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Corinne Woods: In Memoriam

By Catherine Bigelow

Woods was a low-key yet fierce protector of the Bay. She might even have made a great mayor of San Francisco. (Illustration by Iris Lei)

Amid a plethora of private yacht and boat clubs dotting the 500-something miles of shoreline encircling the San Francisco Bay, it’s not too surprising that the City and County of San Francisco claims only one public boat launch — with metered boat trailer parking — at Pier 52.

Nestled between Mariposa Hunters Point Yacht Club and Bay View Boat Club on Terry Francois Boulevard, this launch’s existence (including a $3.5 million upgrade in 2008) along the City’s rapidly developing southeast waterfront is thanks to the efforts of community advocate Corinne Woods, who died April 1.

Pier 52 now shares space with a kiosk exhibit on the Blue Greenway, a 13-mile network of parks, trails and beaches tracing the southeast waterfront that was master-planned by Woods for San Francisco Parks Alliance in conjunction with a bevy of city departments.

“Corinne was active all over the waterfront, relentlessly advocating for public Bay access. She assisted many wonderful projects while working with city bureaucracies — which made her all the more amazing,” says Bay View Boat Club Commodore Lizzie Winsor with admiration.“Corinne was a lifetime member of our club and really cool lady, too.

Possessed of fierce but fair views on humanistic development and environmental stewardship, Woods gave voice to the concerns of her pre-dot-com Mission Bay neighbors as developers hungrily eyed the formerly industrial ’hood.

This, after all, was her district. For decades she lived with her husband, Peter Snider, on a houseboat in Mission Creek, once colloquially known as “shit creek.” Woods’ activism was sparked in 1983, when she and her neighbors formed the Mission Bay Conservancy to purge the sewage polluting their waterway.

An inveterate community meeting attendee, Woods was appointed by the Port of San Francisco to its Central Waterfront Advisory Board and also served as chair of the Mission Bay Citizen Advisory Committee. Yet she was no NIMBY voice of opposition.

With acres of asphalt in Mission Bay — not to mention Dogpatch, India Basin, Hunter’s Point —  crisscrossed by defunct rail tracks, empty shipbuilding sheds and decrepit piers, the area quickly transformed into shiny new developments defined by density. But Woods strove to ensure these projects (including UCSF Mission Bay, Pier 70, the Warriors’ Chase Arena) adopted better design, hewed to city height limits and created housing, public parks or plaza.

She honed her “David versus Goliath” persona in the mid-’90s as the San Francisco Giants planned its new China Basin stadium. Fearing displacement of her nearby houseboat community, Woods worked with the Giants to avoid that scenario.

More recently, as the Giants commenced its 28-acre Mission Rock development at Pier 48, the team’s front office pooh-bahs considered Woods a key player.

And just days after her death, during the Giants’ April 5 home opener at Oracle Park, she received a heartfelt scoreboard tribute.

“Corinne was a neighborhood pioneer and a great community partner. She embraced growth thoughtfully, ensuring it was implemented responsibly, functioned well and included parks,” recalls Giants General Counsel Jack Bair. “Her viewpoint was forceful with a somewhat salty exterior. But Corinne was beloved by neighbors and development stakeholders. I was a big fan.”

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