Port hopes Embarcadero promenade will grow

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The twin tourist Meccas of Fisherman’s Wharf and Pier 39 are only about a quarter mile apart, but the path between them has long been a dead zone of parking lots, narrow sidewalks, cyclone fencing and virtually no reminders of the waterfront just feet away.

But not for much longer, port officials say.

A plan to demolish a pier-turned-parking-lot and extend The Embarcadero’s wide promenade beyond its currently abrupt end at Powell Street will go before the design committees of the Port of San Francisco and the Bay Conservation and Development Commission on Monday night.

As it stands, The Embarcadero’s acclaimed pedestrian promenade ends at Powell Street, and some tourists don’t even know or bother to venture down connector street Embarcadero Roadway, also called Little Embarcadero, said Neil Hrushowy, urban designer for The City’s Planning Department.

“You hit Powell Street and see a parking lot on one side and the cyclone fence on the other, and a bunch of idling tour buses sitting there, and think, ‘Am I supposed to walk down there?’” Hrushowy said.

The Port hopes to solve this problem by using $6 million of voter-approved Neighborhood Parks Bond money to extend the promenade down Little Embarcadero, past the Franciscan Crab Restaurant, to Taylor Street, where Fisherman’s Wharf begins.

The improvements won’t stop there, said the Port’s senior waterfront planner Dan Hodapp. The port will also demolish most of Pier 43½, which served as a parking lot for decades until it was closed in 2008 because it could no longer safely support the weight of dozens of cars. The very tip of the pier, which was rebuilt in the 1990s and has a historic bell and an interpretive sign, will be preserved and connected to land by a 12-foot-wide pedestrian pier.

Two new plazas would be built, a viewing deck on the waterfront side of Franciscan Crab Restaurant, and another seating area near Taylor Street.

If it is approved Monday by the design committee, the project must still obtain a permit from the BCDC. It’s not clear whether the $6 million in bond money will pay for the entire project, but if it comes up short the Port will search for other funding sources, Hodapp said. Construction could begin early next year, he said.

Rodney Fong, president of the Port Commission and owner of the Wax Museum on Jefferson, said the the Pier 43½ project will transform the entire feel of that section of the waterfront.

“I think the [promenade] is going to draw your eye toward it, it’s going to draw people toward it, and it’s going to really activate the Little Embarcadero,” he said.

Elements of the new project

– An extension of a pile-supported Embarcadero Promenade from Powell Street to at least Mason Street.
– A repaired seawall to support the century-old timber seawall that currently exists along Little Embarcadero.
– The demolition of most of Pier 43½, which served as a parking lot for decades but has been fenced off since 2008.
– About 2,900 square feet at the tip of Pier 43½, which was rebuilt in the 1990s, will be preserved as a public access area. That area has a historic bell display and interpretive sign.
– A new 12-foot wide pedestrian pier will reach that preserved public access area.
– Pedestrian viewing deck on the waterfront, behind the Franciscan Crab Restaurant, and plaza seating near the intersection of Taylor Street and Little Embarcadero.

Source: Port of San Francisco

kworth@sfexaminer.com

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