The Transformative Mixed-Use Project Will Break Ground Just South of the Bay Bridge
By Jacob Bourne, Contributing Writer
San Francisco is poised for a transformative project that will not only provide good union jobs but also stimulate the local economy, offer affordable housing, and activate a dilapidated stretch of the waterfront for public use.
Strada Investment Group, project sponsor of the privately financed $1.2-billion Pier 30-32 development proposal, has committed to hiring 100% union building trades workers for the landmark project.
Rudy Gonzalez, secretary-treasurer of the San Francisco Building and Construction Trades Council, praised the project, saying, “It’s great when we have the opportunity to be a part of something really innovative, both from a waterfront-resiliency standpoint and from an environmental standpoint. This is the first project that I can recall that gives natural resources back to the public.”
Sabrina Hernandez, business representative for IBEW Local 6, shared Gonzalez’s enthusiasm, stressing the urgency of the new build: “We have about 10 to 15 years before this underutilized property crumbles, so let’s stop talking and get this project done to provide something positive for the community.”
The 13-acre pier, roughly situated two blocks south of the Bay Bridge along the Embarcadero in South Beach, is positioned as a critical asset for disaster response services, a deep-water berth, and a space with potential for maritime use. The land includes a seawall lot across the street from the pier. All of the land is currently being used as pubic parking.
However, with a current lifespan of only 10 to 15 years and deck elevations well below projected near-term sea level rise, the Pier 30-32 land has become a liability for its owner, the Port of San Francisco (SF Port). More than $200 million will be needed for demolition and reconstruction alone, according to estimates.
In response to these challenges, SF Port issued a request for proposals (RFP) to begin a public-private partnership in February 2020.
Strada/Trammell Crow responded with an RFP and ended up landing the deal.
“The developer, Strada, has made a full commitment to union labor,” Gonzalez said “It’s refreshing to have a developer who’s not looking to rock the boat. They’re actually looking to comply with existing height limits and have done a really good job engaging community stakeholders.”
Hernandez noted the economic benefits of the project, saying, “We’re in the midst of a struggling economy, and we need to be supporting projects like this that will create 1,000 high-paying union construction jobs during a time when there (have been) fewer cranes in the air since 2009.”
The project will include 375,000 square feet of office space, 25,000 square feet of restaurants, and the removal of six acres of pier, as well as 850 residential units, with 25% designated as affordable housing. That housing is slated to be fully funded by the project, without additional subsidies from the City.
Following two years of community meetings, the project has gained key benefits, including waterfront activation, a market hall, public plazas, and public swimming facilities. Engagement with the Bay Conservation and Development and State Lands commissions’ staff resulted in a plan that emphasizes public uses and offers continuous pier-perimeter public access.
Current State Senate legislation, led by Scott Weiner through bill SB 273, supports the project as a whole, recognizing its benefit to the Tidelands Trust.
Gonzalez is optimistic about SB 273’s progress.
“We’re fairly confident that with support from all of the building trades unions, the firefighters union, and various community constituencies, Senator Weiner will usher SB 273 through the legislative process with relative ease,” Gonzalez said.
The project is expected to bolster maritime and emergency response capabilities by retaining and enhancing the deep-water berth, seismically strengthening the pier and seawall, and addressing increased demand from the cruise industry. Ecologically, the development will remove 45.5% of the existing pier, integrate native plant species, create artificial reefs, improve stormwater management and water quality, and eliminate the need for harmful dredging.
Resilience is another key aspect of the project. A portion of the project’s total development price tag includes a $400 million public infrastructure investment — also privately funded — that will raise the pier’s grade, seismically strengthen the Embarcadero Seawall, and ensure sustainable building design using cross-laminated timber construction.
The project will enhance public access, recreational opportunities, and waterfront experiences with continuous pier-perimeter public access, three acres of open space, water recreation, heated pools, and the elimination of blight and dead space. The hope is for food halls, restaurants, and retail to fill in and activate the Embarcadero, with its bay views.
Additionally, the project will provide swimming safety instruction to disadvantaged communities, support BIPOC entrepreneurs, offer housing access, provide equity investment opportunities, and explore the economic history of the waterfront. This comprehensive approach will ensure that the Pier 30-32 development not only delivers good union jobs but also benefits the greater community for decades to come.