Open Widget Area
  • About

    imageMagical Urbanism, a website about urbanization, design and social change, is maintained by Mike Ernst. I'm an urban planner and designer based in New York City. I graduated from the Masters of City Planning program at UC Berkeley.

  • Contact

    Thanks for your interest!

    If you have a link to submit, click here.
    To subscribe via email, click here.
    You can view my professional portfolio here.
    This site is hosted by 1&1.
  • Facebook

  • Twitter

    Warmwater Cove and San Francisco’s Eastern Waterfront

    The View from Warmwater Cove is Spectacular

    Sitting at the end of 24th Street in San Francisco is a small waterfront park called Warmwater Cove. Neglected, polluted, and isolated from nearby areas, this patch of scruffy land is known by many as Toxic Tire Beach. It’s surrounded by a Muni rail yard, a crane storage facility, the future site of a peaker power plant, an active power plant, and two historic sugar warehouses (featured above). It’s not exactly the most inviting of parks, but it has an overwhelming redeeming value: spectacular views of the San Francisco Bay.

    The View from Warmwater Cove

    Click on the above image for a large panorama of the view from Warmwater Cove

    This summer, I was the Piero N. Patri Fellow in Urban Design at the San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association (SPUR). The Fellowship is a partnership between SPUR, the Port of San Francisco, the Neighborhood Parks Council and the design firm EDAW.

    It was a pretty great summer. I got to know a part of San Francisco I haven’t seen as much, learned a good deal about ecological systems on the Bay, and dived head-first into the politics of development in the city’s Central Waterfront. The area is mostly industrial right now, with some housing in the Dogpatch area. There’s a good deal of pressure to develop that area, and how that happens, and for whom, will be an issue the city will be grappling with for some time.

    The scope of this project was focused on the park itself and the adjacent properties, while looking less at the overall landuse of the area. I proposed an “elemental skate park” and the rehabilitation of the beautiful sugar warehouses north of the park. The plan got some press in the SF Examiner,

    You can download the final presentation I gave here. [ 24 MB pdf]

    You can download the final document here.

    The View from Warmwater Cove

    Click on the above image for a large conceptual drawing of my idea for Warmwater Cove

    I’d appreciate your feedback and suggestions. You can contact me at michaelernst [at]

    Related posts:

    4 responses to “Warmwater Cove and San Francisco’s Eastern Waterfront”

    1. Aunt Mary says:

      Great work! I hope your plan gets approved.
      We are very proud of you and your work.
      You know I love California and anything you can do to make it better I’m all for.
      I will be in Ohio this summer maybe we will see you then.
      Love you
      Aunt Mary

    2. I have found your Warm Water Cove project quite inspiring. I also have been planning to create a graduate studies weblog before I begin the MArch program at CCA, Thanks for sharing your insights and webwork.

    3. […] Water Cove has had a colorful history as a mostly forgotten area of San Francisco. In recent years, it has been cleaned up by the city, […]

    4. I’ve known that place for more than 30 years, during which it’s changed dramatically, with a rich history. The view of the warehouse was used as the cover of SF post-punk band Faxtrix’s Empire of Passion 7″ in 1980. At that time, long before the park, this area was an abandoned loading point for rail cars to and from the East Bay. A rail line led beneath a bridge crane onto a ramp that sank beneath the water; two “wing” piers spread out into the Bay; barges containing rail cars would be towed between the piers to the ramp, and the crane would lift them onto the rails. When I started going out there with other urban explorers, the abandoned site was being used after dark for sexual adventures, and ladies’ stockings and shoes were hung from the surrounding power cables as trophies. After the piers, rails and crane were removed, but before the park was finished, the shoreline was occupied by ambitious homeless men who scavenged from the surrounding industrial area, maintained elaborate camps, and fished in the Bay.