SFGovAccessibility
Seal of the City and County of San Francisco
City and County of San Francisco

To view graphic version of this page, refresh this page (F5)

Skip to page body

History

Old Pier 44

Born out of the Gold Rush, today's Port of San Francisco is a public agency responsible for managing the 7-1/2 miles of San Francisco Bay shoreline stretching from Hyde Street Pier in the north to India Basin in the south. The Port's responsibilities include promoting maritime commerce, navigation, and fisheries; restoring the environment; and providing public recreation. More than 1,000 acres fall under its jurisdiction.

The Port's history reaches back to the early years of California statehood. With the Gold Rush attracting hundreds of ships to San Francisco Bay from around the world, a State Commission was created in 1863 to improve the City's harbor. As the City moved into the 20th century, the Port grew in leaps and bounds. The waterfront became an industrial area of finger piers, railroad terminals, and warehouses. With the outbreak of World War II, San Francisco became a military logistics center; troops, equipment and supplies left the Port in support of the Pacific theater. The City's shipbuilding and ship repair industries flourished. In the 1950s, San Francisco continued to be the West Coast's premier cargo port.

Today, San Francisco has redefined its marketing strategies and continues to offer the world's shipping fleet major assets such as naturally deep water, hundreds of thousands of square feet of covered storage, on-dock rail, acres of unobstructed lay-down space and modern well maintained cargo terminals.

In 1968, the State transferred its responsibilities for the San Francisco waterfront to the City and County of San Francisco through the Burton Act. As a condition of the transfer, the State required the City to create a Port Commission that has the authority to manage the San Francisco waterfront for the citizens of California. Although the Port is a department of the City and County of San Francisco, the Port receives no financial support from the City, and relies almost solely on the leasing of Port property for its revenues.

Over the last thirty years, as the City's downtown grew towards the water's edge, new uses established themselves in previously industrial areas. The Port today oversees a myriad of maritime, commercial and public activities. While at one time industrial maritime uses dominated the northern edge of the city, today cargo shipping and ship repair are located primarily south of China Basin. Cruise ships, excursion boats, passenger ferries, recreational boating, commercial and sport fishing activities and other commercial maritime operations remain on the northern waterfront which, because of its scenic value and lively mix of uses, is now visited by millions of visitors per year.

With the demolition of the double-decked Embarcadero Freeway, the Port has the opportunity to reunite the City with its waterfront. One of San Francisco's most important landmarks, the one hundred year old Ferry Building, stands on the waterfront next to the City's financial district at the terminus of Market Street. Between the Bay Bridge and China Basin, new residents on the land side of The Embarcadero now look to the adjacent waterfront for recreation. Throughout the waterfront, the Port provides plazas, walks, parks, and public access on piers, which afford City residents and visitors alike the opportunity to enjoy the spectacular waterfront setting.

In 1990, a citizen's ballot initiative required the development of a Waterfront Land Use Plan. Following extensive public discussion, the Port produced a Plan that seeks a balanced array of uses to help meet the Port's public trust responsibilities and their financial requirements. The Plan reserves most Port properties for expansion of maritime operations, and encourages creation of new public access, recreation and open space along the Bay. The Plan also identifies sites for compatible new commercial development that will increase public enjoyment of the waterfront, help subsidize maritime industries, fund new public access andopen spaces, and help stem the continuing deterioration of Port property.

As an economically viable public agency intent on supporting maritime operations, environmental and historic preservation, and public recreation, the Port today is at an important crossroads in its colorful history. We invite you to visit our Port and drive down the recently beautified Embarcadero, stroll down Herb Caen Way..., or watch the maritime activities on the piers. San Francisco has begun a waterfront revitalization that will be a credit to The City for years to come.

 Learn more about our 150th Anniversary!

Last updated: 10/9/2014 3:44:25 PM
Port of San Francisco
Pier 1, The Embarcadero, San Francisco, CA 94111
415-274-0400
San Francisco's 311