San Francisco's New $5 Billion Neighborhood

June 27, 2016

Treasure Island was man-made for the 1939 World's Fair and later used by the Navy, in part for training and supporting blimps and dirigibles. Now, the island will become home to up to 20,000 residents and possibly the George Lucas museum.

The 400-acre island (just shy of one square mile) has undergone numerous incarnations and now four development companies are working together to build a planned residential and retail project, essentially from the ground up.

The first phase of construction is underway, demolishing existing buildings, reengineering the area to make the site seismically sound, and building out infrastructure such as roads, utilities and sewer lines. Developers estimate that site prep alone will cost $1.6 billion dollars.

The approval process has taken a little over a decade, but developers are putting a positive spin on the delays. The lengthy process had some benefits. “As a result, the plan is a better plan,” said Fei Tsen, president of the Treasure Island Development Authority board of directors. “It was really important to get community buy-in in the overall masterplan. We also had to put time into the environmental evaluation and toxic remediation.”

A priority of the buildout is making the land more resistant to earthquakes and rising sea levels.  Compacting the soil and  adding more dirt on top to raise the elevation by about three feet will put development sites on Treasure Island four feet higher than other waterfront areas in San Francisco. This will require millions of cubic feet of new soil.

Two of the developers, Wilson Meany and Lennar, plan to build at least 60 percent of the new market-rate housing and most of the commercial space other than the hotels. Some of the land will be auctioned off to other housing developers.

The island currently has about 250 units for formerly homeless that house about 700 people and about 650 market-rate apartments. The new development plan calls for 435 units for the formerly homeless out of the estimated 2,000 units that will be set aside for low-income residents. City officials will select developers for the affordable housing later on.

Replacement housing for the formerly homeless residents will be built by the time their existing homes need to be demolished. Tenants won’t have to leave the island during the redevelopment, said Sherry Williams, executive director of the Treasure Island Homeless Development Initiative.

The agency has also been working to recruit and train people to work on the construction, which is expected to generate about 1,100 jobs during the course of the buildout.

Construction is expected to extend into the 2030s. For more details, read the San Francisco Business Times story here: