We Still Care about the Waterfront

November 18th, 2015 No Comments »


At a recent meeting of SFT’s Waterfront Committee, Byron Rhett and Diane Oshima, Director and Assistant Director for Waterfront Planning for the Port of San Francisco, summarized the history of the Waterfront Land Use Plan and talked about the Port’s intention to revise the plan to reflect new issues and changed conditions since the Plan was first approved by the Port Commission in 1997.  Over the summer, the Port advertised for applicants to serve on a new Waterfront Plan working group.  A 30-member group has been formed, representing various interest areas in all 11 city districts, with specific neighborhood planning efforts in the northeast quadrant and the southern reaches of the Bayfront as well as regional interests.  In addition, 7 advisory teams will focus on specific issues as requested by the working group.  The update will continue through 2016.

Many of the Port’s successes since 1997 have been due, not to the Plan itself, but to efforts to address gaps in the original plan.  SFT participated in years of negotiations that resulted in the addition of an urban design and public access element to the Plan, the adoption of a Special Area Plan by the Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC) to guide pier removal and renovation, and the establishment of the Embarcadero Historic District.

Successful developments have occurred at the Ferry Building, Piers 1 1/2, 3, 5 and 15 and have activated the Embarcadero, which now forms the most heavily used open space on the east side of the City. A Pier 70 historic district has been established, and renovation of the historic buildings on 20th Street and the development of Crane Cove Park are underway. Less successful development proposals should also inform the process, including the Malrite museum at Pier 45, the Pier 27-29 shopping mall, and repeated attempts to develop the oversized and crumbling Piers 30-32.

What needs to be considered in the plan update?  Some suggestions at our meeting included:

Sea-level rise. The Port is especially vulnerable, yet this issue was not addressed in the original plan.  The Port is convening have an interagency co-ordination team, since there are so many agencies with shared jurisdiction and responsibility to  prepare the city’s perimeter for massive intrusion of sea water.  Resilience is the key new buzzword; it means we must be ready.

Traffic.  This is a severely limiting factor in the reuse or development – including maritime uses – of Port properties along the Embarcadero.  Can the City figure out how to reduce cars and create functional transit options in the northeast quadrant of the City?

Maritime and industrial uses.  The Port has a clear mandate to maintain and enhance its maritime role.  In the past 20 years, that has been less about cargo and more about transportation, as ferry service on the Bay has exploded. But the Port now also has some of the last industrial space in the City.  What role should the Port play in ensuring that the City has sufficient space for light industrial uses?

Money.  The Port owns hundreds of acres of land covered with historic or just old buildings. Its 10-year Capital plan identifies roughly $2 billion in needed maintenance, restoration and seismic upgrades, but identifies funding sources for less than half that amount.  The City and the Port have worked together successfully to fund open space improvements on Port property. Can that cooperation be extended to other Port needs?

What is your priority for the Waterfront Plan update?  Get on the Port’s mailing list and participate in the process (http://tinyurl.com/orgzl69).  And join the discussion at SFT’s quarterly waterfront meetings.

— Mary Anne Miller, Jennifer Clary

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