Tide may turn on S.F. bayside building

San Franciscans, as well as state officials, need to look more favorably on development projects including hotels that could help maintain waterfront areas and pay for bayside benefits such as parks and boat launches, according to a recent report.

A city agency with a mandate that it be self-sufficient, the Port of San Francisco has an annual operating budget of approximately $73 million. According to its 10-year capital plan, however, the agency has $1.4 billion in needs, including overall repairs, replacement and seismic work, much of it on The City’s decrepit piers. As of February, the agency had identified only $491 million in funding for such work.

In a proposal that is likely to create controversy, a San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association report has suggested that The City go to the ballot box to try to reverse Proposition H, a 1990 voter-approved ban on hotels along the waterfront. The port has already begun discussions with city leaders about seeking such a change; Board of Supervisors President Aaron Peskin has signaled that he’d support the effort.

“Not reverse the ban, but amend it,” Peskin said. “I think if we were to come together for a true consensual planning process and then go to voters with a specific plan, for this pier and this pier, I think you could change some of the provisions of Prop H.”

It’s uncertain how residents of the neighborhoods near port property — who have repeatedly organized to restrict development along the waterfront — would react to the idea.

Vedica Puri, chairwoman of the Telegraph Hill Dweller’s waterfront committee, said her group wouldn’t likely oppose the idea of hotels, but would want a say about the details of any such project. The neighborhood group recently helped convince state Sen. Carol Migden to include a 40-foot height limit in proposed legislation that would allow the port to develop nine seawall lots along the Embarcadero, but not on the waterfront.

Another idea in the SPUR report is to ask state regulatory agencies to give “sub-area” approval, instead of asking that each individual project meet what’s known as “public-trust” requirements, which limit most developments to visitor maritime uses.

David Lewis, executive director of Oakland-based Save the Bay, said port officials are setting up a false premise by suggesting that development is needed to pay for a waterfront park. San Franciscans might be willing to pay for the open space if they can avoid development along the water, he said.

The port is in discussion with The City about putting some of its open-space projects within two Recreation and Park bond measures proposed for 2008 and 2013.

Development along the waterfront

Completed projects:

» Ferry Building — restaurants, retail and office space

» Piers 1½, 3 and 5 — restaurants, retail and office space

» AT&T Park — Giants baseball stadium

Projects in progress:

» Rincon Park — two restaurants with a central public courtyard

Projects in planning:

» Piers 27-31 — recreation and office space, project may include a cruise terminal at Pier 27

» Piers 15-17 — Port is in exclusive negotiations to relocate the Exploratorium to this waterfront site

Port property under review for potential development:

» Seawall Lots 314, 320, 321, 322, 323, 324, 351, 337

» Pier 70

» Piers 90-94

Project recently scuttled:

» Piers 30-32 — developer allowed exclusive rights to construct a cruise terminal and mixed-use development to expire, citing increasing costs to repair pier infrastructure

beslinger@examiner.com


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