San Francisco Bay Chapter Sierra Club


San Francisco waterfront. Photo: Flickr / Shannon Clark (cc)

Major development proposals to transform SF waterfront

San Francisco is where it is and what it is because of its waterfront location. Now it faces at least four development proposals which together would constitute the greatest change to the waterfront in many decades. On February 3 the Sierra Club and San Francisco Waterfront Coalition completed their campaign to gather 23,000 signatures for a Waterfront Initiative to appear on the June ballot: Vote YES on Proposition B

8 Washington—San Francisco voted NO on B and C

On Nov. 5 voters defeated Measures B and C, thus rejecting a proposal for 145 luxury condominiums at 8 Washington. The project would have contained 400 parking spaces, three times the parking permitted by code—in a vast underground, practically underwater, garage. The project would have exceeded the existing 85-foot height limits by more than 50 feet. We don't know what the developers will do next.

Piers 30 - 32 — Warriors

The highest-profile proposal, which would radically transform the skyline near the Bay Bridge, is the Warriors’ plan for an arena and retail mall at Piers 30 - 32, with further development on the adjacent Seawall Lot 330. The development would include:

  • a lozenge-shaped 17,000 - 19,000-seat arena/events venue jutting into the Bay and rising 13 stories (135 feet)—once again requiring zoning changes;
  • 150,000 square feet of retail and office space;
  • a 630-vehicle parking garage, necessary, according to project sponsors, to meet National Basketball Association requirements.

Because of site constraints, this parking would be constructed on three levels above grade, further blocking vistas and access. View terraces would be built above the parking and retail, at 35 and 50 feet above grade, doubling as “open space”. On Seawall Lot 330, the proposal calls for a bulky base with two towers on top, each up to 150 feet tall, with up to 300 additional parking spaces. All told, the project would add more than 930 new parking spaces.

The appropriateness of the proposed land uses aside—it is hard to justify hotels, office space, or even sports arenas as authentic “maritime uses”—the traffic impacts on the Embarcadero, the adjacent neighborhoods, and local transit will certainly be significant. It is especially hard to conceive how the Embarcadero, already at capacity on Giants game days, will accommodate 6 - 10 thousand additional trips on days when both teams play. These concerns—congestion, impacts on Muni, loss of natural light and views—have led many observers to wonder whether the waterfront is the right place for yet another professional-sports and retail development project. In sum, the Warriors' project is by no means a “slam dunk”.

75 Howard Street

A similar 31-story luxury-condominium project is proposed for 75 Howard Street (at the Embarcadero). This project would include 186 luxury units plus ground-floor retail, with 175 parking spaces. Zoning changes would be needed to raise the height limits from 200 to 350 feet. The project does propose open-space enhancements to the Embarcadero frontage.

Seawall Lot 337/Pier 48 — Giants

In the works since 2007, the Giants’ proposal for a mixed-use development project at Seawall Lot 337/Pier 48 (across Mission Creek from AT&T Park and currently used by the Giants as a parking lot), is poised to gather approvals quickly. The mammoth proposal calls for up to 1,000 units of new housing, almost two million square feet of retail and office space, a 5,000-seat event venue, and a massive 2,690-space parking garage. Once again, the 380-foot towers would need zoning changes. To satisfy the minimum requirements of the Bay Conservation and Development Commission, the project calls for eight acres of open space, including a new five-acre park, but there is little guarantee that the proposed park component will be built any time soon. There is a logic to promoting entertainment options on days without games, but the proposed project suffers from excessive parking. A more dispersed approach using smart parking-management technologies and congestion pricing might manage existing capacity more efficiently while avoiding the impacts of a single massive garage generating hundreds of trips per hour. It is one of the shortcomings of current level-of-service methodology used in environmental reviews that parking spaces are not considered in themselves to generate traffic. But build it, and they will come.

The Sierra Club has a long history of protecting the waterfront from inappropriate development. We oppose “spot” zoning changes for height limits without a community-based planning process. We find it troubling that these projects are being considered piecemeal, without an overall plan. We are concerned about the lack of investment for transit improvements (outrageously, all of the development impact fees associated with the Warriors’ project are currently earmarked to reimburse the private developers for improvements to the piers, rather than for transit). We will continue to advocate for less parking and for authentic transit-first planning and development, as well as for policies to encourage maritime uses and usable open space along the shoreline.

WhatYouCanDo

As these projects come up for approvals, there will be several chances for you to speak up about them. To be alerted at the right times, make sure you are on the Bay Chapter’s e-mail alert lists.

» For more about the parking problems of these projects, see theYodeler.org/?p=6553.

» For more on the Warriors' proposal, see "Senate Committee upholds Bay protections, amends Warriors bill", "Is SF getting ahead of itself on Warriors’ proposal?", "The Warriors Project and the Public Trust", and "The perfect unacceptable use".

» For the history of waterfront protection, see "A long history of protecting SF’s waterfront" (June-July 2013 Yodeler).