 @ 9:49 am

All that tells me is that one managing firm was unable to keep up payments and another one was.
This tells me nothing about the new owners pleading bankruptcy in order to get an increase in density.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 14, 2011 @ 10:05 am

The line is that the new owners need the density boost to avoid the same fiscal plight as the previous owners. As much was stipulated to in the public hearings. The Board Chair of Tim Colen's own HAC also confirmed that was the economic impetus behind the deal, this is not TOD, it is public entitlements being used to bail out a too big to fail speculative investor.


Posted by marcos on Apr. 14, 2011 @ 10:20 am

BS. This is your interpretation of it. You have no standing to make the claim. You cant make things up and claim them as fact.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 14, 2011 @ 10:32 am

Just remember who you are supporting if you back this redevelopment and demolition of Parkmerced. You above who have been so rude in your comments, and are no doubt paid lobbyists: Stellar Management's head is the New York real estate tycooon who helped drive the global financial meltdown according to, then defaulted on Parkmerced; Mudd, who is CEO of Fortress Investment Group, a hedge fund, has been informed by the government that he is being investigated for misdeeds as CEO of Fannie Mae that helped drive it into the ground. Mudd also backed out of the Olympic Village project according to the Vancouver Sun, leaving the city of Vancouver with $730million in debt. I have the source for the above information if you want to look at it. These are the guys you are either naively trusting or being paid by to badmouth families whose homes you and your ilk will demolish. Either way you are living in a fool's paradise. Michael

Posted by Guest Michael on Apr. 14, 2011 @ 10:39 am

go measure out the area along 19th Ave., Junipperro Serra Blvd., Sunest Blvd, and the air-space along the brotherhood way interchange out to daly city...

plenty of room for density if you plan vertically....

problem is the government has been lax in addressing 19th ave. for years.
instead doyle drive was touted, due to concerns of decay... instead of going a step further and launching a real western-side of SF transit improvement program along existing corridors, and helping to remove cars, by improving transit linkage, we get a developer version of "what's best for SF"....

this is far from what is best or the most sustainable alternative.
we need another set of drawings, plans, a vision beyond a corporate view of what the city should look like in 20 years... if profits and speculative real estate rein...

we need a vision for housing, work, jobs, environment, open-space, and linkages in transit and the green belt areas of the city....

that's a plan and a vision that we should all be requesting from the city...

a new one....

Posted by goodmaab50 on Apr. 14, 2011 @ 12:15 pm

One of the fallacies that's entered into the discourse is that housing in San Francisco competes with housing in the exurbs and greenbelt. There is no economic evidence that the two markets attract the same purchasers, nor is there any evidence of the cascade effect that the top end of the market, once satisfied, results in vacancies that attract people in from the burbs.

We've got to link together housing, transit and jobs that either employ our unemployed or pay business taxes so that economic bubbles are avoided and everything is made to pull forward together.


Posted by marcos on Apr. 14, 2011 @ 1:06 pm

So there are no studies that you are aware of. How does that make it a fallacy?
Have you read every possible study that exists?
Can you point me to the study that shows that housing in Cities does not compete with housing in the exurbs and greenbelt?

Posted by Guest on Apr. 14, 2011 @ 1:30 pm

TOD boosters and hucksters make the claim that Parkmerced and Rincon Towers and Brentwood and Tracy are all interrelated in the market to the extent that building here takes pressure off of the exurbs.

I am calling upon them to substantiate their claims. You cannot expect for me to have to make the exhaustive study of all literature to prove the lack of presence of their argument.

I would observe that the price point differential should make a prima facie case against making claims to such foolishness. But I can always be swayed by a good argument backed by factual evidence.


Posted by marcos on Apr. 14, 2011 @ 1:58 pm

So can I. Too bad neither of us has produced one.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 14, 2011 @ 2:28 pm

Not every open space needs development. Parks, of course, are excluded, oops, SF now wants to develop Glen Canyon Park, one of two wild parks operated by the City, with more trails, more pavement, and a much larger footprint.

Posted by Guest shastasky on Apr. 16, 2011 @ 8:15 am