Mixed Uses and Incomes Makes San Francisco District Bloom
Yerba Buena Gardens is an 87-acre project, formerly an area of decaying warehouses and vacant lots, where redevelopment was begun in the 1960s. While the project extends to twelve city blocks, there are three “Central Blocks” comprising 22 acres of retail, entertainment, and cultural uses, where most of the public space is located. The overall district includes low- and middle-income housing, as well as market-rate condominiums; a large Marriott Hotel; six acres of gardens; retail, recreational, entertainment, parking, and cultural facilities; a five-acre children’s center; and the George Moscone Convention Center. The outdoor space, most of which is concentrated on Central Block 2 and comprises approximately 5.5 acres, is very versatile and can accommodate a variety of activities without seeming overly crowded. In 1998, the Agency developed the Children’s Center on the block to the south, which has a smaller open space (about three acres). Also in the works is a 50-foot-wide pedestrian street called Yerba Buena Lane that will run between Mission and Market Streets, and St. Patrick’s Church and the Marriot Hotel. The spaces include a Martin Luther King, Jr., memorial, the Esplanade Stage (an outdoor performance space), several gardens and sculptures, and a waterfall.
Owned by: The San Franciso Redevelopment Agency. The Agency has created the Yerba Buena Alliance, a nonprofit membership organization whose mission is to support and enhance the continuing revitalization of Yerba Buena Gardens. Its members include all stakeholders in the Yerba Buena neighborhood, including cultural organizations, educational institutions, commercial and recreational entities, residential complexes, hotels, public agencies, churches and individuals. The Yerba Buena Alliance will be incorporated into a BID when the Agency withraws from the area in 2009.
Managed by: The KTB Company, a for-profit corporation. The Redevelopment Agency, which remains the temporary governing body for the area while construction proceeds, contracts with the KTB company to manage the security, operation and maintenance program for Yerba Buena Gardens. KTB’s staff includes a General Manager, garden consultants, and maintenance and security personnel.
Maintenance: Janitorial services and some of the landscaping is sub-contracted by KTB. A regular preventative maintenance schedule is followed for the sculptures and special features of the park.
Security and hospitality: Security is sub-contracted by KTB. The KTB general sanager has spearheaded a community security group, in which Yerba Buena security guards, the San Francisco Police Department, and Bay Area Rapid Transit police coordinate their efforts, including a common radio band. Staff training includes hospitality training, so the staff can also act as guides and ambassadors to the site.
Programming: The wide variety of programs include music, dance, and spoken-word performances, cultural festivals and day-long events, weekly ethnic music concerts, and the Fourth of July Alternative Family Picnic. Yerba Buena Arts & Events, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) corporation, has recently been put in place to curate and coordinate arts and events programming for the Esplanade and the Children’s Gardens; coordination with the Yerba Buena Alliance prevents conflicts in the activity calendar.
Marketing and promotion: The Yerba Buena Alliance helps to promote and market the site through its membership newsletters.
Yerba Buena Center is located in the freeway approach grid for the Bay Bridge, so several of the surrounding streets are wide and difficult to cross. A related challenge is to encourage visitors to cross the “boundaries” between the various attractions.
Security, operations, and maintenance for the six-acre Esplanade (the principal open space) and the two-acre Rooftop cost $2.31 million per year. The programming budget is $329,000, which is covered through an account set up by the Agency and funded by rents from the Marriot and the Metreon (Sony Entertainment Center). The Agency now requires all land purchasers to contribute to this account; all concessionaires, retail stores, and entertainment facilities also contribute. This account yields about $150,000 per year, and is supplemented by $112,000 of earned income and $67,000 of contributed income, the latter of which includes corporate sponsorships. The Agency provides basic rent, utilities, and security for the Center for the Arts and Zeum (the children’s center), but no funds for programming. The Agency passes through support to the Child Care Center from developers who make lump-sum payments for that purpose. The Agency also provides the Center with rent-free space. Zeum is supported by revenues from the carousel.
Capital investment: The San Francisco Redevelopment Agency’s budget is supported in part by land sales, leases, grants, and bonding. The Children’s Center was paid for with hotel tax revenue bonds (hotel taxes.) Jessie Square, a new public space, will be built by a private developer who will build a parking garage under the square. There is a current proposal to provide capital support for the construction of the Mexican Museum. Capital improvements will be completed with tax increment financing. As property taxes in the redevelopment areas increase, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors (the city council) can allocate 60% of this revenue back to the Agency to continue its work and pay off its bonds.
- Effective coordination of such a large site requires that all programming be funneled through one coordinator.
- A cooperative atmosphere is a key to success. This tone was set by Helen Sause, the project’s director for 18 years. She was called the “Princess of Process” since she was extremely concerned with gaining a consensus from all the stakeholders.
- Mechanisms for the management of the open spaces should be tied into the development of the site.
San Francisco Redevelopment Agency
Bill Carney: Senior Project Manager
770 Golden Gate Avenue
San Francisco, CA 94102
Mary McCue: General Manager
Yerba Buena Arts & Events
Mario Garcia Durham, Executive Director
(415) 978-2710, Ext. 111
Yerba Buena Alliance
Anita Hills: Executive Director
760 Howard Street
San Francisco, CA 94105
Web Site: www.yerbabuena.org