Potrero View Op Ed - Pier 70 Project Merits Comprehensive Transportation Solutions

Last month’s The Potrero View’s coverage of Forest City’s Pier 70 “Mega Project” extolled the many benefits of the 28-acre development, with little consideration of its negative impacts. Contrary to what was reported, the Draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR) identified nine “significant and unavoidable” impacts. 

A massive increase in Dogpatch’s population, along with large numbers of workers, will overburden service on the 22-Fillmore and 48-Quintara, with no funding identified for increased operation costs. “Substantial” noise and construction emissions during the anticipated 11-year building phase would pose risks to public health. Of grave concern is the permanent “cumulatively considerable net increase in air pollutants” in the surrounding communities from increased traffic. 

The number of residential units developed at Pier 70 would potentially exceed the entire total projected for the Central Waterfront Area under the Eastern Neighborhoods Plan. The Draft EIR described population growth as “substantial,” with the area’s populace possibly quadrupling as a direct result of the development. Throw into the mix 2.2 million square feet of commercial space and close to 10,000 workers, shoppers and diners, and it should be no surprise that the development will generate between 131,359 to 141,365 “person trips” a day.

Described as a “21st Century sustainable urban development” Pier 70 will actually be a car-centric exclave with 3,655 parking spots and limited public transit options nearby. The Draft EIR shows that half the trips in and out of the area will be by private automobile. 

The developer asserts that Pier 70’s urban location automatically makes it a transit-oriented development. This clouds the reality that, with limited options, only 21 percent of people are expected to travel to and from the development by public transit. 

Although the Draft EIR recognizes that increased traffic will significantly impact air quality and increase ambient noise, it ignores the direct impact of traffic itself. California recently changed the way it evaluates traffic impacts. Rather than considering traffic congestion in a project’s vicinity, it takes a more regional approach, and assumes that development within urban areas will automatically result in decreased car use. The idea is that hypothetical new developments will somehow mitigate transportation impacts by encouraging alternative transportation modes, including investment in public transit.

One has to dig deep into the 2,000-page Draft EIR to understand exactly how much traffic Pier 70 will generate. Buried in an appendix is a traffic study done under the “Level of Service” methodology, which shows that 30 intersections will operate at “Level F” – near constant gridlock – as a direct and dire result of the project. Whether one relies on a car or not, our quality of life will certainly suffer under these conditions. 

Forest City proposes a band-aid solution to San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency’s abysmal failure to provide Dogpatch and Potrero Hill adequate public transit. While Pier 70’s planned onsite walkways and bike paths should be encouraged, they won’t serve everyone’s needs. Car- and ride-sharing reduce parking demand, but discourage public transportation use and make traffic worse. Along with other nearby developments, Pier 70 will rely heavily on an unregulated network of private shuttles, resulting in a patchwork system. These private fixes are neither efficient nor sustainable over the long-term. We need more buses, more trains and additional lines to connect east and west. This is a City problem, one that won’t be solved without a comprehensive public solution.

-Alison Heath