The city of San Francisco and Caltrain are currently planning for new stations and improved station access in Southeast San Francisco, delivering on promises made decades earlier.
On July 14, the San Francisco Planning Commission voted unanimously to endorse the Southeast Rail Station Study, which outlines concrete recommendations for station locations in the Bayview and Potrero/Dogpatch neighborhoods.
With these recommendations came clarifications about equity concerns, funding, and a potential timeline for long-awaited completion of the project.
The Study (November 2021 article)
The Bayview community has been historically underserved by Caltrain, with a new infill station being promised to the community for decades. Low ridership correlated with infrequent service led to the to the closure of the Paul Avenue station in 2005.
The Potrero/Dogpatch community is currently served by the 22nd Street station, however, the station lacks essential accessibility options for disabled people, requiring riders to walk up multiple flights of stairs to access it.
The Pennsylvania Avenue Extension project (outlined in 2021 article), which would extend the Downtown Extension tunnel further south to avoid at-grade crossings, opened discussion about whether to construct an entirely new station at the 22nd street location, or constructing a new Potrero/Dogpatch station at a different location (Mariposa, Cesar Chavez). However, because this project depends on the Downtown Extension project, the Bayview station is taking priority when it comes to funding, planning, and construction.
The SFCTA launched the Southeast San Francisco Rail Station Study in the Summer of 2020. Although the timing was unfortunate with the onset of Covid-19, the CTA moved forward, conducting technical studies (land use, initial design, etc) from Summer 2020 – Fall 2021, followed by public outreach from October 2021 to the present. As the study was conducted, three options for the location of the Bayview station emerged, at Evans, Oakdale, and Williams.
On June 9, 2022, as part of the public outreach portion of the study, the SFCTA held a community meeting to discuss the Bayview Caltrain station options. The Oakdale station has a large amount of historical significance, as this was the location for the station that has been promised to the community for decades. Meanwhile, the Evans station location is close to the new southeast community center, as well as city college, making it an ideal central hub for the Bayview.
However, it was clear from the June 9 meeting and similar community outreach that the Oakdale station has by far the most support from the community. Additionally, the current and planned land use at the Oakdale site makes it the most cost-effective option, and it has the strongest connection to other SFMTA services. With this in mind, the study recommended that the new Bayview station be built at the Oakdale location.
As was mentioned before, the Potrero/Dogpatch project is further behind in the queue. However, the same technical studies and public outreach were conducted with this neighborhood as well. That study recommended the 22nd St or Mariposa/16th St locations in lieu of the Cesar Chavez location, while continuing to advance work on the Pennsylvania Avenue Tunnel. While the Cesar Chavez location would have been less expensive, other factors including community support, current and planned land uses, and connection to SFMTA services indicated that the ridership numbers would justify the extra cost.
The Hearing (Recording)
The San Francisco Planning Commission voted unanimously to endorse the Southeast San Fransisco Rail Study, most importantly solidifying Oakdale as the location for the new Bayview station. However, with this unanimous decision came many questions from commissioners and the community concerning housing, equity, funding, and a timeline for this long-awaited project. Below are some of the most important takeaways from this discussion.
With important steps finally underway for this project, commissioners and members of the public alike were eager to see actual work begin. A spokesperson for the SFCTA clarified that while the study has moved the project forward, there is still a long way to go. The immediate next steps for the CTA include getting ready for environmental clearance and moving through environmental clearance for the sites, which is estimated to be a 3 year process (~1 year for preliminary design). No more information could be reliably given at this time concerning a timeline till the completetion of the project, due to the uncertainty of future funding.
The SFCTA needs to pursue additional funding, as the project is still lacking the majority of the estimated $80 million needed for completion. The timing is good to secure funding for projects like this right now, as there is substantial state and federal funding that will be allocated through the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, and the project is significant to a historically underserved community.
There is a SFCTA board request expected in September for sales tax funding for further community engagement in the fall and spring, as the City begins to advance initial designs.
San Francisco’s 2003 Prop K sales tax budget contains a line item for the Bayview Caltrain Station. There may be funding from this category that can be used for funding for the project. The 2022 Measure L, the update of Prop K on the 2022 November ballot, contains an updated expenditure plan that would provide an additional new $28 million for the development of the station.
Throughout the process of public outreach, there was a clear public call for the SFCTA and Caltrain to study displacement and gentrification in Bayview due to better Caltrain access.
Public comment and the comments of the commissioners made it clear that while the Bayview station will be valuable for the community, attention needs to be directed towards the long-time members of the community, ensuring that they receive the benefits of the connection to Caltrain and are not forced out by rising rents. SFCTA staff said that studies regarding displacement and gentrification, and opportunities for mitigation with affordable housing would be pursued once the site is nailed down.
The board endorsement of the Southeast San Francisco Rail Study is a huge step in the right direction towards providing communities gaining the Caltrain access they’ve been promised for decades.
However, the lack of progress for so long points to a larger issue with the complicated and inefficient web of jurisdiction when it comes to this development. At the July 14 hearing, a SFCTA representative gave this as the primary reason for the decades of delay. It’s clear that in order for this project to move forward, leadership will be important to provide a strong voice for the project.