Treasure Island: 11 ayes, no sight

The Board of Supervisors doesn't see that Treasure Island is a bloated project that will vastly exceed the region's capacity to support it.


On June 7, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted 11-0 to reject an appeal of the Treasure Island environmental impact report. The appeal was brought by Arc Ecology and our colleagues the Sierra Club, Golden Gate Audubon Society, Wild Equity, former Sup. Aaron Peskin, and Yerba Buena Island resident Ken Masters.

The board will tell you that the Department of City Planning and the Mayor's Office of Economic and Workforce Development found the appeal lacking in merit.

In the appeal, we claimed the EIR lacked the specificity to qualify as a project EIR, which means that after it passes, the city will have substantially limited the ability of any future Board of Supervisors to address the project's actual environmental impacts. But these impacts cannot and will not be known until actual development proposals, none of which presently exist, are made.

Sup. Jane Kim and city planning staffers argued that the EIR had almost too much specificity. For example, without showing a single confirming diagram, project sponsors claimed they could cut as many as 100 stories off the proposed skyscrapers — yet keep the same number of condos without increasing the bulk, height, or number of buildings in the overall project. How? Through the Harry Potter-like magic of "flex buildings and zones."

The board will tell you that this project presents a vision of a new community unrivaled in the Bay Area and nation — a new Athens. But the supervisors don't seem to realize that it's a development with a population larger than Emeryville, about the size of Albany. Indeed, the separate dedicated buildings of affordable homes truly make Treasure Island like Athens of old, with poorer people segregated from the rich.

They don't see that this is a self-reflecting vision blithely unconcerned about the impacts it will have on the greater Bay Area region, and that it's a bloated project that will vastly exceed the region's capacity to support it. It's a project whose impacts will enslave legions of people to longer commutes as more cars flood the bridge, pushing traffic like rising sea levels into the upper reaches of East Bay freeways. Nor are project proponents particularly concerned about the impacts of air pollution blowing from the bridge and the region's freeways into Berkeley, Emeryville, and Oakland.

Finally, neither the supervisors, nor the city planners, nor the Office of Economic and Workforce Development seem to be aware that San Francisco currently has 30,000 vacant housing units. It will cost a projected $577,000 to build each Treasure Island unit. But more units could be built on San Francisco's mainland with almost no impact, simply by allowing rental units in the basements of some of our stock of 130,000 single-family homes.

That kind of housing isn't as luxurious as a 45-story view of the bay from Treasure Island perhaps — but at a cost of $100,000 to $200,000 per unit, more than half of those in-law apartments could be rented at or below market rate. Infill housing of that sort would also mean greater stability for established home owners, more jobs and business opportunities, and more riders for Muni.

Still, the appellants weren't trying to halt any project at Treasure Island. The appeal was about was fixing the deficiencies in the EIR and right-sizing the project so it can move forward with its benefits intact.

In the Tarot, the Five of Cups depicts an individual so besotted by that possibilities floating before his eyes that he stands mesmerized, believing they are at hand — of course, in reality he's fooling himself. In the case of Treasure Island, the supervisors and city officials are intoxicated by the visions floating in the bay — and are thus blinded to the better options of making this city and region more sustainable and affordable.


Weak. TI needs to happen AND conversion of in law units needs to happen.
I could care less about the perceived impacts to berk,oak, etc.

This statement is particularly laughable:
"Still, the appellants weren't trying to halt any project at Treasure Island"

Bridge for sale. CHEAP.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 15, 2011 @ 8:31 am

"I could care less about the perceived impacts to berk,oak, etc." I guess you live and work somewhere else? Maybe "perceived" is not what you meant to say? The California Environmental Quality Act Findings concluded that the adverse impacts of traffic and pollution from the project as proposed are both very significant and unavoidable-- I don't think it is a matter of 'perception'.

If there was a giant project in your 'backyard' that would make your commute a half hour (or more) longer, increase pollution in the air you breath, divert money from your local public schools, etc., perhaps you would care more than less!

Posted by Guest on Jun. 25, 2011 @ 12:10 pm

In order for it to work the TI development will need to add 19,000 residents. The Bay Bridge right now carries 250,000 trips a day, or 125,000 in each direction. Divide 125,000 by 5 lanes and you get 25,000 cars per lane. This means that in order to keep Bay Bridge congestion at its present level, they'll need to ADD A LANE to the Bay Bridge just to accommodate the TI traffic!

Use ferryboats instead? How many trips would that take? 19,000 people divided by 300 passengers per trip, two trips per day (to and from TI). That's 126 extra ferryboat trips a day, assuming that every trip is filled to capacity, which will be unlikely. It's more like a 150 average per trip, meaning it would require 252 trips a day in addition to the existing trips on the bay. That's a LOT of ferryboat trips.

AND we're not even talking about the ADDITIONAL people who would be using the luxury hotels and shopping centers on TI. Make that an extra 3,000 people and now we're talking about the need to move 22,000 people TWICE a day (to and from, remember).

In short, Treasure Island development in its present form will be a logistical nightmare, not only for the residents and visitors but for anybody who drives the Bay Bridge or has boats on the bay.

Posted by Hal Call on Jun. 15, 2011 @ 10:09 am

No doubt, not much thought has been given to how people will commute on a daily basis to and from the Island.

Indeed not much thought has been put into the traffic created by construction workers over the next 10 years.

Public transport, corporate coaches, working from home and local businesses might stave off some of the load. There will also be an east-west reverse commute for many but perhaps the biggest issue will be the need to create a west-bound on-ramp which will effectively close one west bound lane from the Island to San Francisco at peak hours.

Your math is a little bit off though, you're assuming every single resident is a working single commuter, that there's no children or retired people, no parents at home and no one working and living on the Island itself, a population of 19,000 will need infrastructure and undoubtedly some those workers will live locally.

Using the SF Planning Board's profile of San Francisco as a whole - 15% of the population of San Francisco is under 18 and a further 19% is over 60. Lets play out those averages on TI so we're really looking at 63% of a total occupancy of 19,000, around 12,000 people give or take, I don't see many people retiring in the coming 10-20 years with their 401ks and IRAs in the hole.

Of that 12,000 you could take away 3% that work from home. Probably an additional 5% for those employed locally in education, childcare, local government, tertiary services and so on, so we're down to approximately 11,000 people which translates roughly to 7,500 autos, about 50% of people in San Francisco commute alone, so I'm using that average to put people in autos but padding it as I do foresee a lot of single people living on the Island, at least initially until education an daycare is established.

I agree with your assertion, but lets try to get the math reasonable.

Posted by Phil Raven on Jun. 15, 2011 @ 12:57 pm

The Navy Draft EIS from 2002, required by NEPA and CEQA, looked at three reuse alternatives: Alternative 1, the most intense development scenario--the one preferred by the LRA (TIDA)-- included 2,850 dwelling units, included ferry terminals (!), and projected approximately 18,100 average daily vehicle trips. The project was later "scaled up", to roughly 6,000, and then 8,000 dwelling units. Simple math of such a scale-up would produce 50,800 average daily vehicle trips. Let say the proposed 'social-engineering' measures forcing folks to take the bus are 100% effective for the 25% of affordable housing residents, then 'only' 38,100 advt's-- an increase of ~15% more traffic on the bridge.

In case you haven't read about them, here are some of the fixes proposed by the developers to mitigate some of the traffic issues: somehow reducing the number of residents cars by not providing enough parking (10.5K for 8K units vs. SF avg. of 1.5/per unit = 12K), forcing all market rate households to buy MUNI passes, making the most westerly on-ramp for MUNI buses only, and best of all, congestion pricing: charging non-MUNI vehicles $5 to get on Bay Bridge during 6-8 hours of each day.

This bevy of punitive measures probably won't prevent long backups to get off TI/YBI during commute hours, or on Saturdays. One of two westbound ramps off TI/YBI onto the bridge will be MUNI only, so the ensuing backup may wrap all the way round YBI and down the causeway to TI-- but the lucky few who just need to get to jobs in the F.D. can pay $5 to ride the yet-to-be-funded ferries.

Btw, the CEQA Findings (Draft of April 13, 2011, Attachment A of EIR) studied traffic impacts and concluded impacts will be both "significant and unavoidable" for most identified impacts (which number 63). Impact TR-42, impact on auto traffic on the westbound on-ramp (off TI/YBI), would result in LOS F-- a level of service that translates as 'breakdown' or a 'constant traffic jam'-- during Peak Hours, that is for 6-8 hours six days a week.

So, even if they could add another lane to the SF-Oakland Bay Bridge (which they can't), that would not satisfactorily reduce the traffic impacts, especially upon the on/off ramps downtown and on TI/YBI. Sorry for cold facts shower!

Posted by Guest on Jun. 25, 2011 @ 1:09 pm

The Progressives can't win even when they are right. Quite a different situation than a few years ago. One thing you might try is not using Peskin as a spokesman. He publicly calls the Supervisors lightweights and 'hot messes' and then you wonder why they treat him like yesterday's garbage (they probably have a point there). I think this time he said they were 'complicit' in the highly juiced deal.

Stick with him, you're gonna lose every time.

Peskin might be right and Chiu is a lightweight. Which idiot made Chiu a Supervisor anyway? Oh...never mind.

Posted by Homer on Jun. 15, 2011 @ 9:58 pm