Treasure Island plan to go before SF planners

April 21, 2011 6:22:58 PM PDT
The effort to polish Treasure Island into a sparkling gem in the bay is the current focus of the San Francisco Planning Commission, which will vote on the issue Thursday evening. The question is whether to approve a $1.5 billion development project there.

If approved it would become one of San Francisco's biggest developments in decades. As one city official put it, the whole thing has been "vetted to death." There have been 250 public hearings and the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) has been three years in the making.

If plans go through Treasure Island could turn into a 400-acre island paradise with a stunning view of San Francisco's skyline.

"It's really an opportunity to create a new community from the ground up," says Michael Tymoff, deputy director of the Treasure Island Development Project, the agency that runs Treasure Island.

A sustainable urban development with 8,000 residential units, a business district, a 450-foot high-rise, organic farms and lots of open space. It's been in the planning stages since the Navy closed the base 14 years ago.

Proponents say it's been studied to death, while opponents say it's a pipe dream.

"This fantasy, it's time to tell people the truth," says Tony Hall, a former San Francisco supervisor who's now running for mayor. He also served as administrator of Treasure Island six years ago. "This thing on top of one of the most dangerous earthquake faults in the Bay Area, we're going to build high-rises and organic gardens on top of toxic soil? I mean, who's kidding who?"

Treasure Island sits between two major faults. Geologists say its sandy soil could liquefy in a major quake. The low-lying manmade island could also be flooded by rising sea levels.

Tymoff says not to worry.

"There's about a $120 million, $130 million geotechnical and seismic stability program," says Tymoff. "In addition to that, we'll be raising the grades to address future potential sea level rise.

There's another gnawing question about the project -- cars. With perhaps 19,000 residents there and only two exit and entry points onto the island, their cars may worsen an already bad traffic problem on the Bay Bridge. But the plan calls for frequent ferry service, as well as a special bus lane on the bridge, all easily accessible to people who live there.

"About two-thirds of all residents will be within a 10-minute walk of that transit terminal," says Tymoff.

Transportation is just one of many important things the planning commission needs to consider tonight before they approve the EIR, and then the development itself. Affordable housing is another big issue ? they've had to reduce that number because of Gov. Jerry Brown's threat to eliminate redevelopment funds.


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