People walking down The Embarcadero between the Ferry Building and the northern waterfront in San Francisco are treated to some of the most iconic views in the world. But along with the panoramic views of San Francisco Bay and the backdrop of The City are aging piers, and housing and businesses in need of updating.
The now-defunct deal with the America’s Cup was the wrong way to update the waterfront and nearby land, but there is a project before the Planning Commission that is an example of how San Francisco can back smart redevelopment along the Bay.
The private development at 8 Washington St. has been years in the planning phase, and it is time for The City to approve it. The site, which sits just north of Justin Herman Plaza along The Embarcadero, is currently the home of the Golden Gateway Tennis & Swim Club, but developers want to build 165 luxury condos there.
There are a few pointed criticisms of the project, including that a club that serves modest-income residents would be eliminated and that the project does not meet housing needs for middle- and lower-income residents of San Francisco.
The arguments against the project, however, fail to take into consideration the larger redevelopment needs of the waterfront. Every project proposed along the Bay should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis, but also be part of a larger picture for improving prime real estate in San Francisco.
In this case, a sports club that allows people to play tennis will be lost, but in its place The City will gain 29,000 square feet of public open space for people who live and work nearby to use. Also in the project is a 4,500-square-foot playground and 20,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space that will open up what is now a fenced-off area to accessibility from The Embarcadero.
San Francisco needs to be wary of overdeveloping vast stretches of The City for luxury housing, but this cannot be the excuse for blocking development of every large project that comes before the Planning Commission, especially since the 8 Washington project will fund 33 affordable-housing units off-site.
The market-rate housing at the 8 Washington project is just one piece of a larger development that will create a community hub along the waterfront. More foot traffic along The Embarcadero is needed in the long run to interest other businesses to move there and spend money in redeveloping Port of San Francisco property, which needs expensive infrastructure repairs. The Port also benefits from the 8 Washington project since the agency owns a piece of the land.
Development along the Bay cannot be done hastily or in backroom deals that are bad for The City. The 8 Washington project is neither of these, and it is time for San Francisco to take a step forward in fixing the waterfront by approving the development.