Condos on this S.F. island are as high as $4.4 million

What life is like for the first residents

From his sixth-floor condo on Yerba Buena Island, Michael Lee looks out at the idling freighters and crisscrossing ferries, the Port of Oakland’s white cranes, and Berkeley’s green hills.
Occasionally, San Francisco-bound friends will hit him up from the Bay Bridge as they are about to motor into the tunnel far below. “My friends will call and say, ‘Hey, I’m about to pass your place,’ ” said Lee, who works as a senior director at Electronic Arts. “I’ll look out the window and wave.”

For most Bay Area residents, like Lee’s friends, the new neighborhood on Yerba Buena Island is a curiosity glimpsed from a car whizzing westbound. But for Lee, and the other 50 people who have bought condos at the island’s first development, the Bristol, it is quickly becoming a tight-knit community of pioneering folks willing to take a chance on a redevelopment that has been talked about for two decades, but is just starting to take shape.

“It’s like I’m always on vacation,” said Bristol homeowner Rosanne Soto, an accountant who commutes to downtown San Francisco by ferry. “It’s so relaxing. It’s so clean. It’s away from the city, but you have the ZIP code of the city.”

Yerba Buena Island is a natural, 147-acre rocky outcropping connected by a short causeway to the 403-acre man-made Treasure Island. Development over the next 20 years on the two islands is scheduled to total 8,000 units, with 266 condos on Yerba Buena Island and the rest on Treasure Island. Currently, there are about 1,000 units completed or under construction on the two islands, including the 105-unit affordable Maceo May Apartments, which opened last year on Treasure Island.

Even with the new developments, more than 75% of Yerba Buena Island will remain open space. Residents have access to 72 acres of parks, 5 miles of trails, a dog park and Clipper Cove Beach. The hilltop park, with the “Point of Infinity” sculpture by Hiroshi Sugimoto, opened in late March.

Project architect Tim Slattery, a partner at Hart Howerton, liked the project so much he bought a studio.

“For us, the island was always the main story line — the architecture was there to frame the views,” he said. “It is classic and quiet, but it has a lot of movement to it. Shadows bounce all over the facades.”

The Bay Bridge, he said, is “both a connector and a separator,” and the coming and going of the ships and sailboats and fog rolling across the bay creates “real drama.”

Slattery doesn’t even mind looking at the bridge traffic. “If you are not in it, it’s kind of nice to watch.”

Read the full article in the SF Chronicle