A rocky bump rising in the bay between San Francisco and Oakland, Yerba Buena Island is a dramatic and historic part of the City by the Bay. In 1868, an army camp was established here which, in 1875, led to the construction of an octagonal lighthouse that still stands. Over the years, it has been called Sea Bird Island, Wood Island and Goat Island, but in 1931 its original Spanish name was restored. The Yerba Buena Tunnel runs through its center, connecting the western and eastern spans of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge.
Now, after decades of transition and struggle, the island is becoming home to some of the most dramatic and beautiful homesites in the world within 72 acres of open space. The aptly named Hilltop Park will crown the island’s peak and was designed by landscape and public artist Walter Hood, a 2019 recipient of the MacArthur Genius Grant. There are also five miles of wooded, winding dirt and gravel hiking trails, as well as a wind-protected sandy beach called Clipper Cove.
Yerba Buena Island remained in military hands into the 20th century. The Works Progress Administration created the adjoining 403-acre Treasure Island in the 1930s; intended to be San Francisco’s airport, it served, for a time, as the departure and landing site of Pan Am’s China Clipper. In 1996 the military base was decommissioned and both Treasure Island and Yerba Buena Island passed into the jurisdiction of the City of San Francisco.
“When Treasure Island became a Naval Base, Yerba Buena Island is where the officers lived,” says Chris Meany, partner at Wilson Meany, a San Francisco-based boutique developer who, together with the Stockbridge Capital Group, is building 266 residences on the island.
“Treasure Island is man-made and, thus, flat as a pancake. Yerba Buena Island, on the other hand, is a natural island, with scenic natural beauty and steep hills. 70% of the island is restored natural habitat. From here, in all directions, homeowners will have some of the world’s most wonderful views.”
124 condominium homes are offered for from the low $800,000s for studios to the low $3 millions for three-bedroom units in the Bristol, a six-story condominium building. Additional housing includes townhouses that begin at $3 million, and the Flats which offer LEED certified single-floor luxury residences that are priced starting from $3.9 million.
“We are extremely proud to officially launch sales at Yerba Buena Island during a moment when its ethos and lifestyle experience are so germane,” said Mike Leipart, managing partner of The Agency Development Group, who oversees the marketing and sales of Yerba Buena Island. “Owning a home on Yerba Buena Island is truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get in from the ground up in the most unique, special setting. Residents will establish a first of its kind community of neighbors who value connectivity, a holistic and wellness-infused lifestyle, and an appreciation for the natural outdoors. Notably, the residential collections are diverse – ranging from spacious single-family row houses to luxury condominiums replete with amenities – so families, couples and singles can all find a home that meets their needs and desires. Yerba Buena Island is San Francisco living at its very best.”
Getting here has not been easy; in San Francisco, the tension between no-growth advocates and the need for housing is especially acute.
“In the 1990s, the city of San Francisco decided it needs housing, but in beautiful places like this, the anti-development sentiment is strong,” Meany says. “When we were given final approval, we had held 450 public meetings and been sued by no-growth advocates for three years.
“Now that process is behind us. We installed new infrastructure on the island, including new on-off ramps to the Bay Bridge and better electrical service, brought underwater from the city. One year ago, we began building the Bristol condo building. People will start moving onto the island in late January.”
Among the infrastructure improvements is a new ferry service between San Francisco’s Ferry Building and Yerba Buena Island. Slated to begin operating when residents move onto the island, the ferry trip takes eight minutes and, at a cost of two dollars, is a rare bargain.
“For many years, Yerba Buena Island was closed off to the public,” Meany says. “Now it will a public resource: people will be able to ride their bikes to the island and spend the day hiking, picnicking and taking in the magnificent views.”