In the early morning hours of April 4 or 5 (it’s hard to remember now), I noticed crews working on the rain-soaked pier south of the Bay Bridge — just beyond the High Dive Bar and Red’s Java House — across the street from the Embarcadero SAFE Navigation Center. Although the pre-dawn skies filled with drizzle and fog made it hard to see exactly what was going on, a cluster of orange cones and three distinct (albeit incomplete) steel-framed structures were unmistakable. By the time the sun had risen over the Oakland hills and my second cup of coffee had been poured, it was easy to see that a COVID-19 testing center was going up.
On April 6 it was confirmed that Pier 30-32 was, in fact, going to be used as a drive-through coronavirus testing facility for first responders, health care workers, and other direct-service providers. By April 15, local residents could see a slow but steady stream of vehicles coming and going from the pier’s guarded gates.
Last year I started documenting the construction taking place along this stretch of San Francisco’s waterfront. Despite its opposition, the speed at which the navigation center was built and started welcoming residents was impressive. And when a site was needed to test and support the people on the frontlines of this pandemic, a COVID-19 testing center went up (literally) overnight. To me, at least in the past two years, the city of San Francisco’s leaders have demonstrated the ability to implement solutions quickly when it comes to protecting our most vulnerable residents. So given the reality of the “new norm” unfolding before our very eyes — and the undeniable need for sustainable, accessible, and reliable local testing plan to help battle this nation-wide shit show — I can’t help but wonder if what’s happening on Pier 30-32 is just the first step toward building the infrastructure needed to protect all Bay Area residents moving forward.