Let’s build the Treasure Island community 

It seems hard to believe that after a dozen tortuous years of paperwork, hearings and compromises, nobody except a few ultrapurist ecology groups and some Telegraph Hill residents fronted by former Supervisor Aaron Peskin noticed the $5.8 billion, 8,000-home Treasure Island development had an environmental impact report that was, in their words, “inadequate and incomplete.”

But now an appeal has been filed. So creation of a new “green” 19,000-population community will not receive final approval from the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday. That had seemed ready to happen during a few relieved moments Wednesday after the Budget and Finance Subcommittee, without any drama, approved Treasure Island’s financial plan and sent the project for a full board vote.

The environmental report was already approved by the Planning Commission on April 21 in a contentious marathon hearing. A long line of speakers thoroughly debated the issue. Some glowingly portrayed Treasure Island’s potential to become a self-sustained ecotopia.

Others blasted the project for its last-minute reduction of affordable-housing units, for the thousands more vehicles it would add into already-crowded Bay Bridge traffic, and for the man-made island’s presumed susceptibility to earthquakes and tsunamis.

A city budget analyst’s report prepared for the Budget and Finance Subcommittee meeting forecasted a highly lucrative cash infusion for The City’s general fund. San Francisco is set to spend $156.8 million and take in $236.8 million during 20 years of construction at the World War II Navy base, originally built on landfill for the 1939 World’s Fair. The project would generate thousands of well-paying construction jobs for the 8,000 much-needed housing units. After construction, the project stands to generate even more money for The City. For the first time, the island would have a complete range of community amenities, including retail and restaurants, a school, a hotel, easy parking, open space, parks and ball fields.

A decade of engineering work has produced credible state-of-the-art plans for protecting Treasure Island against earthquakes and tsunamis. And most of The City’s $156.8 million infrastructure obligation would be spent on improving access to the island, including more Muni buses and a ferry terminal with downtown service every 15 minutes.

Treasure Island would have either 25 or 30 percent affordable housing, depending on whether The City can obtain a legislative waiver exempting it from Gov. Jerry Brown’s plan to dismantle California’s redevelopment agencies and end their less-costly construction financing. It is hard to imagine a more win-win project than Treasure Island.

So now the Board of Supervisors is scheduled to consider project approval and the environmental report appeal at its June 7 meeting. At least the report protest will hopefully be the final obstacle delaying Treasure Island’s groundbreaking. San Francisco needs to obtain full benefits from the underused treasure it has waiting in the middle of the Bay.

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