524 Howard Site

In 1989 San Francisco’s Planning Commission first approved the entitlements for a 311-foot tall, 23-story building to be built at 524 Howard Street with 199,965 gross square feet of office space, 4,500 square feet of retail space, 14,000 square feet of off-street parking, and 4,218 square feet of publicly-accessible open space.

524 Howard Renderings

Ten years later the Planning Commission re-authorized a slightly reconfigured building for which the project sponsors never pursued the necessary permits. And in in 2005, the Planning Commission approved a Conditional Use Authorization to operate a temporary surface parking lot on the site, authorization for which expired in 2007.

Since 2007, “the sponsor has not diligently pursued the necessary building permit approvals or otherwise sought to complete the project” and the existing parking lot has been operating without authorization. Tomorrow, the Commission will consider a request to re-authorize use of the site as a parking lot for another two years.

At the same time, the Commission will also hear an overview of the entitlement history for 524 Howard, after which “the Commission may wish to provide feedback to Department staff as to whether a future public hearing should be scheduled to consider revocation or extension of the previous approvals for office development at 524 Howard Street.”

Keep in mind that San Francisco’s Planning Code states, “Construction of an office development shall commence within eighteen (18) months of the date the project is first approved. Failure to begin work within that period, or thereafter to carry the development diligently to completion, shall be grounds to revoke approval of the office development.”

That being said, citing a “downturn in the economy which led to a high office vacancy rate and difficulty in obtaining commercial financing for new construction” in 2002, San Francisco’s Planning Commission has since been operating under a policy of monitoring, but not seeking to revoke, approvals for projects which have exceeded their construction commencement date.

In 2009 the Commission reaffirmed the policy they adopted in 2002, but we might argue that commercial conditions south of Market in San Francisco have changed a bit since.

Comments from Plugged-In Readers

  1. Posted by Turin

    Whatever the commission decides, I sure hope the project sponsor — BTW, who owns this? — hires a new architect. This is classic Heller Manus cookie cutter dreck right here. Or maybe HM can adjust their design for 555 Washington to fit here. That one was rather inspired.

  2. Posted by gellan

    22 years – the SF pace.
    Agreed Turin!

  3. Posted by Alai

    Out of curiosity, with regards to the windows on the side. Can the neighbors also build up? Did the owner of this lot come to an agreement with them not to do so? Or does the city, having granted permission to one neighbor, then forbid any other neighbors from following suit?

  4. Posted by EH

    At least Club DV8 still has its parking!

  5. Posted by sfrenegade

    If this is going to be on Howard Street, and Howard Street is part of the new redevelopment district around Transbay, there should be at least some consideration given to street-level. 555 Washington would be a more attractive design than this, so agree with Turin on that.
    I say build it or sell the property. The developer has had 7 years to obtain parking revenue and seems to have no intention of actually building considering this project has been pending 12 years. Why should they get another 2 years of non-action?

  6. Posted by Spencer

    I love the design. bring it on

  7. Posted by Louis

    This has been a “trading” site. Never been owned by the stronger “A” level developers, rather by smaller less experienced outfits looking for a toe hold in the market – either new to SF or new to this business. Latest owner is a case in point.
    Compared to other sites it has a lot of issues ; like smaller , less functional floor plates and limited curb appeal, and will always be tough to finance unless in the short peak of a bubble. One year every decade it will have a shot. There are other sites in the category.

  8. Posted by sfrenegade

    They had twice this decade! 1999-2000 and 2006-2007.

  9. Posted by MCM

    What sort of shenanegins are going on here? A developer who doesn’t develop is either using the loss for some other reason or simply doesn’t have the project in hand. A more serious question is how could the Planning Commission approve a project that clearly lacks both financing and a complete project?
    The approval needs to be revoked or it sets a precedent for city sponsored decay.

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