Sinking pier drowning businesses

Rotting wood pilings and a crack-ridden foundation have forced the Ferry Building to close its parking lot, much to the chagrin of the landmark’s businesses and customers.

The lot sits on Pier ½, a 70-year-old structure that sits near the Ferry Building and has seen limited maintenance for decades. Though there are several other parking lots within a few blocks, the 100-car lot is the building’s primary parking option, serving hundreds of the landmark’s driving patrons each day.

The lot’s closure may quickly translate into losses for business owners and farmers-market merchants, if a quick solution isn’t found, said building manager Jane Connors.

Pier ½ is just one of at least 30 of The City’s piers in need of refurbishing — a project that would cost at least $1 billion along the 7½-mile stretch of waterfront. The rotting piers, which are overseen by the Port of San Francisco, are in need of seismic upgrades and port officials have said they are struggling to find funding sources to fix the crumbling piers. The Port does not receive money from The City and relies mostly on money from leases with tenants.

The Ferry Building was refurbished at a cost of $100 million and opened five years ago — and has since seen considerable success: about 15,000 people visit the shopping center most days. On Saturdays, when the Ferry Building hosts its bustling farmer’s market, that number reaches 25,000, said Connors.

The Port, which rents Pier ½ to the Ferry Building for parking, discovered the structural problems in May, and decided to schedule a September close of the pier before the next storm season, said Port spokeswoman Renee Dunn. However, further investigation proved the problems were much worse and the Ferry Building’s managers said they had no choice but to close the lot July 3.

Early estimates peg the cost to repair the pier at $3.6 million — probably too steep to be carried by the Port, which rents the lot for just $43,000 a year, said Port project manager Kathleen Diohep. To make matters worse, the pier is slated for demolition in a few years, so an expensive repair may not be justified, she said, and customers at the Ferry Building may never be able to park there again.

One proposed solution is to convert the large plaza behind the Ferry Building, which hosts the Farmer’s Market on Saturdays, into a parking lot. But she said that would be complicated, since the plaza is not zoned for parking.

The lot closure has not sat well with the patrons of The Slanted Door, said restaurant hostess Patricia Dang.

“Especially on Saturdays, it’s a nightmare,” she said. “People then come in late for reservations, we have to hold tables, or we’ll give tables away and customers are angry.”

kworth@sfexaminer.com

By the numbers

Pier ½ is a 70-year-old structure in need of seismic upgrade

100 Parking spaces

$43,000 Rent the port receives

$3.6 million Cost of refurbishment

3 Years until pier is scheduled to be demolished

6 Metal plates installed in March, after the parking operator noticed the deck was slouching

Source: Port of San Francisco

My story

“The parking lot’s been there for a really long time, and a lot of our regulars have come to expect it.”

 – Patricia Dang Hostess, The Slanted Door

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