Phelan Bus Loop Project, First in Balboa Area Plan, Gets Federal Funding

Picture_5.pngA reconfigured Phelan Bus Loop. Graphic: SF Planning Department
A proposal to reconfigure the Phelan Bus Loop as part of the Balboa Park Station Area Plan received a major boost today with the announcement that the Federal Transit Administration has awarded the SFMTA more than $6.8 million for the project.

In a statement, the FTA said the project "paves the way for landscaped open space, new retail space, and new affordable housing, all next to public transportation, and within walking distance of both a major transit hub and San Francisco City College, one of the nation’s largest educational institutions."

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi also issued a statement praising the project and the federal funding. "Today's announcement highlights San Francisco's continued leadership in the realm of livable communities and transit-oriented development. It will increase public transportation options, while reducing congestion and our dependence on foreign oil."

John Katz, the project manager for the SFMTA, said it will probably take several months before the funding is in hand, but the reconfiguration would be the first major public project under the Balboa plan, and under a best case scenario, would be on target to begin construction a year from now.

"It's great news for the community in San Francisco. This is a project that has been worked on, at least in concept, for the last 7 or 8 years and it looks like it's going to become a reality now," said Katz. "This project is really a catalyst for a lot of long-needed community improvements." 

The current Phelan Loop on Ocean Avenue near Phelan and Lee used to be a turnaround for the K light-rail line before it was transferred to the Balboa Park station in 1973. It currently serves two major bus lines: the 49-Van Ness-Mission and the 8X-Bay Shore Express. But it occupies a lot of "wasted" space, according to Katz, that under the new configuration will allow a mixed-use affordable housing and retail development as well as a public plaza similar to Hayes Green and better transit connections, including a new BART entrance on the west side of Balboa Park station. The goal of the Balboa plan is to embolden the connection between transit and land use in the area. 

"What this does is make Muni whole again," said Katz. "It gives us back the same functionality we had before, but it sort of gets the buses off of fronting Ocean Avenue and gets them behind the fire station, and provides all this additional space to do all these other community-driven goals."

The Balboa plan is an ambitious blueprint for the area. Planners have envisioned a full deck over I-280 that would reconnect neighborhoods while dramatically improving pedestrian, bicycle and housing amenities.

The redeveloped Phelan Loop, according to the Planning Department, will simultaneously function "as a new front door on Ocean Avenue for City College and as a gateway to the commercial district."