October 25, 2014

A long history of protecting SF’s waterfront

Former San Francisco Mayor Art Agnos calls this “the most beautiful spot on the waterfront”. Should this land be used for the Warriors’ sports arena or for better public access to the shoreline? Photo courtesy San Francisco Waterfront Alliance.

Former San Francisco Mayor Art Agnos calls this “the most beautiful spot on the waterfront”. Should this land be used for the Warriors’ sports arena or for better public access to the shoreline? Photo courtesy San Francisco Waterfront Alliance.

San Francisco has a long history of protecting its waterfront as a public asset.

The front-page lead article of the September 1970 Yodeler is entitled “Port Commission vs. San Francisco Bay”. At issue was a massive 18.4-acre fill and platform in the water just north of the Ferry Building. This Ferry Port Plaza, which would have included a 1,200-room hotel, a 600-foot-long commercial office building, and a garage for 2,400 cars was not built, thanks to public opposition and the Bay Conservation and Development Commission.

More positively, we tore down the old Embarcadero Freeway and started on a planning process which limited height and bulk and restricted uses to appropriate maritime activities, opening up San Francisco’s shoreline for all citizens to enjoy. We even voted on legislation to protect the waterfront from inappropriate development (see “The perfect unacceptable use”).

Yet, in recent years, that consensus has been overwhelmed by a series of public-private development proposals, each eying to capitalize on the real-estate potential of the city’s remaining shoreline parcels and undeveloped piers. The Warriors’ proposal is but the latest of the breed, but true to their name, it is perhaps the most aggressive proposal yet.

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