The state-owned property has been vacant for 25 years, and City Councilman Russ Cohen wants to find a public use for the site, such as a park or a performing arts center. The obstacle to that plan is the state's intention to put a hotel and restaurant there.
The property is nestled between Airport Boulevard and San Francisco Bay next to the Embassy Suites Hotel. The state acquired the property, including the land on which Embassy Suites was built, as part of a legal settlement with a developer in 1972.
The lands commission sent out a request for proposals to build a hotel and restaurant on the dirt lot in the summer of 2001, but the effort was put aside after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 caused the Bay Area tourism business to sag.
Cohen said the site could be transformed into "a real jewel" and serve as a catalyst for continued development of the Bayfront area.
"I know the state would like to put a hotel up there and gain some revenue, but, quite frankly, they haven't done that in 25 years," said Cohen.
He said the best fit for the site might be Broadway by the Bay, the theater company that performs at the San Mateo Performing Arts Center but is looking to find a venue of its own.
"They're actively looking for a venue (and) they're actively fundraising, so it seems like that would be a good match," Cohen said.
But a report by city staff indicated the state could earn
$1 million annually by allowing a hotel and restaurant to be built on the property, said City Manager Jim Nantell. The report also shows it is unlikely the lands commission would settle for a performing arts center or any use that brings in less money.
Barbara Dugal, the commission's chief of land management, said the commission still hopes to bring a hotel and restaurant to the property, but it would be open to having talks with the city.
As for allowing other uses on the site, Dugal said, "We would have to take a look at that; we certainly can't prejudge anything right now."
During a meeting Wednesday with state Sen. Leland Yee, the council asked the senator to help the city in its dealings with the lands commission. Yee agreed to do what he could.
Staff writer Aaron Kinney can be reached at (650) 348-4302 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.