By Meghan Hall
Efforts to develop Treasure Island and the adjacent Yerba Buena Island have been underway for almost two decades as the City of San Francisco, Treasure Island Development Authority and others have hashed out a plan for the islands’ future. Now, that future is closer than ever, and the $2 billion project has kicked off with vertical construction on Yerba Buena Island beginning in June. The Yerba Buena Island project, developed by San Francisco-based Wilson Meany and real estate investment firm Stockbridge Capital Group, will include 266 residences and 72 acres of parks and open space.
“Yerba Buena Island is a really unusual property. One of the reasons we all so passionately love it is that it’s this very rare thing,” explained Christoper Meany, founder of Wilson and Meany. “It’s still part of the City of San Francisco but it is a natural island that is a mile long. It is a very limited number of homes in this extraordinary park and open space setting. It’s really a place where you can live an elevated life, and there’s a real psychological wellness factor to the project.”
In addition to Wilson Meany and Stockbridge, Hart Howerton, CMG Landscape Architecture, BDE Architecture and Walter Hood Design have been hired to help bring the Yerba Buena Island project to fruition.
“We’re all collaborating together, and it is really quite brilliant how it has all come out,” said Meany.
Yerba Buena Island itself totals 100 acres, and the development will be comprised of townhomes, as well as a mix of condominiums and larger flats, of which 25 percent will be offered below market rate. The project will also include a 14,000 square foot club house complete with amenities such as a pool and a gym as well as numerous walking trails and public park space.
According to Meany, although Yerba Buena Island is about 100 acres, a conscious decision was made by stakeholders to limit development on the island to just the 266 residences and park facilities. The decision was made, said Meany, not just at the request of conservationists and environmentalists, but to provide a type of housing product that is different than the denser multifamily development so frequently found in the city of San Francisco.
“The emphasis for Yerba Buena Island was that we had to restore the natural habitat and make it a resource,” said Meany. “When you have something so rare, you plan it differently because it is such a unique asset.”
Meany added that while San Francisco is a bustling and bright city, filled with eager and hard-working professionals, and a significant development pipeline, Yerba Buena Island is meant to provide a respite from the hustle and bustle of urban living — while still being within ten minutes of San Francisco’s urban core.
“San Francisco has got a very humming economy, and it is so strong right now that its strength almost becomes a little bit of a negative. Everything is more expensive; everybody is living in smaller units,” said Meany. “We wanted to give a little bit of an antidote to San Francisco. People want to live a balanced life, and that is under pressure right now in San Francisco. So what we really think Yerba Buena Island is, is an opportunity to re-root people in what should be the San Francisco lifestyle. Work hard, but live a balanced life.”
Development on nearby Treasure Island, a man-made landform originally built in the 1930s to host the 1930 Golden Gate Exposition, will be denser and larger in scale. In 2011, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors approved a 20-year plan to develop the site. When complete, the Treasure Island project — of which the Yerba Buena Island is a part — will include 8,000 homes, three hotels totaling 500 rooms, 235,000 square feet of retail, 100,000 square feet of office and more than 300 acres of public parks and open space. 350,000 square feet of historic adaptive re-use projects, to restore the property’s historic buildings, are also part of the greater development plans.
“We have been very privileged in that we have been working with a series of joint venture partners that includes Stockbridge Capital Group and Lennar for about 15 years now in the larger redevelopment of what is Naval Station Treasure Island,” explained Meany. “And the project, after years of entitlement, years of infrastructure, is finally getting to the end of that process and is developing the first pieces. Yerba Buena Island is the first piece of the larger project that is being delivered as a whole.”
Ground broke on The Bristol in June, which will contain 124 of the 266 units on Yerba Buena Island. The Bristol will be the largest building on the island, and construction on the remaining elements of the Yerba Buena project are expected to begin at the end of the year. Delivery for Yerba Buena Island is expected in the spring of 2021. A sales gallery will open at the beginning of next year, at which Wilson Meany and Stockbridge will begin contracting units for sale.
“In a city that is totally underserved by housing and has been for decades, we’re offering 266 really special homes,” said Meany. “This project is really unique; there isn’t going to be anywhere else in the city of San Francisco where you can live with this high-quality environment.”