Port of S.F. lobbies state to rezone waterfront use

The Port of San Francisco is pursuing state legislation that would allow the cash-strapped waterfront authority to rezone port land along the northeast waterfront for possible development.

Since March, the Port has been meeting with neighborhood groups to discuss the plan, which would terminate state “public trust use” restrictions that limits the land use to such water-related purposes as fisheries and navigation, environmental preservation, commerce and recreation. Most of the 11 so-called seawall lots being considered are used for parking. All 11 lots are across the Embarcadero from the Bay.

The Port of San Francisco — a city agency financially struggling under a mandate that it be self-supporting — has an annual operating budget of approximately $73 million. According to its 10-year capital plan, however, the Port has $1.4 billion in needs, including overall repairs, replacement and seismic work. As of February, the agency had identified only $491 million in funding for the improvements.

“We get that the Port has a problem,” said Vedica Pur, president of the Telegraph Hill Dwellers, one of the groups attending the community forums. “Our key concern is control … these 11 lots get opened up to what kind of development, luxury towers?”

Housing is one form of development the Port has envisioned on the lots, which would be leased, not sold, for development. As a result, rental, senior assisted-living and timeshare developments are likely to be the preferred options, not condominiums, which would lose value as the proposed 75-year lease came to an end.

Under the proposal, the proceeds from the leasing would berestricted to historic preservation of some piers, as well as the demolition of others that are found to be beyond restoration.

Based on a preliminary analysis, ground leasing for commercial purposes would yield revenue in the range of between $10 million and $12 million annually, according to Port documents. Port staff has also proposed establishing a tax benefit district in the area that would bring in additional revenue from future development of the seawall lots, estimated to be between $8 million and $10 million in tax increment annually.

The lots with the biggest revenue potential, according to Port official Brad Benson, are Lots 330 and 337. Lot 330, within the boundaries of Bryant and Beale streets and The Embarcadero, has 101,330 square feet. The other, Lot 337, is behind AT&T Park in China Basin, and is the largest of the 11 lots at 606,418 square feet.

An informational presentation on the proposed state legislation terminating trust-use restrictions on the lots will be given at today’s Port Commission meeting, at 3:15 p.m.

beslinger@examiner.com

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