The Port of San Francisco has proposed investing $62.9 million for 28 projects along The City’s waterfront. (Ekevara Kitpowsong/ Special to S.F. Examiner)

The Port of San Francisco has proposed investing $62.9 million for 28 projects along The City’s waterfront. (Ekevara Kitpowsong/ Special to S.F. Examiner)

SF Port plans unprecedented spending on waterfront improvements

The Port of San Francisco plans to significantly increase its spending on The City’s waterfront in the coming years.

But the proposed $62.9 million investment still won’t put a dent in the total backlog of needed repairs.

Crediting a strong economy in which some 24 million visitors stopped by the waterfront last year, the Port has proposed spending tens of millions of dollars in the next two fiscal years to renovate bathrooms, fix “constant” electrical outages, improve fire sprinkler systems and enhance security with cameras and fencing.

The Port also wants to study building a ferry terminal at Mission Bay to meet the transit demand from the planned Warrior’s Arena at 16th and Third streets. The creation of a 250-space parking lot at 19th and Illinois streets is also in the works to relieve congestion from the arena.

In the next two fiscal years, the Port plans to invest $62.9 million on 28 capital projects, a significant boost from previous years in which between $10 million and $14 million was spent annually.

“This is really because the economy is really good right now and we are making a conscious decision not to grow our operating budget and to squeeze out more of our net revenue for capital investment,” Elaine Forbes, interim executive director of the Port of San Francisco, told The City’s Capital Planning Committee on Monday.

The investment will also pay for $5 million of much-needed repairs at the Alcatraz ferry embarkation site where tourists flock, a combined $1.2 million to upgrade Piers 19 and 29 to attract new tenants, and $1.4 million to renovate bathrooms and make other repairs to Pier 23 to also attract tenants.

Port officials say such investments will strengthen the economy of the waterfront.

The proposed $3.5 million for the Mission Bay Ferry Terminal is about half the total design cost for a project, which is estimated to cost $42 million. The City is exploring other revenue sources to complete the project.

The proposed $2.1 million Illinois Street parking lot is expected to more than pay for itself within a decade, according to Port officials.

But even with the revenue bump, the Port still has a backlog of capital needs.

“While the level of capital investment is relatively large compared to historical spending, the Port is well aware that our proposed funding only begins to address the Port’s $1.1 billion capital backlog,” Forbes wrote in a March 11 memo to the Capital Planning Committee.

Of the total spending, $13.4 million will go toward dredging Piers 27, 35, 80, 94/96 and other berths to ensure they are suitable for maritime uses.

The Port is proposing to spend $9.7 million on a continued seismic study to ensure its sea wall will withstand a major earthquake. The span of The Embarcadero from Fisherman’s Wharf to Mission Bay is significant to The City because it primarily prevents it from flooding.

“If we were to replace the whole sea wall like Seattle just did with a general obligation bond, we would be looking in the $2 to $3 billion range,” Forbes said. She said the wall itself is in fine condition, but that it sits on young Bay mud that would liquefy during an earthquake.

Forbes told the committee that the proposed projects illustrate the kind of needs left unmet in previous years. “These are not nice-to-haves, these are must haves,” she said of the projects.

“We should be spending about $45 million every year to just not add to our backlog,” Forbes said. “So even in this very good time, we are still adding to our capital backlog situation.”

The Port’s budget will be included in Mayor Ed Lee’s proposed two-city budget, which he must submit to the Board of Supervisors for review and adoption by June 1.

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