Salesforce's Dreamforce conference will take place in San Francisco Sept. 15th-18th, and to help lodge some of the expected 135,000 attendees, the company is renting a cruise ship at the James R. Herman Cruise Terminal at Pier 27 and calling it the "Dreamboat."
The Celebrity Infinity is scheduled to sail into San Francisco on Sept. 13th, and roughly 2,000 cruise passengers ending a voyage will disembark. From Sept. 14th–18th, about 2,000 Dreamforce attendees will use the ship as a hotel, after which a new set of cruise passengers will board and set sail.
[Update: Salesforce has gotten in touch to share that the ship will only house 1,100 attendees. The previous number was based on the Port's estimate from the ship's capacity.]
During its use as a hotel, the ship will provide "multiple dining options, lounges, nightly entertainment, and different activities on every deck" (although food and drinks will be an extra charge).
Photo: Geri Koeppel/Hoodline
Sounds like an innovative solution to a logistical problem: Not enough hotel rooms for a huge conference like this. It benefits the city, too: The Port is earning a handy $300,000 for a few days' work and says Dreamboat will generate jobs and peripheral income for the city and its workers. But some neighbors aren't happy. To understand their position, we go back to the 2013 America's Cup.
Photo: Geri Koeppel/Hoodline
While many in the city had a slew of philosophical and financial reasons for criticizing the event, residents nearby say they were personally affected by noise, light and unruly behavior from concerts at a temporary amphitheater on Pier 29 during the Cup. The sound particularly traveled up to the homes on Telegraph Hill as well as into condos and apartments just off of the Embarcadero. Ever since, several neighbors have held any activity at Piers 27–29 under scrutiny, and they protest virtually any amplified music outdoors at the piers.
Now, some suspect Dreamboat will be the equivalent of a house full of rowdy college kids. While the nonprofit neighborhood group the Telegraph Hill Dwellers (THD) doesn't speak for all Telegraph Hill residents, it's devoted to preserving the history and character of the area, including the waterfront. It boasts more than 500 dues-paying members, and it should be said, a good deal of political pull. And it doesn't like the idea.
"Unless this is carefully managed to limit export of sound and light, this has the potential in many people’s minds to be unpleasant," said Stan Hayes, THD president. "Bands or amplified voices from there can be troublesome and intrusive to the people who live on this side of Telegraph Hill." He added, "Our concern is this is a slippery slope. It’ll happen again and again and again, and we’ll end up with a de facto waterfront hotel.”
Telegraph Hill overlooks Cruise Terminal Plaza and Pier 27. Photo: Geri Koeppel/Hoodline
Hayes sent a letter to Salesforce and copied Port personnel, citing San Francisco Administrative Code, Section 61.5(c)(1), Unacceptable Non-Maritime Uses. The letter states in part, "While we understand that the Dreamboat will be temporary, we are concerned that it sets a precedent that conflicts with the intent of the City’s waterfront hotel prohibition."
Hayes said the THD contacted Salesforce to ask about their permits and what they were going to do to manage the lighting and sound. "We got a response back a few days ago extolling the virtues of Salesforce’s conference," Hayes said, "and it really doesn’t address many of the concerns.”
Hoodline asked if the Port had heard from Salesforce about addressing the community's concerns on light and noise. The response: "The Port has met with Salesforce and we have provided them with the Port’s 'Good Neighbor' policy, which Salesforce has agreed to abide by." So, that means no late-night noise or crazy strobe lights from parties on the Lido deck.
All ships agree to a "Good Neighbor" policy. Photo: Geri Koeppel/Hoodline
We contacted Salesforce to see if it was on board and received this written statement: "We have worked with SF Port Authority to make sure we comply with all relevant regulations, and that we are in accordance with San Francisco’s Good Neighbor Policy. We also have an event hotline (415-298-1913) at the Pier 27 location to address any issues, and it will be available 24/7 throughout the entire time that the Dreamboat is docked."
Hoodline also asked if the Port intends to book similar temporary hotel uses moving forward. The response:
"During the permitting process for the Pier 27 cruise terminal project, the Port committed to booking the berth for no more than ten (10) consecutive days to address the use of the facility for lay berthing or hoteling. So, this five (5) day berthing request is within the permitted daily use provisions, that would otherwise prohibit use of the facility for long term guest accommodations. The Port will book future berthing uses on a case-by-case basis."
Sounds like that means yes. The statement also says:
"It is common for cruise ships to serve as supplemental hotels when hotel rooms in a region are scarce. Examples include: New York City and Jacksonville, Florida, when hosting Super Bowls (2014 and 2005); New Orleans and Boston during recent large technology and medical conventions when the demand for hotels outstripped the supply."
Moreover, the Port says Dreamboat will generate at least 30 union jobs daily for line handlers, gearmen and guards. It also will need to load provisions twice during the stay, creating more union jobs. That's not counting all of the peripheral flow of cash into the city from the guests for baggage handlers, security, tour and bus charters, taxi and ride share drivers, local bars and restaurants and more.
The Port, in essence, is saying this indeed is a maritime operation and providing maritime jobs, not to mention much-needed income for the Port and for many workers.
But to the THD, the sanctity of the waterfront is paramount. “If this leads to other large conferences," Hayes said, "we’re going in a direction that’s not in everyone's best interest here.”