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07.16.2008
Brave New World
SF voters authorize major development for Hunters and Candlestick Points
Courtesy Lennar Corporation

A San Francisco ballot measure named Proposition G got the green light on June 3, authorizing the second phase of a $1 billion mixed-used development in Hunters Point and Candlestick Point, two of the city’s least affluent and most isolated districts. The proposal by Lennar-Urban, a division of the Florida-based Lennar Corporation, will transform two decommissioned naval yards into multi-family housing, commercial development, and over 400 acres of open space. Although infrastructure work began on the site as early as 2006, construction on the project, designed by Vancouver-based architects IBI Group, is scheduled to break ground in fall of 2009.

The 771-acre site in the southeast corner of the city is currently occupied by Monster Park (formerly Candlestick Park), which will house the San Francisco 49ers football team until 2012. The 13 parcels of land are slated to receive about 15,000 units of high-rise, mid-rise, and low-rise multifamily housing, divided into two primary clusters. Each cluster of residential development is to be anchored with a commercial retail district. The former shipyards are also zoned for a two-million-square-foot high-tech industrial park, or possibly a new football stadium should the 49ers stay. More than half the site will become public open space, including a formal recreation area that runs the entire length of the project’s shoreline.

Proposition G represents the latest in a series of initiatives proposed for the area. Beginning in 1997, the city proposed a redevelopment plan for the Hunters Point shipyards; that same year voters backed a plan for a new football stadium in adjacent Candlestick Point anchored by a mixed-use commercial project. The stadium deal eventually proved unfeasible and the city moved to combine the two sites. Lennar signed on to develop a new conceptual design that the city’s Board of Supervisors approved in 2007. Because Lennar would be receiving the land from the city for free, a ballot proposition was necessary, and in cooperation with Mayor Gavin Newsom’s administration, both properties were combined under the single initiative. Lennar invested a reported $3.4 million to promote the June election initiative. A competing measure, Proposition F, would have required half the new homes to be affordable, a suggestion that Lennar claimed would economically hobble the project.

The development agreement also reflects San Francisco’s agenda for sustainable development, transit-first initiatives, diversity, and open space. Public transportation schemes are being developed, 30 percent of the housing units will still be below market rate, and building plans include accommodations for artists already living in shipyard structures. Developers are to perform environmental restoration along the bay where the site overlaps state park lands. If the 49ers opt to relocate to the city of Santa Clara, where they’re currently negotiating to build a new stadium, the master plan proposes what it calls a “Clean/Green” research and development campus.

IBI Group leads a design team that includes SMWM, who designed the area’s original master plan about ten years ago, with Miles Stevens and Associates, and landscape architect Walter Hood. The plan, which builds on SMWM’s earlier scheme, also includes residential concepts from Solomon E.T.C. and landscape architects CMG. Several high-density housing prototypes will be considered, from San Francisco-style townhouses to more standard three- and four-story structures. Some residential architecture is already moving forward in localized developments, designed by Daniel Solomon. On Candlestick Point, the Doublerock parcel is a 28-acre site for mixed-income townhouses, a portion of which will replace the decrepit 1950s Alice Griffith public housing that currently occupies most of the parcel. A new low-rise and mid-rise cluster of housing to be erected on a 30-acre waterfront site at Hunters Point is in the design approval stage.

CMG’s ambitious open space plans led by Kevin Conger include a “green fringe” of parks along the area’s shorelines, a “Hillpoint Park” located on a 90-foothigh promontory overlooking the shipyards, and a network of smaller parks. The use of pocket parks and courtyards recalls high-density neighborhoods like Russian Hill and North Beach. Even the proposed stadium parking areas are designed using an irrigated natural turf with a 95 percent compacted subsoil for “dual use” recreation space.

Peter Vaucheret, SMWM’s director of urban design, said the master plan intends to reunite Hunters Point with the city by using a grid street layout that extends evenly over hillside locations, creating a residential density consistent with nearby established neighborhoods. SMWM’s master plan further enforces the open space initiative with housing types that enable porosity: mid-block breaks in the building masses allow alleyways and visual openings that link public and private spaces. Throughout the development, vantage points are also designed to give residents glimpses of downtown. Finally, it seems, residents in this once-isolated corner of San Francisco will be united with the greater city.

Paul Adamson