By Nancy Amdur
An influx of office, retail and residential space will be added to San Francisco’s Mission Bay market over the next few years if a $1.6 billion development proposed for a 22-acre waterfront site adjacent to AT&T Park is completed as planned. But the project’s two high-rise residential towers, which far exceed city height restrictions for waterfront developments, are fueling local opposition and a ballot initiative that could forestall their construction and impact nearby projects.
“The port is excited about the project,” said Phil Williamson, a project manager at the Port of San Francisco, which manages and maintains the land. “We’ve been working on it since 2005, so there’s a lot of good mileage behind it.”
Plans are on target for the mixed-use Mission Rock development to begin construction at Seawall Lot 337 and Pier 48 in 2016, with occupancy slated for 2017-18 and completion in 2022, depending on the market, Williamson said.
Mission Rock is outlined as a waterfront neighborhood comprising 3.6 million square feet split among 11 parcels bounded by the China Basin Channel, Third Street, Mission Rock Street and San Francisco Bay. The project includes plans for a 5-acre public space facing the bay.
Each lot will be developed individually as the market allows. “We put the project into four potential phases,” said Fran Weld, director of real estate for the San Francisco Giants Development Services, the project developer.
Significantly, the project will add 1 to 1.7 million square feet of office space to Mission Bay’s slim office inventory. Office rents in San Francisco are growing at one of the fastest clips nationwide thanks in part to the expansion within the tech industry. Shrinking vacancy rates in Mission Bay/China Basin have pushed the area’s average asking rate to $66.41 per square foot for Class A office space, the highest in the city, according to a fourth quarter 2013 report by CBRE Global Research and Consulting. Additionally, there is a need for large blocks of space in San Francisco as the number of deals for more than 100,000 square feet dropped to seven in 2013, versus 12 in 2012, partially due to declining availability.
Also included in the Mission Rock project are a total of eight acres of parks and public space, including a 5.5-acre bay-fronting China Basin Park; 650 to 1,500 residential rental units–with an as-yet-undetermined number of units reserved for affordable housing for low- and moderate-income levels; 250,000 square feet of retail, restaurants and public amenities; and a parking garage to be shared with AT&T Park. The development will create 4,800 construction and 10,000 permanent jobs.
Anchor Brewing Company will launch the project’s first phase. The alcoholic beverage producer, home of Anchor Steam beer, plans to open production and distribution facilities on Pier 48 in 2016. The location will feature a restaurant and museum and offer public tours. The brewery, located in San Francisco since 1896, also will maintain its Potrero Hill location.
However, as with any multi-decade project, there likely will be bumps in the road, Weld said.
One barrier may be coming soon. The No Wall On the Waterfront campaign group is busy collecting signatures to add a referendum to the June ballot requiring voter approval to strengthen current waterfront height restrictions, which range from 40 to 105 feet. The Mission Rock project includes two residential towers measuring 320 and 380 feet. As it stands, the San Francisco Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors can override height restrictions.
The group needs 9,702 signatures by Feb. 3 and expects to meet that goal, said campaign director Jon Golinger.
The referendum likely will not keep Mission Rock from moving forward as it is still in the design stage, but it could prove troublesome for future waterfront developments such as the proposed Golden State Warriors pavilion at Pier 30-32.
“This measure impacts every project proposed along port-managed land on either side of Embarcadero, but only those that attempt to raise height limits,” Golinger said. “The Giants’ plans are still being shaped, so there are opportunities for them to figure out how to minimize impact.”
Golinger said the campaign is not anti-building but aims to be proactive in protecting the waterfront.
“We want to keep San Francisco’s waterfront open and accessible unlike most other waterfronts around the world,” he said.
The Giants development team is focused on completing the environmental impact report to comply with the California Environmental Quality Act and is developing sustainable design strategies.
“We want to create a great corner of Mission Bay with parks, small streets and retail and pedestrian use,” Weld said. “Where the height goes will be something we figure out with the community in the next two years.”
Rendering by Hargreaves Associates