Here’s an intriguing idea for Piers 30-32

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Earlier this year, the Golden State Warriors abandoned its bid to construct a basketball arena and performance venue at Piers 30-32 along San Francisco’s waterfront, a proposal Mayor Ed Lee once championed as his “legacy project.”

The Warriors moved its ambitious project to a site in Mission Bay, to the great relief of a group of waterfront activists who viewed it as an inappropriate choice for the unique and historic 7.5-mile stretch of city waterfront that falls under the jurisdiction of the Port of San Francisco.

Nevertheless, that shift did send the Port back to the drawing board with the problem it's encountered numerous times before: What to do with Piers 30-32, which span a 13-acre slab of crumbling concrete currently in use as a parking lot just a stone’s throw from the Bay Bridge.

In a recent Bay Guardian editorial, we called for a public process to consider the future use of that waterfront pier. Could it be turned into open space? Removed? Converted to a different use?

Turns out, others have been contemplating the same question. The San Francisco Civil Grand Jury, a volunteer body tasked with investigating civic matters, introduced a new idea when it issued a report on the operations of the Port of San Francisco.

Titled, "The Port of San Francisco: Caught Between Public Trust and Private Dollars," the Civil Grand Jury report raised a few incisive questions, going so far as to suggest that the Port operates with undue influence from the Mayor’s Office, and that its governing commission ought to be restructured to resolve that. We are going to drill down more on these issues in a different post, after we’ve had a chance to interview a spokesperson from the Port.

But for now, here’s the Civil Grand Jury's line on Piers 30-32: Why not look into using it as the site of a marine research institute?

From the report:

“Our suggestion is to investigate the possibility of building a Marine Research Institute on the pier. The project lead could be an educational institution such as Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution or Scripps Institute of Oceanography (UC San Diego), a conservation group such as Cousteau Society, Greenpeace, or Ocean Conservancy, or even  government based groups such as National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) or United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

“With close proximity to the Gulf of the Farallones, Cordell Bank, and Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuaries to the west and the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to the east, a San Francisco Bay location presents a unique opportunity for marine and estuary study.

“The Cordell Bank and Gulf of the Farallones Sanctuaries today cover about 1800 square miles, but the proposed addition by NOAA will add an additional 2,000 square miles extending north.

“Funding could be derived not only from the sources mentioned above, but it may be possible to get donations from charitable foundations, such as Ford Foundation or Paul Getty Trust, and supplement large contributions by forming a coalition of the dozens of smaller advocacy and conservation groups—a form of crowd-funding on a large scale.”

A waterfront research institute that could aid scientists in studying the effects of climate change on ocean ecosystems? It couldn’t be farther from the sexy, spaceship-shaped sports arena previously proposed for that waterfront site. But it might not be such a bad idea.

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