Pier 70

Heritage Endorses Union Iron Works/Pier 70 Initiative on November Ballot

Proposition F, an initiative that would support rehabilitation of historic structures at Pier 70, will be on the ballot in November 2014, and will be the first measure to seek voter approval in the wake of passage of Proposition B earlier this year. Introduced by developer Forest City, the initiative would make it City policy that reuse of the site should include historic rehabilitation and other public benefits while also increasing height limits for new infill development from 40 to 90 feet. Approved by San Francisco voters in June 2014, Proposition B requires that any proposed increase to existing height limits on Port property must be approved by the electorate. If the measure is successful, the project will remain subject to environmental review and will undergo the same scrutiny, analysis, and legal approvals mandatory for all development projects in San Francisco. For more a link to the ballot measure, click here.


Pier 70 is one of the oldest, largest and most intact historic industrial complexes remaining in San Francisco. Located on the eastern waterfront and extending along Illinois Street from Mariposa Street south to 22nd Street, the Pier was a major shipbuilding center of the West Coast for nearly a century. Ferryboats, schooners and river steamboats were built there, as well as warships that fought the country’s battles from the Spanish-American War to Vietnam.

Although the Pier has deteriorated in recent decades, at its peak it was home to a number of major manufacturing and utility companies that played significant roles in the expansion of the western economy. The site also contains meaningful ties to military and labor history in the 19th and 20th centuries. During World War II, approximately 10,000 men and women worked there, many of whom succeeded in producing organized unions for the first time.

Project Background

In April of 2010, the Port of San Francisco released the Pier 70 Preferred Master Plan, outlining the agency’s approach to rehabilitating historic resources, creating new open space, constructing infill development, continuing historic ship repair operations, and conducting environmental remediation and infrastructure improvements to the site. The plan has the backing of neighborhood groups and City Hall, which has sought proposals for redevelopment of the site since 1997.

As an outcome of the plan, the Port successfully nominated the Union Iron Works Historic District, which is located within the boundaries of the Pier 70 master plan area, to the National Register of Historic Places.

Bounded by Illinois Street to the west, 18th Street to the north, and 22nd Street to the south, the eligible Union Iron Works Historic District contains a variety of maritime buildings constructed during both World Wars, as well as structures representing industrialization and major engineering feats. With 44 contributing structures built between 1884-1945, the district is made up of unreinforced brick masonry shops, concrete shops and warehouses, and steel-frame buildings with corrugated iron or steel cladding; structures related to shipbuilding and repair such as slipways, wharves, and floating dry docks; and Irish Hill, the site of a once vibrant neighborhood where ship workers lived and played. The nomination will be reviewed by the State Historical Resources Commission on February 7, 2014, after which, it will be forwarded to the National Park Service.

Since the publishing of the Pier 70 Preferred Master Plan, the Port has contracted with various development partners to implement identified objectives. Projects currently under development include proposals to rehabilitate the 20th Street Historic Buildings, establish Crane Cove Park, and redevelop the southeastern portion of the site. More information about the projects and Heritage positions is below.

Heritage Position on Pier 70 Projects

Heritage’s Issues Committee has conducted ongoing review of projects proposed at Pier 70 since 2011.  As each project is under the guise of a separate developer, Heritage has reviewed proposals on a case-by-case basis.
Crane Cove Park

Crane Cove Park is a proposed 8-acre park nestled along the northern waterfront of the Pier 70 area. Adjacent to a large and active ship repair yard, the park will open up 1,000 feet of Bay shoreline and spotlight a pair of historic shipyard cranes, new landscape, and plaza features.

Heritage’s Issues Committee has reviewed design options for Crane Cove Park, presented by project developer, AECOM, and preservation consultant, Architectural Resources Group. The Committee commends the project team for its level of in-depth research and is in support of a plan that would focus on interpreting the World War II history of the site. Additionally, the committee is enthusiastic about project plans to preserve buildings 109, 110, 49, and the Kneass building.

Heritage Comment Letter on Crane Cove Park, September 2012

Heritage comment letter on Crane Cove Park, March 5, 2013

20th Street Historic Core

This much-anticipated project, which includes the rehabilitation of historic buildings on 20th Street into space for office workers, retailers, artists and manufacturing companies, aims to re-imagine the languishing industrial corridor as a newly invigorated waterfront.

The project site totals approximately 300,000 square feet on seven acres, with a combination of significant office and industrial structures built between 1885 and 1941. Orton Development has been selected to lead the project and plans to rehabilitate eight historic buildings for new office, commercial, and light industrial uses with initial occupancy projected in 2015 and an expected completion date of 2017.

The deteriorating state of the 20th Street historic structures lends an urgency to the project – the buildings lack fire protection, are not ADA compliant, and have suffered from heavy vandalism and weatherization.  The entire project will require local, state, and federal review as it must meet the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Historic Rehabilitation in order to receive tax credits.

Heritage’s Issues Committee has reviewed preliminary plans for the project and is currently in the process of developing its position.

Waterfront Development Site

Located in the southeast corner of Pier 70 is the Waterfront Development Site, which abuts the 20th Street Historic Core and is comprised mostly of open space. Project developer, Forest City, has created a conceptual plan that proposes infill construction, increased density, open space, and new uses such as residential, office, industrial, and creative uses (i.e. studio and retail spaces for artists and makers).  Three historic buildings (#2, 12, and 21) are planned for rehabilitation while Building #21 will be relocated. Non-contributing resources will be removed from the site.

Heritage’s Issues Committee has reviewed the Forest City proposal and is currently in the process of developing its position on the project.