After budget cuts threatened its closure, Candlestick Point State Recreation Area is slated to undergo a massive makeover to accommodate new visitors and future environmental concerns. (Michael Ares/Special to S.F. Examiner)

State parks officials planning multi-million dollar upgrades at Candlestick Point recreation area

Timothy Rebbert has windsurfed at the 151-acre Candlestick Point State Recreation Area along the shore of San Francisco’s Bayview and Hunters Point neighborhoods for years.

In fact, the area that holds the title of California’s first urban park provides such an excellent launching point for windsurfers — sometimes up to 20 a day — that the site is considered a world-class windsurfing area. But rumors as to the park’s future have sprung up in recent years as plans for a development project emerged.

“It’s sort of a niche venue,” said Rebbert, who lives about 10 minutes from the park. “Its status has always been ambiguous.”

Just three years ago, the recreation area was among 70 of 278 state parks slated for closure by the California Department of Parks and Recreation due to budget cuts.

The park avoided closure as the economy improved, though uncertainty with its future lingered in the eyes of neighbors with the fruition of a major development project to remove the Candlestick Park stadium and build housing in its place.

Development giant Lennar Urban began to tear down the former site of the Giants and 49ers stadium in February to make way for a $4 billion project, including the creation of 1,500 homes, more than 750,000 square feet of retail space, a movie theater, a grocery store, a performance venue, a 2,900-space parking garage and a 220-room hotel.

The stadium was nearly 90 percent demolished as of late July, and with construction scheduled to begin next spring, the state parks department this summer has started creating improvement plans for the recreation area.

A general plan for the park was approved by the State Park and Recreation Commission on Jan. 18, 2013, calling for some $180 million in improvements and upgrades in conjunction with the Lennar Urban development.

“There are improvements in the park today, [but] they are very dated,” said Steve Musillami, supervisor of the design development group for the state parks department. “We have a lot of deferred maintenance out in the park.”

Plans to improve the park include expanding tidal marsh zones, adding a boating center for non-motorized boats like kayaks and canoes, replacing a pier that was closed due to vandalism, and the growth of several beaches, as well as improvements to the wind-surfing area.

“It’s an ambitious project,” Musillami said. “It’s one of the most active large projects that we have.”

The effort has received a $50 million boost from Lennar Urban, which gave the money to The City’s Office of Community Investment and Infrastructure, to contribute to the state’s park improvement costs as some 20 acres
of land are transferred from the state parks department to the OCII.

The first portion, around $2 million, was transferred to the state last fall, with another $13 million coming in 2016. Much of that money is specifically earmarked for operations and maintenance, and will help the state parks department start to work on designs and improvements this summer and into the fall.

But three significant planning issues were listed in the park’s general plan as well.

The first, state parks officials believe, will be easily mitigated: predicting the level of visitation as demand for the park evolves along with the Lennar Urban development.

“The visitation will obviously change significantly once we have this additional 20,000 people right next to the park,” Musillami said. “If anything, our goal is to figure out with these designs, ‘How do we distribute people throughout the park?’”

Managing a parking strategy for park visitors also still needs to be worked out, though with nearly 3,000 parking spaces on the horizon that issue will likely also be tackled without a hitch, park officials said.

The third and perhaps most significant concern is the anticipated rising sea level along the waterfront in the coming decades. It’s estimated in the Candlestick Point-Hunters Point Shipyard Phase II Final Environmental Impact Report that the sea level will rise 36 inches by 2080.

Lennar Urban developers are designing shoreline and public access improvements to allow for sea level rise. According to developers, design elements will include open-space setbacks of
at least 3 feet from the existing shoreline, to allow for future increases in elevation.

Rebbert, the windsurfer, said improvements to the park will surely be welcomed by neighbors.

“The bottom line is it’s just a great shoreline resource for [the] community,” he said.
BayviewCandlestick ParkCandlestick Point State Recreation AreadevelopmentHunter's PointLennar Urbanstate parkswindsurfing

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