The next wave in the saga of a major waterfront development in San Francisco is set to hit early next year.
The proposed mixed-use project at Pier 70 has progressed along swimmingly, with voters approving an increased height limit for the site in 2014 and virtually zero controversy arising amid the housing crisis-fueled tension of some developments in The City.
But the draft environmental impact report — released Dec. 21 — for the 35-acre area, bounded by Illinois, 20th and 22nd streets and the San Francisco Bay, suggests a less-than-perfect outcome for the space that will eventually house arts studios, hundreds of market-rate and affordable homes, retail spaces and waterfront parks.
For more than a century, Pier 70 was dedicated to the shipbuilding and manufacturing trades, with ships built there as far back as the Gold Rush. Today, a mix of vacant land, deteriorating buildings and storage and staging areas that restrict public access to the waterfront populate the mostly quiet site, and an $80 million restoration of the 20th Street Historic Buildings kicked off in 2015.
The main areas of concern for the project consist of nine “significant and unavoidable impacts” on transportation, noise and air quality. The draft EIR shows that while there are ways to somewhat ease the impacts of those factors, there is no way to entirely mitigate the complications created by the project.
“Even though mitigation has been applied, it can’t reduce the overall impact to a less than significant level,” said Alana Callagy, an environmental planner with the San Francisco Planning Department and co-coordinator for the Pier 70 EIR.
Still, that doesn’t mean the impacts could prevent the Planning Commission from approving the project, Callagy explained. The purpose of the EIR is to provide transparency, and the Planning Commission has the discretion to approve or deny a project.
The draft EIR found that several Muni lines will be affected by the Pier 70 project.
The 48-Quintara/24th Street route will exceed 85 percent capacity in the morning and afternoon peak hours, while that same route, as well as the 22-Fillmore line, will see other “cumulative transit impacts,” according to the draft EIR.
In terms of noise and air quality, construction will cause “substantial” temporary noise, and more noise is expected on a permanent basis as well from the project, according to the draft EIR. Both construction and the final project could also generate air pollutants, possibly violating an air quality standard in the vicinity of the site.
One of the two areas studied in the draft EIR — some 28 acres — is being developed by Forest City and will include up to 2,150 residential units (of which 30 percent will be affordable housing), 1 to 2 million square feet of office space, and 445,000 square feet of retail, light industrial and arts space. The other portions covered in the EIR are the adjacent 3.4-acre parcel owned by the Port of San Francisco and a 3.6-acre parcel owned by PG&E.
As part of its development agreement, Forest City will rehabilitate historic structures at the site and offer improvements to transportation in the area, including a shuttle to connect the development with transit hubs.
“The Pier 70 Draft EIR reflects 10 years of community planning for a project endorsed by voters that will deliver tremendous community benefits,” Jack Sylvan, vice president of Forest City, said in a statement. “At no cost to The City’s taxpayers, this project provides 30 percent affordable housing, a new 9-acre waterfront park network, significant space for arts and local manufacturing, rehabilitation of historic structures, and an entirely new infrastructure that protects the shoreline from sea level rise.”
The developer plans to seek approvals from the Port Commission, Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors, as well as other agencies, next year. The development will be phased in over 11 years, starting with the new parks and open space, according to Forest City.
A hearing on the draft EIR is scheduled at the Planning Commission on Feb. 9, and public comment is being received on the EIR through Feb. 21.