San Francisco is on the cusp of some major developments (and redevelopments) with the official groundbreaking this week of the Transbay Transit Center, the recent approval of the EIR for the Hunters Point project and a public hearing also this week on the draft EIR for the Treasure Island master plan.

We’re talking 2,600 new homes in the adjacent transit tower with 3 million sq ft of commercial and 100,000 sq ft of retail in the transit center site, not to mention a high-tech, high-speed rail terminus; 10,500 residential units, 320 acres of parks and open space, including a new “Crissy Field of the South,” approximately 700,000 sq ft of destination retail and entertainment space and over 2.5 million sq ft of commercial space oriented around a “green” science and technology campus at Hunters Point; and 8,000 housing units, 300 acres of parks and thousands of sq ft of commercial and retail on Treasure Island.

That’s a lot of stuff, some of which has taken decades of sweat to make happen or even get to this point. And why it’s all coming together now is something along the lines of karma, not coincidence.

I was at the groundbreaking ceremony last Wednesday at the First and Mission site of the old Transbay Terminal, which is now undergoing the wrecking ball treatment. The old building was cordoned off, with police everywhere. Earlier in the week, city/county officials herded the dozens of homeless out of the structure, which they affectionately labeled, in Hispanic parlance, Casa de Urine.

It was one of those chilly, drizzly mornings that we’re getting a lot of here in the Bay Area this summer. Lots of regional media and hundreds of guests.

With Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, Senator Barbara Boxer and Mayor Gavin Newsom in attendance, it predictably turned into a political backslapper of an event, but in many ways these people and those on the podium and in the audience fought extremely hard through the years to get this project going and they should be praised.

Everyone, from hostess Maria Ayerdi-Kaplan, the executive director of the Transbay Joint Powers Authority, the umbrella agency overseeing the project, to Ray LaHood, U.S. transportation secretary, referred to the project as the “Grand Central Station of the West,” as it might very well be some day.

It was LaHood, though, who put the whole effort into perspective. Being first in line for federal stimulus funds, which pushed the project over the edge, LaHood says that Pelosi and her delegation “got your act together” and made inner-city high-speed rail a reality. “Congratulations, California,” he says.

One thing politicians are apt to mention endlessly these days, as they should, are the jobs new projects will create. In this case, 48,000 of them over seven years. Boxer called the project “a bullet-train for job creation.”

Add that to what Hunters Point and Treasure Island could offer in terms of employment, and we’re talking something quite special here.

blog post photo

From left, former SF Mayor
Willie Brown, former State Senator John Burton, TJPA Executive Director Maria Ayerdi-Kaplan, Congressmen George Miller, Mayor Gavin Newsom, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, Secretary Ray LaHood, Senator Barbara Boxer, Anaheim Mayor Curt Pringle (and chairman of the California High-Speed Rail Authority), TJPA Board Chairman Nathaniel Ford, and Gov. Schwarzenegger’s Senior Advisor David Crane.