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Redevelopment of Treasure Island/Yerba Buena

Whose Islands Are These?

Treasure and Yerba Buena islands, known collectively as the former Naval Station Treasure Island, are soon to be transferred (for the most part) to the City of San Francisco. Both the natural YBI, with its remnant indigenous habitats, and the anthropogenic TI, created from mud and sand dredged from the bottom of the Bay, hold great potential for benefiting the Bay-Delta ecosystem and its human inhabitants.

Whether that potential is realized depends on a redevelopment process now underway, and more specifically on the outcome of the negotiations between the Treasure Island Development Authority Board of Directors (a redevelopment commission appointed by the Mayor) and the proposing private development team (Treasure Island Community Development, LLC).

Sierra Club members are needed to help assure that the public will benefit from the reuse of these islands.

Treasure Island Redevelopment - Let's Do It Right!

The redevelopment of Treasure and Yerba Buena Islands provides an unparalleled opportunity for San Francisco to become the "City that Knows How" in the realm of comprehensive, long-term sustainable development.

Transportation Plan for Treasure and Yerba Buena Islands - moving in the right direction, but a long way to go

The long-awaited Draft Transportation Plan for Treasure and Yerba Buena Islands was released in January 2008. It deserves praise for many enlightened goals, but it also has serious shortcomings.

The redevelopment of the islands presents an unparalleled opportunity to create the Bay Area's healthiest community for both residents and visitors.

The most recent land-use concept for the islands (see January-February 2008 Yodeler, page 10) exemplifies compact development and offers the potential for a truly sustainable transportation program - but it can work only with the support of a correspondingly forward-thinking transportation plan.

Admirably, the new Transportation Plan aims for reduced dependence on the automobile. Towards this end, it includes:

  • frequent ferry and bus service
  • charges for all parking;
  • unbundled parking in the residential developments - i.e. rental or purchase of housing is separate from that of parking spaces;
  • a bike "library";
  • extensive bike routes;
  • car-share pod(s);
  • locating 79% of the residential units within a 10-minute walk of the transit hub.

The problems

The plan, however, defers serious discussion of the crucial issue of how to fund the high level of public transportation it calls for.

One funding component would be an electronically collected fluctuating "congestion-management fee" for residents leaving and entering the island in cars. The proposal rests on the assumption that it will be possible to set up a special government authority that will index the fees to the level of congestion and the funding needs of transit services. The fee would be higher during hours of peak traffic, and we fear that drivers could respond mainly by spreading out the times of day of their trips rather than shifting to transit.

Parking revenue is proposed as the other main source of funding for transit, but the plan fails to mention that in San Francisco all curbside parking fees go to Muni, and the parking tax on commercial parking goes to Muni, the general fund, and seniors. It is unclear whether parking revenues collected on Treasure Island could be dedicated to the island's own transit program.

The Club looks forward to working with the development team on a realistic and fair funding program.

Another problem is the abundance of parking spaces. The plan considers three different development scenarios. The densest option calls for 5,500 residential units (at build-out) and 7,895 parking spaces. This disproportion would cancel out many of the benefits of compact development. The acreage devoted to car spaces could be used more productively for more dwellings, parkland, or other public uses. Worse, the excessive parking could induce the developer to reduce the price for residential parking and could provide an incentive for more use of cars on the islands.

A fundamental flaw is the plan's objective regarding the Bay Bridge: "[T]otal peak period vehicle trips should be similar to the number of trips generated when Treasure Island was operating as a Naval Base." There is no evidence that traffic congestion at that time was acceptable, and it has only gotten worse. Further, since that time society has learned to recognize the threat of global warming, the national-security implications of the depletion of fossil fuels, and the health and environmental impacts of car-related pollution. The Transportation Plan should assure that the new development generates far fewer car trips than the Navy did.

Freeing residents from dependence on cars

The plan fails to analyze or address the special needs of families with children - for efficient travel to childcare, school, recreation, shopping, etc. A walkable, bikeable, transit-oriented community would help restore the ability of children to negotiate their environment independently and play outdoors safely. Parents should be able to walk alongside their children rather strapping them into carseats and sitting in front of them with backs turned. A healthy community should foster physical activity.

The plan needs to create easy, attractive, efficient, and inexpensive alternatives to the jumping-in-a-car habit: for example, grocery delivery service, shopping carts that can be taken home, three-wheeled bikes in the bike library, and availability of transport similar to electric golf carts.

The plan should pay more attention to the needs of those who cannot afford cars or who for a variety of reasons cannot drive. Meeting the needs of the car-less will enhance the quality of life for all, and will give those with cars a viable life-style choice.

Visitors

The plan inadequately addresses the transit needs of visitors. Much of the islands' acreage is in the Public Trust - land that must be used to benefit the public at large. The proposed route of the on-island transit system does not serve visitors to destinations of interest on the northern shoreline, to the wetland with its interpretive center, to the historic admirals' mansions, etc.

For the benefit of residents as well as visitors, more study is needed to compare bus service with ferry service, and to explore the potential for Muni to transport people around the islands as well as to them.

WhatYouCanDo

Show your support for the plan's forward-thinking features, and also take an active role in addressing its flaws and shortcomings. To become part of the San Francisco Group's Treasure Island/Yerba Buena Island Sustainability Campaign, contact Ruth Gravanis at gravanis -at- earthlink.net .

You can view the Draft Transportation Plan on the Treasure Island Development Authority's web site

What you can do:
Put yourself on the Club's email list to be notified of upcoming hearings and calls for action. Volunteer to do research, monitor meetings, write letters, review the EIR, analyze toxic cleanup documents, serve on the TI/YBI Citizens Advisory Board, etc.

For more info, please contact Ruth Gravanis <gravanis@earthlink.net>

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