As per the class workshop, write your overall assessment of The Fisherman’s Wharf Public Realm Plan. Use the questions presented in class for guidance but feel free to expand on them or use a different outline. Make sure to add the name of your group members in the blog text. Your submission shouldn’t exceed 5 pages and not less than 4. Feel free to use other sources to support your argument.
Written By: Maddison Stinson, Beatriz Smith & Jacqueline Mister
Fisherman’s Wharf is a beloved attraction close to the heart of downtown San Francisco. With its sweeping views of the bay, Alcatraz Island and of all of the old piers previously used by fisherman to make a living. This are was underutilized for a long time. Once development took place, many issues came into play. An architecture group has been hired to change the way this area is developed to try and make the area more people friendly and assist in the development of user friendly areas.
Before Fisherman’s Wharf was developed to the tourist attraction it is today, this area was used primarily by fishermen who would dock their boats on the piers. Since then, there piers were mainly used by private boating companies as a place to dock boats, and a few have been transformed into tourist areas. Many of the developments do not match a common theme and most are scattered far between, and forces tourists to walk far between each activity. Activities had no theme, some being historic and telling the tale of the wharf and alcatraz and others just capitalizing on the “tourist trap”. The areas are not connected and tourists are forced to walk long detours to get to the water. There are also issues of the defunt piers and how to make these more attractive and user friendly.
The city decided to work with Gehl Architects to produce the new and improved wharf. This firm was founded by Jan Gehl, a visionary in the field of public space work. Gehl wrote multiple books and produced architecture of cities all over Europe, including Denmark. This firm was hired for their ideals of Public Space and Public Life studies (PSPL). This means that this firm will continually run research on this space for years to come to observe the issues that arise and how the space is being utilized. This information is reported back to the government’s who can in turn utilize this information to either improve the public space or how to utilize it for other public projects. The city decided to do this project to utilize the beautiful resource that was not being utilized to its full potential. The city saw the issues of connectedness and how this areas had amazing potential. This area held history, scenery and open spaces that could be transformed to meet the needs of the city, the residence and tourists.
The decision process for the wharf was not participatory in the fact that the citizens were not surveyed and asked what they would like to see in the area. But on the other hand, it was very interactive in the fact that years and years of research was conducted before these changes ever took place, and some are still waiting to take place. The architects who designed the area took the time to watch the way the area was being used and decided the best course of action from that point. When the need was noticed for open and green spaces, Conrad park was built. This was something that was not necessarily bargained for, but something that developers saw as a major need of the area and therefore introduced plans.
The residents of Fisherman’s wharf were not taken into account for this project the architect agency in charge of the project Gehl Architects did many surveys of the area but it did not incorporate the residents needs into account when developing the project. Gehl Architects is a well known agency that had many successful projects in Europe and Australia like Denmark, Melbourne and Stockholm.
Pier 39 is the most successful part of the design since is the most visited area of Fisherman’s Wharf. Pier 39 offers a variety of attractions that are nearby the water like; Restaurants, shops, video arcades , a beautiful carousel, aquarium and street performers that bring a unique appeal to the area. Pier 39 has an average of 10 million visitors annually this number is huge and is the second attraction in California that is mostly visited by tourists after Disneyland. Pier 39 is the most visited attraction in San Francisco this fact makes it the most successful. Since, it offers a variety of attractions in one single section of the city. The most liked section by tourists is to watch seal lions in their natural environment. Pier 39 also offers many other different opportunities to shop and dine local seafood that appeal to a variety of tourists worldwide.
A shortcoming from the project is the lack of a strong center that clearly identifies the area. Is the different locations that attract the public rather that the area itself. The center needs to have a clear and define center that can bring focus to its main purpose of existing in the area. Another shortcoming from fisherman’s wharf is the lack of attractions for the local residents. The majority of attractions are targeted to tourists leaving the majority of us not really interested in visiting and sometimes even avoiding the whole section due to heavy traffic of tourists. The fisherman’s Wharf needs to give an alternative of attractions to local residents so we can also enjoy the area.
San Francisco is home to the infamous Fisherman Wharf, and each year this destination site attracts millions of city dwellers and people to enjoy landmarks like the Golden Gate Bridge and Angel Island. If I were to re-do this project I would make the wharf more pedestrian friendly. First and foremost I would make walking in this area more accessible to visitors and guests; As of now it is too crowded and people can’t enjoy themselves if they are constantly surrounded by groups of people. Widening the sidewalks by the ocean front would give people a better view of the city and a way for people to walk without being close to traffic. As for pedestrians who working the area , there safety and well being should be a top priority as well. Making improvements alongside Jefferson from Jones to Powell has a lot of space that can be used to add pedestrian lighting and railings. There should also be more public parking facilities to cater to tourists and city dwellers for a reasonable price. Another improvement should go towards public restrooms. The planning department of San Francisco should clean and improve restroom facilities to make the public space useful for those who spend their money on the wharf.
If I were city mayor I would make it a point to change the scope of Fisherman’s wharf. One of the major focal points of San Francisco is the wharf and this is a tourist friendly place in the Bay Area. Millions of people cross paths there everyday. The funding of this project will be expensive but also will be an investment. Pedestrians safety matters and intersections, bicycle facilities, public transportation, and roadway intersections need to be improved to appeal to all people who deserve these basic rights. This project will be funded by the MTC Priority Development Area grant worth the help from the SFMTA and the Port of San Francisco to ensure better safety and a better experience for travelers on foot, bike and vehicle transportation.
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Fisherman’s Wharf Public Realm Plan
Today, Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco is a very popular tourist destination that attracts millions of visitors every year. However, this iconic location was not created with tourism in mind. Fisherman’s Wharf began as an industrial area that was comprised of warehouses, docs, and railways. Prior to 1950, most of the land surrounding the wharf was owned by the Southern Pacific Railroad. The primary function and design of the Wharf was to serve industrial fishing, commercial shipping, and railways. During the late 1800s and early 1900s, San Francisco was the largest Port on the West Coast for the United States. However, the Port of San Francisco lost this title as it was overtaken by larger ports in Los Angeles in the 1920s and Oakland in the 1950s. As a result, the formerly valuable industrial land began to be sold off by the railroad as the port lost its importance.
Developers began to build a variety of different projects on the land as they purchased it from the railroad in the 1950s. The area rose in prominence as apartments, restaurants, and hotels began to open in the former industrial area next to the still operating fish markets and docks. The area attracted even more crowds with the opening of tourist draws such as Pier 39 in the 1970s and the aquarium in the 1990s. The combination of location, history, industry, and tourism proved to make a successful recipe for drawing large crowds and by the late 1990s Fisherman’s Wharf had become a major tourist destination. However, due to the nature of how the area developed slowly over time, it faced a lot of problems. The area was developed by several different actors with different intentions and plans. Since there had been no common plan or goal for the community, the area is a hodgepodge of different types of architecture and building styles that were often not built with long-term goals in mind. Furthermore, with no common goal for the area, important factors such as transportation, traffic, aesthetics, and parking were not necessarily suitable for the amount of people coming to the area. Therefore, while Fisherman’s Wharf was a large-scale destination, it lacked the coherence it needed to bring the areas to its full potential.
The San Francisco Planning Department created the Fisherman’s Wharf public realm plan to address issues related to how the wharf formed and to plan for future development of the area. The plan seeks to strengthen the identity of the area by encouraging more residential movement into the area and creating more attractions for locals. Improve aesthetic feel by increasing views and ties to the water. Improve transportation in the area by adding better pedestrian and bicycle paths while also increasing character of such spaces. Lastly, creating more green and public spaces while also retaining links to the area’s historical past. The changes have seemed to have had positive influences on increasing tourism to the area, but it is questionable if they have had the intended results in regards to improving identity of the area.
Fisherman’s Wharf incorporates both the character of a tourist waterfront, Pier 39, as well as an industrial harbor, Pier 45. The area is located on several sightseeing spots, such as the northern tip of the peninsula, the views of the Bay, the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz. Fisherman’s Wharf works on trying to entertain people like a theme park, with a unique, genuine attraction by differentiating from other areas in order to attract more people. Because tourists are the priority concern, most destinations in here are tourist friendly, with few things to attract the local residents.
Local residents seem to be out of target because Fisherman’s Wharf consists of a number of sub-districts that are clearly separated each other with different characters. For example, the area in the southwest is dominated by residential building and there are few residential buildings in Fisherman’s Wharf. The central part of Fisherman’s Wharf is dominated by hotels and parking. Adding to that, the major destinations and gift shops are predominantly along the waterfront and along Jefferson Street. Other than facilities, there are several photo spot like such as: a statue of a crab, symbol of Fisherman’s Wharf, sea lions, and the colorful illumination lit at night. From the function of the area and the touristy spots that are mentioned above, it is clear that local people, local institutions and local shops and business are distinguished from the tourism industry.
The project was mainly approached for the development of tourism industry, however, some changes also lead to the successful result for local residents. One of the examples is by increasing pedestrian priority. High quality walking experiences are characterized by good accessibility in general. To improve the pedestrian accessibility a zoning of the sidewalks could be introduced with a dedicated zone for street furniture and a free space for walking. Also, places to sit, rest and socialize are essential in order to create quality experience for the pedestrians. A variety of sitting opportunities that are created along the routes allow people to interact with each other and enjoy the city views.
The Fisherman’s Wharf Public Realm Plan, conducted by the Planning Department, undoubtedly brought improvements to ameliorate the public area from Pier 39 (beginning of Jefferson Street) to Ghirardelli Square, in San Francisco. However, the perception of the Wharf has not changed much over the years, especially after the previous mentioned plan. The Public Realm Plan at the Fisherman’s Wharf improved the same tourist destination present in the ‘90s, not changing its identity. Nevertheless, the identity of the waterfront district is deprived in coherency and in any connection to its historical past. The whole perception of the Wharf is situated around the idea that the stores in the area are distinct and unrelated destinations for tourists. The identity of the wharf is altered to attract visitors and tourists in the area. The shops ignore the roots of the fishing industry of San Francisco but are centered into selling very basic souvenirs or entirely unrelated objects. Regardless of the presence of sundry captivating destinations in adjacency, the plan did little to nothing to unify the identity of the area, connecting it to its past roots.
The Planning Department could ameliorate the personality of the area by adding cohesiveness related to its history and fishing market. Another way in which they could improve the area is by including more residential communities in the area, since local residents bring a sense of cared collectiveness. By adding major local destinations, local vendors, and San Francisco’s related stores would offer visitors remarkable experiences, instead of very separate and unrelated ones. This not only would help attract a more variety of tourists but it would also be beneficial for local residents, changing the demographic composition of the area.
Other problematic concepts with the plan are obstruction with the views, lack of wide enough sidewalks, and lack of public seating. The logic of the walking area in the Fisherman’s Wharf is not user-friendly, it is disorienting. Fishing boats and sea lions are there but at times, people need to discover them. The views of the bay, and in particular of the water, are obstructed by the presence of many buildings, tour buses, parking lots and fences, while some areas that would lead you to the stunning views of the San Francisco Bay are uninviting either for being up some hills or for their poor conditions. Moreover the narrow sidewalks are not built to sustain the number of people that walk in the area every day. The design should reconsider the accessibility and attractiveness of such zones. Concerning the subject of public seating, the plan did not consider enough public space to permit people to enjoy such places.
Ultimately, the Fisherman’s Wharf Public Realm Plan, in our opinion is not a priority in the city of San Francisco. Other plans should be given the priority instead of improving the area of the Wharf where most people who visit the area are tourists and not residents. Improving the area would not bring more tourists since San Francisco is considered as one of the major and liberal cities in the United States. However, the city needs major improvements in other parts, where residents and local are situated.
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