Rare opportunity to develop San Francisco waterfront takes shape

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- The Bay Area needs more housing and a controversial site on San Francisco's waterfront may now help fill that gap.

The 21-acre Potrero Power Plant development site sits right on San Francsico Bay, south of Downtown. The power plant closed in six years ago, leaving behind one of the last large scale development locations in San Francisco.

"It's an incredible property right on San Francisco's glorious waterfront that is absolutely wonderful," said, Enrique Landa of Associate Capital, the investment firm that acquired the property last year. The site is one of the city's oldest industrial sites, dating back to the 1850's.

"It went from gun powder manufacturing, to barrel making, it later became a gas plant, a sugar facility, and then it served as San Francisco's power plant from 1900 to 2011 when the power station closed down," Landa Said

The plant was controversial. Neighborhood activists blamed it for polluting the local air and wanted it closed down. The city and the state public utilities commission eventually agreed...pulling the plug on the last power plant in San Francisco.

Work is currently underway to clean up the toxic legacy left behind from the site's previous tenants. When that work wraps up, developers already have plans for the future.

"Predominately our site will be housing, so our site will be more than 50 percent housing," said Landa.

They are planning to build 1,800 homes. The rest of the site will be a mix of offices, production, research, and retail space.

The developers have been listening to nearby neighborhood groups to fine tune their plans.

"I think that the developers have a vision for the project and those initial meetings set the parameters for the negotiation that is going to continue as the project moves through approval." J.R. Eppler is with the nearby Potrero Boosters Neighborhood Association.

Among the requests of neighborhood groups keeping the character of the neighborhood's industrial heritage by preserving the old buildings on the site, including the power plant and the smoke stack.

"That smoke stack even thought it was a power plant and dirty and polluting, is part of the character of the neighborhood and the neighbors are very enthusiastic that smoke stay and be featured as part of the project," said Eppler.

Associate Capital has retained Perkins+Will to plan the new neighborhood.

"I just see a blank canvas that is rich with ideas and creativity flowing through it," said Greg Johnson, Managing Director at Perkins+Will.

Johnson says the smoke stack will be reinforced and incorporated into the development, so will the old power plant. He envisions it as new hotel with stunning views of the bay and downtown. When complete, it would provide a link between the many projects already underway along the waterfront.

"This is going to transform, and really change, and really bring the culmination to all the great ideas along the waterfront to a conclusion," said Johnson.

If all goes as planned, the first buildings should be ready for occupancy within 5 years.

(Written and produced by Ken Miguel)
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