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Business, labor unite again for a new Parkmerced

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Recently, I wrote about the Treasure Island redevelopment — an important project that business and labor wholeheartedly agree on. Today, the same business-labor alliance is alive and well in Parkmerced.

Delivering on a vision to revitalize aging housing infrastructure in the southwest part of The City, the $7 billion project will create a cleaner, safer, healthier community while delivering 35,000 construction jobs, economic growth, significantly more transit options and accessible housing to the area.

The needs for a revitalized Parkmerced have become abundantly clear through more than 275 meetings during the past five years with the project’s sponsors, the public, community organizations, public agencies, neighbors and current residents.

Chief among the needs is aging infrastructure. Originally built for returning servicemen following World War II, Parkmerced was built with outdated construction materials and methods that no longer meet the needs and vision of The City. Decades of deferred maintenance followed, through a series of absentee landlords, and its infrastructure fell into disrepair.

Accessibility is another key issue. Every single low-rise apartment at Parkmerced is inaccessible for people with disabilities, and the landscape is highly consumptive of resources and poorly configured for family use. Previous owners neglected these problems and systematically sold off pieces of Parkmerced to new owners who could then develop parcels haphazardly.

The Parkmerced redevelopment project that’s headed to the Board of Supervisors for approval later this month represents a milestone opportunity for San Francisco to create housing, transit and economic benefits in an area of The City that hasn’t seen significant infrastructure upgrades in a half-century. It’s worth noting that all these benefits will be realized using private capital on the dime of the developer — not the taxpayer — and the project is expected to bring increased revenue to the general fund.

As part of a single, comprehensive planning agreement with The City, the Parkmerced Vision will deliver 8,900 living spaces with new amenities, including retail shops, office space, parks and playing fields. Not only will there be a net gain in much-needed rental housing, but the project will start with construction of new units — so no current Parkmerced residents will ever be relocated off-site.

All residents who move into new apartments will be able to do so at their current rent, and they will enjoy continued rent-control protections. And the project will transform the current car-centric neighborhood into a transit-first community with bike lanes, walking paths and a newly rerouted M-Ocean View Muni line going directly into the area.

Business and labor again stand united in supporting Parkmerced. The Parkmerced Vision is a thoughtful, systematic approach to dealing with the entrenched infrastructure problems — and the enormous potential — of a large neighborhood that is simply unlike any other in The City.

Parkmerced was built all at once, and it was built for a bygone era striving for a “suburban experience” within city limits. It’s time for renovation is past due. Let’s bring Parkmerced into the 21st century, for the good of the neighborhood and the economic vitality of San Francisco.

Steve Falk is the president and CEO of the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce.