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Alcatraz ferry landing project moves forward despite Sausalito fears of bicycle congestion ‘crisis’

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Evan DuCharme/Special to the S.F. Examiner

An effort by the City of Sausalito to compel environmental review of a project that would bring more ferries to Alcatraz and more bicycles to the North Bay city was rejected by the San Francisco Planning Commission Thursday.

The commission voted 5-1 to uphold approval of the Alcatraz Ferry Embarkation Project, which includes a proposed new ferry landing at San Francisco’s Pier 31 ½ to increase ferry service for the 1.6 million annual visitors to Alcatraz. Planning commissioner Dennis Richards cast the sole dissenting vote.

Sausalito officials fear the project, which calls for the creation of a new ferry landing at Fort Baker at the foot of the Golden Gate Bridge’s north end, would exacerbate a “severe crisis of congestion” from tourists with bikes, amid other traffic concerns, said attorney Arthur Friedman.

“We need protection to not have bicycles come over the 50-year course of this project into Sausalito,” Friedman said.

Sausalito and its representatives alleged the analysis of traffic impacts to Sausalito was “deficient,” that mitigation measures were not imposed, that the project description is vague and “incomplete,” and that Sausalito was not consulted on the project, among other concerns.

Sausalito Mayor Joan Cox, representing her 7,125 constituents, spoke before the planning commission to ask for a 30-day extension to appeal the project.

“We’d like more time to provide you with a balanced response,” she told the commissioners.

Under the National Park Service and Golden Gate National Recreation Area project, Pier 31 ½ would feature “indoor and outdoor spaces” as well as new boarding ramps and floats to berth three ferry boats at once to mostly serve Alcatraz. The Port of San Francisco and the San Francisco Board of Supervisors granted various approvals for the project in 2016.

The project would see limited weekend ferry service to Fort Baker from San Francisco with two ferry trips per weekend day, serving up to 500 visitors a day and 40,000 visitors annually. Fort Baker’s current wooden fishing pier would be upgraded to a concrete pier with a new gangway landing, and a new pedestrian pathway would lead from the pier to the nearby Bay Area Discovery museum.

Granting the environmental review appeal would slow the project.

Planning staff said The City of Sausalito provided “no substantial evidence” to dispute the accuracy of the project description. Planning Commissioner Kathrin Moore said some of Sausalito’s concerns could be addressed in future votes with other agencies.

Richards, the commissioner who cast the sole dissenting vote, said “I think in a 50-year project asking for 30 days seems neighborly and reasonable to me, rather than this be a bigger issue in the future.”

The City of Sausalito could appeal the decision to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.

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