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Affordable Housing, Pier 29 Discussed At NEWAG Meeting

A planned affordable housing development and a potential retail tenant for Pier 29 were two of the main topics at Wednesday night's meeting of the Northeast Waterfront Advisory Group (NEWAG) at the Port of San Francisco, Pier 1. 

District 3 Supervisor Julie Christensen attended briefly to speak about the housing development on Seawall Lot 322-1 at Broadway and Front Street. It's been a concern among neighbors, mainly because of its lack of moderate-income units. Christensen had some good news for them: "I have the commitment of the mayor to expand the types of housing on the site," she said to a round of applause, adding that they're looking at including senior units, and if a housing bond passes in November, possibly middle-income units. "It's not a done deal, but the gears are turning and it looks positive," she said.

Seawall Lot 322-1. Photo: Geri Koeppel/Hoodline

Neighbors also have been urging the Port and Mayor's Office of Housing (MOH) to consider the massing of the building and to not put parking on the ground floor, but to activate it with retail or services. Christensen said the firms of architects Mark Cavagenero and Cary Bernstein were hired to inform the request for proposals (RFP) that will go out for the site. She said, “We're looking at ways to activate and enliven and make more engaging the ground floor," adding that they're looking at height and massing of the building. "I am committed to making this a good housing project and a good neighbor," Christensen said.

Teresa Yanga, director of housing development at MOH, reminded everyone of a community meeting to discuss the affordable housing development at 6pm on July 21st at Pier 1 in the Bayside Conference Room. You must RSVP by July 17th to Faith Kirkpatrick, (415) 701-5510 or faith [dot] kirkpatrick [at ] sfgov.org.

Following that, Byron Rhett, the Port's director of planning and development, led a detailed presentation on plans to seek a tenant for the bulkhead, or front, portion of the Pier 29 building. Last year, Port staff at NEWAG meetings laid out ideas for finding a tenant or tenants for the entire building, including the shed and an open area near the waterfront. But Rhett said that development process will be lengthy and the building will need seismic strengthening, which could cost tens of millions of dollars. That means it will likely be vacant for a long time. However, the bulkhead portion could welcome a tenant sooner with a shorter lease of five to 10 years.

The bulkhead of Pier 29 is marked by the number 1. Graphic: Port of San Francisco

Rhett said the RFP for a tenant isn't complete, but the idea is to activate the space and complement the developments along the waterfront in the area. "We want to build on the work we’ve been doing in the area between the Ferry Building and Fisherman's Wharf," he said, citing the Exploratorium as a good example. Some ideas for Pier 29's bulkhead, he suggested, include arts, crafts and dry goods; innovators, open studios and galleries; public markets related to retail; exhibitions and cultural exhibition space; or live demonstrations, displays and studios.

In response to Rhett's presentation, NEWAG members and members of the public in attendance, including Telegraph Hill Dwellers President Stan Hayes, strongly urged the Port to involve NEWAG and the neighbors prior to putting out an RFP. Rhett said Port staff will give a more detailed presentation about plans for Pier 29 to the Port Commission at 3:15pm on Tuesday, July 14th.

Images: Port of San Francisco

After that, NEWAG member Jon Golinger raised the issue of open space on Piers 27–29. "My experience the past few months is, it’s haphazard in what’s open, so there’s not much use in public space if there’s a gate and it’s locked," he said. Diane Oshima, assistant director for waterfront planning, said some areas toward the tip of the pier are closed at night for safety, adding, "It is confusing to know when it should be open for public access and when it should be closed for cruise or maritime operations." She said way-finding signs giving dates of cruise calls will be posted. (Some public space must be closed the day before, day of, and day after cruise ships are in port for security).

In assorted other discussions, a reminder was issued about the free San Francisco Symphony concert at noon Sunday, July 12th at the Cruise Terminal Plaza on Pier 27, and Oshima noted that an exhibit on free speech titled Nuestros Silencios (Our Silences) will be installed at the north end of Harry Bridges Plaza from July 15th-Oct. 15th. And NEWAG memberJane Connors, senior property manager for the Ferry Building, mentioned that the restroom expansion there was complete and the new kiosks on the north end of the arcade should be complete in September. (We'll update you when they choose the tenants.)

NEWAG meeting, July 8th, 2015. Photo: Geri Koeppel/Hoodline

The meeting also included extensive discussion about who from NEWAG should be a liaison to the forthcoming Waterfront Land Use Plan volunteer working group. Jon Golinger raised the point that a good balance of interests should be represented, so NEWAG might want to wait until the rest of the working group members were named. In the end, the consensus was to wait until the Sept. 9th NEWAG meeting to choose the liaison.

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