Port Preparing to (Finally) Open Crane Cove Park

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A headless crane, with Building 49 on left. Photo: Bettina Cohen

Construction of Crane Cove Park began in 2019, following years of neighborhood advocacy. Now, after missing its targeted spring inaugural, the Port of San Francisco hopes to partially open an unfinished park by this fall. 

Work at the site stopped in April, due to the City’s shelter-in-place order, resuming in May with a limited workforce. The park’s shoreline beach is complete. Plants and site furnishings, such as lighting, signage, waste receptacles and other amenities will be installed over the next few months. Once the lawn is laid, the sod will be given a month to establish itself before public access is allowed.  

“We’re delivering what will become a jewel of the park system and the community’s assets,” said David Beaupre, the Port’s senior development project manager. 

Creation of the 19th Street extension and Georgia Street is expected to begin in July and will still be underway when the park opens. In April, the Port awarded a $3 million contract to Cazadoro Construction, Inc., a Bayview-based, women-owned business, to build the 950 feet of roadway and sidewalk, which’ll provide vehicle, pedestrian and bicycle access to a new 19th Street parking lot. 

“There’ll be a few slight inconveniences on the periphery,” Beaupre said. “It’s a tradeoff in opening up the park and letting people enjoy it, or having it sit unopened.”

“The Port of San Francisco is working closely with the City to address COVID-19,” said Randy Quezada, the Port’s communications director. “Opening Crane Cove Park is a priority for the Port; however, its opening may be delayed, as public health guidance and orders around construction and open space may change.” 

Crane Cove Park, which is part of the Pier 70 project, occupies approximately seven acres along the San Francisco Bay shoreline east of Illinois Street, between 19th and Mariposa streets. It’s planned to serve as a regional attraction.  

In 2016 the City Controller’s Office found that District 10, which includes Dogpatch, had San Francisco’s worst-maintained parks, along with District 11. The neighborhood’s renaissance from post-industrial to vibrant residential/commercial has created a significant mismatch between population density and open spaces, with thousands of new housing units in the pipeline.

“The Pier 70 area is entitled to have between 1,650 and 2,200 residential units of which 30 percent will be affordable,” Beaupre said. “We anticipate at full build out there will be approximately 2,000 units.” 

Last month, Port Commissioners approved a partnership between the Port and San Francisco Parks Alliance (SFPA) to raise up to $6.4 million to restore a pair of industrial crane heads that harken back to the site’s shipbuilding days, and to build a children’s playground and dog run. Commissioners also allocated monies for a fundraising campaign, as well as a large contingency to account for escalating construction costs. Dependent on the campaign’s success, the crane tops could return as early as 2022. 

The Crane Cove development includes the park, 19th Street extension and parking lot, and Building 49 restoration, at a total cost of $36.9 million. Crane Cove Park improvements reflect $22.6 million; 19th Street parking lot, $1.8 million; 19th Street extension, $3.1 million; Building 49, $2.8 million; with $6.6 million related to project planning and design, entitlements, permits, project and construction management. The budget excludes the crane tops, children’s play areas, and dog run. The project is funded through a $23 million general obligation bond, a $1 million grant, and $12.9 million in Port capital fund dollars.

“Crane Cove Park development costs exceeded the originally estimated amounts because of the hot bidding climate that exists because of the lack of available workforce and massive demand for construction work,” Beaupre stated. “Project costs in the City have been escalating at far greater rates than expected, with bids routinely coming in 40 to 60 percent above original estimates.  Since costs were much higher the Port needed to value-engineer the project to fit within the existing budget.  Working with various stakeholders, including Dogpatch Neighborhood Association and Potrero Boosters, the Port determined that the crane tops, children’s play area and dog run amenities were items that would be the easiest to raise philanthropic funds for, while still allowing the park to open and be a community asset.”

Katherine Doumani, who serves on the Central Waterfront Advisory Group and as Dogpatch Neighborhood Association (DNA) president, lamented that additional funds have to be raised to restore the crane tops and develop the playground and dog run. 

“The park was paid for by regional funding,” Doumani said, referring to the bond. “It’s not the responsibility of the community. It’s a regional park. Those cranes represent the shipbuilding history, and what makes the neighborhood unique. This was one of the largest industrial spaces on the West Coast.” Without the cranes, “You lose the story of what makes Dogpatch rich.”

Renovation of Building 49, originally a galvanizing facility used for shipyard operations, later a warehouse, will be subject to a new bidding round after submissions came in higher than available funds last year. Construction drawings are being revised to help reduce costs; the structure will have restrooms, space for kayak / human powered boating storage and rentals, and a café opportunity.  

“The plan was to put Building 49 out to bid later in the fall, but based on where we are with COVID, it’s hard to say when the bid will be put back out,” Beaupre said. “We bid the project twice, once lowest bidder bid was $5.8 million and a second time where the lowest bidder bid was for $6.8 million. The budget for Building 49 is $2.8 million.”

Temporary restrooms will be installed until Building 49 opens. “Not porta potties, something nicer. The Port is hoping to have Building 49 occupiable in fall of 2021.” 

“We are absolutely delighted with how the park is developing,” said Joel Bean, DNA treasurer, who lives in the Aqua Vista live-work loft condominium buildings on Illinois Street, directly across from Crane Cove Park. “In those 20 units, there are six young children, all under the ages of four,” he said. “We’ve been very anxious to have more open space for those children to have a recreation and play area, and a waterfront park for the people who have self-propelled watercraft — kayaks, canoes — and for neighbors in general to have a pleasant, large park.” 

Esprit Park and Mariposa Park, which has a children’s playground, are nearby, but in high-density Dogpatch dog owners and families with children often compete for places to play.

The park needs “a specific area for dogs to run around, and not take over and use the large lawn spaces that are going to be developed,” Bean said. While it’s concerning that the playground, dog run and crane tops are not yet paid for, he added, “We’re very much supportive of the effort to fund that.”

Bean noted concerns about defacements. “This area has a history of a lot of graffiti,” he said. “David Beaupre had indicated to the DNA there will be security in the park. This would be a security system funded by the Port.”

Three food establishments are located on the 2300 block of Third Street, including Long Bridge Pizza, The Plant Organic Café and Neighbor Bakehouse. Aura Mixology and Chow are across the street, with Gilbert’s Rotisserie and Grill and Serpentine nearby. It’s unclear how many of these businesses will survive the economic fallout.

“Any improvements to the neighborhood, whether it’s a park or new housing, helps retail business,” said Brady Knight, Long Bridge’s general manager. The pizzeria, which also sells sandwiches, has stayed open for takeout during shelter-in-place. “We do an incredible takeout pizza. Pizza travels well, so you can take your family out, order a pizza from us, come get it, and take it to the park to eat.”