San Francisco Piers 15-17 (Image Source steelblue|NEORAMA and via
“A draft environmental review for [the redevelopment of Piers 15-17 into a new home for the Exploratorium] failed to find any major problems, and a final report could be complete by the end of June….Even the notoriously strict agencies that govern what can be built along a waterfront are unofficially endorsing the project, which could be done as early as 2012 if it is approved by port officials and the Board of Supervisors.”
Smooth sailing seen for Exploratorium on pier [SFGate]
Piers On Which People Can Play (Albeit More With Their Minds) [SocketSite]

Comments from Plugged-In Readers

  1. Posted by jlasf

    Let’s not get into the usual San Francisco overthink on this. Let’s get it on a fast track for approval and start construction. The City could use the jobs and it will be a great addition to the Embarcadero.

  2. Posted by Rincon Hill Billy

    LOL…wishful thinking…I hope to see this open before I die.

  3. Posted by The Milkshake of Despair

    I wouldn’t be surprised if this moves forward quicker than other proposed developments in this area. The standard source for NIMBY opposition comes from the North Beach and Telegraph Hill residents. Their seldom voiced but ulterior motives lie mostly with protection of (unprotected) views. This project won’t obstruct any existing views and will probably make the view more interesting.

  4. Posted by jessep

    Barbary Coast Neighbors and Tel-Hi-Dweebs will be all over this…such a shame too, it’s so nice.

  5. Posted by jamie

    Looks nice .. hopefully will provide more impetus to get an “E Embarcadero” streetcar service up and running from Caltrain to Fisherman’s Wharf.

  6. Posted by San FronziScheme

    As a recent transplant to this nabe (TH), I think the following issues have to be addressed:
    – Pedestrian traffic. There will be many people making the quick dash from the Coit tower towards these new piers. Are the Filbert and Greenwich steps adapted for that? On sunny week-ends you have traffic jams on the wood section of the Filbert stairs. People often do a U-turn before the concrete steps, but they won’t once there will have somewhere to actually go to.
    – It’s pretty tough to cross the Embarcadero especially in this area. Try and cross at Broadway or Battery. It takes forever and packed traffic dashes at 30MPH+. Foot traffic + heavy traffic = need to rethink this portion of the Embarcadero.
    Of course I am skipping on the parking issues as they are probably at the top of the plan. Otherwise, everything that will help this essential piece of SF’s waterfront is welcome.

  7. Posted by sf THE CITY

    i hope to see this open before my grandchildren die. (I’m 26)

  8. Posted by rr

    I have often thought it strange for the F to run from Castro to the Wharf, and the N from Judah to Caltrain. It would make more sense to have the N terminate at the Embarc, and the F to run from Wharf to Caltrain, with maybe additional trains running from Caltrain down market during peak hours.
    If they had that frequent “E” line, they may be able to terminate the T at Caltrain, then, too, which would hopefully prevent the T trains from bunching up and all coming two minutes apart with 60 minutes in between.
    They will never do that, though, because they’ve spent too much money trying to fix the T’s left turn at 4th to cross the bridge to abandon stations behind it.

  9. Posted by Mole Man

    It should be built, but it seems odd that no trendy green roof or power generation elements were added. All that roof and paving drainage could be handled better. That could be added later as a minor enhancement.

  10. Posted by jlasf

    San Fonzi:
    Certainly, the pedestrian crosswalk is easy enough to fix. And there will be years before the completion of the building to figure out a solution to the condition/crowding of the Filbert Steps.
    As to parking, here’s a thought: there are a couple of parking lots across the Embarcadero. Could one be turned into an underground parking facility with office/residential on top?

  11. Posted by San FronziScheme

    Very good point about the open parking lots. The one at Broadway often sits 2/3 empty and more on week ends. Dunno about the others but that one always seemed under-utilized to me.

  12. Posted by Jus7tme

    Hate to poop the party here, but is it wise to build new construction on the waterfront given the projected rises of ocean levels in the next few years?

  13. Posted by The Milkshake of Despair

    ^^^ If rising water becomes a problem for this project, the impact on other bayfront properties (Napa to Pittsburgh to Alviso and all points in between) will be 10000X larger. In addition the Exploratorium will be re-using an existing structure.
    So compared to the bigger picture this is a drop in the bucket.

  14. Posted by Ken

    You’ve gotta be kidding me that the draft EIR for a project of this magnitude along the waterfront is expected to receive minimal feedback. I guess we want the project to move forward so that more jobs can be created. The questions at the end of the day is how long will it actually take to actually secure all the needed entitlements at the end of the day.
    Check out:

  15. Posted by Alexei

    Am I the only one who thinks the Exploratorium is in a pretty great place as it is? The dim lighting is a good fit for the exhibits. The architecture is a nice retro complement.

  16. Posted by amused_in_soma

    Let’s hope the lack of control that the SF government has over the waterfront speeds up the whole process. More space and a better location is great for the museum and the city.

  17. Posted by jlasf

    Alexei, the Exploratorium is bursting out of the current location. It desperately needs to expand and modernize to keep up with other science-based institutions around the world. When it opened, it was a revolutionary concept in hands-on museum design. But it needs to re-invent itself for the next generation.

  18. Posted by Jus7tme

    Just because other places will be knee-deep in water as well, we should just ignore the problem and go ahead and create another expensive boondoggle, Does not make sense to me.

  19. Posted by Mole Man

    This building is on piers and connected to the city by roads that are protected by a sea wall already, so even dramatic sea level increases are not going to be a blocking problem. Furthermore, by the time rising seas become an issue, the typical 15-50 year life span of institutional structures will have passed and this building will need to be rebuilt or replaced anyway. The “expensive boondoggle” thing is what happens when projects are delayed while jawboning imaginary threats.

  20. Posted by The Milkshake of Despair

    Jus7tme – I guess my point wasn’t very clear. What I meant was that if the sea levels rise enough to flood the piers, the extra expense on the new Exploratorium will be the very least of our worries. Thousands of bay area residents will be out of a home and roadways flooded. Beyond the bay area hundreds of millions will be displaced, probably triggering global land and resource wars.
    We shouldn’t just assume that there’s nothing we can do about sea levels rising and halt all low altitude development. What about Mission Bay and Hunter’s point ? If you’re concerned about sea levels then you should also be opposing development in those locations.
    Oddly our unique bay geography offers an interesting solution to rising sea levels : dam the golden gate and turn the bay into a fresh water lake (with levels a few feet below high tide). We would have to release water at low tide. Yeah, it would be an ecological disaster but people will take extreme measures when trillions of dollars of property are at stake. Not that it would be much of a consolation considering the rest of the planet’s predicament.
    Maybe the new Exploratorium will inspire some twelve year old to really solve the causes of global warming and save us from this “fate”.

  21. Posted by Jim

    Actually there is a fairly simple engineering solution to sea level rise in San Francisco (but not simple environmentally): build a dam across the Golden Gate, the Bay becomes a fresh water lake, release water from the Bay into the ocean at low tide.

  22. Posted by Jimmy (No Longer Bitter)

    I’m waiting for a period of global cooling to kick in (maybe the next 20-30 years?) — long enough for Al Gore to become senile and let this entire fad blow over.
    Having said that, deriving power from non hydrocarbon-based sources is still an interesting business proposition for other reasons that have nothing to do with ‘carbon.’
    (Says Jimmy as he dons a fireproof suit — burn the heretics!!!)

  23. Posted by San FronziScheme

    Indeed a very elegant solution. They’ll have to make it beautiful in par with the GG bridge. Also you’ll have to plan for a next-gen-Panamax lock though and make it either oversized or expandable in height just in case water rises more than planned.

  24. Posted by dub dub

    They are actually studying using tidal turbines in the SF bay area (or maybe just SF county proper).
    There’s an enormous amount of untapped energy there, but I have no idea of its cost effectiveness versus something dirtier.

  25. Posted by Jimmy (No Longer Bitter)

    The ocean is an incredibly difficult environment in which to generate power because it is full of little tiny organisms that love to inhabit the nooks and crannies and surfaces of your machines.
    I believe that an independent analysis of Newsom’s tidal energy project concluded that it would be among the most expensive possible green technology options, in terms of both capital cost and ongoing maintenance costs.
    Truly an investment so mind-blowingly awful that only the San Francisco city government could conceive of it.

  26. Posted by Jim

    RE: tide turbans at the Golden Gate. The other problem is that there would not be anything to do with the energy generated there – there are no trunk lines in the northwest sector capable of carrying the power to where it is really needed. They could be built underground or DC under the Bay, but that’s not free either.

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