Brace yourselves for a new fight over a waterfront development site as the Port of San Francisco looks to be selecting a development proposal for Piers 30-32 — a.k.a. the piers that the Warriors almost built their arena on before being shouted down to Mission Bay back in 2014.
The Port put out a request for proposals back in February for the 13-acre site, before the world ground to a halt, and now seven months on city staff has recommended a winner out of three finalists. And it's a big one!
Developers Strada TCC Partners and Trammell Crow's winning proposal includes a whopping 850 residential units (25-percent affordable) to be built on Seawall Lot 330 — a.k.a. the current site of the highly contentious homeless Navigation Center that opened in December. And, as the Chronicle reports today, it also includes three acres of public open space on two reconstructed piers, as well as a bay-water public swimming pool adjacent to a paddle-in water park of sorts, and 376,000 square feet of office space.
The swimming pool idea may have been inspired by a previous pool-in-the-bay proposal in 2006 for Piers 27-31. But it's the 105-foot tall residential structures along the Embarcadero that are the most likely to cause a stir — if not years of lawsuits and noise from neighbors like both the Warriors arena and the Navigation Center brought forth. (And let's not forget the failed attempt at a George Lucas museum, and the "Wall on the Waterfront" known as 8 Washington, up on a different seawall lot north of Market, that went down in flames amid warring ballot measures in 2013.)
As the developers say in their proposal, "Our project is designed to succeed where others have failed by basing our proposal on established precedent, a pragmatic design that embraces a ‘less is more’ ethos, and public trust consistent attractions not seen elsewhere around the Bay."
The proposal goes before the SF Port Commission in a meeting today, as the SF Business Times reports, but it now looks like the likeliest to move forward — though taking it all the way to a groundbreaking is still far from a guarantee, even though the Port and the city did manage to get that temporary Navigation Center through the courts.
As political consultant P.J. Johnston tells the Chronicle, regarding the "cut-throat" nature of SF residents and waterfront development, "They scream and shout about protecting the waterfront. They exploit people’s fear of change. But all they end up doing is protecting parking lots."
Working in the developers' favor is that they pledge to spend $369 million to rebuild and restore the piers, as well as restoring the "deep draft berth" on the eastern side of the piers for active maritime use. Helping to fund all that expensive work is the extra-large, revenue-generating housing proposal. The two other developers who submitted proposals made far less ambitious plans for residential uses — Tishman Speyer submitted on that included for 459 units, and developer Vornado only proposed 360 units, less than half the Strada project's total, as the Business Times notes.
But big budgets and big thinking are necessary to save failing piers that Socketsite said a few years ago were likely to just fall into the ocean during the next minor earthquake if no one did anything soon.
The big questions right now are: Do developments like this even pencil if everyone is, in fact, leaving San Francisco never to return? And, will the angry NIMBYs who thought that a homeless Navigation Center was their worst nightmare be just as enraged by this big new building on the Embarcadero that will inevitably be in some of their lines of sight from their fancy SoMa condos?