The San Francisco Planning Commission’s October approval may not have been the fall victory San Francisco Giants fans would’ve liked, but it’s a solid leadoff single for the team’s plans to redevelop 28 acres south of AT&T Park.
The project needs approval from the Port Commission, which will consider the matter at a January 9 meeting; from the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, likely later this month; and from the Bay Conservation and Development and the State Lands commissions. However, judging from the Planning Commission’s seven-to-zero vote, the first taken on the proposal’s environmental impact report (EIR), there may be little opposition. Several commissioners referred to it as the “gold standard” for development proposals. Other difficult hurdles – raised height limits and affordable housing percentages – were endorsed by voters through Proposition D in 2015.
The parcel, known as Seawall Lot 337, is directly south of McCovey Cove, between Third Street and the Bay, and includes Pier 48 and part of Pier 50. What’s now a parking lot will be transformed into a street grid with 11 blocks: four residential, four commercial, three flexible. There’ll be eight acres of open space, including a redesign of China Basin Park along the cove and a village square in the parcel’s center.
“It’s definitely a very big step for the project,” said Fran Weld, vice president of strategy and development for the Giants. “All the different bodies voting on it will represent the culmination of 10 years of work. We are really realizing the community’s vision of the neighborhood.”
According to the Port of San Francisco’s project manager, Phil Williamson, there’ve been no recent plan changes. “It is very similar to what the Port has been seeing the past two years,” he said. There’ll be 1,000 to 1,600 residential units, 40 percent deemed affordable to households earning 45 percent to 150 percent of the area’s median income; up to 1.4 million square feet of commercial space; and 3,100 parking spaces, an increase of 230 from the current lot that serves Giants games.
Assuming the project passes muster early next year, design work and permitting would take up the remainder of 2018; construction wouldn’t begin until 2019. Infrastructure, particularly water and electricity, needs to be conveyed to the site.
Construction would be undertaken in four phases over the next seven to ten years, subject to market conditions. The first phase would involve a remake of China Basin Park and erecting two residential and two commercial blocks. In the second phase, two more blocks would be developed, plus a 10-level parking structure, which’ll allow for continuous Giants parking. According to Williamson, the aim is to have a balance of residents and workers, with development fees collected on commercial space used to help finance affordable housing. The entire parcel will be raised 66 inches in phases to account for potential sea level rises.
According to Weld, Pier 48 would be renovated in phase four. “It involves reopening up the aprons, which are the public walkways around the pier. They have always been closed to the public,” she said, explaining that they’re currently red-tagged as unsafe. “The pier structure itself will be rehabilitated as well.” She added that it’s too early to determine what form the revitalized pier would take, though it could be used by commercial tenants or as a special events space.
According to the EIR, construction will cause traffic delays on Third Street, between Channel and Mission Rock streets, with additional circulation congestion from overlapping building with other projects in the vicinity. Ridership is expected to increase on the 10 and 30 bus lines, which are near capacity now. If those busses pass 85 percent capacity, the Giants are required to contribute additional funds to the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency.
Proposition D increased heights from the previous one-story limit to up to 240 feet. According to the Planning Department’s response to public comments, “increased development would represent a small portion of the overall urban scenic vista, as viewed from the Potrero Hill neighborhood, Potrero Hill Recreation Center, Twin Peaks, and Interstate 80.” It noted a more pronounced change would come looking from areas around AT&T Park; views of Potrero Hill and Twin Peaks would be blocked by the proposed buildings.
Other public comments reflected concern about the new neighborhood’s general aesthetics. The Planning Department asserted that the plan focuses on walkable blocks that enhance connections to the waterfront and surrounding streets, and calls for maximizing frontage, allowing spill out onto open spaces
Weld told the View, “One of the key elements of the design approach was to integrate open space to the design of the buildings themselves.” Restaurants and doorways will front onto the square, China Basin Park and two smaller pocket parks directly without people needing to cross vehicular traffic. She said there’ll be a wide variety of architects offering a multitude of designs. “The buildings will have varied heights and different sizes, and will feel a lot more diverse than some other newer parts of the City,” she promised.
Public comments also focused on allowing public land to be used for private ventures – the property will be leased and remain under Port ownership – and whether access to the shoreline will be unrestricted. The Planning Department reported that entry will be unrestricted through early project phases, but will be limited when work on a promenade along the waterfront and Pier 48 begins.
Variances to the plan are included in the EIR, such as the creation of an entertainment venue that could accommodate as many as 4,000 people in up to 50 events per year; and a hotel instead of a residential building. Currently, in addition to serving as a parking lot, the site has customarily been used for approximately the same number of special events a year, drawing an average total of 200,000 people.
At one point, Anchor Brewing was considering being an early tenant, but Williamson said those discussions have been moved to a later phase. He said there have been no other conversations about what businesses might lease space in the new development.