San Francisco's ever-changing Mission Bay neighborhood is rich with history and potential for the future. (Courtesy Todd Quam 2015/District Development)

Journey with Walk SF through Mission Bay

If there’s one constant in San Francisco, it’s change. Perhaps no place embodies that more than the 303 acres of today’s Mission Bay neighborhood on The City’s eastern waterfront.

Named for the shallow, calm cove created from the last ice-age snowmelt roughly 5,000 years ago, this area was once a lagoon that evolved into a warm water marsh of cordgrass and pickleweed. The first human residents were the Patwin, who lived off the mussels, clams, smelt and shorebirds prevalent along the shoreline. In the late 1700s, Spanish missionaries followed these tribes. It wasn’t until 1847, that the first “waterlots” of Yerba Buena Cove were auctioned as real estate.

On Saturday, Feb. 27, take a journey in this rapidly changing neighborhood to meet and hear from local residents and builders on the past, present and future of their community. Join Walk San Francisco and the San Francisco Housing Action Coalition (SFHAC) for a jointly hosted monthly members walk, led by Walk SF Board member, car-free resident and Mission Bay Development Group Director of Design and Planning, Luke Stewart.

Much like today’s building boom, in the 1850s giant steam shovels and pile drivers operated all day — and night — to fill in the sold lots. Builders generated millions of cubic yards of rock and sand. What was once home to an enormous natural ecosystem became a district of shipyards, canneries, slaughterhouses and warehouses. By 1910, Mission Bay’s water heritage was all but gone, as debris from the 1906 earthquake became the last large infill wave. With the grant of 150 acres to the Central Pacific, Southern Pacific, and Western Pacific railroads, Mission Bay began its life as an industrial zone and rail yard — a period lasting until the early 1970s.

Your flat and easy two-mile walk will focus on what’s happened in Mission Bay since 1998, when the community approved a massive, 30-year redevelopment project for what was then a brownfield area. The Mission Bay Plan (fourth in a series of proposals ranging from high rises surrounded by lagoons to Sunset-like blocks of single-family homes) includes 6,400 new homes, over 29 percent of them affordable; up to 6 million square feet of commercial space; a 46-acre UCSF campus; and 49 acres of parks and open space.

You will begin near the Caltrain Station and head south and then westward along Mission Creek. Meet local residents and learn about the history of the houseboat community, as well as Huffaker Park and nearby community gardens. Then it’s on to explore the mega-blocks of the city’s most visible redevelopment project, with stops including Mercy Housing’s recently completed 150-unit affordable housing development at 4th Street. You’ll also get a peek at projects still under construction, including the Mission Bay Children’s Park at the heart of the new residential community; and One Mission Bay, a 350-unit mixed use development, next to a proposed extension of Mission Creek Park.

After tracing your way along the district’s historic eastern waterfront, where you can enjoy views of the piers, marina, and Oakland Bay, you’ll arrive at the final walk stop. Get an overview of Mission Rock, the San Francisco Giant’s proposed mixed-use project just south of the ballpark. As nothing more than a parking lot today, the site invites you to think about how to plan a community asset and bring place making to life.

The walk ends at The Yard, for optional drinks and snacks.

Formed in 1999, SFHAC is a member supported non-profit, advocating for building new well-designed, well-located housing at all levels of affordability. More info at


Exploring Mission Bay: Past, Present & Future

When: Saturday, Feb. 27, 10 a.m. – noon

Where: Location announced upon registration

Info: Walk space limited; $10 suggested donation; RSVPs required at

developmentMission BayNatalie BurdickPatwinSan FranciscoWALK SFwaterfront

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