War of the waterfront - Page 3

Too many projects and too little planning on San Francisco's most valuable strip of land

San Francisco's excited for the new Exploratorium -- but is there a cohesive plan for our rapidly-developing waterfront?

Is it possible to handle all of the people coming and going to the waterfront (particularly on days where there's also a Giants game a few hundred yards south) entirely with mass transit? Maybe — "that's the kind of problem we'd like to have to solve," Radulovich said. Of course, the developers would have to kick in major resources to fund transit — "and," he said, "we don't even know what the bill would be, and we don't have the political will to stick it to the developers."

But a transit-only option for the waterfront is not going to happen — at the very least, thousands of Warriors fans are going to drive.

The overall problem here is that nobody has asked the hard questions: What do we want to do with San Francisco's waterfront? The Port, which owns much of the land, is in a terrible bind — the City Charter defines the Port as an enterprise department, which has to pay for itself with revenue from its operations, which made sense when it was a working seaport.

But now the only assets are real estate — and developing that land, for good or for ill, seems the only way to address hundreds of millions of dollars in deferred maintenance and operating costs on the waterfront's crumbling piers. And the City Planning Department, which oversees the land on the other side of the Embarcadero, is utterly driven by the desires of developers, who routinely get exemptions from the existing zoning. "There is no rule of law in the planning environment we live in," Radulovich said. So the result is a series of projects, each considered on its own, that together threaten to turn this priceless civic asset into a wall of concrete.