Growing by the Bay

Category: piers

Port View Park, Oakland

carol at 7th street pier, oaklandThe main feature of Port View Park in Oakland is what locals call the Seventh Street Pier. It’s a popular fishing pier that offers good views of the nearby Bay Bridge and the San Francisco skyline. The Port of Oakland Container Terminal is also nearby — not a bucolic feature, but not without interest since the Port of Oakland is the main Bay Area shipping destination. (San Francisco’s piers are no longer major destinations, except for cruise ships. Because the city is on the tip of a peninsula it is inconvenient for ground shipping, whereas Oakland is well served by train and truck routes.)

In the late 19th century there was an enormous pier near this one called the Long Wharf (it opened in 1871). It reached nearly to Goat Island (Yerba Buena Island). Trains ran out the pier to connect up with sailing ships, a process that was fazed out around WWI.

In September, 2004, the park was in effect expanded with the addition of 38 adjacent acres called Middle Harbor Shoreline Park. I haven’t seen this new addition but according to Waterfront Action it features “spectacular views of the bay and shoreline, shorebirds, nearby maritime operations, San Francisco and Oakland skylines, and marine traffic at the estuary mouth;a dramatic observation tower; picnic and barbeque facilities; parking, restrooms, and water fountains; historical exhibits; an amphitheater; free viewing scopes; fishing pier and platforms; the only beach in Oakland; and nearly three miles of pedestrian and bike paths, some of which are part of the Bay Trail.”

map to middle harbor park

Embarcadero Piers Restored

view from piers

For years now strollers along the Embarcadero have passed a stretch just north of the Ferry Building where nothing much ever seemed to be happening. This is piers 1½, 3, and 5, where nearly derelict building have long lain dormant. (Odd-numbered piers are north of the Ferry Building, formerly the main entrance to the city, and even-numbered piers are south of it.)

Once used for riverboats, freighters, and other vessels — including the Delta King and Delta Queen river steamers, with their stained-glass windows and mahogany staircases, which connected the city to Sacramento from Pier 3; the sternwheeler Petaluma, the last riverboat in the West, based at Pier 5; and Delta-bound ferries based at pier 1½ — the piers have long since ceased to function as a working port. By 2000 they had been red-tagged by the city as unsafe.

Now the piers are being restored by private investors (at a cost of more than $50 million). They will house offices, shops, and restaurants. A dock for yachts and water taxis is planned. A “promenade” will allow public access along nearly a mile of waterway, from the Ferry Building to Pier 14 (the piers were formerly closed to the public).

I took a walk through the piers today. Although the walkway has been opened to the public, there was still a lot of constuction going on. It’s hard to be sure, but it doesn’t appear that most of the space has been let (at about $70/square foot, it’s as expensive as just about any real estate in town). The architecture is rather undistinguished but generally respects the historic structures (probably the biggest faux pas is the line of enormous lights that hang down over the walkway).

ugly lights

In the end the pier restoration is more than redeemed by its public access and the open views of the bay, with Yerba Buena island and the Bay Bridge in the background.

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