Seawall Lot 330, which currently holds the Embarcadero Safe Navigation Center, is part of a major development proposal along with Piers 30-32. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

Port Commission backs 850-unit development plan for Piers 30-32

Critics argue project may require voter approval under Prop. B

The Port Commission on Tuesday voted to move ahead on a more than $1 billion project that would bring 850 housing units and a floating swimming pool to San Francisco’s waterfront.

Port of San Francisco staff earlier this month recommended the proposal by Strada Investment group and Trammell Crow Company over two other proposals for Piers 30-32 and Seawall Lot 330 between Bryant and Beale streets. The Port Commission unanimously voted on Tuesday to authorize staff to enter an exclusive negotiating agreement with Strada TCC.

The developer would build 850 units on Seawall Lot 330, a 2.3-acre site that currently holds a 200-bed homeless Navigation Center. In return for making 25 percent of units in the project affordable, Strada plans to tap into a state density bonus program that will allow it to boost building heights.

But several public commenters — and Port Commissioner Doreen Woo Ho — noted that those plans may conflict with San Francisco’s Proposition B, which requires voter approval of waterfront projects that surpass specific height limits. The site is zoned for 105 feet but the proposal includes a building up to 235 feet.

“Its relationship to Prop. B, as I understand, is something the attorneys are still looking at,” said Peter Albert, development manager for the port. “They’re using the state density bonus law to have the state-provided exemptions.”

Strada TCC plans to demolish Piers 30-32 to build 376,000 square feet of office space and 30,700 square feet for retail and restaurants. The two piers frame a public floating swimming pool managed by a nonprofit.

A project proposed for Piers 30-32 and Seawall Lot 330 includes two towers as well as lower buildings on the Piers and a swimming pool that will be open to the public. (© Steelblue for Strada Investment.)

The project would ultimately reduce the size of the 17-acre site by 45 percent, while leaving about three acres for public open space, to save costs. The project’s $1.18 billion budget would allocate $369 million for seismic retrofitting and sea-level rise protection.

Public comment was overwhelmingly filled with residents in opposition to the project, citing concerns over traffic, obstructed views, and the addition of office space to the area just as major companies are shifting to a remote work culture spurred by coronavirus. Commissioner Willie Adams indicated that the port was “in for a fight” to bring the project to fruition.

”The proposal is just inappropriately sized for this location,” said Marc Dragun, who sits on the Northern Advisory Committee for the port. “It’s an economically bad deal for the port. If we move forward with this, we’re signing up for years of contentious public hearings.”

Strada TCC’s plans were submitted in response to a request for proposals in December 2019. Two other proposals the Port of San Francisco considered were a 449-unit, 50 percent affordable housing project from Tishman Speyer and a 360-unit, 25 percent affordable housing project from Vornado.

Jesse Blout, co-founder of Strada, acknowledged that community input was missing from the project as a result of the RFP process and there is work left to do.

“This is the beginning of the beginning,” said Blout, making a point repeated by port staff and commissioners. “We often spend months in the community working through these kinds of issues before we submit anything. With an RFP process, unfortunately it’s not possible to do that kind of community process.”

The Warriors previously planned to build a hotel and condo development on Seawall Lot 330 to generate money for a new arena on Piers 30-32, before opposition prompted them to relocate to Mission Bay. The sites are instead used as parking lots now and generate about $2.4 million a year.

If negotiations hold up, port staff will bring the agreement back to the commission by early 2021. The process could take about five or six years, port staff estimated.

“I think there’s a knee-jerk reaction from the community and I’m not saying we should ignore it. We should digest it,” Woo Ho said. “We need to take this input and go forward.”

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