Concerns linger over plans to transform Bay island into city of the future
The massive redevelopment of Treasure Island in San Francisco Bay has cleared all regulatory hurdles and is now officially green-lighted for construction as early as next year. But the project’s eco-credentials are still in dispute.
As San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee signed off on the project last week, environmental groups were pondering a lawsuit. They’re calling the $1.5 billion project to remake the former military base too car-centric to be labeled “sustainable.” And they say housing as many as 19,000 people on bay fill is too risky with the triple threat of earthquakes, tsunamis, and sea level rise.
“We should rename this not ‘Treasure Island’ but ‘Fantasy Island’,” said former San Francisco supervisor Aaron Peskin on a recent episode of KQED’s Forum.
Peskin joined environmental groups — the Sierra Club, Wild Equity Institute, Golden Gate Audubon, and Arc Ecology – and island resident Kenneth Masters to call for further environmental review. They claim that city officials violated the California Environmental Quality Act because the project description lacked enough details for a thorough review of environmental impacts, among other complaints. The city contends otherwise.
To assuage critics about traffic, city officials and the project developer, Lennar Corp., lowered the number of parking spaces on the island by 470. But critics still complain that 10,680 spaces – one per household, which is more than San Francisco – is still too many.
“Cars are so 20th Century,” said Rebecca Evans of the Sierra Club at recent packed meeting of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. “We really haven’t gotten away from automobiles.”
The environmental groups say that all those cars will jam an already congested Bay Bridge and prevent public buses from achieving speedy service for island commuters. The major public transit feature, a high-speed ferry to downtown San Francisco, will run every 50 minutes — far too infrequently for busy commuters, critics contend. Roughly half the island residents are expected to commute by car.
The project still has plenty of supporters because other aspects read like a laundry list in sustainable design: solar power, plenty of open space, an organic farm, cluster development, and energy efficiency. For those groups opposed, taking the city to court may be the only other option for a do-over.
“We are fundamentally interested in litigating this issue,” said Saul Bloom, executive director of Arc Ecology, one of the groups that was party to the appeal. “Nothing is off the table.”
But for cash-strapped non-profits going to court is a tough choice. They have 30 days from the time of city approval to make a decision.