Island of Dreams

The Promising and Precarious Future of SF’s Treasure Island.

Devin Smith

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Photo: Amy Smith

This article originally appeared in the February 2022 issue of SFAA Magazine.

The view! A parade of superlatives doesn’t do it justice: Both bridges are in full view as the skyline splays before you like Burt Reynolds on a bearskin rug. Today we’re exploring Yerba Buena Island [YBI] and Treasure Island [TI], which are physically connected, but distinct in environmental character and future development trajectories. Over the next two decades, no other part of San Francisco will undergo such a radical transformation. The plan calls for as many as 8,000 units across the two islands: Picture Mission Bay with another 1,600 units stacked on top.¹

Over the next two decades, no other part of San Francisco will undergo such a radical transformation: Picture Mission Bay with another 1,600 units stacked on top.

After years of geotechnical work — more on that later — the first two new buildings, YBI’s Bristol condos and TI’s Maceo May apartments, topped out just a few months ago. By the time this article goes to print, ferries will be cruising to-and-from TI’s new terminal.²

Ever since the Navy began its transfer of the islands back to the City in ’97, planners and residents have dreamed of what might be possible here. But as the quickening effects of climate change descend upon the world, our dreams must now share space with hard realities…

Photos: Amy Smith.

Yerba Buena Island is part of the Franciscan Formation, a rock shelf that extends all the way out to the Faralones, and was carved by glaciers into the shape of the Bay Area we know and love today. Archeologists place the Ohlone Huchiun people on the island by around 1400 BCE; During the Gold Rush, it served as a pastureland for goats.³ It remains a stopover point for migrating birds and butterflies…

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