Port seeks $61M in bonds for parks 

The financially struggling Port of San Francisco is hoping to add $61 million of its open space projects to two city-sponsored parks bond measures proposed for 2008 and 2013.

On Monday, port officials met with a city committee charged with developing two separate $150 million bond measure proposals to support San Francisco’s Recreation and Park Department.

At a meeting of the Port Commission on Tuesday, Senior Waterfront Planner Dan Hodapp said that port officials "tried to show the bond committee that the public does not view the port as a different place from the rest of The City."

"We’re trying to get recognized as being part of The City’s open space system and look for funding for projects in that way, which would also advance port facilities," Hodapp said.

The port’s annual operating budget is just over $73 million. On Monday, Tina Olson, the port’s deputy director of finance and administration, presented a balanced budget for next year that includes an operating reserve of $8 million.

The port, however, has a 10-year capital plan that includes nearly $1.5 billion in needs, including overall repairs, replacement and seismic needs — and to date, it has only identified $491 million in funding for the anticipated work.

Port Executive Director Monique Moyer told commission members that the port doesn’t have the resources to invest in projects that would generate new revenue and that allocated capital funds are "spent … to maintain the status quo."

Additionally, potential revenue-generating commercial projects along the waterfront have stalled due to the high cost of rehabilitating city piers, as well as concerns that the projects don’t strike a balance between the developer’s profit needs and a state mandate that the area serve the public, among other issues.

Moyer said studies of development projects in other areas show that when a city or other local jurisdiction invests in "keystone projects" — projects such as parks that spur development — it sends a signal to builders and investors that the public agency was serious about transforming the area.

To that end, the port is asking The City’s Recreation and Park Department to set aside some of its own needs in order to provide funding for $61 million in open space projects at the waterfront.

Olson told commission members that the proposed $150 million figure was researched as the most that voters might be willing to bear twice within five years, for $300 million in total bonds.

"If the number goes up beyond $150 million and it doesn’t poll well, then we might kill the park projects," she said.

Among the waterfront open space projects the Port Commission hopes to include in the bond measures are putting a new center plaza in Fisherman’s Wharf, a new three-acre waterfront plaza at the edge of piers 23 and 27, a 400-foot long lawn at Brannan Street Wharf, improving conditions at the Bayfront Park at Mission Bay, a series of parks at the Blue Greenway and extensive restoration of Pier 70.


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Bonnie Eslinger

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