299 Valencia: 12/10/10 (www.SocketSite.com)

With the surface area parking lot long gone, behind the graffiti strewn fence earth movers work the mud to prepare for JS Sullivan’s 299 Valencia to rise as rendered under a clearer sky:

299 Valencia Rendering

Thirty-six (36) residential condos over ground floor retail and 27 parking spaces (two car share dedicated) to be at the corner of Hipster Valencia and 14th.

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Comments from “Plugged-In” Readers

  1. Posted by lolcat_94123

    Will there ever be a new development that isn’t this boring legoland box stuff? The entire city is going to become Mission Bay.

  2. Posted by Willow

    Yes, more of the same…

  3. Posted by noearch

    Nice project, clean fresh design. Can’t wait to see it completed and occupied.
    All you armchair design critics, here’s some advice: Go to architecture school, get your degree and learn the business of design and construction and what it really takes to make a project work from the design, codes and financial points of view.

  4. Posted by scurvy

    Why do I somehow get the feeling that the low-income housing requirement is somehow to blame for all of the somewhat boring designs we’re getting in new SF developments? Is it truly too expensive to do anything cool while having to set aside 20% of the inventory?

  5. Posted by Zouaf

    Countdown to hipsters screaming about gentrification in 10, 9, 8, 7…
    But yeah, it’s pretty ugly. I wonder if it was designed by focus group.

  6. Posted by noearch

    I love how the armchair critics continually call out projects here as being “pretty ugly”, or not being “cool”..whatever that means.
    Yet they offer no serious dialogue as to what constitutes good design.

  7. Posted by kathleen

    Fresh design?
    It is not unlike
    a slap across the face
    of the city.
    Too tall, too ugly, too bad.
    Design by Committeee
    (DBC) written all over it.

  8. Posted by Dan

    Scurvy, the BMR requirement is not responsible for bad design in SF. As a matter of fact, projects that are entirely low-income often have better design than market-rate buildings.

  9. Posted by Rob

    First… The use of the term “hipster” makes you all sound old. Stop please. It’s not any different than calling the Castro “faggy”.
    Second… I’m sure we can all agree that our imaginations could have come up with something much more exotic and complimentary to the structures in the area. But, the truth of the situation is that no matter what anyone tries to build, people will always have their opinions… unfortunately more times than not, those people never have anything critical to say, they just bitch.
    To me, the success of each structure is measured by the quality of construction and efficiency of their footprint. In the end, the businesses and the people that spend time in and around it, are what give a structure its character… Any building left unattended, vacant or dilapidated can be seen as ugly. Make your neighborhood great through utilization.
    The period of design/development the city is going through is obviously one of function and efficiency… 50 years from now, critics will be boasting about the importance of their existence and be celebrating their minimal design.
    Lastly… I’d be interested to see, what—if any—modern structures the readers of this site, think are most successful or attractive.

  10. Posted by Brahma (incensed renter)

    Rob wrote:

    I’d be interested to see, what–if any–modern structures the readers of this site, think are most successful or attractive.

    First we’d have to agree on what constitutes “modern”. Are we talking modern in the sense that an architectural historian would use the term or the sense that the hoi polloi would; i.e.,the building was designed and built in a style that would be recognizable as something originating in the last twenty or thirty years? Are we including postmodernism? The cold, uninspiring pap that shows up in the pages of Dwell?
    If architecture critics want to decide that a building is “successful” because occupying businesses are present and people spend time in and around the structure, well, I’ve heard worse criteria.
    But hopefully thoughtful people will quickly realize that businesses and employees of those businesses are mostly responding to the dictates imposed by the marketplace. Economic constraints can and do make people behave in all kinds of ways that they wouldn’t choose to if they weren’t paid to do so. You could place the ugliest, most out-of-neighborhood-character and most awkwardly laid out building in the world in the right location with a low enough rent and it would get used, but that doesn’t mean it was a successful building, it just means that people have to use it.
    I’m sure Stanley Saitowitz’ stuff is all kinds of efficient and quality of construction (then again, how bad can you screw up cast concrete?). It definitely is “modern” in both senses, but there is no way that I’d live at Yerba Buena Lofts or any of his other, worse, prison-like projects unless I was being paid to do so, or the price was dramatically lower than comparable places.
    All that said, and assuming that we’re using the term “modern” in the more everyday sense, I’d be willing to say that the proposed preferred” design for 555 Washington St. rates highly as attractive.

  11. Posted by castroclone

    Hey Rob, you must be desperate for attention if you feel the need to use the f-word in the comments section on a real estate blog. Is it really necessary to explain to you that wearing skinny jeans will not get you kicked out of the military, or physically brutalized in many countries on this planet, plus a whole lot of other stuff that it would be repetitive to mention? I’ve always been astonished by current young generation’s sense of entitlement, but I never realized it extended to victim status.

  12. Posted by Rob

    @Castroclone Let me simplify my statement… Name calling is ridiculous, for any reason.
    I assume, based on your use of mentioning the, “young generation” that you aren’t within that demographic? Which means you probably don’t know what your talking about…either. Entitlement is a two way street. Stereotyping and name calling is absurd no matter what direction you choose to direct it, and it never leads to anything positive.
    I appreciate your reply.
    @Brahma A lot of great points, I agree with a lot of them. I suppose the difference in our definition of success lies on the perspective differences between a resident and a developer/architect. I think a lot of average people wouldn’t be able to pick apart the things that most of us would use to classify a project as being successful or otherwise. These flat lots are extremely valuable and I only hope to see them all be used to their greatest potential.

  13. Posted by Schlub

    I really appreciate Rob’s comments. The “hipster” Mission label is getting a bit tired.
    This stretch of Valencia is in need of this sort of development, to help link it to Duboce/Market in a pedestrian friendly way. That said, I’m surprised that the renderings include no street trees…it makes it feel a bit cold, not helping the somewhat generic look.
    Anyone familiar with this corner knows that it feels quite urban and concrete, lots of speeding cars and sort of an in-between neighborhood zone. It needs more human warmth, trees etc. This development could really help change that.

  14. Posted by lol

    I see the term Hipster as overused and abused. But in many case this label serves a purpose: getting people to overpay for very basic things. Valencia has many many exciting things. But let’s get real, 1/2 a block east and everything is 1/2 price or more for food, shopping. For condos, there’s nothing like the “hipster” factor to make people pay 700+/sf which ends up costing 2.5X rental.
    They tried that before with great success, with Le Corbusier or Brutalism labels, a ploy to cram people into ugly efficiency concrete while making pay luxury rates.
    Here it’s bland boxes on a seedy stretch.

  15. Posted by A.T.

    Most people I know use the term hipster in a gently mocking, ironic way. Those described as hipsters are anything but, although they clearly want to be seen as such. It’s nothing approaching the “f” word — that’s just silly.

  16. Posted by Dan

    Yes, “hipster” is cliche, and is best avoided in headlines like this thread’s, but it is not an epithet like those connoting hatred on the basis of sexual orientation or ethnicity.
    Yes, this is a particularly desolate corner, which can be helped by ground floor retail. The quality of construction and the ability of the ground floor retail to interest pedestrians (and cyclists) will be the best signs of its worth to the neighborhood. However, having homeowners living on that corner will help, too.

  17. Posted by Willow

    For what it’s worth I really don’t think Valencia any longer is ground zero for the hipster scene. Maybe 5 years ago. I think it’s far deeper in the Mission / Dogpatch and parts of downtown Oakland.

  18. Posted by Willow

    Noearch: On the building itself. I really think it’s generic San Francisco. There are so many building that have been completed since 2000 that are variations on the same theme. You see it as a clean fresh design. Fair enough. I don’t understand why I would need to go to architecture school to form an opinion on the merits of a specific design. (Albeit a cursory one based on a single rendering.)

  19. Posted by J. Steinmeier

    Well I do have a degree as well as a licence in Architecture (which still shouldn’t influence your preference and taste) and the best way I can describe the design is “tired”. It seems to be made up of previously approved element of “modern” multifamily design. Why does this seem to happen? Look at the multifamily housing of the past century with the proliferation of bay windows that look out onto nothing and realize this trend is not new. Financiers and developers like nothing more than to run with a proven strategy. If it is a building type and finish that have been done before then there are 2 more suppositions that can be made #1 the design will not be as controversial as some other “outside the box” design thinking and more likely to make it past design review and #2 the costs associated with building it are very predictable. In my option the project is “safe” and similarly type-cast as the hipster.

  20. Posted by Mart the Writer from SF

    I live about a 1/2 block from this site. It’s most welcome, regardless if it looks like so many other similar developments in the city. For 12 long years I’ve been forced to look at that used-car lot full of really shabby autos, plus grubby surroundings, not to mention a HUGE billboard advertising the whole mess. Now it’s all gone, and the corner, plus the entire neighborhood will be better with the replacement. Sorry if the design doesn’t meet the approval of everyone on here. As for me, what a wonderful, beautiful relief to know I’ll look out of my home office window and see this building…..and not rusty used cars.

  21. Posted by noearch

    I have to say, I’m grateful to see this discussion about design. That’s good news.
    And, of course, there are going to be as many different opinions about what is “good design” as there are commentators here on SS. All good.
    And, no, you don’t have to be a licensed architect to have an opinion. It may help you to articulate more in detail what the strong/weak points of a project are, but not required.
    I don’t know how to respond to other critics when they say the design is “tired” or “bland” or “predictable”. Some people will love “modern” design with lots of metal work or metal panels, clean/square lines, an organized geometry. Others will love wood siding, shingles, angled bay windows with grids. Personal choice I suppose. I simply use the word “fresh” a lot to indicate that I feel the project is appropriate for the site and location, not full of cliches or “old” materials and offers a modern/functional view of urban housing. To some people Yerba Buena Lofts by Saitowitz is a masterpiece of minimalist/modern efficient housing. To others, the classic shingle style townhouses on Pacific Ave. by Maybeck are the epitome of urban housing expression. I think both are valid in The City.
    Budget, codes, program and client input, together with the architect’s (assumed) unique talent and vision are what drives the success of a project. Neighborhood input from every single voice and every single planner does NOT.
    Design by committee always fails.

  22. Posted by 45yo hipster

    Ahem…let me weigh in a bit here, given my name and that I own rental prop nearby.
    While the design is not compelling, it is competent, and probably the best you can do given the lending environment, and the mental midgets at the planning dept. This pocket of the mish…last I heard it’s the transmission, needs infill developments. It’s that, or crack ho’s. Simple as that.
    And yes, the mish is still hipster- centräl, and these units should rent or sell well, if they are market priced. Remember, hipsters are getting older…some even reaching their 30’s, and are tiring of 3 roommates in a 2nd appt. Sheeet, they are a great rental demographic- easy to rent out my units, and I get to have the best cup of ‘spro when I’m in the area. And FYI, as for overpriced Valencia restaurants- save those for the B & T weekend crowds. Hipsters love slumming it on mission st.-papusas, street vendors and other cheap ethnic foods reign supreme. And as for entitlements, these folks are usually paying market rents, unlike many 80’s has-beens only able to stay in the city due to socialist rent control. Me love me ‘dem hipsters in my building!

  23. Posted by lol

    Pupusas. Yummy.
    Agreed on the B&T’s. Same crowd that loves to wait in line like 1970s Moscovites. Simply because there’s a line doesn’t mean there’s anything interesting. Better push down 24th towards Folsom. It’s as real as it gets.

  24. Posted by A.T.

    Pupusas? Corn, cheese, with optional lard and beans? Bleh. I guess I’m too down on lousy fast food (but it’s ethnic! and cheap!) to be a hipster. The Mission has some great restaurants and they are actually not very crowded in general, but it also has some truly terrible ones.
    I can see why some people are not happy about the design of this building. It is part of the trend of ripping out the down-and-out buildings in this area. But I agree with the comment above that it is certainly better than the crummy car lot.

  25. Posted by cmiers

    just so we are all clear, the uniform look (the look of practically all new condo projects) is due to the sh*tty planning commission in san francisco. it all but mandates this look. great design ultimately gets watered down in the planning and permitting process. although this design is ultimately “fine”, it is much of the same. but, this is NOT the developer or architect’s fault. if you want to blame someone, bring pitch forks and flames to the planning commission.

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