[Write On] Repurposing San Francisco’s Old Bay Bridge

Bustling with energy, Muni’s and metro stops – San Francisco boasts tan exponentially growing Tech Bubble, swarming with passionate, hungry young professionals seeking to make a name for themselves.  Rolling hills full of painted ladies, vertigo inducing buildings and shorelines full of wildlife engulf the city from all sides.  Even though places like Delores Park, Lands End and Golden Gate Park are scattered throughout the city, I’m typically left feeling over-industrious and slightly out of touch with nature. Good news, is there’s a new plan in the works that could change all that.

Recently, London’s Westminster Borough approved a ‘Garden Bridge’ for the city – and the more I’m enamored by the idea of converting something so rote and industrial into a whimsical world engulfed by local flora and fauna, the more I’d love to push for San Francisco to take on something similar with the Old Bay Bridge. For the last year, it’s been made increasingly clear that the initial plans to disassemble the Eastern Span of the Bay Bridge over the course of two years has caught a kink; slowly, but surely, the CalTrains budget of $6.4 Billion has been dwindling and there’s been no actual end in sight for the project.  To boot, with the abundance of natural wildlife around the area in the wetlands, sand flats and eelgrass beds – there are multiple ecosystems that would effectively be destroyed if said plans to take down the former Bay Bridge follow through.

Growing up in the South Bay, I’ve seen ample changes to the city.  Over the last three decades, ginormous buildings have drastically altered the SF skyline while earthquakes like Loma Prieta have done their duty to attempt and level it.  Back in ’89 when the quake hit, the Bay Bridge as we then knew it collapsed from the upper deck. In one of the largest public works projects in the history of the United States, the new bridge finally commenced building in 2002 and after a decade of work, finally opened to the delight of the city in 2012.  At the time, there wasn’t a question on what to do with the former Bay Bridge – disassemble it, destruct it, destroy it; just get it out of there!  But by the time the Summer of 2013 rolled around, their bank account had zeroed out but the Eastern Span was only half gone. In lieu of upping the toll fee to subsidize the high cost of taking down the rest of the bridge, there are a few other ideas in the works that I think are just phenomenal.

In an effort to pinch a few pennies on demolition costs, the city is considering leaving a few piers standing, which means the options and opportunities for repurposing the Bridge are effectively endless.  Minus converting the entire thing into a parking structure (which, one could argue, the city desperately needs), or apartments, condos or – heaven forbid, more tech offices, I vote the still standing Eastern span of the bridge is converted into a garden, park or the like. Much like the Garden Bridge in London, if the old partition of the Bay Bridge was saved and reinvented, it would be a wonderful compliment to how corporate San Francisco has become while giving the city a breath of fresh air – literally. 

What do you think should come of the old Bay Bridge?

Let me know in the comments below!

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