In the beginning (we’re talking about late ’90s), when Mission Bay was desolate and formless, San Francisco commanded, “Let there be a neighborhood” – and a Mission Bay Plan Agreement appeared. The city was pleased with the agreement it had made. The dot-com bubble came and went – that was the first day.
Then the city commanded, “Let there be a Muni T line that runs through Mission Bay to serve the land’s future human beings.” It was inefficient and slow, and could have been bested by an underground subway, but the city was pleased with what it saw – that was the second day.
Then the city commanded, “Let the land be filled with boxy mid-rise buildings occupied by medical students.” So the city created the UCSF mission bay campus. The sprawling campus was an underutilization of a prime area near downtown, but the city was pleased with what it saw. The 2008 Great Recession came and went – that was the third day.
Then the city commanded, “Let Mission Bay produce all kinds of housing that doesn’t block views from surrounding neighborhoods.” So the city produced low and mid-rise buildings, many out of wood, to populate the blocks. The short structures had low unit counts, high rents, and were grossly underdeveloped for the future growing area. The city was pleased with what it saw – that was the fourth day.
Then the city commanded, “Let there be a 500 room hotel on Mission Bay’s Block 1”. But the property owners were displeased with the city’s wishes. “Why would so many tourists come to such an uninteresting and low energy neighborhood?”, the owners contested. So the city relented and commanded, “Let there be a smaller 250 room hotel on Mission Bay’s Block 1.” And since it did such a bad job planning for future population growth, the city further commanded, “I’ll go along with the owner’s requests and replace the 250 missing hotel rooms with 350 homes.” The city was pleased with its decree – that was the fifth day.
Guided by the two decade old Mission Bay Plan, the city looked over the materializing neighborhood and lamented, “What have I done? High rents, low people density, lack of restaurants and retail activity, and overall anemic culture for a neighborhood so close to downtown.” But all is not lost. There is a day left. The city had many ideas for the area’s remaining spaces. A Warrior’s Stadium, Mission Rock development, underground Caltrain station, Uber Headquarters, and I-280 demolition all came to mind. And the city was very pleased with these ideas and would eventually nurture some to fruition and abandoned others – and eventually that will become the sixth day.