City Hall’s Usual Bickering Costs City Valuable Waterfront Development

In 2012, somewhere on the piers of San Francisco, America’s Cup race teams will prepare for the prestigious yacht race while a few rundown piers unnecessarily stain the famously beautiful San Francisco waterfront .

Tearing down the obtrusive piers in question—piers 30 and 32 between the Ferry Building and Fisherman’s wharf—would cost San Francisco somewhere around $40,000,000; the cost to remodel the piers is estimated to be $100,000,000.

San Francisco foolishly rejected a less painful solution: rather than approve a deal for Oracle to remodel piers 30 and 32 in exchange for a 66-year lease to the wharves, San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors threw the plan overboard.

With race-dates creeping up, a group of undecided, asinine fools in the wee-depths of San Francisco City Hall decided try their hand at “politics” last week. Rather than approve a deal which would have improved part of San Francisco’s waterfront and would have brought business and tourism money into the City, San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors did everything they could to draw out negotiations until Oracle got tired of playing games and pulled out.

We don’t know about everything that went on behind those closed negotiation doors, but it seems evident to me that our City politicians are to blame. The process of project approval at City Hall moves at a glacial pace, and seldom are business-friendly negotiations approved. While there exists the possibility Oracle created a loophole in their proposal which would have put the burden of redevelopment on taxpayers, I am not convinced the angels running City Hall are rushing to protect San Franciscans from paying more taxes either.

In a city that relies heavily on tourism, a strong infrastructure is key. San Francisco’s infrastructure, tourist-related and otherwise, is becoming more and more run down—public roads, sidewalks, sewers, electrical posts, and part of the waterfront are all in need of urgent improvements. Assuming taxpayers are hesitant to fund all these projects themselves, one bold solution is to support private development. If San Francisco was going to remodel piers 30 and 32 only on public funds, chances are, private businesses would rent spaces there for decades to come anyway.

One might think I’m creating a big fuss about the waterfront, but, take AT&T Park as an example. A measly decade and a half ago, the China Basin neighborhood on the eastern waterfront of San Francisco was a run-down, “don’t go there” kind of place. Now, AT&T Park brings many locals and non-residents of San Francisco alike into the vibrant neighborhood on a regular basis. This park also sparked UCSF and housing developers to develop land just south of the park, and even now, development and improvements continue along a historically depressed Third Street.

Any hopes that piers 30 and 32 might spark a parallel situation, unfortunately, are gone. Nothing on the scale of AT&T Park will be happening in the near future. Bringing America’s Cup to San Francisco is a step in the right direction. But stopping private interests from developing the necessary infrastructure for the regatta just goes to show that City Hall blew it, again.


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