Bay Area/ San Francisco/ Politics & Govt
Published on May 17, 2016
Port Gets Pushback On Pier 29 Proposal [Updated]

Renderings are preliminary and subject to Port regulatory, architectural and historic review. (Rendering: Jamestown L.P./BCV Architects)

After choosing a proposal from Jamestown L.P. last month for a retail showcase of locally made products in cooperation with SFMade, along with craft beer, wine and coffee in the front portion of Pier 29, the Port of San Francisco is getting pushback from some in the community on a couple of fronts.

First, there are concerns about the project concept and aesthetics. A few people have long lobbied for a recreational use at Pier 29 and aren't on board with the retail aspect, which is expected to serve locals as well as visitors and passengers on cruise ships, which dock next door at Pier 27. Many also have balked at a large, red design element on the exterior.

"You can put a mini retail center anywhere," said Jon Golinger, a member of the Northeast Waterfront Advisory Group (NEWAG) to the Port and a member of Telegraph Hill Dwellers (THD), which has submitted a letter opposing the project to Supervisor Aaron Peskin. "Having it be exclusively retail that’s almost entirely designed for tourists conflicts with the waterfront plan and is a poor choice for the space," he told us.

The letter from THD urges the Port to "pursue alternatives that are the kind of 'unique and inviting' project called for in the Waterfront Land Use Plan as mandated by the people of San Francisco." The letter also takes issue with the red metal object, and Golinger added it is "completely incompatible with the historic nature" of the pier.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

After THD sent the letter, two other neighborhood groups—the Barbary Coast Neighborhood Association and Golden Gateway Tenants Association—sent several emails to their boards over the weekend regarding the plans, and are weighing whether or not they’ll join THD in opposition. [Update, 5/17: The Barbary Coast Neighborhood Association this morning sent a letter to Peskin opposing the project as well.]

Elaine Forbes, interim executive director of the Port, noted that the Port presented ideas to NEWAG five times in 2014 and twice in 2015, and presented at the public Port Commission meetings four times, before approving the request for proposals (RFP) in December of 2015.

The Port was clear in most of those presentations and in the RFP that the concept should include retail and beverages in the front bulkhead portion of the building, which takes up 20,000 square feet of the total 123,000 square feet. Hoodline reported several times on the project leading up to the issue of the RFP, and reported on the selected proposal in April. All of the background documents are on the Pier 29 Bulkhead page on the Port's website.

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

Forbes also pointed out that more community outreach and tweaks will happen before the plan is final, as did Michael Phillips, president of Jamestown L.P. Negotiations for lease terms, specific architectural plans and more haven't yet begun, and should take four to six months.

“There will be opportunities for review with the Port and the neighborhood,” Phillips told us. "We want to do everything we can to incorporate all stakeholders' feedback for the best outcome for the community." He added, "We believe fundamentally that for spaces like this to be successful they have to cater to the community they serve as well as tourists, which is part of what we’ve committed ourselves to do at Ghirardelli.”

Renderings are preliminary and subject to Port regulatory, architectural and historic review. (Rendering: Jamestown L.P./BCV Architects)

Still, Golinger called the process "rushed" and pointed out that some NEWAG members were concerned that there wasn't more opportunity for input before the Port issued the RFP. In fact, the Port Commission in November of 2015 denied the Port's request to issue one without further community input. However, the RFP went out soon after that, in December.

Golinger said he and others raised questions about the plan throughout the process but didn't oppose the RFP because, while it didn't specifically mention recreation, it was "wide open enough" that they were hopeful a proposal would come in that fit with the Waterfront Land Use Plan.

Golinger and others also have questioned why the process for reviewing the proposals and selecting one wasn't more public. “We were surprised that they were submitted, vetted and finalized before it came back to NEWAG or anyone else in the community to look at," he said. 

Forbes explained that the process for choosing proposals is done by a panel to protect any proprietary and financial information and to ensure an unbiased process. "It’s important when you bid to know that you get a fair shake," Forbes said. The documents aren't public until the bidder is chosen. All panel members sign confidentiality and conflict-of-interest waivers. She noted that a NEWAG member sat on the selection panel.

Now that a bidder has been chosen, the Port has provided the three proposals, from Jamestown along with iARTsf and Premier Structures, for the public to see. The iARTsf proposal centered on a craft artisan retail center and community event space. It mentioned yoga and fitness classes on the outside plaza, but no recreation in the bulkhead. Premier Structures' proposal included a "market hall" open only on weekends and periodically when cruise ships are in port, along with special event space and a restaurant by the Slanted Door Group. It didn't mention recreation.

Forbes  disagreed with wording in the letter to Peskin that characterizes the project as a "mini-mall." "It not only helps San Francisco shine, but offers something for cruise ship passengers and locals as well," she said. But she added that the Port values neighborhood input, and she's already reached out to THD to ask if the Port and Jamestown can present at its next meeting.

Renderings are preliminary and subject to Port regulatory, architectural and historic review. (Rendering: Jamestown L.P./BCV Architects)

Golinger said his preference for the entire pier building would be along the lines of Chelsea Piers in New York, a 28-acre multi-use complex. He'd like it to house active recreation with a fee-based and/or membership model to make it financially viable for the Port, which a self-revenue-generating entity. He said he realizes the bulkhead is just a small part of the entire building, but added, "My sense is if this becomes a retail and shopping-oriented bulkhead, the rest of the pier is likely to be the same."

Forbes said the Waterfront Land Use Plan is in the midst of a community process and that recreation will be considered for the pier, but that the Port "felt this kind of creative retail would be the ideal, not recreation" for the bulkhead specifically. Also, the shed portion needs roughly $20 million in seismic upgrades, and getting a tenant into the bulkhead would provide some revenue in the meantime.

"If we have this retail, will it make the option for active recreation disappear in the shed?," Forbes said. "The answer is definitely no, it will not. We would not just let that spill over into the shed. This is a very careful offering for the bulkhead only." As for the length of the interim lease, Jamestown has asked for 15 years, and Forbes said that will be negotiated.

Atlanta-based Jamestown's portfolio includes five buildings in San Francisco, including Waterfront Plaza at 1700 Montgomery St. across from Pier 29. The Jamestown L.P. proposal for Pier 29 is a collaboration between Jamestown L.P. (project lead), Plant Construction (general contractor), BCV Architects (architecture), Holmes Culley (structural engineers), Page & Turnbull (historic preservation), Gehl Studios (design) and Gibson, Dunn, & Crutcher (legal counsel).