8 Washington is good for San Francisco

Since the Embarcadero Freeway was town down in 1991, San Francisco has been working to transform the city’s waterfront into a vibrant urban corridor connecting the city’s downtown core with adjacent neighborhoods, tourist attractions and the Bay. Indeed, developments such as the Ferry Building and Rincon Park have helped bring a new vibrancy to the area. San Francisco now has the opportunity to continue its vision with the 8 Washington development planned for the corner of Embarcadero and Washington Streets.

Located on Seawall Lot 351 and adjacent properties, 8 Washington will bring housing, retail and open space to an area which is now dominated by private tennis courts, surface parking lots and chain link fence. The 8 Washington project has been praised by urban design critics for its promise to improve waterfront access, open views of the Bay, and create new public space for residents and visitors. In total, the project will deliver 165 housing units, 20,000 square feet of retail, an underground parking garage and 29,000 square feet of parks, recreation and open space.

The economic benefits of 8 Washington are significant. The project will provide the city with $16.5 million upfront, and $1 million annually through fees and property taxes. The cash-strapped Port will receive at least an additional $60 million in land, rent and transfer payments over the next 66 years — along with tens of millions in Infrastructure Finance District funding. Financed entirely by private investors, 8 Washington will create 250 construction jobs and more than 140 permanent jobs on site.

As cities across the state struggle to keep redevelopment alive, San Francisco should not squander an opportunity of this magnitude. Unfortunately, a small group of vocal critics are attempting to stall the project. They claim the project does not fit the neighborhood. They say the proposed building height is too tall and that construction will deprive the neighborhood of its primarily recreation facility. It’s time for these claims to be put to rest so that this important project for our city can move forward.

Developed over six years with input from the community, the project’s developers have re-worked design plans to accommodate neighborhood concerns. The building now includes a stepped design so that it tapers down from 12 stories to four stories near the waterfront. In fact, the height of the highest portion of the building is half the height of the nearest residential building and a quarter the height of the nearest commercial building. As for the recreation facility, it will be replaced by an expanded fitness and aquatic center, while shuttle service is provided to nearby clubs for existing members during construction.

The 8 Washington project is good for San Francisco. It invests in our city’s seawall and Port infrastructure. It delivers substantial fiscal benefit to the city in a time of continued budget uncertainty. And it helps us realize our vision of continued urban renewal along the Embarcadero. Now is the time to put this project back on track and reconnect the city with its waterfront.