Questions Regarding the Embarcadero Historic District Piers Request for Interest

The Port of San Francisco sought public-oriented concepts for historic facilities on the San Francisco waterfront. This Request for Interest (RFI) solicited feedback from small businesses and master tenants for new public uses for 13 historic piers and the Agriculture Building that are in need of rehabilitation. The RFI closed on October 31, 2018. 

Answers to questions received by Friday, October 12, 2018.

Physical Attributes of Facilities & Cost Estimates
  1. Are there any current informational architecture/engineering and building structure reports available?
The RFI website currently contains drawings of each facility. In addition, the Port, added after publication of the RFI, two documents to the RFI website related to existing buildings. One is a memorandum prepared in 2017 as part of the Waterfront Land Use Plan Update on general pier conditions and the other is the “Port’s Historic Resources and Stewardship”  report produced in 2016 which includes an overview of condition-information the Port maintains. Please note that specific facility information will be made available at the time of an RFP.
  1. What does “historic restoration” mean to the Port of San Francisco?
The Port follows the Secretary of Interior Standards. To get a sense of the Port’s historic restoration of properties, look to the breadth of projects completed so far. In addition to historic restoration, all projects must undergo the environmental review process.
  1. In terms of this RFI, what is historic? Is everything historic?
All sites within the RFI are part of the Embarcadero Historic District. All facilities are “contributing” resources to the District and the Agricultural Building is also individually listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  As a side note, previous projects completed within the District benefited financially from Historic Tax Credits.
  1. Questions on: building assessment information and cost estimates:
    1. What is involved approximately for seismic improvement of each facility?
    2. Is there an assessment of the buildings and the extent of improvements required?
    3. Are cost estimates for substructure repair and seismic retrofit available?
    4. Can the Port share building assessment information?
    5. What is the relative structural condition of foundation and substructure for Pier 38?
    6. Other than the brief estimates of what it would take to do structural repair, are there other estimates of what needs to be done to bring the piers to functional/usable condition?
The RFI website contains a WLUP memo summarizing pier substructure and superstructure conditions, at a very high level (i.e., “green” and “yellow” and “red”). The memorandum also contains a summary of recent analysis the Port conducted on Pier 19 and Pier 38. We expect to provide more information on specific facilities at the RFP stage.
In addition, this presentation to the WLUP Update stakeholder group contains a table summarizing high-level cost estimates for two example piers, Pier 38 and Pier 19 (see pdf page 18). The estimates from 2017 include structural and seismic repair, utility upgrades, and a basic per square foot tenant improvement allocation. 
The Port also added 2007 Agricultural Building assessment conducted by for WETA on the Agricultural Building to the RFI website. 
  1. Is the financial feasibility of a concept part of this stage?
No, demonstration of financial feasibility is not required at the RFI stage. The Port is looking for market interest and market information for public-oriented uses at this stage.  Ultimately, proposals at the RFP stage will need to be financially feasible.
  1. Is there any ability to change the floor area of the piers, and/or raise the roof, and/or alter the exterior, or is that all historically protected?
The Port has provided examples below of rehabilitation techniques that have been found to meet Secretary of the Interior historic standards in the Embarcadero Historic District in the past and were able to achieve Historic Tax Credit financial support. These examples are not meant to convey the Port’s preferences for any particular facility nor an opinion as to whether these alterations proposed today would meet Secretary Standards, they are just intended to provide an indication of what has occurred in the past.
  • Pier 1, Pier 15 (Exploratorium), Ferry Building: Mezzanines added which increased floor area within the historic pier. Mezzanine additions are limited to preserve the interior historic volume and character of the resource.
  • Pier 3: New addition behind existing historic bulkhead. The new addition was permitted because it replaced an existing shed.
Please note that Pier shed roofs are a character defining feature so alterations are generally limited to installation of HVAC equipment, cell antennas and photovoltaic panels.  
Also, respondents may note that the historic bulkhead was removed at Pier 40. The removal of the bulkhead at this site predates the Embarcadero Historic District and would not be consistent with Secretary’s Standards.
  1. The structural analysis document for Piers 19 and 38 mentions a mezzanine addition - is that possible in all of the piers? Just some of that? Would that count as additional floor area which would need entitlements, if it were to become commercial office space?
Limited mezzanine (across no more than roughly one-third of the floorplate) may be allowed on a case-by-case basis, provided the overall project meet the Secretary’s Standards, with some caveats.  Any proposed mezzanine would need to go through all of the appropriate approvals and would need to support to overall goal of the RFI and later RFP process – financially feasible projects with a mix of uses which result in historically rehabilitated facilities with activated, public-oriented spaces.
  1. The existing floor area, is it already entitled as commercial office space, or would it need permission from planning to become such? And would it need to get in line behind other projects that need such entitlements, or is there a priority given to port projects?
Office space on the Port counts towards the City’s Office Development Annual Limitation program, otherwise known as Proposition M.  Respondents proposing concepts including office space are encouraged to familiarize themselves with these rules; see the Planning Department’s website for more information:
Because the RFI seek mixes of uses that include public-oriented uses in addition to revenue generating ones like private offices, the physical limits of the space may provide project sponsors with an opportunity to gain entitlement under the somewhat less competitive Small Allocation program (targeted at projects with between 25,000 and 49,999 sq ft).  In addition, the rules in some cases allow spaces previously constructed and used as office space to be redeveloped as office without receiving an additional allocation.  In the RFI area, these spaces that may qualify for this treatment include the offices in the Agricultural Building and in the bulkheads of Piers 26, 28 and 38.  The applicability of this exemption depends greatly on the specific facts and circumstances of a location and proposed project; accordingly, the Port can make no representation that any particular project would qualify for this treatment. 
Seawall/ Sea Level Rise
  1. Is there any information about how The Embarcadero will be retrofitted as part of the Seawall Project? Will the height be increased?
The Seawall Program will involve strengthening the seawall over phases, with the initial phase focused on addressing immediate, life-safety issues. Both the specific locations of where these initial phase improvements will be made and the technique for strengthening the Seawall are currently under review.  During this initial phase of work, the height of The Embarcadero will not be increased, but the strengthening improvements will be adaptable to later sea level rise measures, meaning, they will be built to support height that may be added later. For more information about this, please refer to the Seawall Project (
  1.  Do you anticipate the use of any Seawall funds for pier foundation improvements?
The Port plans to use the proceeds of the Seawall Bond, if approved by voters, to address the areas that are most susceptible to damage and life-safety risks and that are needed for emergency response.  Piers are integral with the Seawall, so strengthening the Seawall or improving those areas directly influenced by the Seawall is an authorized use of Bond funds.  For piers in areas of the Port that are not prioritized for the first $500 million phase of the Seawall Earthquake Safety Program, the Port will evaluate tax increment captured through a Port infrastructure financing district as a potential means of financing improvements to the adjacent portion of the Seawall.
  1. Doesn’t the substructure rehabilitation have to match up with the Seawall Project? What is the impact of the Seawall repair project?
Substructure repairs or retrofits will need to consider the performance of the Seawall, which may or may not be improved at the facility of interest. Without improvement, the Seawall is vulnerable to lateral spreading which has the potential to fracture piles and damage the bulkhead wharf and buildings.  However, several structural options exist to accommodate this Seawall displacement, which have been done at Brannan Street Wharf and WETA Downtown Ferry Terminal Expansion and are planned at Station 35 Fire Boat Station.  Phase 1 Seawall projects will likely be intended to minimize lateral spreading at the Seawall, but some level of substructure retrofit may be required at the facility of interest.  The Port will provide more information on coordination with the Seawall Program at the RFP stage.
  1. What are sea level rise projections and impacts?
The latest projections referenced by the Port’s Seawall Program show sea levels rising up 24 inches by mid-century and 66 inches by 2100. To help understand the impacts of rising seas for the historic piers, please see these resources:
The City and the Port understand that sea level rise poses a significant threat to San Francisco’s communities, businesses, environmental resources, and infrastructure. In recognition of this threat, the City adopted the Sea Level Rise Action Plan and the Port has been a strong partner in implementing the actions recommended by the plan.  As investments are made to waterfront infrastructure, the Port seeks to work with lessees at critical junctures to mutually agree on the adaptation path to accommodate sea level rise.  The negotiation of a lease for any particular pier rehabilitation project will include agreements regarding timing and implementation of adaptation strategies as needed to address projected impacts.
Existing Tenants
  1. I understand that one of the piers we are interested in has already been leased for a short-term use during 2019. How do existing short-term leases impact the RFI/RFP process, if at all?   What happens to existing tenants?
Many facilities in the RFI have tenants with short-term leases, typically with a few years remaining on the lease. At the time of the RFP, the Port will develop a plan to vacate the premises to prepare the site for a development project and a new lease. The Port includes in all of its leases the ability to relocate tenants or even to terminate leases for development projects.
  1. What about the piers with maritime uses (ferry and cruise)? Has any information be requested from operators?
Current as well as potential operators have been invited to respond to the RFI. The Port is committed to maintaining and expanding maritime operations on Port property.  In addition, the Port heard during the Waterfront Land Use Plan Update process that the public is very supportive of an active, working waterfront.  We want to hear from operators about where they would like to be located. We anticipate that projects through the RFP stage will integrate opportunities for maritime operators onsite, to the extent physically and operationally possible.  
  1. Are the use-parameters of the piers also part of the RFI? Are the aprons and water area included in the RFI?
The key uses sought in the RFI are public-oriented uses. The Port has not defined any particular use-types for any particular pier. Note that aprons and water access can be selected as preferred locations in the RFI response form, for each facility. 
RFI/RFP Processes
  1. I understand that the Port is using the RFI responses in developing an RFP. How do respondents avoid proposing a novel concept in the RFI and then having it shopped to others? (and)  If subsequent RFP will be open to all applicants, what incentive exists to respond in detail to the RFI, understanding that RFI responses will be publicly viewable?  What prevents an entity from copying an idea put forward during by a competitor during the RFI phase and proposing the idea during the RFP phase? 
The Port understands this concern about the process. It is important that RFI respondents understand that all responses to the RFI will be available publicly and will be discussed publicly. The Port encourages respondents to share as much of their concepts as they feel comfortable at the RFI stage, to inform potential RFP(s). While there is no explicit incentive to respond to the RFI, the Port will use the RFI to inform RFPs including selecting the location for the solicitation and detailing the objectives for pier development, e.g., arts, entertainment, ferry excursion, recreation, education, cultural, food and beverage experience, among others. If your organization has a unique idea or currently operates a great business that would be a fit for our piers, we encourage responding to the RFI with an appropriate level of information to allows us to consider it in formulating the RFP.
  1. After the RFI does the Port select 1 candidate to proceed? More than one candidate? After RFI is there an RFP process?
The Port will not select any respondents to the RFI but will use the results to develop RFPs. Port staff anticipate recommending an RFP strategy to the Port Commission in early 2019.
  1. Will future RFP's be competitive and open to the public or would they be to particular responders?
Future RFPs related to this RFI will be open to the public. Respondents do not need to respond to the RFI to be considered for the RFP.
  1. Can proposers only express interest in a small part of the pier?
Yes, respondents interested in a small part of a pier or piers should respond as a “Smaller Tenant” in the RFI form.
  1. Has there been programmatic master planning (internal or external) for the area included in the RFI? What about community feedback?
The RFI came about through the Waterfront Land Use Plan’s community engagement, which has included South Beach and Northeast “Walk Shops” (see website for presentation boards and public comments). The Port has not yet prepared a summary of community feedback, but the website includes unfiltered community comments.
  1. After the RFI, what determines which facilities will be issued as the one or more RFPs? Why not do RFPs for all of the piers?
The RFI is the first step to test-run recommendations related to public-oriented uses from the Waterfront Land Use Plan process. This is a way for the Port to understand market feasibility and test the waters about market interest. Port staff will present all RFI responses to the Port Commission and to Port stakeholder groups. Staff will then formulate recommendations for RFP(s) for Port Commission’s consideration likely early in 2019. While multiple RFP(s) are certainly a possibility, staff’s recommendation will consider Port’s staff resources, including Port staff and consulting resources.
  1. Would the Port consider less permanent uses for facilities that are not selected for RFP? Or is there any space for interim activation?   Is there a forum for discussing means to activate piers beyond the bulkheads?
Yes, the Port considers special event and interim leasing in all facilities with vacancies. Please review the Port’s website on leasing Port facilities and see the Port’s Special Event guidelines for activation events which are fewer than 180 days in duration.
  1. Will respondents to the RFI need to provide multiple responses for Piers 29, 29.5, 31, et cetera?  Do RFI responses have to be pier-specific?
Respondents may provide one RFI response and select one or multiple locations to which the response applies. See question 6 in the RFI response form which allows multiple location selections and rankings.  Responses do need to select at least one location and may select all locations if respondents do not prefer one location over another.
  1. Is the Port looking for developers to make upgrades to these facilities?
The most important outcome of the RFP (to follow the RFI) is for the selected tenant(s) to upgrade the facility. The Port anticipates that, for a facility with multiple tenants, the contribution to the costs of upgrades will vary, with some tenants contributing more and others less.  The total contribution among the mix of tenants must balance though, such that a financially feasible project results, without relying on public contributions to the project. The information sought in the RFI from Smaller Tenants, including typical lease rate and typical contribution to tenant improvements, is intended to educate the Port and developers on the real estate economics of different types public-oriented users. At the RFP stage then, particular public-oriented use types can be combined with higher-revenue generating uses to support the full, facility upgrade costs.
  1. What is the timeline for turning around the RFI to the actual RFP?
The Port intends to discuss RFI responses with Port Commissioners and the public in November and December 2018. Staff intend to return to the Commission in early 2019 with a recommended RFP or RFPs.
  1. What is the business model, lease?
Yes, if a project is successful through the RFP and attains appropriate environmental review and approvals through the Port Commission and Board of Supervisors, the Port intends to enter into one or more leases.
  1. Is the City participating in financing arts projects?      
The Port has worked directly with artists and with Port tenants to display public art pieces along Port property throughout the waterfront, see here for examples.  The Port does not provide funding for art works but has worked with artists to locate their pieces on our world-class real estate. For the RFI piers, the primary goal is financially feasible projects with a mix of uses which result in historically rehabilitated facilities with activated, public-oriented spaces.
  1. Will there be a need for outside assistance for managing the RFI/ development process (for example, see assistance to City of Long Beach for Civic Center and Doyle Drive/Caltrans)?
The Port will issue a Request for Qualifications in 2018 for consultant teams to assist the Real Estate and Development division of the Port with a variety of projects, including the RFI. Feel free to contact Boris Delepine ( to be added to the distribution list for the RFQ.
  1. When it gets to the point of looking for tenants within a facility has the Port set any particular parameters about the mix of tenants, such as minority-owned business etc.?
There are several applicable ordinances for City and Port land which apply to all leases of Port property.  A recently published list of requirements is here and includes encouragement of Local Business Enterprise use, health care requirements for certain employment types, and requirements on First Source Hiring, among others.
  1. Will you be posting the list of people or entities who were on the August 22, 2018 call for potential collaboration?
  1. Will the August 22, 2018 online presentation be available to review after the meeting?
RFI Responses/Online form
  1. Is it possible for respondents to meet with Port staff to get feedback on a concept before submitting under the RFI?
The Port is committed to fostering a fair process and a level-playing field. Accordingly, Port staff is unable to provide feedback on a concept before RFI submission. Staff are, however, available to point respondents to publicly available information that may bear on the concept an RFI respondent is considering. Staff will then post that publicly- available information to the RFI website so that all respondents get access to the same information.
For feedback on public-oriented use concepts that have been discussed in the past, it would be worthwhile to review notes and policy guidance from the Waterfront Land Use Plan Update meetings where members discussed public-oriented uses and the RFI. See meeting archives, including meetings where these topics were discussed on: October 25, 2017 and May 31, 2017.
  1. If the master tenant only wants a portion of the facility, will the Port assist with matching up bigger and smaller tenants?
Please note that the Port has defined “Master Tenant” as a tenant who will lease an entire facility. More broadly though, the Port will not directly match up master and smaller tenants but is encouraging different parties to participate in the RFI stage so that they will have knowledge of one another and complementary matches may be found through that sharing of information, as the Port posts all RFI responses publicly to the website.
  1. In questions asking for financial commitments as a master tenant, do we have to identify our precise financial inputs (i.e., we're willing to put in x dollars per square foot), or more generic statements of willingness and ability?
In Question 9 on the RFI response form for Master Tenants, “9. Describe in paragraph form how you would access sufficient capital to complete an undertaking like the rehabilitation of a full pier structure or structures”, the Port is seeking a narrative explanation of how the respondent would assemble sufficient resources to rehabilitate an entire pier facility or facilities including, if possible, a general description of the sources of capital sufficient to provide the amounts required to implement the proposal.  A specific “dollars per square foot” response is not required.
  1. In questions asking for financial commitments as a master tenant, are the questions referring to what we'd be willing to put in, for capital, for interior work, or for exterior work, or for structural work? Or all of the above?
For the RFI, the Port has defined Master Tenant as “entities with a vision for entire buildings, including one or more structures named in this RFI. Master Tenant respondents have the experience to execute a complex rehabilitation project for a historic structure over water and to operate such a facility under a long-term ground lease.”
The Port’s goal in soliciting interest from master tenants is to begin the process of identifying those parties that can most effectively complete all aspects of the rehabilitation project, so the Port would prefer a response that indicated funding strategies for all of the above.
  1. Isn’t the National Parks Service leading an RFP for Piers 31 and 33?
The National Parks Service RFP is looking for a ferry service provider as well as a vendor for the building space in front of the Alcatraz Embarkation.  The space for NPS’s ferry concessioner is identified in the information pages in the RFI about Pier 31 and Pier 33. The footprint required to continue Alcatraz operations through the Pier 31 ½ wharf area will expand slightly from the existing footprint of the operations today, to include the northern part of the Pier 31 Bulkhead and the portions of the Pier 31 shed which front the Pier 31 ½ marginal wharf. For further information, see the Alcatraz staff report here, site plan on pdf page 21 of 33.  
  1. What use is the Port looking for in the Agricultural Building?
The Port has not specified particular uses for any of the sites, including for the Agricultural Building.  A primary goal of issuing the RFI is to learn from the market what types of uses are interested in which facilities along the waterfront.
  1. For Pier 38, is the Port looking for proposed uses for the bulkhead or the entire pier?
The Port is looking for proposed uses for the entire facility, both bulkhead and pier shed. Particular users requiring less space than the entire facility should respond to the RFI as a Smaller Tenant.
  1. What are the dimensions and clear heights in Pier 29?
Pier 29 is 161 feet wide and 770 feet long. The original drawings show clear heights of 22 feet under typical trusses in the shed, and taller clearances in the bulkhead. Please refer to the Pier 29 and 29.5 plans on the RFI website for additional dimensions and details.  
  1. Can the bulkhead area in Pier 38 be improved for use immediately without seismic & structural work?  Can sections of the bulkhead be leased immediately if they are in good condition for Pier 38?
The bulkhead area of Pier 38 requires a number of improvements to correct code violations. This 2012 staff report summarizes the results of a consultant report on the types of corrective actions which would be required for the pier. While there is certainly a path for occupancy of portions of Pier 38 with certain repairs and correction of code violations, Port staff expects to prioritize a potential project that promises full rehabilitation over a more immediate leasing strategy that would not necessarily achieve that goal.   
  1. Are there .dwg files available for Pier 29?
The Port will be providing more detailed information at the RFP stage, like Auto-CAD files. To avoid providing very detailed information about one facility over another, the Port will not be posting these files at this time.
  1. What is the square footage of the bulkhead area of Pier 29?
The Pier 29 bulkhead area is about 12,000 square feet with about 1,000 square feet reserved for Port electrical infrastructure.  The bulkhead is fully open to the 89,000 square foot interior portion of the shed building, allowing for easy expansion.
  1. What is the parking associated with Pier 29?
If this question refers to the triangular parking area between Pier 29 and Pier 27, that parking and loading area is reserved for cruise terminal use. Hourly and daily parking is available through the lot operator, when not needed for cruise operations.
  1. As Piers 19-23 were not part of the open house facilities, can interior photos be provided?


Email further inquires to Rebecca Benassini, Port Assistant Deputy Director Waterfront Development Projects, at

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