San Francisco Wants to Save a Gas Station?

In the middle of a housing and climate crisis, some supervisors are still showing backwards priorities

Saving a gas station is a priority in San Francisco? Photo: Google Maps
Saving a gas station is a priority in San Francisco? Photo: Google Maps

Note: GJEL Accident Attorneys regularly sponsors coverage on Streetsblog San Francisco and Streetsblog California. Unless noted in the story, GJEL Accident Attorneys is not consulted for the content or editorial direction of the sponsored content.

UPDATE: 10/7 07:30… Vote postponed. Read more in the Examiner. Thanks everyone for writing in.

The state is on fire. Deadly, smoke-filled air cycles from blue, to grey, to crimson. There is a climate emergency.

So San Francisco wants to extend the lease on the Twin Peaks Petroleum gas station, built on city-controlled land, for another 25 years?

Advocates for safe and livable streets were outraged and want readers to chime in at Tuesday /today’s Board of Supervisor’s meeting. Many are already writing their elected representatives and urging them to vote ‘no’ on the extending the lease. Streetsblog decided to share excerpts of two such messages already sent to the board of Supervisors. One is from Livable City; the other is from advocates Ed Parillon and Shanti Singh.

They are urging people who care about climate change and affordable housing to watch today’s board meeting, which starts at 2 p.m., on SFGOVTV (item #39, agenda here) and call to chime in at 415-655-0001/ Meeting ID: 146 420 5469 # #.

You can also email your supervisor here.

Here are the two sample letters from advocates.

Livable Cities’ message to Norman Yee and the Board of Supervisors:

On behalf of Livable City, we urge you to reject the proposed 25-year lease of City-owned land to Twin Peaks Petroleum.

The climate crisis, our affordable housing crisis, and our City’s unsafe streets threaten the lives and well-being of present and future San Franciscans. These crises are urgent and getting worse. As the people’s elected representatives, we’re counting on you to protect us and move us towards solutions to these crises.

As the stewards of City-owned land, we depend on you to make the wisest possible use of these scarce lands to meet multiple public needs. Before you this week is a proposed 25-year lease extension for Twin Peaks Petroleum to maintain a gasoline station on City-owned land at Woodside and Portola. This proposed lease is a step backwards for climate, housing affordability, and safe streets. We urge you to reject it and find a solution that moves us in the right direction.

In 2015 the voters approved Proposition K, which directs City officials to use surplus City land not needed for civic purposes to build permanently affordable housing. This gas station site is in a transit-accessible location, a short walk from the Forest Hill Muni Metro Station, and immediately next to a bus stop for Muni’s 44 and 48 routes which connect to Glen Park BART and West Portal stations. This site is in a walkalble 10-minute neighborhood. It is within a five-minute walk to a public high school (McAteer/SOTA) other schools, a supermarket, pharmacy, bank, small grocery, two bakery/coffee shops, bar, and medical/dental offices. It is immediately next to the larger Youth Guidance Center site, which is being phased out and will soon be available for other public purposes, including housing.

Despite a transit-rich and walkable location suitable for families, the neighborhood lacks affordable family housing. Building affordable housing on this site will provide needed housing diversity in a neighborhood which currently lacks affordable housing options. A City assessment found the site could accommodate up to two dozen units, and many more if combined with the YGC site. Yet the proposed lease will preclude the use of  this site for affordable housing for a quarter-century.

We don’t need affordable family housing in this neighborhood a quarter-century from now; we need it now.

Eighteen months ago, you and your colleagues declared a climate emergency, saying that “climate crisis poses a serious and urgent threat to the well-being of San Francisco, its inhabitants, and its environment.” The resolution set a goal of getting San Francisco to zero net carbon emissions by 2050. Doing so requires a transition from polluting fossil-fueled vehicles, infrastructure, and power generation to clean alternatives. Since fossil-fueled private cars are the City’s single-largest source of emissions, transitioning from gasoline and diesel-fueled vehicles to clean ones, and reducing our dependence on private cars by shifting to sustainable transportation modes, are crucial for achieving our climate goals – as is building housing in walkable and transit-rich locations.

Last week Governor Newsom announced that California would phase out sales of fossil-fueled cars by 2035 – ten years before the proposed gas station lease would expire. The stated rationale for the 25-year term of the proposed lease is to allow the gas station owner to amortize new underground gasoline storage tanks, since the existing ones will likely reach the end of their useful life within five years. Climate logic dictates that as fossil-fuel infrastructure reaches the end of its useful life it should be replaced with clean technology. Extending a lease to facilitate a major investment in new fossil fuel infrastructure on City land is climate denialism plain and simple, a rebuke of science and common sense.

And from advocates Ed Parillon, parent of two young San Franciscans and an affordable housing consultant, and Shanti Singh, tenant organizer and advocate:

We were surprised to learn that this gas station, currently operating as Twin Peaks Auto Care, sits on city-owned land. We were even more surprised that the Board of Supervisors would consider renewing this month-to-month lease for 25 years, explicitly so that the owner can install a new fuel storage tank required by state law, to continue selling gas past 2025.

We implore the Supervisors to act in line with our city’s progressive values and most urgent moral priorities. The Board should work with the owner to wind down this fossil fuel business, clean up the site, and repurpose it for 100% social housing or subsidized housing.

At 14,499 square feet, this site is comparable to other locations in San Francisco that now host affordable housing. Avanza 490, under construction by BRIDGE Housing and Mission Housing at 16th Street & South Van Ness Avenue, will provide 81 affordable family units at what used to be a gas station, on a slightly smaller parcel. On the west side, Supervisor Sandra Lee Fewer’s office is helping to make possible 99 units of senior housing at 4200 Geary Blvd, a 10,746 square foot parcel.

The coming closure of Juvenile Hall expands the gas station site to over 50,000 square feet of public land available for the public good, using just the parking lot that serves it. Opportunities for infill with large public benefits are rare in San Francisco. The area around Twin Peaks Autocare is classified as High Resource by the state of California, meaning low-income homes here reduce segregation and improve access to opportunity. Social or subsidized housing in such a high-opportunity area is the perfect next step to continue the work of closing Juvenile Hall, to build homes, not prisons.

There are five other gas stations within a five-minute drive of Twin Peaks Auto Care. It won’t be hard to fill up while we work to switch over to electric vehicles and transit. By keeping Twin Peaks Auto Care’s lease month-to-month, the city can coordinate a funding and housing plan over the next few years, ensuring the site is never blighted. The city can even guarantee the gas station’s owner a ground-floor retail space, to keep a valued small business owner in the community.

Social housing is on the ballot this fall. The city has declared a climate emergency, and has until 2030 to meet its IPCC climate goals. Using public land to facilitate new investment in fossil fuels signals a lack of commitment to our values of racial, economic, housing, anti-carceral, and climate justice. We ask the Board of Supervisors to reject the proposed lease.

Follow the authors @eparillon and @uhshanti.

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Note: GJEL Accident Attorneys regularly sponsors coverage on Streetsblog San Francisco and Streetsblog California. Unless noted in the story, GJEL Accident Attorneys is not consulted for the content or editorial direction of the sponsored content. A Marin County Supervisor, who represents San Rafael, apparently wants to look at nixing plans for the long-planned bike and ped path on the […]