Development plan takes leap forward

A $1.2 billion development plan to transform Treasure Island into a vibrant, transit-friendly community for 13,500 residents is on its way to becoming a reality after the Board of Supervisors endorsed it on Tuesday.

The plan includes 6,000 housing units with 30 percent below market rate, 300 acres of parkland and 235,000 square feet of retail space.

With the board’s support, the private development team leading the project will begin negotiations to acquire the island from the U.S. Navy, which used it during World War II as a base.

If all goes according to plan, the Board of Supervisors would vote to approve groundbreaking on the development as early as July 2009, with housing units opening up sometime in 2012.

The Board of Supervisors endorsed the plan in a 10-1 vote, with Supervisor Ed Jew in opposition. Jew said he wanted the number of jobs for San Francisco residents to increase from 50 percent to 75 percent of the total, but he failed to offer an amendment with this provision for consideration by the board.

“We’re committed to creating the greatest number of jobs possible for San Francisco residents,” said Michael Cohen, head of military base reuse projects for Mayor Gavin Newsom. Cohen said 50 percent is already a high goal to obtain.

Before endorsing the plan, supervisors made a handful of amendments designed to protect The City from any financial liability.

The amendments will require Board of Supervisors approval of financial plans for the island’s transit system and for the funding of city services to ensure no money from The City’s operating budget will end up subsidizing those services.

“We need to work as one city. Even though this is an island, it is not an island unto itself,” Supervisor Jake McGoldrick said.

Supervisor Chris Daly championed an amendment to the plan that would guarantee the existing Treasure Island residents, about 1,300, would have a choice to move into the new units at a comparable rent before the development is approved by the board.

Cohen, who is part of The City’s planning team, said the board’s amendments speak to issues of “fiscal prudence” and against displacement, issues “that we share.”

To prepare the island for the development, the island will require significant seismic upgrades and a cleanup of contaminated soils.

A combination of public and private funding will pay for infrastructure improvements and some of the housing, with $500 million from private developers and $700 million from bonds The City will borrow on property taxes collected from the island following its development.

The grand vision of the development plan has been greeted with widespread support. The development will include “a collection of hotels and restaurants and cafés and retail centered around a western ferry terminal in a dense walkable urban corridor that will help make Treasure Island one of the great destinations in the world,” Cohen said.

jsabatini@examiner.com

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