As the port turns - Page 2

Another private development proposal sinks. Piers are falling into the water. Is the Port of SF broken?

Any new hotels would be "built with somebody else's money," he reasoned, "and generate tax fund money which goes to the General Fund of the city of San Francisco."

Others weren't so excited. John Rizzo of the Bay Area chapter of the Sierra Club lamented the port's reliance on private development as a means of solving its problems.

"There's this massive infrastructure [problem], and the city [is telling] the port that you have to go out and find money with the resources you have, and what can they do? The resource they have is the waterfront, and the only thing they can do is develop it," he told us.

Rizzo called for the port to "be freed from [the] financial restrictions" of its enterprise agency status in order to preserve valuable open space from development. "We're forcing [the port] to take this waterfront and put big buildings on it, and that's not really what we want."

Jon Golinger of Citizens to Save the Waterfront, one of the groups that actively opposed the Mills Corp. mall, also cited problems with the port's reliance on development. The infrastructure crisis, he told us, is "a bigger problem, and we can't develop our way out of it alone. Certainly one project at a time is not working for the port or the community."

Neither Rizzo nor Golinger will comment on Peskin's ideas until their groups have studied them. But Golinger did say, "Any big ideas like hotels need to be part of a much bigger solution." For example, he cited the San Francisco County Transportation Authority, which receives funding from a dedicated half-cent city sales tax. He added that other port agencies are partially subsidized by public money, such as the Port of Portland in Oregon.

Port officials seem to be coming to grips with the magnitude of their predicament and the failure of their reliance on private development. The conclusion to the latest update on the port's 10-Year Capital Plan puts it bluntly: "The Port's private/public partnership development model is broken."

At the Feb. 13 commission meeting, port staff proposed several new methods for finding cash, including tapping into future city Recreation and Park Department general obligation bonds. Moyer told the commissioners that such an arrangement would be a "paradigm shift" in the way the port funds projects, not only because it would use the city's bond money, but also because the agency does not want to reimburse the General Fund, as it has been obligated to do since its inception.

One thing all parties agree on is something must be done. As Peskin told us, "The fact of the matter is, if we do nothing, we're going to lose a lot of these resources." *

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