Candace Caldana-Walk, Action director, and Kate Drobny, general manager, provide an introduction to Yerba Buena Island in San Francisco.
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Welcome to the Uncommon Area. I’m Matthew Holbrook, and today’s theme is a profile of an Action Property Management community. We’re going to be looking today at Yerba Buena Island. Joining me to help with that is Action Property Management’s director in San Francisco, Candace Caldana-Walk. Also joining me is the general manager for Yerba Buena Island, Kate Drobny. Thank you both for being a part of this. I guess just the opening question. We say Yerba Buena Island, this is probably one of, if not the most unique property that we get the privilege of managing, my opening question is, what is it? What is Yerba Buena Island?
It’s an actual island.
It is an island. Where is it?
It is located between San Francisco and Oakland in the Bay. The Yerba Buena Island itself is made up of bedrock. Then we have the manmade island, Treasure Island, which is connected to Yerba Buena Island.
They’re connected by a service road or a street or one access point between the two.
But what we’re talking about is Yerba Buena Island and the bridge actually runs right through the island. Correct?
The Bay Bridge does. There’s a tunnel that was bored through the island.
Yeah. It’s kind of an interesting piece of property to begin with. Kate, do you know what’s the history or the background of this island?
Sure. It’s been an interesting lesson to learn. That whole area was originally intended to be part of the World Fair and then the San Francisco International Airport, and then when the war broke out, it went into coastal guard overview. Now the island has been under discussion for development for over 10 years now. This has been quite an extensive talk amongst developers and city personnel, so it’s been an interesting road.
Yeah, so it has a storied background. Now, I may be totally off on this, but I have heard that the island or islands between Yerba Buena Island and Treasure Island have been the sites that have been used for huge corporate parties and events over the years. Do I have that right?
Yes. There have even been several movies filmed in the hangers on Treasure Island as well.
Yeah, I don’t know if you’d mentioned, Kate, but previously you had said that Treasure Island was originally supposed to be SFO, was going to be a commercial airport, which is quite the thought.
Yeah. I’d hate to see the traffic out there with that one road.
Right. They would have to do something different about that. It’s come to the point where now those islands are being developed for residential living. Who’s behind that and how has that come together?
Sure. You want to take this?
Sure. So it’s Wilson Meany, and they have purchased the island, Yerba Buena Island and Treasure Island, and they have been in the process over many years to get permits to redevelop the whole community, if you will. They’ve started off with Yerba Buena Island, and that’s their high-end product that they’re releasing at this time.
All right. You said they’ve owned it for a long time and been working through this, do you know approximately how long?
I think the planning, if I’m correct, has been around 10 years so far, and the complete development is a 20 year go. Yerba Buena Island, for example, is 28 phases. We are just starting to kick off and really see their vision come to life.
When we start, and we are starting here within the month, in managing this property, which we are very excited about, I know you are in particular, what’s the island going to be like when we start? What’s going to be part of those first phases?
Yeah, it’s been interesting. The last couple of months have been hard hats and PPE, and as we obtained TCO last week, the planning for the first closing is coming. We have partnered with some great service providers, so when our first residents move in, they will begin to experience island life in the neighborhood immediately. We will have fitness classes three times a week to start, eventually building up to nine class offerings a week. They’ll be getting their yoga and Pilates in to stay healthy and fit. We will be providing that A-plus building service. We’re building a great team out there to welcome our residents. As they start to acclimate to island life, I think we’re going to see a lot of happy people.
Yeah. In that first phase, how many units or homes are there going to be?
Phase one is actually the mid rise known as the Bristol Owners Association. It’s 6 stories and 124 units and houses the rooftop terrace that has 2 barbecues and areas for parties, and then the fitness center and the multipurpose room. We can have up to 124 soon.
Yeah. Then what’s the vision for the whole island? How many homes would be on the island?
The island compromises of 266 total units. The next phase we’re going to see are the townhomes, and then the flats will be coming after that. Then closer to the end of the phasing will be the five estate homes.
Okay. You’ve used this phrase a couple of times in answering my questions: “island life.” Is that the emphasis on what we’re talking about with the experience that we want to create for the residents there?
Absolutely. I think it goes in line with the vision of the developer of building that neighborhood and island life feel. I think when we see the island club come online in late ’23, we’ll see that absolutely explode, ’cause that will be our 10,000 square feet amenities and swimming pool and hot tub and party rooms. That’s really where we’ll get that resort feel.
Yeah, that’s really exciting. Are there any other components to the island beyond residential? Is there any commercial aspect that’s intended at this point or any other aspects like that?
Not on Yerba Buena. Yerba Buena will solely be the residences at Yerba Buena. I think we’ll get into that aspect of it when Treasure Island starts being developed.
Okay. Candace, I know you’ve been able to be involved in this project for quite some time and spearheading our pre-management consulting and giving input to the developer. What are some of the things that you’ve been involved in and that our team has been involved in helping the developer thinks through this project?
Yeah, we’ve had the opportunity to review building plans with them and make recommendations on design aspects and operationally how the building will function when we have a full service building. We’ve also looked at their staffing models and really trying to give recommendations on bringing their vision to life and what a staffing model looks like with that in mind.
How do we actually deliver on this island life? There are some unique aspects, I know, for just the residents because they’re living on an island, and some unique aspects that that creates for us as far as operations. Maybe one of you can talk a little bit about what are some of those things.
Well, what’s unique about this property is we have direct ferry service to and from San Francisco to the island. We’ll also have on island transportation. These are all components that we or Kate will be managing in terms of making sure that we have service available for to and from the ferry, making sure that residents will have ferry passes. What else?
Yeah, I think the implementation of the ferry has been definitely something that has been new to my knowledge base.
It’s not something we normally incorporate into our associations, ferry service?
No. This developer has worked with SF Prop to have the first electric ferry that will run 17 times back and forth from the San Francisco Ferry Building to our new port at Yerba Buena Island.
I’m guessing you’re going to have that schedule memorized.
I should already, because it is definitely one of the big questions. But as part of island life, every unit gets a complimentary monthly pass to use that ferry. When I say complimentary, it’s built into our budget, but they don’t have to pay for it. It’s been a new partnership with SF Prop and the city to make sure that we’re getting them updated information and getting our residents access to that on the app the first day that they own the unit.
Yeah. Just to be clear, this is an island sitting in the middle of the Bay, but it is actually part of the city of San Francisco, correct?
That is correct. It still has the San Francisco address, so it is an extension of that city with the hopes that one day it will be set up to you never need to leave it and it’s definitely beautiful enough to want to stay.
Yeah. What does the future of the island look like? What are the plans as far as we know and understand for development further?
With your Yerba Buena Island, as Kate mentioned, will just be residential. On Treasure Island, I believe there will be 8,400 homes that build out, and there will be various restaurants and shops all built within the island. It’s really going to become a city within a city at some point.
So 8,400 units, that’s really going to be a massive community that will be right there on that island. Well, that’s great. I know this is just a really unique opportunity for us and something that we’re really looking forward to seeing come to fruition and get those first residents there. I know that you are really looking forward to delivering on that island life. Is there anything else that either of you want to make sure that we get to highlight about Yerba Buena Island?
Personally, I think it’s one of the coolest, most spectacular developments I’ve had the pleasure of being a part of the team on. So check it out, ’cause it’s not a private island, so anyone can take that ferry over.
Yeah. Well, congratulations on getting to be the general manager of such a unique property. I know you’re going to do an amazing job there. That’s a summary of just one of our properties that we are incredibly proud to be a part of and really excited about how that’s going to develop going forward. I appreciate you watching, and we will continue to do profiles on other Action communities as we go on.