Treasure Island plan foresees 'utopia' in SF bay

June 13, 2010 2:55:16 PM PDT
Cities around the world are looking to islands, both natural and manmade, to solve their expansion, transportation and housing problems. San Francisco sees its future in Treasure Island.

A cutting-edge plan envisions a residential utopia in the middle of the bay.

In urban architect Craig Hartman's ideal world, a diverse population generates its own power on a sustainable island with organic farms, easy access to mass transit and no gas stations. He is hoping to morph Treasure Island into that world.

"You want to put the most density right on top of transit if you can," he says.

By concentrating people in high-rise towers, Hartman wants to transform the remaining 300 acres of Treasure Island into open space, with hiking trails, wetlands, recreational facilities and farmland.

"We're trying to bring the idea of food and its relationship to our lifestyles as close together as possible," Hartman says.

He wants to redesign the wind-battered island by angling streets to minimize the Pacific jet stream and maximize sunlight. He uses a virtual wind tunnel to see how certain buildings will shield common areas.

"So, the buildings block the wind from these parks, yet the sun is coming this way. So, we're maximizing the amount of daylight in the park itself," he says.

But, Hartman's new urbanism faces an old problem -- cars. The plan allows for 8,000 more vehicles on the island, possibly adding more traffic to the Bay Bridge.

"With 8,000 more cars on the island, I think it's going to be crazy busy out here. It's going to feel a lot more like in San Francisco," says Treasure Island Scott Kosloski.

And, there is only two exit and entry points onto Treasure Island from the Bay Bridge.

"They're going to have to create bigger exits," Kosloski says. "That's going to be a real legitimate logistic issue."

There is a plan to widen the ramps, but San Francisco Development Director Jack Sylvan also has a plan to encourage the use of mass transit.

"We're providing a series of carrots and sticks to encourage you to not use your car," he says.

The "stick" is a hefty fee for using your vehicle during peak commuting hours. The "carrot" is a ferry service running every 10 minutes to and from San Francisco and a special bus lane on the bridge.

The ferry and bus terminal would be a walk away for most residents.

Hartman says, "The intention is to fine-tune transportation behavior so people find it more convenient to use public transportation."

It is also to give up the freedom and independence of driving a car.

The sparkling skyline across the bay would cost San Francisco somewhere in the range of $6 billion. If it works, the manmade island will have been transformed into the most environmentally-sustainable project in U.S. history.


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