“How Prop. D Could Pave Way for Giants’ Huge Lot A Development”
The San Francisco Giants’ brass was not happy when Supervisor Jane Kim threatened to go to the ballot to force the team to provide more affordable housing at Mission Rock, the 28-acre development it wants to build on the parking lot across the Lefty O’Doul Bridge from AT&T Park.
But now they should probably be thanking her.
In May, facing the possibility of Kim putting forth a rival ballot measure, the Giants agreed to increase the project’s percentage of affordable housing from 33 percent to 40 percent. Partly as a result of that change, the Giants are going to the ballot next month with the support of all 11 supervisors, as well as the tough-to-please Council of Community Housing Organizations, which advocates for affordable housing.
“We think we have a proposal that really speaks to the issues of the city today, in real time,” said Giants President Larry Baer.
Proposition D would raise height limits from 40 feet to up to 240 feet on a piece of Port of San Francisco property that is mostly zoned for open space. The site, known as Lot A, is now a vast surface parking lot that holds 2,300 cars. The rezoning would allow the Giants to move ahead with a plan that calls for 1,500 units of housing, 8 acres of parkland, 1.5 million square feet of commercial space and a new brewing facility for Anchor Brewing Co. at Pier 48.
About half of the affordable housing will target middle-income families earning more than 120 percent of area median income, $122,300 for a family of four. The other half will start at 55 percent of AMI, $56,000 for a family of four, and go up from there.
The parking will be replaced by a garage on the southern end of the property. If Prop. D passes, the project still has to go through the normal environmental review process and would require approvals from the Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors.
Ex-Mayor Agnos is a fan
Former Mayor Art Agnos, who in 2013 was a key figure in toppling a proposal to build condominiums at 8 Washington St., across from the Ferry Building, has become the Giants’ most vocal advocate.
“It’s the best project I’ve seen in 47 years of public life in this city — and we’ve had some good ones,” Agnos said. “The Giants organization understands the city, and that is reflected in the values represented by this project.”
While there has been no active campaign against Prop. D, not everyone thinks it’s a good deal. Prop. D is opposed by the Sierra Club, San Francisco Tomorrow, Livable Cities and the Coalition of San Francisco Neighborhoods. Opponents say the proposed buildings are too tall, the project has too much parking, and the property should be used for open space, in keeping with the state public trust laws that preserve public access and limit use of the public waterfront lands to mainly maritime and water-related recreational uses.
Livable Cities Executive Director Tom Radulovich said the 2,300 replacement parking spaces are excessive, given that the neighborhood already has 9,000 parking spaces.
“Using an entire city block of public trust land to build a 10-story parking structure, when Mission Bay is already crammed with parking, is a terrible use for waterfront public land when we have such a need for open space and housing,” he said.
Sue Vaughan of the local chapter of the Sierra Club said what the Giants are offering in terms of affordable housing and parks is not enough to justify developing high-rise buildings on precious waterfront property. She said the Giants should have taken a cue from Pier 70 developer Forest City, which capped heights at 92 feet.
“I don’t think people understand how tall these buildings are going to be,” she said.
That the Giants need voter approval at all has its roots in the “No Wall on the Waterfront” movement that grew out of a 2013 fight against the proposed condo project at 8 Washington St. After antidevelopment forces successfully stopped that project, they took to the ballot in the spring of 2014 with Proposition B, which required voter approval of any development on port property that exceeds current height limits.
Jon Golinger, who led the fight against 8 Washington, said he is pleased that Prop. B forced the Giants to go to the ballot, but that he is still not thrilled by the project.
“It’s great that the decision will be made in the light of day by the people,” he said. “I would love to be able to support it. But I’m concerned that raising height limits so dramatically sets a bad precedent.”
Not ‘Anytown, U.S.A.’
Proponents of the Giants’ project see it as a chance to correct some of the shortcomings of Mission Bay, which many people say has a suburban feel and lacks the variety and street life that characterize most San Francisco neighborhoods. The Lot A project will feature a town square ringed with retail, a Little League baseball field and a “makers row” for small manufacturers.
“We don’t want to be Anytown, U.S.A. here,” said Jack Bair, the Giants director of government and legal affairs. “This needs to feel like another San Francisco neighborhood. If it feels like another San Francisco neighborhood, we will be successful. That’s what we are striving for.”
Gabriel Metcalf, executive director of the urban think tank SPUR, said Mission Rock will “make Mission Bay a lot better.”
“Mission Rock will bring more life to the waterfront, but also to Mission Bay,” he said. “There will be things for us to do there, a reason to go there, and more pedestrians on the street, which will spill over to the rest of Mission Bay in a positive way.”