When it was created as an international showcase, Treasure Island was supposed to be a site of big dreams.
But so many grand ideas have been floated and faded since it opened for the 1939 World’s Fair, the manmade island in the middle of the Bay has been anything but a treasure.
That could change in the next few weeks if supervisors are willing to show that the last dozen years of planning and negotiations were worthy of the promise to erect a stylish neighborhood of 8,000 new homes in San Francisco and bring up to $80 million to The City over the next two decades.
Standing in the way, as usual, are rhetoric, politics and a few real concerns, such as whether the soil can be stabilized to withstand a major earthquake and how much Bay Bridge traffic would be impacted by an increase in car traffic.
Yet it’s worth noting that in the years leading up to now, only one supervisor has voted against the development plan in its various phases. And that was the board’s nonresident mystery man, Ed Jew, who currently resides in prison.
The consternation of late centers on a 5 percent reduction in affordable housing that the developers had to make as an adjustment to Gov. Jerry Brown’s desire to scuttle the state’s redevelopment funding areas. That move required a new funding mechanism for the project which is more costly, so the developers had to make the cut so they could still finance it.
Still, they have promised that at a minimum, 25 percent of the residential units will be affordable (that’s 2,000 for the math-challenged) while they pursue legislation along with city officials to get the funding for another five percent.
So why are some people still trying to blow up the Treasure Island plan? Because.
Because some residents on Telegraph Hill still don’t want their Bay views altered, even though the height of the proposed towers on the island was already reduced to appease them.
Former Supervisor Aaron Peskin is leading the charge at their behest, even though he voted in favor of the project when he was on the board. On Wednesday, a Peskin-led coalition filed an appeal against the project’s voluminous environmental impact report, calling it “inadequate.’’
This rather remarkable backroom display has led to a new very-San Francisco acronym — NIMLOS — Not In My Line of Sight.
Some critics are also questioning whether the project is too large, which is why they are attacking the number of potential cars and parking spaces.
Yet let the record show that none other than the people’s champion, former Supervisor Chris Daly, endorsed an increase in the number of units from 6,000 to 8,000 so that the project could support a school, a health clinic and retail space.
I would offer that the public safety concerns about an earthquake or tsunami are legitimate, but then shouldn’t opponents of the plan also be calling for the evacuation of the 2,300 people that already live on Treasure Island?
Funny that most of the residents there are in support of the plan. That makes sense when you consider that up until 10 years ago they did not have a store — not a 7-Eleven nor a Walgreens. Those late-night cravings could only be met through a car trip into The City to find an inconvenience store.
So having new streets and parks and ball fields — let alone shopping — would be a welcome relief for the islanders, especially given that all the other schemes for the site, which included a casino and a resort complex, were just pie-in-the-sky whims.
I realize that the idea of a $1.5 billion investment that would generate thousands of jobs is just too big a thought to leave unpunished by the third of The City’s populace that is opposed to anything.
Yet the public stance on the project should prove to be a litmus test for any candidate running for mayor.
Can you be against jobs, income and housing and still be considered a “progressive’’ in San Francisco? Just curious.
There is risk in any development, especially one so large. But the NIMBYs in this case seem to be a bit off. The neighborhood has to exist before you start opposing it.
Ken Garcia appears Thursdays and Sundays in The San Francisco Examiner. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.