i should probably wait to post this, as we don't have renderings yet or even very specific details. but a new redevelopment plan was announced yesterday for the island, which is in the center of san francisco bay midway between the city and oakland--and it has the potential to be one of the most innovative and exciting projects anywhere in the world.
the island is manmade, built for the 1939 world's fair and meant for conversion to an airport after--but then the war intervened, and it became a naval base. the base was closed several years ago, and for now, base housing is being rented out and a hangar is being leased for film production.
the island is 400 acres and is connected by causeway to the natural island of yerba buena, through which the bay bridge tunnels between its two spans:
(very large image)
so, the plan. the idea is to create an essentially car-free, self-sustaining new town on the island. the plan would cluster 5,500 housing units in 140 acres around a new ferry landing. this would require a half-dozen or so towers, including an 'iconic' skyscraper that might be as tall as 50 stories--a 500-foot highrise in the middle of san francisco bay. the rest of the island could then be used for organic gardens, for wind turbines (the island can get quite windy), and for wetlands that could be used for wastewater treatment. an ecological--and urban--dream of a place.
how likely it this? it'll have to navigate a couple of years' worth of hearings and studies, there will no doubt be opposition, but the developer is ready to go.
Towers, farm seen for Treasure Island
Self-sustaining neighborhood of 5,500 residences proposed
John King, Chronicle Urban Design Writer
Tuesday, November 8, 2005
The would-be developers of Treasure Island in the middle of San Francisco Bay have unveiled a startling new image for the island -- one that includes 20 acres of farmland and at least six residential towers.
The plan calls for as many as 5,500 housing units on the west side of the island facing downtown San Francisco -- nearly twice the number previously proposed. Most of them would be within a 10-minute walk of a new ferry terminal across from the city's historic Ferry Building. And 260 of the island's 400 acres would become public open space, including a tidal marsh cut into the northeast corner of the manmade island.
The island's development team has changed as well. It is still led by Kenwood Investments, which includes political lobbyist Darius Anderson, allied with housing giant Lennar Corp. But this summer, Kenwood added another equity partner: Wilson Meany Sullivan, which led the much-praised restoration of the Ferry Building.
On Monday, Chris Meany of Wilson Meany Sullivan described the changes as part of a larger push for a project shaped by environmental principles.
"You need a large number of households to support the services that a community requires," Meany said.
This includes the estimated $20 million cost to cut a ferry terminal into the west side of the island, instead of using a pier on the Oakland side inherited from the U.S. Navy. "Moving the ferry to the west side unlocks the rest of the island," Meany said. "Suddenly, it's an extension of San Francisco rather than a distant part of the bay."
The scheme, which will be shown Wednesday to the Treasure Island Development Authority, still has details to be filled in. A slender residential tower is proposed at the ferry terminal, for instance, but no height is specified, other than it probably would be at least 40 stories. North of the terminal is a string of neighborhoods with parks with views of the city and several towers in the 15- to 20-story range -- but the exact layout and heights are being refined.
Development team members say they will present a full plan next month to the Treasure Island authority, a mayor-appointed body that manages the island. If San Francisco's Board of Supervisors gives initial approval next summer to an agreement outlining what can be built as well as the financial structure of the deal between the city and the developers, the next stage would be an environmental review and final development plan -- a process likely to take at least two years.
The new proposal responds to criticism from environmental activists that the prior plan was too suburban and car-reliant. The activists also argued that a self-contained residential neighborhood could not work with the 2,800 housing units envisioned by developers.
The changes also reflect a political reality: The redevelopment of Treasure Island has been bumpier than anyone predicted when the Navy transferred control of the former military base to San Francisco in 1997.
The authority created by Mayor Willie Brown awarded development rights to both Treasure and Yerba Buena islands in 2003 to Treasure Island Community Development, a team organized by Anderson, a prominent Democratic lobbyist who had raised money for past political campaigns of Brown and then-Gov. Gray Davis. Anderson since has held at least one fundraising event for Mayor Gavin Newsom.
More recently, management of the island took on aspects of a soap opera when Newsom appointed then-Supervisor Tony Hall to serve as the authority's executive director in 2004 -- and then watched approvingly as the board fired Hall last month after charges of financial mismanagement. Hall responded with claims that the island's developers were receiving a "sweetheart deal."
In this context, any proposal to increase the project's size could be attacked as a giveaway to well-connected developers. But Newsom administration officials say the island needs density to thrive. By comparison, there are few services available for the residents of the roughly 1,000 apartments that now exist.
"Treasure Island is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to embrace sustainability -- and sustainable in this context doesn't just mean organic farming or solar and wind power," said Michael Cohen, the mayor's director of base re-use and development. "It also means residents don't have to go back to San Francisco for everything -- and that requires a critical mass of people" to support shops as well as alternative forms of transportation such as the ferries.
The "green" aspects of the new proposal include features that, if approved and followed through on, would be rare in urban settings.
For example, the high winds that routinely buffet the island would be converted into assets by erecting rows of wind turbines on several stretches of the island. Behind each row of turbines -- designed so as not to harm passing birds -- trees would be planted to deflect breezes within residential areas.
The proposed 20 acres of organic farmland in the center of the island would function both as a food source and an educational opportunity. The amount of land could raise enough food for 2,000 people, as well as be a place to show inner-city youth how agriculture works.
Even the towers are proposed to be designed to minimize the street-level impact of wind and maximize that amount of sunlight that could be captured on photovoltaic systems integrated into buildings.
Not all details have changed from prior plans.
The proposal maintains a 100-foot-deep parkland along most of the bay, as required by the State Lands Commission, as well as shopping and restaurants and a conference center facing Yerba Buena Island. The 36-acre federally operated Job Corps facility to train youth would remain.
Also, 30 percent of all units would be required to be sold or rented at below-market prices.
Dean Macris, the city's planning director, was shown the proposal Friday.
"The basics are all good. The proof of the pudding will be the next stage," Macris said. "They need to create an experience on the island that is different enough to attract people from around the region."
Redesign of Treasure Island unveiled
Revised plans intended to be denser and ‘Green’
By Emily Fancher
A revised vision for Treasure Island imagines an urban neighborhood with a handful of high-rise towers, hip restaurants and boutique hotels that is also a model for environmental sustainability with an organic farm, renewal energy and limited use of cars.
The bold new plan for the 400-acre former naval base unveiled Monday calls for more housing on less land — a stark difference from the more suburban plans originally proposed for the island. It’s also a dramatic contrast to the island’s current landscape dotted with aging, Navy-built housing, weed-strewn lots, and a drab wastewater treatment plant.
City officials are currently negotiating for the Navy to transfer roughly 450 acres on Treasure Island and Yerba Buena Island to The City for redevelopment. The Navy closed the base on the islands in 1993.
Together, the islands are often described as some of the best real estate in the world with commanding views of San Francisco and offer a blank slate for building where a new kind of “green” development can be imagined. The redevelopment plans for the islands released last year called for environmentally sustainable practices including using green building techniques, creating wetlands and harnessing solar energy.
The new plan released Monday proposes denser housing clustered around the ferry terminal transit hub and a potential doubling of housing to up 5500 units — a response to critics who argued the islands need be self-sufficient, with enough residents to support transit and vital services such as a grocery market. It also reflects the need for the development to be a regional destination that draws visitors to its parks, restaurants, stores, hotels and marina.
Howard Strassner of the Sierra Club’s San Francisco chapter said the old plan paid lip service to sustainability, but was essentially a suburban development. In a leap from suburban to urban, the revised proposal places 90 percent of the housing within a 10-minute walk of the ferry terminal to limit car use.
“The plan has been pretty radically reconceived in a positive way to really imagine a kind of utopian project,” said Adi Shamir, dean of undergraduate studies at California College of the Arts, who saw the plan last week.
But whether the revamped plan will satisfy the environmental community’s high hopes for the island remains to be seen.
The plan will be presented to the Treasure Island Development Authority board Wednesday and the public will continue to have a chance to weigh in over the coming months and years. Many details from final building heights to building designs are still in flux.
Though construction could begin by mid-2008, the project will likely take over a decade to complete.
“We’re very excited about what we’ve done,” said Jay Wallace, project manager for the developer. “This is a fabulous step.”