Last spring, Mayor London Breed signed legislation approving construction of The Power Station, a 29-acre mixed-use complex located along 23rd Street. The development will have approximately 2,400 residences, six acres of publicly accessible parks and recreational areas, and 1.2 to 1.9 million square feet of office, lab, and retail space. It’ll also open access to approximately 1.6 acres of Central Waterfront shoreline for the first time in 150 years.
When it’s completed, The Power Station will feature pedestrian and cyclist paths between open spaces and the waterfront. A shuttle will run every 15 minutes at peak times to the 16th Street Mission Bay Area Rapid Transit station. A new Muni line will connect riders to the 22nd Street Caltrain facility. There’ll be vegetated roof decks and a rooftop soccer field.
In a nod to its electricity generation past, the project may include shared thermal energy plants, recovering waste heat from commercial buildings for use in residential structures.
Mayor Breed’s ratification followed unanimous approval by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.
“Before the onset of the pandemic, we set an ambitious goal of 50,000 new homes in San Francisco over the next 10 years,” said Breed. “We will need ambitious, community-oriented projects like the Power Station to achieve this goal.”
According to District 10 Supervisor Shamann Walton, who co-sponsored the development approval legislation with Mayor Breed, The Power Station is one of the last puzzle pieces connecting southeast San Francisco to the waterfront.
“This project will provide the opportunity of jobs, economic development, affordable housing, and elements more critical to the sustainability of our City given the current public health crisis,” said Walton. “This project will also provide almost 800 below-market rate residential units for a total BMR level of over 30 percent. No less than two-thirds of these affordable units will be provided on-site.”
The development was made possible by the 2010 decommissioning of the Potrero Power Plant, which was accomplished after more than a decade of work by the late neighborhood activist and Dogpatch resident Joe Boss, Goat Hill Pizza co-owner Phillip De Andrade, and View publisher Steven Moss, among others.
J.R. Eppler, Potrero Boosters president, said the project “threaded a difficult needle” between community needs, citywide issues, and the economics of privately developing a 29-acre former industrial site.
“Now that the project is approved, it’s up to the City and community to ensure that The Power Station lives up to its potential,” said Eppler.
The defunct Potrero Power Plant’s 300-foot exhaust stack will be preserved, as will the adjacent Unit 3 power block. The San Francisco Planning Department’s Historic Preservation Commission and San Francisco Heritage had advocated for adaptive reuse of these buildings, a technique utilized at Ghiradelli Square and Pier 70. Design standards and guidelines in The Power Station’s master plan encourage compatibility with on-site and adjacent historic structures and districts.
The 66-acre Union Iron Works Historic District, just north of The Power Station, was a center for ship construction and repair during World Wars I and II. District developers restored several historic buildings erected between 1885 and 1917, including machine shops, the three-story Frederick Meyer Renaissance Revival Bethelem Steel Office Building, the Charles P. Weeks-designed Powerhouse, and the Union Iron Works Office Building.
The Power Station is being built by Associate Capital, LLC, a real estate investment corporation and California Barrel Company, LLC, an investment holding entity. The site was purchased in 2016 for $85.7 million by the Whitman Harsh Family Office, an investment group that includes Meg Whitman, presently chief executive officer of Quibi, former president and chief executive officer of Hewlett Packard Enterprise. Whitman also serves on the boards of Procter & Gamble and Dropbox. The investment group includes Whitman’s husband, neurosurgeon Dr. Griffith Harsh IV.
“The pandemic has obviously complicated things for us, like it has for everyone else. Nevertheless, we intend to move forward as soon as possible with the project, put people to work, and break ground later this year,” said PJ Johnston, Associate Capital spokesperson.
The Power Station site is still being cleaned of contamination left behind by its prior use as an energy facility. In late May, Andrea Menniti, Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) media spokesperson, stated that six out of seven areas had been cleaned, with remediation 85 percent complete.
“With the completion of the Offshore Sediment Cleanup last year, PG&E has completed all our planned cleanup activities at the site with the exception of the Tank Farm Area,” said Menniti. “PG&E’s environmental investigations and cleanup work are complete at the Hoe Down Yard, the Switchyard/Construction Yard, the Associate Capital-owned Station A Area and the Unit 3 Power Block Area. All of these areas have long-term institutional controls and soil management plans to guide any future construction. Our work is overseen by the Regional Water Quality Control Board and in cooperation with the City and property owner.”
According to Menniti, in the coming months, PG&E will finalize a clean-up plan for the Tank Farm Area, which is in the center of the site above the former Station A. Three large above-ground tanks formerly held fuel oil and diesel fuel there.
In an April interview with Laura Waxmann of the San Francisco Business Times, Enrique Landa, Associate Capital partner, said he wants site remediation to be complete before construction of buildings. Over the next two years power station infrastructure will be removed, land graded, streets, sewers, utilities, and sidewalks installed.
“We will always need housing. Now we’re going to need economic development more than ever,” said Landa.