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What You Need to Know About Building on the Waterfront

Building along the water produces huge demand, but it also presents certain challenges. Some of the top players transforming S.F.'s waterfront, from Mission Rock to Pier 70, gave us a lesson this week.

Forest City VP of development Jack Sylvan says he's raising the Pier 70 site using the same excavation tactics he would for underground parking structures to provide max access to the water, which "isn't rocket science." Getting the project approved meant holding workshops and kayak tours, asking people what they want to come do on the water. He told attendees at Bisnow's Future of the San Francisco Waterfront event this week that a whopping 5,000 people showed up at its first open air market there.

S.F. Giants EVP and general counsel Jack Bair, who's been spending the past eight years on Mission Rock, points out the project on an existing parking lot won't displace anyone and it'll create 11,000 permanent jobs and $25M in tax revenues. Pier 48 will be the flagship brewery for Anchor Steam and that will be part of the early phase. The beer giant is the largest manufacturing business in S.F. today and once it opens up it'll quintuple its production and take the booze worldwide. The site will also have eight acres of open space and loads of affordable housing, he says.

Perkins+Will urban designer Kristen Hall warns that sea level rise will mean four and a half feet of extra water at high tide. She's helping raise the level of the site so that visitors can get a true waterfront experience at the edge; there are not many places around the bay with that feature. She's also done work on the Ferry Building and says there are still many underutilized sites along the water that the port manages. The point is to restore waterfront access. 

Allen Matkins partner David Blackwell says last summer when he moderated the same panel for Bisnow the topic was all about the recent passage of Prop B, which requires voter approval for projects that exceed current height limits, which range from 40 to 90 feet. Both Forest City and the Giants have sponsored ballot measures in response, he says.

At Pier 70 people are blown away by the historic buildings that no one has been able to access for decades, says Jack from Forest City. While the firm would love to be building right now, entitlements (which happen to be Jack's favorite word at the moment) won't happen until the end of 2016, and construction will start shortly thereafter.