Elizabeth Seifel delivered the 8th presentation in Harbourside's Harbour Series: "How to Build a Thriving Waterfront" with her experiences from working in San Francisco.
Elizabeth Seifel is President of Seifel Consultants and very active in the San Francisco area in the design of urban areas to redevelop or repurpose underutilized spaces. While San Francisco's footprint is far larger than that of Victoria harbour, there are transferable lessons. The challenges and opportunities include new investment, the development of mixed use, and improving the visitor experience. Many opportunities consist of "infill development". Old and deteriorated areas, whether former industrial piers or port facilities, or abandoned rail rights-of-way, or other industrial properties, have been redeveloped to better fit with the evolving economy. Elizabeth noted that San Francisco gets about 17 million visitors/year. In undertaking these redevelopments, the proponents are chasing the triple bottom line - economic, social and environmental improvement. The developments are aimed at encouraging walking, cycling and transit use. Importantly, significant proportions of the residential components are affordable housing (targeted at renters earning below the median income). In one development (Mission Bay), one quarter of units are affordable for those earning 120% of the median income, with many affordable even at 60% of median income. These developments produce waterfront intensification, putting more population and more activity in the desirable waterfront areas. This is also assisted by the introduction of "form-based" building codes which allows change of use and the integration of residential and commercial activity.
A variety of examples were cited including the Candlestick Point / Hunters Point / football stadium project; the rehabilitation of Pier 70; Mission Bay; and the Embarcadero.
Elizabeth also noted the use of public-private partnerships (P3's) which induce long-term partnerships between the public and private sectors but which also present more complexity physically, economically, socially and environmentally. However the collaborative process can effectively capture public benefits.
Questions were raised regarding (1) the degree to which strategic planning (or thinking) influences development; (2) the effect of earthquake damage in creating opportunities: (3) recognition that middle-income earners (like teachers and police) could no longer afford in-city rents; (4) the opportunity for arts spaces (like studios or performance spaces); (5) the role of a visual "anchor", the Sidney (Aust.) Opera House being the iconic example; (6) planning for sewage management.