In November, Forest City’s proposed 28-acre mixed-use project on a currently vacant, deteriorating SF Port property will be going to the San Francisco voters for approval. Their measure asks the voters to approve a height limit bump from the current 40 to 90 feet on the parcel. If approved by the voters, this project will include a wide mix of new uses, with significant amounts of office, retail and open space, as well as a range of 1,000 to 2,000 homes.
A complicating issue for the Pier 70 initiative is that a couple of weeks ago, the California Attorney General, on behalf of the State Lands Commission (SLC), filed a lawsuit against Prop B, the waterfront height limit ballot initiative approved by SF’s voters in June 2014. The passage of Prop B is the reason that Forest City has prepared this ballot initiative in the first place. The SLC’s main argument against Prop B is that it unlawfully gives SF’s voters authority over zoning issues on Port-owned land that should properly be administered in trust for the people of California, not just the residents of San Francisco. The lawsuit specifically questioned the legality of Forest City’s ballot measure, so it’s unclear what effect the SLC’s lawsuit against Prop B will have on their proposal, even if it is approved by the voters.
This puts SFHAC in a curious position because, while we vociferously and actively opposed Prop B for just the reasons mentioned in the lawsuit, there’s a lot to like about Forest City’s proposal.
After reviewing the project on July 23rd, SFHAC supports the increase in height and endorses this ballot measure because the 90 feet limit is both appropriate and necessary to make the project financially feasible. It’s worth noting that the height limit on Pier 70 was 90 feet until the 1970s when it was down-zoned to 40 feet in order to protect the existing waterfront industrial uses. In light of how the City has changed since then and the challenges we face, the lower height limit is no longer justifiable.
Pier 70 is an excellent location for new housing. The SFHAC has long advocated for new housing at Pier 70 to help improve our jobs-housing balance in the southeastern City. As this area continues to evolve into a significant regional employment center, it is vital that we build much more housing and bring it into closer proximity to the jobs that are being created. If properly designed, we do not believe housing will conflict with the existing industrial uses like ship repair.
The Pier 70 development would activate this derelict area for new residents and workers and would provide well-designed open space for them, and essentially create a new, lively, diverse neighborhood along the waterfront. This land is currently grossly underutilized and mostly walled off to the community.
Forest City deserves special praise for its plan to make 30 percent percent of the total unit count affordable at below-market-rates — or up to 600 home for low- and middle-income individuals. Roughly half of the affordable homes are intended to result from the Inclusionary Housing program, funded by the market-rate development, while the other half will would result from land dedications administered by the Mayor’s Office of Housing. The exact number of units cannot be determined at this time and will be established as the project is built over the coming years. We believe it is a commendable, imaginative and flexible plan that promises to create a thriving, complete, mixed-income community.
Extensive community input, the development of 9-acres of waterfront parks, and preservation of historic buildings are additional reasons why this project deserves your support. The SFHAC encourages you to vote “yes” in November on the Pier 70 increased height proposal.