Fontana Versus Transamerica

As far as we’re concerned, it’s simply too soon to judge. And of course, it’s too soon to know. But a reader puts it quite well, “Is One Rincon the Fontana Building, or the Transamerica Pyramid, of the first decade of the 21st Century?”

The Fontana Building has been derided ever since it was built, and time has not healed those wounds. It changed what people thought of new development, particularly in existing neighborhoods.

The Transamerica Pyramid on the other hand, was equally derided for aesthetics, and was part of the dreaded “manhattanization” of SF that led to an annual cap on development imposed in the 80’s. Yet, over time, the Pyramid became an icon of SF, and is extremely popular today.

Frankly, I’m not sure which one Rincon is. I loathe its design, and to me it is way too bulky to be the “slender tower” that the Rincon Hill plan promised. It learned so few lessons from Vancouver that it makes a mockery of the ideas that are supposedly behind the Rincon Hill plan. It is so tall, so big, so omnipresent, and so damn close to the bridge that it cannot be avoided in the viewscape. But, I have to admit, part of me thrills when I round a corner somewhere in the city, and suddenly there it is.

Our reader also ads, “…of course I don’t have an answer, but SocketSite readers are sure to have an opinion.” And at the very least, on that we can likely all agree.

118 thoughts on “One Rincon Hill: Another Fontana Or Transamerica In The Making?”
  1. We need to remember that One Rincon Hill was planned and designed as a two tower development. Both towers were designed to compliment one another atop Rincon Hill as well as the other residential towers planned for the neighborhood. We should reserve judgment until both towers are completed.

  2. The building is blah. I still have very much hope for the look of the neighborhood, as soon as there are several more buildings surrounding it.

  3. I agree that its shaping up to be a beautiful building. You could argue that the location right next to the freeway isn’t great, but the building itself is very impressive. Once the glass is complete and all of the temporary wooden structures are removed, it’ll look very smooth and elegant.
    In addition, once other towers are complete in the area (the 2nd One Rincon tower), 45 Lansing and The Californian On Rincon Hill, it won’t look so out of place, but will become the pinnacle of a southern extension of the SF skyline.

  4. I guess if it was good enough for Irvine in the 70’s, then it is good enough for San Francisco in 2007?

  5. I personally think it’s a tired, insipid design, but could live with it if it wasn’t so prominent on the skyline. It’s going to be the first thing people see coming in over the bridge, it could have been done better. I think the second tower will just make the whole thing worse.
    Oh well….

  6. What about a 1200 foot tower at the Transbay Transit Center? That’s what is in the works …. approval to go even higher around Transbay. I don’t believe One Rincon will stick out nearly as much in about 10 years as it does today as Rincon Hill’s surface parking lots where highway used to stand and the Transbay Transit Center have their own ultra-tall eye candy in place.

  7. how big with the second building be? how big were they supposed to be before supervisor daly extorted the developer for all that payola?

  8. On being right next to the freeway:
    Big deal. The new Chicago Spire is going to be right next to a freeway and I don’t hear anyone complaining about that. As far as I’m concerned, it is a non-issue.
    On it standing out like a sore thumb (middle finger?): Also, a non-issue. In 5 years, it will have 2 Rincon Hill and the new Turnberry Tower across the street providing a certain degree of cover and context. Yes, it is the tallest, but it won’t stand out so much.
    On the design:
    People in SF (and SocketSite) will complain about any design PERIOD! I don’t know what the problem is with San Franciscans, but it seems that the only thing you all want to see built is four story Victorians or some ‘elegant and skinny Vancouver-style’ skyscraper.
    As far as I’m concerned, I’m just happy to see anything built at all!

  9. Why doesn’t the Fontana get any love? I could list several uglier buildings than this. But I wasn’t around yet when it was built so I didn’t witness the controversy.

  10. James,
    The 2nd tower will be about 50 stories (10 less than the first tower). It will be erected where the Bovis Lend Lease offices currently are (closer to Harrison and directly above Bridgeview).
    I agree that Daly’s intentions were lousy. I’ve never been a huge fan of his. However, for this project and others in the area, I’m more focused on the results than the side deals. The fact is that thousands of badly needed condo units will be built on this run down area. Also, approximately 20% of these units will be affordable. This is the perfect spot for such development as it won’t drive people away from their current living situations, it’ll clean up a neighborhood and create a new living area where people can walk to work and not rely on their cars. I personally do not see the downside to this.

  11. Maybe I’m not as sophisticated as other SocketSite readers, but I could care less about the design. I don’t live in a coffee table book on modern architecture – I live in San Francisco.
    Like Jordan, I’m just glad they’re finally building more housing stock and the city is growing up.

  12. Dude, Jordan, and SFHighrise are spot on – at least we’re finally adding to our housing stock and creating a new neighborhood.
    I do look forward to the Transbay Tower – and I expect and want that one to look spectacular (though I know that everyone will complain about whatever is proposed: “A giant monster is coming to eat our town!”)

  13. I look out from my living room window every day and look at one rincon, which stands out in front of all the other buildings from my angle. The design is not the greatest building I have every seen, but it is definitely majestic. I think it will be a new fixture on the SF skyline, mostly because it is so far from all the other tall buildings. I still am not sure how they ever got the permits for that height, but overall, I think it is a good thing and will help create an exciting vibrant new neighborhood in SF. On the other hand, I love the design of the infinity building, but I think it will eventually get lost in the mix of other buildings, while one rincon will always demand to be noticed, like it or not.

  14. I was at the Home Run Derby yesterday at AT&T Park and saw some wonderful shots of the skyline provided by the Goodyear blimp. I must say One Rincon looked quite impressive and it has really expanded the skyline south. In my opinion it is a great addition.

  15. The Chicago Spire is not next to a freeway! Where does this bad information come from? The Fordham Spire going up in Chicago was actually located with INPUT by the city and neighborhoods so that the building would “fit” into the existing skyline. It was a site that the city pre-determined would be suitable for a very tall building. The spire is in the dead center of the Chicago skyline between the Sears Tower and the Hancock.
    As for One Rincon, it is the FIRST thing you see when coming into the city, is not in any way addressing the context of the bridge or freeway, or for that matter the city itself. Posters hoping that other towers go up around it remind me of architects who say the building will look better after we plant some trees and shrubs to “cover it up”. An ugly building is an ugly building.

  16. “A huge, scary monster is growing in San Francisco’s South of Market area. Like an atomically deranged creature from a 1950s horror movie, the first of the Rincon Towers is oozing upward, sucking light from sky and street. Its three-block shadow chills the hearts of all who pass under it, even for a moment.

    Bred for expensive, high-density housing in a joint venture by the mad scientists at the Board of Supervisors, the Planning Commission and real estate speculators from San Diego, the black blob makes it obvious that urban planning in San Francisco is run by the Boys from Brazil and architects who used to design sippy cups for Satan.
    They’re selling exactly what they are destroying — the community and the view.”

    Here’s the article from SF Gate:

  17. “Scotty, the things that spell San Francisco are no longer here”. (Vertigo)
    While we all go on and on about trying to be more like San Diego, or Vancouver, or Chicago, we will in the process continue to ruin what was a very unique city. The bay, the hills, the climate, the density created from neighborhoods instead of towers, this is all going away faster than I would have ever thought.
    This building is ANTI-URBAN! Putting yourself up and above the city, blocking views of light and water, this is not about coming to live in San Francisco, instead it is a about bringing the worst aspects of other cities and dropping them in one of the most sensitive spots right next to one of our icons (the bay bridge).

  18. “atomically deranged creature from a 1950s horror movie”
    That’s a great portrayal of 1Rincon.
    Living in Potrero Hill with views of the Bay Bridge and skyline, that candy cane striped monstrosity has ruined the view of thousands that live on this hill. It’s not even close to the “slender” structure the developer keeps boosting about.
    It’s a fat, ludicrous, atrocious-looking, architectural disaster. If it was mixed into the SF skyline it wouldn’t be as bad, but it’s isolated, freeway hugging location makes it stand out like a sore, sore thumb….

  19. Anti Candy Stripes,
    You are wrong.
    The Chicago Spire address is 400 Lake Shore Drive. It is adjacent to Route 41.
    Nice try though, but your visceral distate for this building doesn’t mean you can make up facts.

  20. Lake Shore Drive is NOT a freeway. In fact there is a very LONG signal one block from this location. I didn’t know freeways had cross walks and signals. I know what I am talking about myself. NICE TRY!

  21. Quote – Why doesn’t the Fontana get any love? I could list several uglier buildings than this. But I wasn’t around yet when it was built so I didn’t witness the controversy.
    I wasn’t here then either, except to be pushed around by grandma Lola in a stroller, but the lesson learned at that time was that you could wake up in your home a little up the hill from the Fontana and discover your view for the last 100 years was gone and there was nothing to be done about it. Planning review, until that building, just didn’t exist in San Francisco. A big chunk of gold coast houses that once looked at the bay were now looking at the cheap, non-view side of an apartment building, and steps were taken to not let it happen again.

  22. I think for people to be whining about their views diminishing is incredibly selfish and myopic thinking. I’d say that’s the risk you take for purchasing a house with a view and you should assume this risk at the time of purchase.
    Its also not like your entire view from Dolores Park, Portrero Hill, etc will be destroyed. Even if all 10-12 Rincon Hill towers are eventually built, this is only a sliver of the view that is altered. Its not like someone came to your house and painted your entire window area black, so you have no view at all. Besides, what you lose in terms of the bay bridge, you gain in terms of a greater skyline.
    These towers are NOT ruining the city. Nobody is talking about coming into the city and destroying the historic neighborhoods. I just wish all of these selfish NIMBYs would stop complaining because their arguments are old and tired.

  23. Re: Fontana
    I guess that makes sense about blocking Russian Hill homes’ views. I guess they thought the Fontana would be the next 999 Green (an ugly building itself, although one of my favorites).

  24. Anti Candy Stripes,
    If you want to get into a hair-splitting pissing match about this, fine.
    If by one block away there is a traffic light, you mean 7 blocks north on Chicago Ave, or perhaps almost 2 miles south on Monroe Drive, then perhaps we have a different conception of a freeway – because Lake Shore Drive (aka Route 41) is an elevated 6 lane ‘road’ with onramps and offramps. And it is right next to the soon to be constructed building.
    The point I’m trying to make (and am mystified why you are arguing with me) is that the ‘freeway’ that ORH is next to is equivalent to the ‘freeway’ that the Chicago Spire is next to.
    So stop complaining about your lost views. You are not entitled to a view of anything.

  25. Jordan, I have no idea what you are talking about. There is a signal at Chicago Ave, as well as 5 signals before the Chicago River. There are another 4 signals in the area of the art institute south of the Fordham Spire. Lake Shore drive turns into a parkway where it makes the turn at Oak Street. But this is splitting hairs. The difference is the Fordham Spire is slender, and a nice work of architecture, and no CANDY STRIPES!
    My dislike for One Rincon is that it is just ugly. It is out of scale for its location, and my view is of Cow Hollow, the Marina, and the Golden Gate, so the only time I have to guard my eyes is driving west back from the East Bay.

  26. Jordan,
    We have your viewpoint:
    “As far as I’m concerned, I’m just happy to see anything built at all!”
    Clear and concise, so you can lighten up on the details and the mean spirit.

  27. That’s why I advocate the demolition of the entire city – because the views, available for thousands of years, have been swallowed up by all of these buildings!

  28. re:
    “we will in the process continue to ruin what was a very unique city. The bay, the hills, the climate, the density created from neighborhoods instead of towers, this is all going away faster than I would have ever thought.”
    Correct me if I’m wrong, but we still have the bay, the hills, the climate, the neighborhoods. Would you rather have left the dilapidated warehouses and crack head hangouts that DETRACT from the tourism industry in SF, or a chic hi rise neighborhood in an area of the city that was once parking lots and chain link fences??
    Plan your arguments more carefully and they won’t be so easy to counter.

  29. The “out-of-scale” for the neighborhood argument drives me CRAZY. Of course it’s tall for the neighborhood right now! Did you want every building that will be built on Rincon Hill to be built at once? It will not be out-of-scale in a few years.

  30. “And I wish that all Victorian houses be demolished in favor of modern houses or high rise condos.”
    Has anyone here remotely suggested that? The attraction of building on Rincon Hill was the fact that THERE WAS NOTHING WORTH SAVING THERE. I would be very much opposed to bull-dozing Pac Heights to build hi-rises – but losing parking lots, freeway ramps, and single-story warehouses? C’mon.

  31. I actually think the Fontana is rather fun. It seems like the kind of place Dean Martin would go for a cocktail party. But, could Dean Martin handle candy stripes after 5 or 6 cocktails?

  32. The Spire is not next to a highway! Lake Shore Drive (like NYC’s West Side “highway”) is FAR from a highway and is one of the most beautiful roads in the country, partly because of the lake and mostly because of the great, world-renowned buildings along it. Since SO many people on this site have said that they already bought in OneRincon, who bought the unit with the balcony that hangs over the off-ramp??? I’d like to meet you so that I can wave and maybe slap hands every time I drive by!
    I totally agree that it’s magnificent to see a tall building on that hill and can’t wait until there are MANY more over there. But OneRincon is UGLY, UGLY, UGLY! I actually forgot that there is suppose to be another tower! Thanks for reminding me, now I may actually move from this city. One was horribly enough, two will drive me crazy. The fact is simple, OneRincon’s design is very dated and it looks like a 3-story office building from the peninsula stacked on top of each other.
    I don’t feel that anyone on this site wants SF to remain “four story Victorians or some ‘elegant and skinny Vancouver-style’ skyscraper” – Jordan. I think that we just have high expectations for design here. Let’s face it, this crap is designed and built because the architecture firms here are bad (please, developers who may be reading this – STOP HIRING HELLER-MANUS!!!! THEY SUCK!!!) and almost all firms have an attitude that “progressive” doesn’t get passed in SF. This is an attitude that has been instilled by the city’s policy makers and needs to be fought by any future development.

  33. Here is the Fordham Spire. I don’t think it is at all nice to compare One Rincon to what will be a world landmark.
    I do think that there is nothing wrong with tall buildings on Rincon Hill, but I question whether the current One Rincon design is worthy of a great city like San Francisco. I agree with RG, in that we deserve better more progressive design here. I hope whoever bought the units next to the freeway puts on a good show, we will all be watching.

  34. This is the last time I am going to post on this:
    “Lake Shore Drive (colloquially referred to as LSD or simply Lake Shore) is a mostly freeway-standard expressway running parallel with and next to Lake Michigan through Chicago, Illinois, USA.” – Wikipedia
    If you all are still doubting this, go to Microsoft Live Local and take a look at the building site. It is literally next to a freeway that is double decked.

  35. It’s big it’s built; it’s more than three stories and not a bay window in sight. It is perfect no but it’s progress and for those that don’t like it move to the Richmond/Sunset.
    Personally I have my reservations but it is a landmark to orientate yourself and miles better than the old BofA clock.

  36. Hi Jordan. This LSD thing is rather funny. The Fordham Spire is next to the LSD bridge over the chicago river (this does look like a freeway Microsoft Earth, but it is a bridge ramp, very similar as you posted regarding the location of One Rincon), but I know this area rather well myself, and I think what was trying to be said was how can it be a freeway if it has traffic signals and cross walks? You might be thinking of LSD between North Avenue and Hollywood up on the north side of the city where it is more like a parkway (I am sure RG could help on this as I think he is originally from Chicago).
    Now back to One Rincon.

  37. “I think that we just have high expectations for design here. Let’s face it, this crap is designed and built because the architecture firms here are bad (please, developers who may be reading this – STOP HIRING HELLER-MANUS!!!! THEY SUCK!!!) and almost all firms have an attitude that “progressive” doesn’t get passed in SF. This is an attitude that has been instilled by the city’s policy makers and needs to be fought by any future development.”
    First of all, the architect that designed One Rincon is from Chicago, they are not local.
    That being said, you can’t blame the developers or the city. The people are to blame.
    The developers are running a business and will build what gets the least resistance and makes them the most money. Developers are not in the business of fighting for their developments. Can you imagine a developer saying: “It’s really hard to get anything passed in SF but we feel that the residents deserve great architecture so we’re going to spend millions of dollars to fight for them that we will never get back.” Get real!
    The city can’t be blamed either. At the end of the day, it’s the residents of SF that continue to vote these same types into office. SF has always had a strong anti-development, anti-profit, anti-capitalist, socialist sentiment. It shows in the politics and the attitude. Not the environment where we will see any wonderful groundbreaking development.

  38. I’ve been on Lake Shore Drive before. While it isn’t defined as a freeway in terms of having no pedestrian access and only ramp exits, it still is a busy thoroughfare. If you’re going to compare it to somewhere here in SF, compare it to The Embarcadero. Still, what is all the fuss about as to whether its more like The Embarcadero or I-80? Both are very busy, but it seems to be a decent place to put a high-rise in Chicago, so why all the fuss here in SF?

  39. I don’t think anyone is saying we shouldn’t build on top on Rincon Hill, but for god sake if you’re going to build something in such a prominent location, it should at least be attractive.
    That thing is b*tt UGLY, UGLY, UGLY. I still don’t understand why the planning department didn’t insist on a more pleasing, progressive design. And now thousands of locals have to live with looking at a 60 story, hideous looking 80’s office building. It makes me want to barf…
    Regarding the liveability of the location, if people want to spend millions to live on top of a smog-filled 5 lane freeway, I guess that’s their perogative. Good luck!!

  40. I actually think the Fontana is rather fun. It seems like the kind of place Dean Martin would go for a cocktail party.
    I guess that means One Rincon Hill would be the kind of place Jessica Simpson would go for an afterparty.

    If you take a look at these images, you can surely see this is not some beautiful road, it is a wide double deck road with concrete walls and pylons just like a freeway. It’s not comparable to the Embarcadeo (maybe before the earthquake but Lake Shore still looks like more lanes). Whether it’s actually a freeway is really beside the point.

  42. I can’t remember which site it was on, but they posted pictures from the units directly next to the freeway. The view was bizarre to say the least. I cannot understand why they did not make the floors at the same elevation as the freeway into office space, or some other use. How are those people going to sleep?

  43. “I still don’t understand why the planning department didn’t insist on a more pleasing, progressive design. And now thousands of locals have to live with looking at a 60 story, hideous looking 80’s office building. It makes me want to barf…”
    You seem to forget. The city did not insist on a more pleasing, progressive design because those are the type of politicians that the thousands of people have continued to vote for. Want change? Vote for a more progressive city government. And I don’t mean progressive as in a bike riding tree hugger livig in a solar powered co-op. I mean more progressive in terms of development.

  44. How are those people going to sleep?
    Whisper quiet glass 🙂 I don’t really care how they sleep. If people want to buy them, I’m not going to be the big nanny to step in and say, “Look, developer, I know that people will buy units in this building right next to the freeway for hundreds of thousands of dollars, but that just totally isn’t fair. You should put offices there instead – people who are working don’t mind noise.”

  45. Brutus, thanks for the laugh regarding “whisper quiet glass”. Was that phrase invented on this site? Someone should take out a copyright!

  46. I have been to Lake Shore Drive, I served with Lake Shore drive, and I80, you are no Lake Shore Drive.

  47. LSD has an average of 145k cars per day on it. About half the bay bridge but still nothing to sneeze at.

  48. This thread is going to drive me to drinking…
    Can’t we all just agree that Anti Candy Stripes is wrong, and that this building is righ next to a road-that-looks-almost-exactly-like-I-80-next-to-ORH?

  49. Rampant Chicago boosterism on this site won’t allow something like that Jordan. What? Admit that Chicago builds buildings next to freeways as well? No!!! Admit that the horrendous One Rincon Hill design was not from a “horrible” SF firm, but from a brilliant Chicago firm? No!!!

  50. The Fordham Spire is located at a prime spot where the Chicago River intersects with Lake Michigan. It is right in the center of the city, and within short blocks in any direction are shops, hotels, restaurants and museums. I am not sure how this is exactly like I-80? Lake Shore Drive rises up to cross the Chicago river, similar to how I-80 rises to become the Bay Bridge. LSD drops back down to street elevation on both sides of the river and becomes a normal street with signals and crosswalks as was posted earlier. If I had to choose neighborhoods I would choose the Fordham Spire (where the bottom floors are all parking and offices btw). But let me re-phrase that, if I had to choose neighborhoods, I would choose where I am now near the corner of Pierce and Green with a view of the bay far away from muggy summers of Chicago and the traffic and noise of Soma.

  51. Sorry to be off-topic, but that Chicago thing looks like a giant vibrator in the illustrations – how funny – swirled for someone’s pleasure.

  52. Jamie! How dare you drag any piece of Chicago architecture through the mud with your dirty mind! Everyone here knows that every building in Chicago is perfect. Developers spend millions more making sure that the building is unique and fancy and way cooler than stuff here, and then decide that out of the goodness of their hearts, they’ll provide oodles of parking (you know, for the children) and situate the buildings on freeways and sell them for $7 apiece (again, for the children). Again, Jamie, shame on YOU.

  53. Am I the only one that likes the look of One Rincon? It looks more like a Saturn rocket than a candycane to me.

  54. gyc, how dare you say anything good about One Rincon Hill! It’s not in Chicago, how could it possibly be any good? Now, maybe if it was next to a freeway (Oh, wait), designed by a Chicago firm (Oh, wait), or, or…I know! Maybe if the weather absolutely sucked around One Rincon, with frigid winters and humid summers! That’s got to be it! Or maybe if it was plopped atop a 14 story parking structure so that everyone could have 10 deeded parking spots with their unit (as it should be – parking my cars is a right, goldarnit!) Now we’ve got something good! A building with loads of parking and crappy weather! Voila!

  55. The second tower looks far better than the first. Why did they not just leave the stripes off?
    Also, are the windows you see when on the freeway actually some future owners condos?! or is that some type of maintenance space or parking? If it is condos, those people will have to leave the windows blocked all the time for privacy.

  56. anonon,
    No need to worry on the windows – just as a special gas will make them “whisper quiet”, another special gas will make it impossible for people from the outside to see in, but allow perfect clarity to the outside, from inside. They call these new windows “Black Ice”

  57. The second tower is going to have the stripes also then?! Ughhh.
    Oh well, it is no worse than the Bank of America coffin at least.

  58. One Rincon’s design is second-rate banality, plain and simple. The most progressive thing about it is its (entirely hidden) seismic engineering solutions. The building’s architect is in no way noteworthy, which insures its place in the same architectural league as the generic suburban office parks and airport hotels that constitute the formulaic lameness of the non-place sprawl surrounding us — what Rem Koolhaas refers to as Junkspace. Unfortunatley Rincon One is just a gargantuan version — which in no way can be claimed to make it ‘good’ architecture, rather on the contrary, it just means we can’t ignore the craptastic awfullness of its bland blend of dated 70’s late modern and 80’s postmodern lite.

  59. I’m not from Chicago, but visit and know architecture, especially high-profile projects like the Spire. LSD IS elevated as it goes over the river, but the sight is located well next to the river and at the mouth and will have a great park, plus traffic on LSD is nothing like the off ramp. More importantly, the bottom of the Spire is a 5 story atrium and all the parking. A ramp from Lake Shore will enter directly to the garage. Brilliant!
    Btw, I’ve never really CARED who designed 1Rincon so never looked it up. Now, I’m laughing, because I think that this is all just a Chicago joke played on SF! I’ll have to call my friends in Chicago and see if they’re sitting at the bars laughing at how they got us good. Suffice to say, bad architecture can happen anywhere, but most cities CARE that it doesn’t happen to them, SF government doesn’t and the Planning Dept. is full of non-design literate kids. We lost the entire WORLD’S respect when we opposed Herzog & de Meuron.

  60. More importantly, the bottom of the Spire is a 5 story atrium and all the parking. A ramp from Lake Shore will enter directly to the garage. Brilliant!
    Yes, there is no other way to build magnificent street life than to make a drive-in, drive-out building atop a five story parking garage. Works great for the highrises on Cathedral Hill. I love strolling the beautiful streets and stopping by the lovely shops up there…huh…wait, there aren’t any…

  61. Well, I thought this was about One Rincon, but somehow it has moved 2000 miles east? If you would like to read another websites message board, the one for the Fordham Spire is very educational. People all over the world seem to love the building and their comments show that a very tall building can be celebrated if the design is creative and attractive. I believe One Rincon could have been a similar triumph with only better design. It is also interesting that the Fordham Spire was originally zoned for two shorter towers like One Rincon but Calatrava chose instead to create a tall slender tower. I am posting the link that was posted earlier since the comments at the bottom say it all.
    Let’s hope the new Transbay Tower actually gets built as it could hopefully save the san francisco skyline.

  62. I remember the de Young Museum getting a lot of resistance from people saying the design was too progressive.
    People here will oppose anything especially when there’s a huge profit to be made.
    Maybe I am wrong but do all developers of high rises have to shell out 40 million in donations to get permits in other cities?
    Perhaps the 40 million that the developers of One Rincon had to donate to the city could have been used for groundbreaking architecture instead!

  63. I actually like the architecture. The best part about it is that if you don’t like side of the building the others look quite different. It allows the skyline to look different from every angle. Most other buildings in the skyline are perfectly symmetrical in regards to their architecture.

  64. wow, the skyline sure will look different with all those highrises. thanks for the link.
    I wonder how many will actually get built? (I’m guessing no more than half of them, given the problems in the capital markets etc)
    if these do get built it will add significant amounts of living space to SF proper.
    forget all the “affordable housing” programs… the best way to decrease housing costs is to INCREASE HOUSING SUPPLY!
    I sure wouldn’t want to live in Rincon hill for many reasons, but a few of them are:
    1. living through how many ungodly years of construction as those other towers go up
    2. watching my home value plummet as tower after tower of newer better condos go up around me
    3. the location. why exactly would I want to spend lots of money to live in Rincon hill? maybe in 15 years when it’s been transformed. but not now!
    that said, I’m really glad that SF is increasing housing supply.

  65. What is the unique quality of life Rincon Hill will have at the end of all of these towers going up? Will this be an urban neighborhood similar to Cow Hollow or Russian Hill? How do all of these towers which look more like places to work, than places to live, fit together into a neighborhood that will gain value over time to “rival” Nob Hill as was posted earlier? Are there plans for buildings that are not towers also, as well as retail and parks?

  66. Anonw-
    What is unique about these towers is that they are to create an urban neighborhood within walking distance of the downtown area, which is not the case for places like Russian Hill and Cow Hollow.
    There will be retail in the area. Folsom Street is to be the retail corridor. Now, I probably expect to see a lot of chains appear at first (Similar to King Street), but over time, local businesses will arrive (as is beginning to happen on King Street). There are plans for parks in the area as well.
    I agree that it might take some time for buildings to be completed, but I disagree with the previous poster’s assessment that it will take 15 years for buildings surrounding One Rincon to be completed. That may be the case for buildings right next to the Transbay Terminal, but not Rincon Hill. They are going to begin construction on 45 Lansing, One Rincon II and The Californian at Rincon Hill this fall.
    What I really like about living in the area currently are some major things:
    1 – Ability to walk everywhere – Sure, Cow Hollow and Russian Hill have a central street with lots of shops and restaurants that Rincon Hill currently doesn’t have. However, if I lived there, I’d probably want more than that after a while. I personally like to try new restaurants and such. If I lived out there, I’d find myself more dependent on a car to get places like work and also to other parts of the city. If I don’t want to walk, public transportation in the area is better as well.
    2- Weather – Rincon Hill has better weather than some of the other areas. Sure, it gets cold and windy there, like any other part of the city, but there are often times when its warm and sunny in my area, then I go visit friends in Pac Heights, and its cold, foggy and windy there.
    3 – Newer developments – What one person sees as an ugly office-looking structure, another sees as a nice, modern living accomodation, with all the bells and whistles. I personally like the look of One Rincon. I’d probably choose Infinity over One Rincon, just because One Rincon is right by the bay bridge and the freeway onramp, but other than that, I think it looks very nice. I personally just am not a huge fan of a lot of the older, antiquish buildings that I see around Pac Heights, Russian Hill, etc. I know that there are some that are newer (maybe built in the 60s), but I don’t think those buildings have what these newer ones do in terms of amenities.

  67. I feel the urge to give some reasons why I LOVE living in Rincon Hill and plan to stay settled for years to come.
    1) 10 minute walk to my job in the heart of the financial district.
    2) 10 minute walk to the core of San Francisco’s transit universe – BART, ferry service, bus service for the City and surrounding areas, taxi stands, car pooling, 30 or so car share vehicles (Flexcar, Zipcar, City Car Share), and Caltrain just a bit further in the southerly direction.
    3) Short distance to the eastern waterfront – nice to lay down under the Cupid’s Span (bow and arrow) on grass to relax with the shoes off (granted, it may become more crowded as 20,000-30,000 folks move in to Rincon Hill and have few green space choices in the area beyond a planned park at Howard and Main). Lots of great recreation choices along waterfront – champagne brunch cruise on Hornblower, Bay Lady, or other boat, kayak rentals (McCovey Cove anyone?), sailing lessons, etc.
    4) Quick access to 80 east, 280 south, and 101 south – though I worry about pedestrian safety because of the proximity to the highway ramps. That’s why I’ve joined Walk San Francisco, a pedestrian advocacy group
    A 15-20 minute drive gets me to SFO to fly away for business or pleasure.
    5) Some really, REALLY good restaurants already in place .. and more to come. Think Slanted Door, Boulevard, Ozuma, Town Hall, Salt House, Yank Sing, and Maya … and for the more budget conscious, nearby DeLancey Street Restaurant, South Beach Cafe, and Crossroads Cafe offer good values.
    6) Sunshine – it tends to be pretty sunny on the eastern side of the City. Granted, the wind down Mission Street and some other wind tunnels downtown has destroyed two of my umbrellas in times of rain.
    7) The Embarcadero itself – good spot for jogging or just taking walks (okay, I’m overlapping with the whole waterfront thing above)
    8) A decent prevalence of Bedrock vs. landfill
    Did I already mention 10 minute walk to work? 🙂

  68. Thanks for this information. It is comforting to see that it will not be similar to what happened to Bunker Hill in downtown Los Angeles. There is a part of me that would like to live in a modern building, and I guess I just need to “read up” more on the long term future of this area.

  69. Totally agree Jamie. While I’m also bullish on Rincon Hill, I’ll probably place my bets on Infinity. Not only is it a block from the waterfront, it sits right on Folsom St where the bulk of the retail establishments will develop. Infinity will actually help jump start the development of Folsom street by having a restaurant, cafe, and grocery store on the ground floor.
    Regarding OneRincon, the views will be great, but I’m afraid the lack of deeded, self parking will come back to haunt OneRincon sellers, especially since OneRincon keeps marketing itself as a luxury condo complex. Buyers purchasing 1-2 million dollar luxury condos may expect (and demand) a deeded space…

  70. Morgan,
    If you look on Fifieldco’s website, it still states that it’ll begin construction in Nov 2007.
    Also, the buildings that are currently where the Californian will be built had a 90 day demolition permit placed on them on May 24. So far, I haven’t seen any bulldozers there yet, but they have until late August to fulfill this part of the requirement.

  71. I haven’t seen bulldozers, but a couple weeks ago I did see a survey team in and around the buildings. I would expect demolition to start soon.

  72. I have always been curious about the Fontana. I have never walked around there though I go by the area often enough. Do the Fontana towers “turn their backs” on the city? The exterior corridors that we can see in the picture, are they the only way one would enter your unit, or are they a secondary fire exit? If that is the way one gains access to your unit, the walk down during a winter storm must be quite an adventure. The views of the bay must be amazing, and I would be interested to view a unit if there is any on the market since I am a mid-century modern geek. (My primary residence is an Eichler, purchased long before the books came out, in Lucas Valley).

  73. Hi;
    I agree with MissionBay. The location of the Infinity is far superior to Rincon Hill, which if you haven’t noticed has an on ramp to the Bay Bridge wrapping around it. Pricing is more reasonable at Infinity too. Not to mention the parking issue, which will haunt One Rincon Hill ala Opera Plaza (where parking is $240/month on top of your HOA dues)

  74. You know, while I agree that parking will add to the housing values, I don’t think that not having deeded parking means your home cannot appreciate. I have a friend that lives in Portside, which also doesn’t have deeded parking. His condo has appreciated nicely. Its not quite at the level of the newer developments, such as Brannan and Watermark, but I think that’s also partially due to the fact that its older and has less amenities. Now, I would prefer deeded parking myself, but I don’t necessarily think that needs make or break the deal.
    Regarding the location, yes One Rincon has some disadvantages. I personally wouldn’t like to be right next to the on-ramp, but it seems that there are plenty that don’t mind that, as their sales have done better than Infinity. Also, its really only an issue when you’re driving in and out. If you want to walk from there down to the Embarcadero or downtown, you’re going to encounter busy streets whether you live in the Infinity or One Rincon. If you want a quiet, secluded street, don’t choose to live downtown.

  75. And if you want good value, stay away from new developments. You pay a premium for new construction and outrageous monthly association fees. Do you really want to pay a couple of 100 extra every month for a doorman.

  76. “If you want to walk from there down to the Embarcadero or downtown, you’re going to encounter busy streets whether you live in the Infinity or One Rincon. If you want a quiet, secluded street, don’t choose to live downtown.”
    Not totally true. I walk pass Infinity down Main St, under the bridge to South Beach every evening. The block around Infinity is rarely bumper to bumber (main/spear and folsom). Sometimes there’s constant traffic, but rarely is it jam packed. Spear street is pretty quiet all the time.
    OneRincon on the other hand is usually bumper to bumper starting from Harrison/Main all the way up to the onramp. That’s 3 blocks of traffic. And we all know how bad First St can get on any given day. Unfortunately OneRincon’s location is like a funnel. You have traffic in all directions heading to Harrison and First streets, then all leading to a single, busy onramp.
    Unless they relocate that onramp, I can only see traffic getting worse up there…

  77. “Pricing is more reasonable at Infinity too.”
    One Rincon was actually more reasonably priced than Infinity.
    That being said, I often visit the Ferry Building from the east bay where I live now. I get off at the fremont off-ramp and get back on the bay bridge by going up Harrison. Yes the traffic can be bad at certain times but I am often able to whiz right up Harrison no problem. There is traffic during rush hour but there is traffic everywhere in downtown during rush hour.

  78. That being said, I often visit the Ferry Building from the east bay where I live now. I get off at the fremont off-ramp and get back on the bay bridge by going up Harrison. Yes the traffic can be bad at certain times but I am often able to whiz right up Harrison no problem. There is traffic during rush hour but there is traffic everywhere in downtown during rush hour.
    I just recently moved to the Metropolitan. My unit faces 1st street. I can tell you at least 3 days a week it’s gridlock up first getting to the Bay Bridge. It’s also noisy pretty much all day and night (because it’s an incline, car accelerate up the hill).
    I knew traffic was going to be bad (I’ve lived in the area for a few years) but didn’t realize how bad. ORH people are seriously underestimating the hassle factor of living on a bridge onramp.

  79. Mike,
    I live nearby in a unit facing Harrison in a different complex. It can be noisy if you have the windows open, but if they’re closed, the triple paned windows make it surprisingly quiet. I would expect a similar situation at One Rincon.

  80. “I live nearby in a unit facing Harrison in a different complex. It can be noisy if you have the windows open, but if they’re closed, the triple paned windows make it surprisingly quiet. I would expect a similar situation at One Rincon.”
    So if you want to live in an “AIR-TIGHT” fish bowl with no access to fresh air, then live on Rincon Hill.
    I can understand Mike’s complaint. The traffic on First St is never ending. Even late at night there will always be cars heading up that street.
    When there’s trucks and motorcyles involved, the noise can be a terrible nuisance…

  81. It can be noisy if you have the windows open, but if they’re closed, the triple paned windows make it surprisingly quiet. I would expect a similar situation at One Rincon.
    I do have them closed, and it’s STILL noisy, esp. at night. I moved recently from Second street, and the difference is VERY noticeable. I’m just glad I’m only renting here.

  82. Triple Paned windows filled with “special” sound proofing gas that would also be poison to humans, all kept firmly shut so that you get no fresh air.
    Let me warn you as a high rise dweller. I keep a window constantly ajar in my unit so that I never have to smell any odors (especially cooking odors) from the hallway. Even though my building pumps in fresh air into the hallway, I still prefer as a vegetarian not to smell the cooking of animals. How high up would you have to live at One Rincon to not hear the traffic or smell the fumes? 30th floor?

  83. One Rincon is an elegant, refined example of modern urban high rise housing. It’s not for everyone, sure. its for mostly well-to-do. so what?
    A great city is made up of all kinds of incomes and people.
    So many san franciscans still seem to long for the old “Herb Caen” days of Victorians and ladies in gloves shopping at Magnins. that was then.
    this is now. and yea……Heller-Manus is really a crappy firm, no talent whatsoever.
    Onward and upward, higher and higher.

  84. Is One Rincon really thought of as a “luxury” building? I would think that would think “The Californian” is probably the only true luxury building going up in that area. My idea of “luxury” would be a building like 2006 Washington or the tower at Steiner and Jackson.

  85. Anom,
    I think there are degrees of luxury. Location aside, I’d consider One Rincon a luxury building, as it has units with nice finishes, a doorman, and other features in its complex (pool, spa, gym, etc).
    Now, The Californian would be what I consider ultra-luxury (more on par with St. Regis, Four Seasons, Ritz Carlton residences, etc). Also, don’t forget to add the new Turnberry property and Millenium to that list.

  86. My office is on the 10th floor facing montgomery street. I can’t hear anything from the street at all except for the faint sound of sirens when they are nearby. (I also don’t have the choice of opening my window. It is sealed shut.)
    Mike…How does the flooring work at the Met. Since it is on a hill, where do the floors start? Do they start at the lowest point?

  87. The Met is a great building, but like One Rincon Hill, the location is lacking. People love the new Embarcadero from the Ferry Building south to the Ballpark. Anything built in that corridor will continue to sell at a premium.
    Location, Location, Location

  88. I like it. Anyone notice how when driving on 80 east towards the east bay, you cannot but help notice the vertical lines of the windows of the building, almost like a blending of the very lanes that you’re driving on. A very cool effect, and unique in the world of architecture.

  89. The problem with the Fontana Towers is precisely that they are NOT towers – they are slabs, blocking maximum possible views. Fontana Slabs would be a more appropriate name.
    Point towers are an entirely different thing.

  90. “The Met is a great building, but like One Rincon Hill, the location is lacking. People love the new Embarcadero from the Ferry Building south to the Ballpark. Anything built in that corridor will continue to sell at a premium.”
    The only thing that will ever get built along the Embarcadero corridor is Infinity. That’s why I’m bullish on Infinity and bearish on anything built next to a freeway onramp (Met, OneRincon)

  91. What do you mean the only thing that will ever get built along the corridor is the Infinity? Have you even taken a look at the plans for the Transbay Terminal area? This includes the lot across Folsom street from the Infinity.

  92. Well I guess we all have different definitions of ‘corridor’. What I meant was the ‘Embacadero or Waterfront’ corridor. Something built within a block from the waterfront. Infinity is the closest we’re gonna get unless you go all the way down to Radiance (which is not a developed or nice waterfront by any means).
    The transbay area will be very nice in 10+ years, but it’s fall from ‘waterfront’ living.

  93. Figures that curbed would run a story like that….seems to attract those to the ultra-radical left who feel that Chronicle is too centrous. Give me a break. Our precious little town is getting some new additions, which aren’t victorians or edwardians….cry me a river.

  94. Now I know you won’t believe this, but it is just possible, that many people have no problem with new architecture or highrise construction, but just feel One Rincon is “dated” “unoriginal” UGLY design. Just because we need housing and desire new construction does not mean we cannot say something is UGLY when it is. My friends who visit, who have no “ball” in this game, all ask “Ugh, what is that ugly building over there?”
    But look, One Rincon is following a San Francisco tradition of ugly buildings, from Fox Plaza, to the Marriot Jukebox, we seem to adore bad architecture here. And what does this have to do with Victorians?

  95. Additional background on the Fontana development that we’ve stolen from one of Frederick’s recent comments:
    “With the construction of the Fontana West and East towers, at the foot of Van Ness Avenue on the north waterfront in the mid 1960’s, many San Franciscans became alarmed at the possibility of the City’s waterfront becoming surrounded by high rise buildings. Residents of the Marina, Pacific Heights, Russian Hill, Telegraph Hill and most other neighborhoods protested these new waterfront high-rise buildings and got the City to adopt 40 foot height limits, which today control almost all residential boiling, in existing neighborhoods.”

  96. I’ve been inside Fontana Towers — it’s kind of disorienting inside, because the rooms are all “crooked”, not quite rectangular, the corner walls are not at 90 degree angles, and the walkways are “bent”, this type of floorplan is generally considered bad feng-shui.
    It does have nice views from the inside, though from the outside it’s like a big ugly ass mooning russian hill.

  97. Beckett does have a point. San Francisco has a long history of putting up ugly buildings.

  98. I love the drive towards higher density, downtown buildings, but 1 Rincon lacks style IMO. In comparison, the Infinity is significantly more elegant. Other than the height/location, there is not much noteworthy about it. Too bad, as the location deserves something sexier.
    For the price these units are selling at, I am struggling to see how this increase of housing will help the average resident who wants to buy some property unless it drives down the prices elsewhere.
    Also, I agree with other posters, the area (although close to downtown) is cold and basically devoid of retail. Yes, that will change, but hard to tell if it will be good development (all I can envision is a Borders and Starbucks)…hopefully, the city does a better job in diversifying the options.

  99. “(all I can envision is a Borders and Starbucks)…hopefully, the city does a better job in diversifying the options.”
    The “city” regulates land use, it doesn’t lease retail space. you can’t blame most of the predominance of chains on the city’s lack of “diversifying the options.” The city could certainly prohibit chains or regulate them. The main problems, and I assume you’re complaining about King Street in northern Mission Bay, is that a new area with large new development built by big national builders, are (1) national developers don’t necessarily have the local ability or desire to find local independent tenants, (2) small independent retailers aren’t exactly knocking on the door of the big builders asking about new space in new built-from-scratch neighborhoods, they mostly go out looking at “for lease” signs in established neighborhoods, (3) if you’re building a whole new neighborhood from scratch without a track record (like Mission Bay) and you need to fill the retail space now and provide services now for all the new tenants moving in, you need to go out and find the tenants who can fill the space now, not build the space and have it sit vacant for years while you hope the unknown independent coffee shop comes knocking on your door. This happens over time, and it’s starting to happen in Mission Bay. Yes, it’s hard to oust a Starbucks and a Borders once they’re in. The only way around it is to just prohibit the chains and accept that the spaces will sit vacant for some time while you wait for it to fill in organically. I’m fine with that approach.

  100. There are other alternatives. Part of why Mission Bay is probably going to turn out so bland is the designs themselves. I still do not understand why the new developements could not have had a more industrial-port-edge to them. Why are the buildings more appropriate for San Diego than San Francisco? I still think some of the best waterfront-portside projects are in Seattle. Even in Newport Beach they are asking developers to do infill projects on the bay using materials and architectural vocabulary from the old sailboat builders warehouses. I am not talking about “victorian”, but steel & glass as well as wood. I just don’t think Mission Bay and Rincon Hill pass the “San Francisco Test” posted earlier. If you cannot open your eyes on any corner and know instantly that you are in San Francisco and not some other city, then why would you pay a San Francisco price to live on a street that feels like any other place?

  101. In such a prominent location, OneRincon IS the ugliest building around. SF Curbed just ran a poll on the ugliest building in San Francisco and OneRincon won hands down. All my friends and co-workers hate it, the majority of socketsite readers hate it, other prominent SF bloggers hate it. The only people that seem to like the unsightly architecture are the Chicago architects that designed it and the San Diego based developer!

  102. Driving across the bay bridge and noticing it for the first time, I couldn’t believe that they would approve this monstrosity so close to the bridge. The bridge used to stand apart, now it has this thing next to it competing for the skyline. I feel sorry for all of the people who’s views it has ruined. How did this get approved???

  103. One Rincon Hill ruins the drive into the city. I hope in the future, areas of urban importance such as the world famous Bay Bridge city will be regarded with more caution by planners. The Bridge should be what you can see, not an ugly dated condo tower. Why ruin an icon with such an eyesore? What is next, One Rincon 4 next to Coit Tower?

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