800 Presidio Avenue Site

The plans for 800 Presidio Avenue in Lower Pacific Heights as proposed, currently the site of a two-story, wood-frame 12,600-square-foot community center built in 1952 and operating as the Booker T. Washington Community Service Center:

The proposed project would be constructed within one structure that would be divided into two distinct volumes which express their intended uses, residential and community center. The two volumes would be connected by a circulation core that would contain stairwells and elevators.

800 Presidio Avenue Rendering: View from Masonic

The proposed new community center would encompass approximately 19,000 square feet, including a gymnasium. This would be a net increase of approximately 6,400 square feet from the size of the existing community center which is 12,600 square feet in size. The community center would be located within a dedicated part of the building on the south portion of the project parcel with its primary façade and pedestrian entrance on Presidio Avenue. On the basement (lowest) building level, the community center would contain a fitness room, after school space, childcare space, youth radio production space as well as rest room and storage facilities.

800 Presidio Avenue Rendering: Presidio Avenue looking south

The project’s residential component and a basement-level garage would be situated in the northern portion of the project site, at the corner of Presidio Avenue and Sutter Street. The project would provide 47 dwelling units, including up to 24 units for transitional aged youth (18-24), including emancipated foster youth over the age of 18, and 23 units available to both individuals and families earning up to 60 percent average median income (AMI).

800 Presidio Avenue Rendering: View from Sutter looking north

The basement level of the building would contain a garage, which would include 22 parking spaces, 16 arranged in a tandem configuration and six additional spaces parallel to each other along the garage’s east wall. The Community Center and the Residential Component would share the parking garage and bicycle parking areas. A secured space for up to 16 bicycles, a garbage room, and utility rooms would also be located on the basement level.

Project construction would last approximately 18 months. And assuming entitlements, project construction could begin in the second half of 2012.

Comments from Plugged-In Readers

  1. Posted by The Milkshake of Despair

    When I saw that first before photo, it made me think “Wow, this project is going to affect all of the downtown skyline”.
    background-foreground error.

  2. Posted by Invented

    Why such a morose design? Looks like a lot of effort was put into making it especially boring.
    Interesting project concept tho in a very convenient location.
    The bus yards across the street once had highrise proposal. (This whole Presidio/Geary/Masonic messy intersection could be upzoned for higher buildings imo –the deco shopping wonderland across the street, included.

  3. Posted by abc

    Why is all new construction in this city so much higher than the neighboring buildings? I think this project does not even attempt to meld into the existing streetscape and it looks really out of place from a height perspective.

  4. Posted by stucco-sux

    Jeez that’s ugly — and talk about out of scale to the buildings around it. Bit of course since its ugly and for low income housing it will sail through the process.
    You know you have an ugly building when the jail is nice looking…

  5. Posted by Gil

    Lord that is a horrible looking structure.
    Please tell me this is a “holding” design and not the actual envisionned design. This is just awful looking.

  6. Posted by joe

    why is all new construction in SF above ground?
    better yet, why is there ANY new construction period? I have my own place, whats the issue?

  7. Posted by spitpalm

    I’m usually not one to complain about views being blocked but that is just wrong….especially for that half-assed design. Mold that thing into a slender 20 story building and throw it down on Van Ness.

  8. Posted by BobN

    What?!?!? It’s an entire floor taller than its neighbor across the street!
    Surely a half-floor is more in keeping with neighborhood context…

  9. Posted by badlydrawnbear

    I have to say, as someone who is usually all for building it (whatever it may be) I would give this design a big NO vote.

  10. Posted by Rocco

    It’s a little bland, but it’s also in a very odd and bland neighborhood and across from a bus depot. As for blocking views, the only facing buildings are substantially uphill above the intersection of Masonic and Euclid.

  11. Posted by ph_goat

    That has to be the most uninspired design I’ve seen on this site in a long time…

  12. Posted by condoshopper

    the houses on this street are way above the street level, so their view is much higher than the view shown, which is presumably from the street – and there are not really a lot of pedestrians on the sidewalk here other than the ones shopping at trader joe.

  13. Posted by Alexei

    condoshopper: that’s true, but there are a lot more people on the street than in the buildings, and it’s unusual enough to have a street with a view at all. I always enjoy it when I’m biking to Trader Joe’s.
    It’s always seemed pretty ridiculous what buildings there are up on that hill. Trader Joe’s? Why would you put a boxed-in grocery store with a surface parking lot in a place with a great view? The whole Masonic-Geary shopping mall, same thing. The residential buildings are probably nice but all you see are carports from the street–ugly. And Public Storage!?!?
    It would be great to see the whole area redeveloped (and a rail line to boot, as long as I’m wishing). So I’m ultimately not opposed to taller buildings in the area if it helps lead to more development, but yeah, that’s a pretty ugly design.

  14. Posted by kthnxybe

    I doubt the foster kids its supposed to house will care much about the design of the building. It’s a good, safe, convenient area, and no one who could afford to live there otherwise really wants to be across the street from the Muni yard.
    The building isn’t terrible compared to the way it looks now. I just can’t get too upset about this.
    Alexi – the sort “matress heights” area around the old Sears (then Mervyn’s building) has pretty views but also very windy. I don’t think paving it over with condo buildings would improve it that much. I’d rather see it as a shopping district (yes, with parking and all). Also I think that’s the most expensive Public Storage in the world, I think they may hang on to the building for awhile.

  15. Posted by Q

    Community center gets more space. Aged-out foster kids get a place to live (avoiding homelessness for at least a few). BMR units are built. The neighborhood gets an old building replaced with something new. No one’s views (aside from pedestrians’ and MUNI workers’) is blocked. Sounds like an all around win.

  16. Posted by BobTheBuilder

    How about something with a more imaginative scope – it’s rare (unique?) to have so much contiguous publicly-owned land so why not make the most of it by closing off Presidio, building over the MUNI yard (electric buses don’t need daylight and a lot of it’s wasted on MUNI operator parking anyhow) and incorporating outdoor recreation space too, not to mention some market-rate housing to help fund the thing.
    Is there available public funding to build as proposed and, if so, is this the best use of those funds right now?

  17. Posted by Invented

    kthnxybe “I doubt the foster kids its supposed to house will care much about the design of the building”
    Of course!! if you’re a foster child, or perhaps even adopted — your pride in where you live and your building is less than. I’m so glad to be reminded of this enlightened POV.
    As foster- and adoptive parent, the moronic level here is sometimes, um blogworthy.

  18. Posted by kthnxybe

    I was trying to point out that the needs of the people the building is supposed to serve should be considered before how pretty the neighbors thought the building was. Do you really want this tied up in design wars? Do the kids who aren’t lucky enough to be adopted want to wait for a home so people can go on about bay windows?

  19. Posted by condoshopper

    “The whole Masonic-Geary shopping mall, same thing”
    Now there’s an idea. If they built medium or high-density condo’s there I’d be salivating all over it. The views from the parking lot over downtown are amazing!

  20. Posted by SFer

    Is that a new prison or a community center?

  21. Posted by BobN

    The whole Masonic-Geary shopping mall
    I’ve always thought that area should be the location of the first of SF’s super towers that you see in movies that show Star Trek HQ in SF.
    We’ve got to start somewhere…

  22. Posted by grumpy

    The buidling across the street is 4 stories, 1 story does not stick out that much. The side street looks pretty dumpy already, this is an improvment. Besides, it looks like what is already there, same colors and style, just bigger.

  23. Posted by Matt

    Win-win, but it’s patently fugly.

  24. Posted by joh

    Trader Joe’s? Why would you put a boxed-in grocery store with a surface parking lot in a place with a great view?
    Better than the paint store it replaced. Now, if they could only do something with Copper Penny.

  25. Posted by joh

    Booker T Washington actually brings back some memories of my middle school and high school days. Several of my friends used to play ball here. I might have to pop in and reminisce before they tear it down.

  26. Posted by kathleen

    Adds ome greenery to this plant the roof? a living wall? this part of town is pretty barren..

  27. Posted by Nelson w

    Isn’t there a large gymnasium around the corner at the JCC?

  28. Posted by mochanut

    Gosh that’s fugly. I mean, does it have to look like a giant gray box with holes poked out of it. A little imagination please.

  29. Posted by inmybackyard

    That design is really terrible. I hope that we are seeing a massing study more than a final design. I agree with other comments that reference the lack of any significant attempt to reconcile the surrounding neighborhood scale or character with the proposed design. I do think the program of the building is innovative and a new community center at that location would be great. But greater care needs to be taken to break up the massing and lower the overall height or include setbacks to lower the perceived height.

  30. Posted by TJ

    Some possibilities:
    a.) It is only a massing diagram and not a design proposal.
    b.) It was secretly designed by someone in the planning department in order to garner popular support for the department’s inevitable intervention into the design process, even in parts of the city that lack a clear visual order.
    c.) For every architect that graduates at the top of his class, there is one who graduates at the bottom.

  31. Posted by Dude

    Mediocre design and far too high and bulky for the neighborhood. Does planning ever say no to developers?

  32. Posted by chrisbsf

    Glad to see most everyone shares my opinion. What a waste of a really lovely SF view, if something of this scale and massing was placed on this site.

  33. Posted by GerryT

    Do we know if there was (and I use the term broadly) an architect involved here? Does anyone know who is willing to own up to this?

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