Affordable Housing Advocates Question Giants’ Mission Rock Development

by Jessica Zimmer : potreroview – excerpt

n late-June, the San Francisco Giants submitted more than 16,000 signatures from San Francisco voters to the Department of Elections to place approval of their proposed Mission Rock development, under the Mission Rock Initiative, on the November 2015 ballot. The measure needed 9,702 signatures from San Francisco voters before July 6 to qualify.

Under the initiative, a mixed-use neighborhood would be built on the 28 acre industrial site comprising Seawall Lot (SWL) 337 and Pier 48. The area is now used as a parking  lot, Lot A. Mission Rock would feature eight acres of parks and open space, including a large waterfront park and a green town square in the middle of the site; 1,500 rental apartments; 1.7 million square feet of commercial space; a public boardwalk and renovation of Pier 48 to become an expanded home for Anchor Brewing; below market-rate rental space for small manufacturing businesses, set on a waterfront “Maker’s Row;” and a new parking garage to serve AT&T Park and Mission Bay. The Giants have been communicating with residents about the development since 2007.

Proposition B, passed in June 2014, requires voter approval for construction projects along City waterfront that exceed height limits, which range from 40 to 80 feet. The initiative asks for endorsement of ten apartment and office buildings that range between 120 and 240 feet, with the residential structures typically between 120 and 240 feet and commercial space from 90 to 190 feet. The initiative promises that no buildings will be built within 100 feet of the Bay; heights would step down as structures approach the water.

Affordable housing advocates insist that the 40 percent of reduced price units offered under the development plan falls short of Proposition K’s requirements. Proposition K, approved in November 2014, requires the City to construct or rehabilitate at least 30,000 homes, with 50 percent affordable for middle-class households and 33 percent affordable for low to moderate-income households.  Southside residents are concerned that the proposed new parking garage and expansion of the light rail connection to Downtown won’t effectively manage traffic, with increased congestion almost certain to occur.

According to Staci Slaughter, Giants senior vice president, the initiative is supported by a host of political luminaries, including U.S. House of Representatives Democratic Party leader Nancy Pelosi, Mayor Ed Lee, and former Mayor Art Agnos.  “Mission Bay has expanded over the years but there isn’t one central hub, a neighborhood gathering place,” Slaughter said. “There’s a strong desire for a neighborhood center with retail. This isn’t just about the Giants. It’s about the whole neighborhood, which can work together. It’s really important to create a sense of place.”…

.R. Eppler, Potrero Boosters president, said the Giants should do more to inform Potrero Hill and other Southside residents about the initiative.  “The Boosters have had two  conversations with the Giants in the past four years. The first one was before Proposition B, when the proposed development had 380-foot towers. Fast forward, now we have Prop. B, which changes the conversation,” said Eppler.

“The height of the towers had been reduced somewhat. But none of the materials we were shown showed us what the buildings would actually look like. We’re hoping that now the Giants come and do a project presentation to our membership. I’m a little concerned because the mailings are showing a lot of open space. It’s uncertain right now what we’re voting on besides the height,” said Eppler.  Eppler said the Giants need to visit the Hill “and have an open and honest conversation about what they’re planning.”

Eppler is concerned that the current project description doesn’t adequately address transportation issues.  “Transit is going to be a mess, between growth in Potrero Hill, UCSF Medical Center at Mission Bay, Pier 70, and redevelopment at the power plant. It still seems that each piece is looking at the world right now in devising its transportation plans. That’s not how the world’s going to look five or ten years from now,” said Eppler.

Woods agreed with Eppler that redevelopment at the Potrero power plant site and “all the development up and down Third Street means you’ve got to improve transit.” Woods said it’s critical that the initiative generate enough money to provide revenue to the Port. “That was the whole point of doing this project: giving the Port revenue to fix crumbling piers,” said Woods.

Phil Williamson, project manager of the Port of San Francisco, agreed that his agency needs funding. “There’s a rock sea wall over 100 years old underneath portions of the Embarcadero. We need to study it. We’re talking four or five miles of sea wall that may need repair.” Williamson said funds from Mission Rock could help pay for this work. California Senate Bill 815, passed in 2007, allows the Port to use new lease revenues to accomplish its goals.

Williamson said building Mission Rock would require that the Port insert new rock columns along the perimeter of SWL 337 to contain the site in case of a seismic event. “Mission Bay is all fill, much of it from the 1906 earthquake. This is some of the deepest fill in the City. It’s not the best fill. We have to drive piles 270 feet deep through the fill material to get to the solid rock below. The cost is high and there are a lot to be driven. No matter how tall the building you want to put on top of them, you have to have piles of this length,” said Williamson.

“We believe the project is well-designed and well thought-out. There was support for the project, and that has driven planning. There’s been so much community input and support. I’m optimistic that the project was initially good and has gotten better. What I see is a project…that will make it through the entitlement process,” said Williamson… (more)

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