Even though the Treasure Island development could be one of the biggest intentionally green communities in the U.S., critics have pointed out many potential pitfalls. Detractors claim that building a large development off the city grid with limited transportation options is anything but sustainable. For San Francisco, the opportunity to add housing for 19,000 new residents would be a boon in a tightly constrained urban space; but for commuters, residents, and climate change activists, it could be a traffic nightmare.
There is only one Muni bus line that connects to Treasure Island and The Bay Bridge, a toll bridge that links the San Francisco peninsula with the East Bay, is already a major bottleneck. The planned eco-village is centered on pedestrian and bicycle traffic (after all, the island is less than a mile square), but there must be a large enough population to justify regular bus and ferry service. If the plans for Treasure Island as an “eco-utopia” are to go forward, the issue of transit and fossil fuel emissions must be addressed.
Other concerns are related to sea level rise in the case of climate change or tsunami. Treasure Island is completely flat, and as a result of being built from fill, it is especially vulnerable to earthquake damage. Another risk unique to Treasure Island is a legacy of the island’s use as a naval base for many years – there is abundant toxic buildup in the soil, including radioactive waste, due to ammunition dumps and decontamination activities. Community advocates also worry that Treasure Island could end up falling prey to the environmental risks and drawn-out timelines of other area redevelopment projects like Mission Bay and Bayview.
Developers say that new fill, higher sea walls, and dedicated bus and ferry lines should stave off most of these worrisome side effects. San Francisco policymakers are clearly satisfied with the plans, and have cleared the project to move ahead. The Treasure Island green development has been dubbed a Clinton Climate Intiative founding project, and developers Wilson Meany Sullivan, Lennar Urban and Kenwood Investments hope to break ground in 2012.