New Bay Bridge span on road to becoming an icon
- Published Wednesday, September 24, 2008, by San Francisco Chronicle
New Bay Bridge span on road to being icon
By Michael Cabanatuan
Chronicle Staff Writer
The soaring white tower designed to be a signature for the East Bay
hasn't even begun to rise from the waters off Yerba Buena Island.
But the new span of the Bay Bridge already is becoming an icon.
An Oakland auto dealership recently began using an artist's rendering
of the single-tower suspension span as part of its promotional
efforts, putting an image of the bridge at twilight on the temporary
paper license plates it slaps on five makes of new cars.
And the image could garner even more national and international
The Golden State Warriors basketball team, often maligned for not
identifying its hometown of Oakland in its name, is considering a
new uniform design that would incorporate a sketch of the span, much
like the classic "The City" uniforms with an image of the Golden
Gate Bridge that the team sported as the San Francisco Warriors.
"It's a great branding opportunity for Oakland," said Donald
MacDonald, the San Francisco architect who designed the single-tower
span and has spoken with the Warriors. "It gives (Oakland) a gateway,
and at night, it's going to be spectacular."
The bridge's burgeoning status as a Bay Area landmark bolsters former
Oakland Mayor Jerry Brown's stance that the new Bay Bridge should be
more than a long, soulless concrete viaduct. Brown, now state
attorney general, has been derided by some for insisting on a
signature span for the bridge and blamed for slowing its construction
and increasing its cost.
"I wanted an even more dramatic bridge," he said.
Brown said he's not surprised that businesses want to associate
themselves with the bridge, which is the first of its kind to be
built with a single tower. During the debate over the bridge design,
Brown argued that Oakland and the East Bay deserved a span they could
point to, or speed across, with pride. The popularity of the yet-to-
be-finished bridge, he said, proves that the public agrees.
"Icons come about because of people with vision," he said. "It's
unfortunate that pencil-pushers, bureaucrats and political yahoos
don't understand quality and try to block quality to save a few
The cost of building the East Bay's signature span is $1.04 billion.
Part of that is paid for by a toll increase that went into effect
in 1998 after then-Gov. Pete Wilson's plan for a simple concrete
ramp was rejected by the Bay Area. The toll went from $1 to $2, an
increase that was supposed to last for a few years, then 35 years and
then was made permanent. Another dollar eventually was added to cover
cost overruns and delays of a program to strengthen or replace all
of the state's toll bridges, including building the new eastern span.
Construction of the new span is scheduled for completion in 2013.
And while use of the image seems to be gaining traction, the car
dealership using it would not return calls requesting an interview.
The Golden State Warriors also declined to comment on plans to
incorporate the new Bay Bridge tower into their logo or uniforms
But MacDonald said he spoke with a Warriors official who expressed
interest in using the bridge's new image. Its popular "The City"
jerseys, worn from 1962 to 1971, used a silhouette of the Golden
"They said that was the best-selling uniform ever," MacDonald said,
"so they wanted to duplicate it with the Bay Bridge."
MacDonald said the new Bay Bridge's unique look fits the current
trend of cities and regions to brand themselves with a recognizable
symbol. His firm also designed the cable-stayed Cooper River Bridge
in Charleston, S.C., which he said has become a popular emblem in
"More and more cities are looking for an image for branding
purposes," he said. "The beauty of bridges is that they are designed
to last 100 years or longer."
MacDonald and Randy Rentschler, spokesman for the Metropolitan
Transportation Commission, expect the new Bay Bridge tower to capture
more attention as it begins to rise. Temporary towers soon will rise
on Yerba Buena Island and the bay. They'll hold girders that support
the steel bridge deck while the bridge tower is erected and the steel
suspension cable slung over the tower and beneath the deck.
"It's going to be a great-looking bridge," MacDonald said. "There
will be more and more (use of the bridge's image) as it gets built."
E-mail Michael Cabanatuan at mcabanatuan@...