San Francisco, California
Visitacion Valley in San Francisco, California, has been changing steadily as immigrants from Asia have added to the community’s diversity, and as mounting real estate prices in other parts of San Francisco have driven homebuyers—and new businesses—into the valley. In 2001, Home Depot proposed building a “big box” store on 13 acres just off of Visitacion Valley’s main strip. The plan concerned local groups, including the Visitacion Valley Planning Alliance, which worried the project would hurt local businesses and attract cars instead of pedestrians to their community.
In 2001, with the help of a city supervisor and the San Francisco Planning Department, Urban Ecology led a series of workshops attended by more than 250 people, including residents, merchants, activists, community organizations, city staff, and elected officials. Groups highlighted neighborhood assets and challenges, voiced concerns, and developed ten community goals for any development on the site. The goals focused on:
ensuring a mix of uses for the site, including housing, retail, city services, and open spaces
creating a well-designed development that builds upon the neighborhood’s history and cultures
leveraging any new development to help revitalize existing businesses
Urban Ecology’s work in Visitacion Valley led the city to adopt interim zoning controls that effectively banned “big box” development. In 2003, property owners called for mixed-use development proposals for both housing and businesses. The planning process brought a previously divided community together to form consensus about their neighborhood’s future. Community members now stand ready, willing, and able to ensure that any proposal for the area matches the vision Urban Ecology helped them create.