August 24, 2017 – Pier 70, a long-closed shipbuilding facility that most San Franciscans have never set foot on, moved closer to being transformed into a bustling neighborhood of housing, parks, shops, workplaces and art studios under a proposal the Planning Commission unanimously approved Thursday.

The plan calls for 1,100 to 2,150 units of housing and 1.1 million to 2 million square feet of office space on the 28-acre site. There will be 9 acres of new parks, including a waterfront green space that will extend the Bay Trail along the area’s 1,300 feet of shoreline. Thirty percent of the housing will be affordable, in three stand-alone affordable buildings, with more below-market units spread throughout the market-rate buildings.

The $765 million in public benefits includes $177 million in affordable housing, $442 million in parks and infrastructure spending and $62 million in transportation improvements.

Calling the plan a “comprehensive vision” that weaves new parks and buildings into a tapestry of handsome historic industrial structures, Commissioner Kathrin Moore predicted that the project would be an “award-winner” that will thrust San Francisco “into the limelight of how to do things right.”

“I am so happy about this I cannot tell you,” said Moore, who is usually the toughest critic on the board when it comes to development design.

The biggest criticism of the plan came from neighbors, who said the fast-growing Dogpatch district doesn’t have the infrastructure to support more big developments, and from housing advocates, who took issue with the lack of precision as to how much of the land would be dedicated to office space and how much to housing.

Fernando Marti, co-director of the Council of Community Housing Organizations, said that if the “maximum office scenario” is developed at Pier 70, it would worsen the city’s already-stretched jobs-to-housing ratio.

Developer Forest City emphasized that the first phase of the project is geared heavily toward housing — 930 units, compared with 350,000 square feet of office space. But the feasibility of the final phase of the development, 7 acres on the southern edge of the property, is harder to predict, because it abuts two industrial properties — a PG&E switch yard and an old power plant, which are also slated to be redeveloped. What happens with those properties will help determine what Forest City does in its final phase, probably a decade or more away.

“The project starts as residential-heavy and buys us the time to know what makes the most sense,” Forest City Senior Vice President Jack Sylvan said.

Commissioners were sympathetic to the request for more housing, and recommended that the Board of Supervisors, which also must approve the project, set a “reasonable threshold” of office space, above which the developer would have to go back to the city for a conditional-use authorization.

The project is in the middle of a string of mega-projects that include Mission Rock, the Giants parking lot development just south of AT&T Park; the Warriors arena, which is under construction; the redevelopment of the Potrero Power Plant; the transformation of India Basin into housing and open space; and the redevelopment of Candlestick Point and the Hunters Point Naval Shipyard, also under way.

Taken together, the projects will bring 36,000 residents and 23,000 workers to the bayfront south of Mission Creek.

The Planning Commission approval represented the “closing of one part of a process and hopefully the beginning of a next phase,” Sylvan said. It’s a “foundation to create a great future for Pier 70, the one that it really deserves.”

But Allison Heath, of the group Grow Potrero Responsibly, said Potrero Hill and Dogpatch have been overwhelmed with housing developments, and that the existing public transit and open space can’t accommodate all the new arrivals.

“We have a glaring lack of infrastructure to support another major development in our neighborhood,” Heath said.

Article by J.K. Deneen, The San Francisco Chronicle.

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