Old power plant generating development talk

Mike Koozmin/The S.F. ExaminerPotrero Hill possibilities: A closed Potrero Hill power plant

New life could be in store for the shuttered site of San Francisco’s last active power plant — not to say it will be burning natural gas again anytime soon.

City officials and environmentalists worked for nearly two decades to shut down Potrero Hill’s former PG&E facility, which was later sold to Atlanta-based Mirant Corp. The plant was officially closed in January 2011. Now GenOn, the corporate successor to Mirant, is trying to drum up interest in some nonindustrial development.

According to GenOn spokesman Tony Cordero, the company sent out requests for qualifications to local developers who might be interested in building up the site. Cordero said the company isn’t in a position to provide a timeline, but suggested the moment could be right to make a move on the site.

“GenOn is in the business of power generation,” Cordero said. “We’re not in the business of managing vacant real estate.”

Although the site would still need a sizable contamination cleanup — a process to be conducted by PG&E due to a responsibility agreement it signed with Mirant in 1999 — it is being touted as a privately owned alternative to the slow-moving plans of a nearby publicly owned parcel at Pier 70.

Area residents have expressed concerns about tall buildings on The City’s waterfront — also a hot-button issue in the fight over the  8 Washington St. luxury condo project on The Embarcadero. Like 8 Washington, Pier 70 has been bogged down in part because of additional requirements of both the Port of San Francisco and the State Lands Commission.

Talk of offices at Pier 70 — most recently around a new “tech hub” — has ebbed and flowed, according to Tony Kelly, president of the Potrero Boosters Neighborhood Association and a 2010 Board of Supervisors candidate.

“What we’ve been saying all along in the neighborhood is because that’s not bound by land trust issues, if The City is excited or hungry to find a new place to put expansion of Mission Bay-type things — put it there, rather than Pier 70,” Kelly said of the former power plant. “We’ve heard three different plans for Pier 70 in the last 20 years.”

The former power plant site is currently zoned for heavy industrial use and is subject to a deed restriction that prohibits housing. Kelly said the neighborhood would likely support commercial development, but homes could be met with skepticism.

“To allow housing, that seems speculative to the point of being a little silly,” Kelly said. “The toxics there are pretty substantial.”

dschreiber@sfexaminer.com

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