November 19, 2001
Kimberley K. Brandon
President, Port Commission
Pier 1, Port of San Francisco
SF, CA 94111
Dear Ms. Brandon:
I am writing to you again to appraise the port‚s and community‚s progress on the proposed Illinois St. bridge. There has been a fair amount of activity and negotiation since you and I last corresponded.
We have now held 2 critical small-group community sessions with the port. The small group, in this case, is the tenants occupying the eastern half of the Spencer building on the 1800 block of Illinois St, those most severely impacted by the bridge project. The port employees we have primarily met with, Nita Mizushima, Diane Oshima, Dan Bell, and Peter Young, among others, have presented a fair picture of why the port wants better rail access to Pier 80. As a large, recently and expensively upgraded pier, suited best for containerized bulk, it would be highly marketable if it did not have such poor rail access. Making it more marketable to rail companies makes it generally more marketable to shipping.
Ms. Mizushima and her team have all been forthcoming and constructive regarding our concerns as well. I was quickly provided with the project gantt chart, which I requested in my previous letter. Together, we have also systematically gone through several turns in the bridge design to address community concerns of eliminated parking, the inclusion of a retaining wall, access to loading docks, shoreline access, alignment, and southern access to the bridge via Amador St. These are not completely resolved, and there are more issues concerning green space and the loss of community gardens, but significant headway has been made.
However, through all our negotiations there remains a graver issue, as yet untouched. I am escalating it to your attention because I do not believe it is within the authority of the project engineers to address. Citing it as a mitigation factor in the Southern Waterfront Environmental Impact Report (SEIR), the port is planning for this bridge to be inter-modal, mixed rail and truck traffic. The port‚s primary stated interest in this bridge is improved rail traffic, and the one issue virtually guaranteed to force our businesses from this building is truck traffic.
An inter-modal bridge, the SEIR estimates, will ultimately host 1850 truck trips a day passing over the bridge and down our block, occasionally idling at the new light at Illinois St. and Marin St. The current preferred design would put those trucks about 46‚feet in front of the doors and windows of my business OQO at 1800 Illinois St as well as all the other businesses on Illinois St. The air quality resulting from that will make our spaces completely uninhabitable. Forcing our businesses out in this way will obviously ruin the community and Spencer‚s property, and could merit legal and activist responses. To give an example, the city is currently burying conduits underneath Islais Creek which means a drilling machine (a single diesel engine) has been operating roughly 100‚ ~ 120‚ in front of our building for some weeks. It has occasionally shut our business down because of intense fumes, migraines, dizziness, and nausea among people at OQO. This is documented in complaints filed with the city.
From what I‚ve gleaned, it is primarily the SEIR‚s recommendation for truck access on this bridge that warrant‚s its inclusion. However, the SEIR is glaringly deficient in documenting the impact this bridge will have on an area already riddled by documented health problems from environmental factors.
As a pointed example, the SEIR‚s evaluation of air quality due to diesel particulates bases all its conclusions on levels predicted at the „Youngblood Coleman Playground, on Hudson Ave. at Mendell St., which is the closest sensitive receptor downwind from the concentration‰ (S-17 SEIR case no. 1999.377E). This park is roughly 0.8 miles (1.3km) away from our stree, which again is only 46‚ away from the idling truck traffic. 46 feet compared to 4,224 feet (0.8 miles) seems like a comically flawed study.
This grievous over-sight of the SEIR ignoring diesel exhaust trapped in our building will be one of many serious points of contention in coming months during the permitting processes for this project. I also directly defy the SEIR‚s mitigation conclusion that „The Illnois St. bridge that is proposed by the port would improve operating conditions at 3rd St. and Cargo Way to an acceptable level of service∑ compared to conditions without the bridge‰ (S-29 SEIR case no. 1999.377E) and posit firmly that the bridge would not reduce truck congestion but would draw, and is in reality intended to draw, new truck traffic to the area. I find it necessary for all of us to call the SEIR‚s methods and its conclusions into question as we go forward.
What I would like to focus on instead is a thorough and constructive look at the feasibility of excluding truck traffic altogether from this bridge. If it were a rail-only bridge, it would open up Pier 80 to completely unlimited rail traffic, not only during those times when trucks can be excluded (which will be few in the current plan). Port trains would not be competing with trucks from various interests, like the Evans St. post office, for example. The bridge would be narrower, unpaved, and thus remarkably cheaper. It seems like an excellent way for the port to keep this bridge focused on port business and interests.
A rail-only bridge could make use of essentially all of the improvements the community has thus far negotiated with the port, outlined above. Obviously, it would also make the giant leap of eliminating the incessant diesel exhaust that would force us out. We could expect traffic to be less frequent and in that regard, quieter. Not only does it rescue our smaller business community, but it spares a larger Bayview-Hunter‚s Point community another environmental-hazard blow, having already endured too many.
I can respect that the port has been trying since 1985 to get this bridge, and in that time has seen piers from north to south fall into disuse and be essentially given over to other developments. But in that same period, Illinois St. has revitalized itself. In Spencer‚s building, there is a thriving and creative array of businesses who‚s needs will be respected. I do not represent Mr. Spencer himself, but I (and the port) have heard him say aggressively and publicly that the project, as it stands, will force his tenants out, which he will oppose. None of our businesses are as powerful as the Mission Bay tenants or the Catellus Corporation who wants (and funds) this bridge so that trains no longer pass through their area. Likewise, Bayview-Hunter‚s Point never has the political clout or support that is enjoyed by districts further upwind, and therefore too often gets doused with the city‚s pollutants, toxins, and carcinogens. Make no mistake, this is the damage that a truck bridge will cause, and this letter documents it.
A rail-only bridge would be a major stride toward something workable to our businesses and community, and I want to seriously consider it possible with the Port‚s full consideration too. Let me know your thoughts.
Nick Merz, Head of Industrial Design, OQO
SF Port: Nita Mizushima
SF Supervisors: Tom Amiano
SF Planning Dept.: Gerald Green