To quote San Francisco’s Planning Department which is pushing to develop a cohesive, long-term plan for the city:

“We need to collaborate with our immediate geographic neighbors to develop a shared vision and strategic approach to ensure San Francisco’s – and the region’s – long term economic, social and environmental vitality.”

Recognizing specific opportunities for development around mass transit, both existing and proposed, and threats to be addressed with respect to a projected sea level rise, we present Planning’s map of Priority Development Areas, the cornerstone of an initiative to “Bridge the Bay”:

Planning's Map of Priority Development Areas 2015

71 thoughts on “SF’s Push To “Bridge The Bay” And Priortity Areas For Development”
  1. Nice sentiment. But SF has enough problems with its own supervisors and factions, best to work on issues @ home first. Fewer cooks in the kitchen means better food. If others see and like your success, they will automatically follow. No invite required.

    1. Wow what paradise do you live in? San Francisco can’t unilaterally build a 2nd transbay tube, or relocate Caltran to the Transbay Terminal; and no amount of “success” to be seen and liked will cause AC Transit, SamTrans, Alameda County, San Mateo County, etc. to automatically kowtow to SF’s planning desires.

      If anything, SF Planning’s comments hardly scratch the surface – we need to get rid of all the Bay Area political and transit balkanization – we need one “Metro SF” government empowered to make regional decisions, much as exists for Toronto or Greater London.

      1. I totally agree. There’s no reason that riders should have to purchase multiple tickets for one regional journey. The logistics just get in the way. Clipper in theory should be able to make this a lot easier, for example tag on to an AC transit, take BART through the tube, and tag off on a Muni tram at your destination. Today though you’ll tag on and off 6 times for that basic and common journey plus pay a premium for those short hops. Oh, and forget about timetables being well synced and prepare for one agency to drop you off just in time to see your next ride pull away.

        One worry about unifying Bay Area transit is that it could follow suit with the way that MTC currently operates which is 90% focus and support of transit along the Oakland/SF nexus and crumbs for the remainder of the Bay Area.

        1. But that’s kind of the point – e.g. the comments below about the 38 Geary, which carries far more people (3x to 5x per day) than some of the incredibly expensive BART extensions into the hinterlands of Alameda and Contra Costa County. A regional transit authority would presumably be able to focus expenditures in the most cost-effective manner, i.e., prioritizing a Geary subway (which in turn would allow for more density along Geary) over BART through cow pastures.

          1. One of the current plans BART is looking at is the second tube, but the idea is the line would then extend down Geary. It’s sad that MUNI didn’t do it 20 years ago, but they are thinking along the same lines as you at BART

    2. About half of the employees in our SF office are commuting from outside of SF. People constantly travel and move between cities. Transportation and housing are regional issues. City cannot solve all the problems on their own.

  2. If the future second BART tube goes down Geary, there should be an extension of the yellow line to at least 20th ave. The density along and around Geary could easily be doubled if not more. Significantly more in Japantown/Western Addition (though I think that area is already yellow). Also, the existing Balboa Station Area Plan should be expanded to begin the long term urbanization of the south/central area of the city. This is where we can have the most impact on adding housing because the existing 1 story houses will be the easiest place to increase density. The western and southern neighborhoods need to do their part.

    1. most of geary are horrible 1-2 story ugly buildings. Building up Geary to 5-6 floors with the same 1 floor of retail + 4-5 floors of housing + decent public transport makes a ton on sense. Even now, with the 1 floor of retail and short housing, the 38 geary cannot handle the traffic. it is the most used bus line west of the mississippi and it is often too packed to get on. the BRT is not going to fix it. Its a bandaid solution that will be out of date by the time is done.

      1. Just a brainstorm here… maybe the issue is that the Richmond is more than a single-corridor area. Everyone in the city knows we need a tube out that way because no matter how many busses or special lanes they add it still is going to take 45 minutes to get downtown from the beach. 9 miles an hour. After you get on the train. A subway with 5 stops could do it in 15 minutes. If it is faster than a car people will change their allegiance from driving to transit very quickly. So we’ve needed a tube since forever, but the merchants on Geary oppose it because it will literally tear up their street for years and kill a lot of businesses (this is what happened to mission and market streets when they put in the BART.) The people in the Richmond oppose it because it would block their main artery to drive “into the city” for years. Maybe the solution is to put the new BART tube down Eddy or Turk. Less impact on those streets. By the time it actually happens, there will be a lot of land on that route that needs to be redeveloped anyway (particularly the Western Addition), and the transit is still close enough to the Geary corridor that walking south 2 blocks would make sense if you were near a stop. It would make the tube closer to the attractions in Golden Gate park, and generally include a lot more people.

        1. ” no matter how many busses or special lanes they add it still is going to take 45 minutes to get downtown from the beach.” It takes more than 45 minutes. Im in laurel hts and it takes me 45 on the regular bus. i can get there is 25 on the express, but no way you can do that from the beach

        2. Isn’t the “tearing up the street” argument much less an issue than it once was? Completely understand that the market street subway literally killed a formerly great business district and made it the pit it is today, but that was digging trenches. We have tunnel boring machines now. A lot less trench digging would be needed (see Central Subway). We would only need to dig the stations.

          But still, I think you’re right that with a few stations to dig, traffic could be majorly disrupted. So a block or so away would be good. I’d say Balboa. Might also stimulate development on another street that is primarily 1-2 stories, such a waste.

  3. Nice. The neighbors should thank SF for the adverse impact of rent control on affordable housing in their communities. Since the juice is not worth the squeeze for landlords in SF, the neighbors can supply housing while SF gets all the jobs, glam and wealth. East bay Suckas!!!!

    1. Always impressed that no matter what the topic is, somehow it involves rent control. Frankly, I’m surprised that no one has pointed out that the real issue in “deflategate” is that rent control makes footballs squishy…

      I actually think this is the crucial issue for Northern California. It seems foolish that there is a perceived land shortage in the Bay Area when there are huge swaths of underdeveloped land with the same climate – or better- than San Francisco, plenty of views (it’s hilly all around here), and lots of proximity to Silicon Valley. We need regional planning and a world class transit system. Otherwise it’s just frantic development in San Francisco and gridlock pretty much everywhere.

  4. i notice the transportation priorities are missing about 90% of the city. why are we prioritizing building transit for suburban sprawl commuters getting in and out of SF and forgetting about it for the city dwellers. It takes a large portion of SF citizens more than 30 min to commute to work in the city using public transport. its horrendous. How do we have money for a transbay tube, when apparently we cant get the political will to build a usable subway in the city for the major corridors (Geary and Van Ness, etc). the people working on transportation priorities have some real issues.

    1. There needs to be a stronger authority on transportation projects in the bay area, and a structure similar to how BART is ran, with elected district officials. Recall that BART was supposed to end Muni’s street car service in the ’70s, but San Mateo county pulled out, forcing Marin County to pull out, and removing the funding BART needed to expand as designed. Our two level subway system along Market St was supposed to be like Oakland’s 12/19th st Stations, not BART plus a hybrid street car network.

      We would need to attempt a new regional authority, merging in MTC, and removing power from local elected officials who tend to want to work on their pet projects rather than how to move people around the region as a whole. Until then, getting a project like a Geary Subway, which would need massive amounts of federal funding and pooled local resources, will be hard if not possible to get off the ground in this political climate.

    2. Spencer, don’t be dense.

      Making MUNI run on time is a difficult problem. Building a Geary subway is even harder. It is much easier (and more fun!) to come up with bright powerpoint presentations. You can play with colors, maps, icons, etc. Obviously they will never come to pass because SF doesn’t control zoning outside its borders. But it sure beats the drudgery of improving MUNI!

      1. “But it sure beats the drudgery of improving MUNI!” I could not agree more and wonder if many do not notice how well funded MUNI is for a small city like San Francisco. I would be satisfied to just see them concentrate on getting the escalators to work again (broken many times because of human feces!), or removing the many station’s urine smell out. How is Los Angeles able to keep their subway trains, stations, and other rail systems so clean?

  5. Could SF ever annex Oakland and other Bay Area cities similar to NYC? It seems like this would help unify planning goals and push projects through in a quicker and more cohesive manner. So many things have been bungled due to lack of agreement and petty politics (BART to Marin & South Bay, connecting the T to Caltrain, a million other things, etc)

    1. While political unification would make it easier to unify transit, this longshot goal is not required to unify transit. There are plenty examples of well oiled unified transit systems that span multiple jurisdictions in Europe and Asia.

    2. S.F. tried to annex Oakland in the early 20th century. I’m actually not sure that’s the best step anyway; I think it’d be more logical for S.F. to annex down the Peninsula – at least to the airport / San Bruno – and/or merge S.F. and San Mateo Counties… then re-do the East Bay counties so that all the cities lying along the Bay, from Richmond through Berkeley and Oakland all the way to Fremont, was one county, and the areas “over the hills” to the east was another. Supremely dumb that Berkeley and Oakland are in different counties… while Oakland and Livermore are in the same county!

      1. (Note that adding the northern Peninsula cities to San Francisco would also dilute the wacko voter base and move the S.F. body politic at least somewhat towards the center.)

        1. That’s *re*merge SF and the peninsula. Sacramento carved out San Mateo County in the Oldentimes because they worried about the (19th century) wackos in San Francisco controlling so much territory.

        1. Well, Berkeley and El Cerrito/Richmond, then. Bottom line: Stupid to break up the east bay shoreline among multiple jurisidictions, while those jurisdictions also stretch into the interior

          1. Except that’s been happening at least since West Florida Territory (namelink), which now spans 4 states.

            I’m pretty sure the people carving county lines weren’t expecting to future-proof for commuter rail.

  6. How about an actual bridge over the Bay? A causeway connecting 380 with 880 (as originally planned). To not be thinking of any road transit alternatives alongside mass transit is short sighted, foolish, and economically castrating.

    1. As the city gets denser you couldn’t build enough roads to keep up. Transit is much more efficient and actually faster when it is underground

    2. The “Southern Crossing” has been proposed and rejected for decades. Given the fun we’ve had with the replacement Bay Bridge, I think a second tunnel is the better pipe (literally) dream.

  7. I’m not sure if this is directly related, but ABAG is cooking a bay regional plan (namelink). It has some very pretty interactive maps. It looks like a big part of their hope/plan/wish is that Oakland development will pick up. That would sure save a lot of transbay traffic/transit costs.

    From the transportation section of the ABAG site: “A total of $277 billion is expected to flow to the region over the 25-year timeframe of the plan, and the large majority of those funds are needed to maintain our extensive existing transportation network of local roads and freeways, trains, buses, ferries, and bicycle and pedestrian paths. MTC has identified $56 billion that can be used for new transportation projects and programs in this plan.”

    A billion or two a year for the whole Bay Area won’t buy many miles of subway or bridges or tunnels.

    As far as for SF, I recently learned that 86% of the population growth in SF from the 2000 to 2010 Census was in District 6. Until that trend changes, it is hard to imagine anyone will propose huge transit investments in the two-thirds of SF that has slow to no growth.

    1. how can you expect the western half of the city to grow. Its far from downtown core and there are no good fast transit options. developing Geary would be great but you need transit to do it. No one is going to agree to go denser on Geary without near term solutions to transportation.

      1. The eastern end of Geary is very developed. The western end is Lands End. The further west you go the lower the return on transit investment. And once you go west of about Masonic the return falls off very quickly.

        FWIW, the Richmond district has been growing at a nice 0.5-1.0% annual rate for a long time. Not clear that spending billions to built a MUNI subway or BART line through it would affect that enough to ever see a positive return.

        For less than even the projected cost of the Geary BRT we could pull optical fiber into every housing unit and business in the Richmond district and hook them all up to Gbps plus connections. It wouldn’t even take as long as it takes to build the BRT.

        Sometimes mass transport of bits is cheaper and more effective than mass transport of people.

      2. Agreed. With BART (on a good day) you can get from El Cerrito to the FiDi faster than you can get there from the outer Sunset or Richmond or the southwest corner of the City. So of course people aren’t clammoring to develop denser uses in those parts of San Francisco.

      3. Jake, I dont think anyone would propose going to Land’s end. Masonic would be a decent start, but Gearey Geary is pretty much all 1 story business from Van Ness through 25th Ave. that entire corridor of Geary could be developed to 5-6 story buildings while still retaining the same ground floor retail.

        25th is probably a stretch as well, so I think Arguello would be a very nice compromise:)

        Of course the Richmond is not going to grow without transit. But commercially there is a lot going on from Van Ness through 25th

        1. BART to Ocean Beach was/is a pet project of James Fang, former BART president and 24-year BART member (lost reelection last November). He represented BART District 8 which is roughly all of western SF. Also the Fang family have a long history of publishing newspapers in SF including the SF Examiner.

  8. By the way, people have been talking about merging all of the different governmental entities around the Bay for 100 years. Look at old newspaper articles. It’s the same exact conversation. It’s never, ever, ever going to happen. SF will never annex Oakland. The many small towns in the East Bay and Peninsula are never going to merge. (I’m not saying it doesn’t make sense, but in the real world you’re never going to redraw the lines like that.)

    Never. Going. To. Happen.

    1. They also didn’t have to deal with 2, 3, 4, 5 hour traffic jams one hundred years ago.

      There is a breaking point. Never say never.

      1. Agree. People said the same about the metropolitan government in Toronto, or merging the City of Miami and Dade County. Frankly the worst decision our forefathers made was limiting San Francisco County to its current boundaries. If it went down to Menlo Park, as originally established, then the S.F. County government could have addressed at least part of the regional planning need… and I’d heartily support any effort to merge S.F. and San Mateo Counties, and/or to have S.F. annex some of the northern Peninsula towns (Daly City and Brisbane in particular make no sense as independent jurisdictions).

      2. Nope.

        I’ll say it. Never gonna happen.I will bet you any amount of money at 10-1 odds. Never.

        We should ignore pie-in-the-sky ideas in favor of reality. Let’s focus on real problems (BART, MUNI) and ignore fantasy.

        (Not that it wouldn’t make sense. Obviously Oakland should merge with Alameda and Emeryville. And San Bruno/Brisbane/Daly City. Etc. etc.)

        1. Hate to sound trite, but – it certainly won’t with that attitude. Extremely unlikely? Yes. *EXTREMELY* unlikely? Well, yes. But if everyone stopped at proposals because they equate “extremely unlikely” with “never, ever, ever, so why waste any time thinking about it”, then a lot of what we have today wouldn’t be here.

          1. Never. Going. To. Happen.

            Just to play along, though, what are the steps? New state laws, local laws, referendums for each jurisdiction? I have no idea, but if you do let us know. Keep in mind that LA’s fragmentation is even more inefficient than ours and it’s not changing either. Good luck trying to get the city governments of Alameda and Emeryville to agree to go out of existence and join Oakland, much less the populations of those cities.

            We have enough actual problems that we should focus on them instead of mindlessly chattering about an impossibility?

          2. Uh, yeah, I do have an idea or two, and pretty good ones at that. Cities merge and grow all the time – it used to be the norm, until the rise of suburbs in the 2nd half of the 20th century. It’s not rocket science, and not hard to fathom at all.

          3. Never. Going. To. Happen.

            Do you have answers to the following: Will it take an act of our Legislature? (which as we all know is a well functioning body) Will it require action by the Board of Supervisors of the appropriate county? Of each city government? Will it require each city to vote? If so, will it be a majority or a supermajority?

            I don’t know the answers to these, but figuring them out is just the start. The next step would be persuading the elected leaders and population to vote for it. Like I said: no change. Never. No way.

      3. I live in San Mateo. I’m not clear how merging or relatively well run city government with SF is desirable at all. Getting away from SF is why many of us move

        1. Yeah, Zig, it would be painful for a while, but you would thank us in a century or two.
          SF does provide some regional services now, including managing the water supply for 2.6 million people, SFO, and SF General. Those combine for something in the range of a quarter to third of the entire SF City/County budget.

        2. Yeah, I would feel icky thinking about it. Moved to SF from San Bruno in spite of the SF gov, definitely not because of it. Just wanted a walking commute, and that’s it. As far as asinine policy of all types, SF is #1. It’s like a poster child for why conservatives hate liberals.

          I’d sooner want a peninsula city to be the surviving legal entity and just dissolve the failed experiment in wishful-thinking that is the SF government.

  9. I assume the yellow area is where Planning would like to concentrate on the building of three- and four-storey condos.

  10. And yet the MTC is spending millions on studies for bike paths on the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge (and don’t know how many people will use it per Randy Rentschler, Director of Legislation and Public Affairs.) What!!

    They are also ready to spend $10million for a “study” (just a study) for a bike path on the western span of the Bay Bridge between Treasure Island and SF.

    This reminds me of one time being at a social dinner with a member of BART’s Board of Directors (I won’t disclose name because it would embarrass him). We all ended up discussing the opening of the new SFO and Millbrae stations. He was puzzled why the intended crossover from CALTRAIN to BART wasn’t happening as they planned. Most folks continued into the city on CALTRAIN without bothering to transfer onto BART. I asked him how many stops between Millbrae and downtown SF on CALTRAIN and how many stops between Millbrae and downtown SF on BART. He actually had an “ahhah” moment in front of all of us at the table and shrugged, I guess we didn’t think of that…I know this sounds incredible, but it is 100% true.

    1. You’d be amazed if you knew the details about the hundreds of millions SF spends each year on “studies” and “commissions” and “non-profits” for things like this. It is a huge industry. Really just old-fashioned political patronage. There is essentially no accountability for any of it. Most cities have cleaned up that sort of thing, but it is alive and well here.

    2. Also, the transfers aren’t timed. They often speed off right as your train pulls in and you have to wait 20 minutes in the northerly and 50 minutes in the southerly direction for the train you need. Going south, why would anyone from the city, who could get a seat if they board in SOMA take BART and have to stand all the way to mountain view

    3. Do you know what the new estimated cost of the west bay bridge bike path is? Last I read it was closing in on $850 million ! So I guess the 10 million dollar study cost does not surprise me.

      1. The fact that you need a car to use these multi billion dollar assets is ludicrous. Do you also think that the bike and ped paths on the GG Bridge are a wasted resource too?

        1. the GGB is quite short and Marin has some of the world’s most beautiful cycling as well as is the key short getaway for most people in the city. Its also a very easy commute. In addition, its one of the top tourist attractions in the world and there are tons of tourists cycling across it at any one time. There is no way that the amount of cyclists using the bay briedge would even come close to that of GGB. The tiny town of Sausalito probably gets more tourists per year than all of the East Bay.

        2. and do you realisticall think it is worth $850M to add bicycle lanes to BAy Bridge for at most 100 people per day.

          1. Arent’ there studies showing it’d be cheaper to have 24-hour on-call shuttle vans, to transport riders across the Bay Bridge, than to build a bike lane?

            For $850 million we could pay for all the engineering and studies needed (and then some!) to extend the Central Subway towards Fisherman’s Wharf, or we coulud build a BART infill station at Van Ness or Mission & 30th – each far more useful than a bike path across the Bay Bridge.

          2. I stand corrected…it could cost over ONE BILLION!

            “Because attaching two paths (pedestrians and bikes) would increase the weight of the suspension span, causing it to flatten slightly, the study considers replacing the bridge decks with lighter materials. Caltrans required the consultants to include deck replacement, which would need to be done at some point with or without the paths, in the study.

            In addition to increasing the cost of the preliminary study, replacing the decks at the same time the bike paths are added would also raise the project cost from about a half-billion dollars to $800 million to $1 billion.”

            (November 2014 SFGate “Bridge to Nowhere” article)

          3. I also think that $850M is expensive. My favorite plan is just convert one of the lanes into a 2 way bike/ped/scooter/roller blade/e-bike/segway/etc. path. Could be done for less than the $10M study budget. Of course people are going to scream about “losing” 10% of the bridges’ auto capacity though that new bike/ped lane will eventually carry more people than the former auto lane did. Way more than 100 people a day.

          4. “Of course people are going to scream about “losing” 10% of the bridges’ auto capacity though that new bike/ped lane will eventually carry more people than the former auto lane did.”

            this is an absolute joke. no way one lane for cyclists would come close to carrying the same amount of people as autos using that line. that’s laughable. it wouldnt even be 1% of the people as the auto lane covers

          5. Spencer – Have you ever been to a place where people regularly get around on a bike? Not at all a joke.

            You only need a mode share of 5% to be at parity with the lane’s current car capacity (remember, this is a bidirectional path). SF’s bike mode share alone is already at 3.8%. That’s not counting all of the other gizmos that people get around on.

      2. It is ridiculous to object to spending any amount of money on bike paths across the bridge. That said, $850 million would be ridiculous. We make cost/benefit trade-offs all the time.

        A lot of our infrastructure is built for specified purposes. You’re not reasonably going to retrofit the entire bridge and highway system so that bikes are accommodated, or skateboards or roller skates or razor scooters (wouldn’t be fair at all to limit things to bikes when some people don’t or can’t ride them, would it?). Train tracks are designed for trains even if that is unfair to people who get around by other means. Just because one unreasonably extreme position is wrong does not mean that the opposite unreasonably extreme position is right.

    4. Should have poisoned the guy’s drink. I don’t want to be paying his pension. Stupidity is a disease for which there is no cure.

  11. My contractor told me the public bathrooms @ Portsmouth Square (in Chinatown) costs $2M and will take 2 years to build. WTF was their reaction. One could 3-D printed 100 bathrooms (sans fixtures) and had fur-lined floors, sinks, and urinals for that amount of money.

  12. The biggest issue is the approaching limited capacity of BART – the theoretical maximum for downtown statons is 10-car trains running every 3 minutes at crush capacity (200ppl/car) is about 40000 (unhappy) people per hour – assuming no delays of course. There are roughly 250k jobs in downtown SF right now, half are held by SF residents (so presumably they don’t take BART), that leaves 125k people that have to get downtown, even right now they all can’t (and thus won’t want to) fit on BART. Many come in other ways (bus, car) which helps but the only other way is to spread out by time when you show up to work (not all jobs are good at that). With a few million sqft of office space being built right now it’s just going to be more difficult in a few years without increasing capacity somehow.

    So, need a 2nd bart transbay tube *and* line (say, go down mission street, or move muni metro to mission street with smaller stations and let BART use the oversized upper-level platforms), and/or extend an electrified caltrain through the transbay terminal to the east bay and take over the capital corridor route. Anything else is just tweaking at the edges.

    1. All great ideas, though the cost of retrofiting the Market Street Muni tunnels to BART’s wider trains may be prohibitive. And having nearby but separate services can be useful in the event of a problem – e.g., a protest at Embarcadero doesn’t necessarily shut down the Transbay Terminal / Mission Street line.

      I think the idea of a 2nd tub that can be used by both BART and Caltrain is ideal (yes, I know, separate gauges – I’m envisioning a tunnel with 3 tracks [2 BART, one Caltrain / Amtrak / ?HSR]). Suddenly the Transbay Terminal would become truly useful, and we’d have distinct and separate capacity in the event of an accident or “other”.

    2. All good points but whatever else does or doesn’t happen I think we are looking at platform lateral-expansion at the Embarcadero and Montgomery stations to permit dual side boarding/egress.

      We are approaching a limiting factor at rush hours of physical train-level space. Plenty of space up at the Concourse level but real tight down next to the tracks. BART has removed much of the clutter but we are approaching safety issues at rush hour, and “metering lights” at the concourse are a possibility at the ticket gates, unless we expand sideways and put in “outboard” platforms.

      None of the above should be regarded as any more than a band-aid on the coming open-wound that is Bay Area transit needs.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *