This week the Architecture + The City Festival took us to Treasure Island for an upclose view of the proposed sustainable development plan and a not so shabby panoramic view of the whole San Francisco Bay Area. We found that the entire place is steeped in future plans and the island is a keystone in what will become a center for green living in the Bay.

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We also got an eye full of the temporary Bay Bridge span, which was impressively being connected to the existing bridge over the weekend. Meanwhile, curious ones like us piled into a shuttle and explored the flat shoals of Treasure Island. Together we squinted at the view, meandered through the parking lots, and gazed into what could be the developed future of the flat manmade island– an educational urban farm, a ferry building to mirror the one in San Francisco’s Embarcadero, and a wastewater treatment plant framed by wetlands.

Though the project overall aspires to the Gold level of LEED Neighborhood Development Certification, the smartest design elements for the Treasure Island plans are the simplest ones. All of the streets are set at a 68-degree north-south angle in order to minimize wind exposure. Most of the housing is centered around the ferry terminal and the bay bridge off-ramp. 300 of the acres on the island will be set aside for natural habitat. Though many of the existing buildings on the island will be razed for the new development, many are landmarks and will be repurposed: the old naval airplane hangars will become a retail and entertainment centers, respectively. Terminal 1 (a regal building featured in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade) will become the new Ferry Terminal.

Housing on the island will be a varied set of townhouses, stacked flats, mid-rises, neighborhood towers, and high rises, with units for different income levels all mixed together. On the city side of the island these blocks will be connected with pedestrian “mews,” landscaped common pathways. On the east side, a linear park will run down the center of the neighborhood leading straight to the retail center.

Design teams from Skidmore Owings & Merrill, Page & Turnbull, and the recently merged SMWM and Perkins & Will are aiming to strike a balance of density and diversity on the island, and it’s no small feet to stay determined throughout the long entitlement process and what will likely be several decades of development. Several of the developers involved in the redevelopment of the ferry building are also involved in the Treasure Island project, and hope for the islands’ Ferry Terminal to follow the peninsula’s successes. Though the urban farm planned for the island will not produce enough food to feed all projected 16,000-24,000 residents, there may be opportunity for the produce to be marketed in one of the converted airplane hangars. Those hangars will hopefully be covered in solar panels, supplementing a variety of power sources for the island, including wind and municipal grid power.

Probably the most powerful restriction was that each unit would be assigned one, and only one, belowground parking space. Residents will be encouraged to take the new ferry route, bike, or carpool. This search for alternative transportation is keenly felt by those of us who have to negotiate a Bay-Bridgeless Weekend in order to ensure a stable future.

The comprehensive design has earned a number of awards: The AIA National Honor Award, a recognition by the Clinton Climate Initiative, and The Governor’s Economic and Environmental Leadership Award.

+ San Francisco Treasure Island