Island City

New details emerge for major plan to urbanize San Francisco’s Treasure Island

Architecture City Terrain Development News Urbanism
San Francisco is moving ahead with plans to expand Treasure Island's status as a tourist attraction and residential enclave. (Courtesy San Francisco Arts Commission)
San Francisco is moving ahead with plans to expand Treasure Island's status as a tourist attraction and residential enclave. (Courtesy San Francisco Arts Commission)

Despite being recently rebuffed as the potential site for the forthcoming MAD Architects–designed Lucas Museum of Narrative Art, San Francisco officials are moving ahead with plans to expand the city’s sleepy Treasure Island district into a lively residential enclave and tourist destination.

The city recently revealed plans to add a bevy of cultural institutions and up to 20,000 residents to the man-made island, which sits in the San Francisco Bay halfway between San Francisco and Oakland. The San Francisco Arts Commission has developed an arts-focused master plan for the island in conjunction with urban and architectural master plans developed by SOM and Perkins + Will

The plans, overseen by the Treasure Island Development Authority and the San Francisco Arts Commission, would see the island’s public offerings expanded, beginning with a new series of public art installations. Eventually, the island—which is accessible only via its connection to Yerba Buena Island and the Bay Bridge—could add up to 8,500 new residential units and 550,000 square feet of commercial space. The island’s art program will be pursued using a projected $50 million fund generated by contributions made toward the city’s 1% for Art in Private Development fund as a result of the new development. According to a planning document released by the development authority, in the case of Treasure Island, the 1% for Art in Private Development funds will be applied toward the installation of public artworks on public lands.

Generally speaking, the Treasure Island master plan, which includes the adjacent Yerba Buena Island in its scope, calls for leaving some 75% of the available land area free of development, with the remainder being plotted out as relatively dense mixed-use neighborhoods. The plan would focus on multi-modal complete streets designs in order to create a “network of parks and streets… [with] sunny, sheltered public space that is enlivened by artwork, buildings of enduring interest and active ground floor uses” while also reducing the island’s dependence on automobile traffic. The plan, according to the documents, would cluster development along the southern and western edges of the roughly rectangular island in a series of perimeter block formations.

The project was selected in 2009 as one of 16 founding projects of the Climate Positive Development Program, part of the Clinton Foundation’s Clinton Climate Initiative grants supporting “climate positive” urban developments.

For more information on the project, see the Treasure Island Development Authority website. The full plan is available here.

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