Proposing to raze the existing eight-story parking garage at 75 Howard Street and build a 31-story tower, rising 348 feet with 186 market rate condos over a ground floor restaurant and parking for 175 cars, the Environmental Impact Report for the project is slated to be reviewed by San Francisco’s Planning in September.

Currently zoned for development up to 200 feet in height, assuming the Environmental Impact Report is certified, San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors will need to approve a reclassification of the site’s zoning for the project to proceed as proposed.

Any up-zoning of the site, however, would appear to conflict with San Francisco’s Downtown Area Plan which calls for building heights to “taper down to the shoreline of the Bay” in order “to avoid visual disruption along the water while preserving topography and views.”

And of course, should “The Friends of Yerba Buena” be successful in passing their “let the sun shine” ballot measure, the proposed 75 Howard Street project might need approval from the voters in San Francisco as well as the proposed tower would cast shadows on a couple of parks, perhaps even if only 200 feet tall.

64 thoughts on “The Impact Of A Proposed 31-Story Tower On SF’s Waterfront”
  1. It fits in fine. There aren’t many better places in SF for a 350′ tower. It’s literally one block away and almost the same distance from the bay as another 350′ tower, and there are going to be much taller towers getting built behind it anyways, over the next few years. There’s too much spotty/selective/low-height-limit zoning in SF, and too much hysteria about shadows, and wind, and traffic, and blocked views, and all kinds of other normal big city stuff.

  2. I like the height, I like the base, but the tower is lackluster…where’s the design? Come on..this is going to be one of the first buildings people see entering the city from the Bridge and Ferries…can’t they design something with style?

  3. It is a pretty plain design, and could be much better, but these crappy renderings don’t actually do it justice. They make it look worse. There’s a newer render out that looks a lot better, but I don’t think I’ve seen it here on socketsite.

  4. Proposing a building that exceeds the zoning by 150 feet is outrageous. There are no community benefits. This thing is an eyesore.
    We should have some idea of the public’s appetite for these excessively tall buildings after the November 2013 election.

  5. It would look better if it were taller and more slender. Why this fixation with making buildings squat and thick?

  6. 221 Spear in the second mock ups is really 221 Main. That short building is an eyesore too.
    The current parking garage is not much to look at either.

  7. I hope it gets built. There is NO impact. Look at the waterfronts of Vancouver, Toronto, Seattle, Chicago, NY, to name a few. They all have very tall buildings along the water. And lots of pedestrian activity, greening and amenities.
    This is a good project.
    And please do share with us, Grace, why this is “terrible”.

  8. I don’t care about height but I think the waterfront should be more beautiful than this. It’s not as awful as the Spear & Steuart shoeboxes, but still. Why is everything so drab?

  9. Totally outrageous. This insane hig-rise construction must end. It is ruining SOMA. High-rises belong in Oakland and San Jose – not in SF. Hopefully the November election will result in an effective ban on any new buildings taller than 15 or so stories. It may help boost efforts to block the Hines monstrosity atop the new train center.

  10. I like the building but it’s disingenuous to say it wouldn’t have an impact. Look at the second image, the building clearly sticks out. I think some people will see the impact as a bad thing, others will not. Will be an interesting one to watch.

  11. San Francisco is the only city I know that keeps the greatest number of people from where they most want to live – right on the waterfront. What other economically successful waterfront city does not encourage high-rises along the waterfront?

  12. Not likely to get built as currently proposed. This is just part of the political process you go through to get what you “really” want. First, max out your first proposal (150′ upzone), but don’t ask for anything completely outlandish. It has to be aggressive, yet defensible. Secondly, make lots of magnanimous concessions to get what you really want/expect which is probably a 275′ 24 story tall building with the 268 parking spaces as proposed in the variants. Pencils out nicely at those numbers as these will likely set record $/sf new condo prices if finished correctly.

  13. I agree with Skirunman’s political analysis.
    When this comes before the planning commission, the project sponsor will huff and puff about how the project “doesn’t pencil out” without the extra, over-zoning limit height, when they know all along they don’t need it and don’t expect to get it.
    To be sure, if something unplanned happens and they get the extra height, they’ll probably use it, but they know damn well they’re just proposing the extra height in order to diffuse public anger when they “settle” for the height they really want.

  14. @tobais -and why do high rises not belong in Americas 2nd most dense city? If there is any place to build high rises it IS SF.

  15. I hope Tobias is joking. I assume he is. If not, then he probably should move to Bodega Bay.
    The new Transbay terminal is not a monstrosity. Again: move to cow country.
    @ Michael: Impact, I am assuming would imply “negative” impact. There is no discernible or even measureable negative impact from this new proposed building. Impact CAN be seen as a positive thing; Jobs, housing, creating a dense, livable urban waterfront.
    What does “stick out” mean, exactly?
    Actually, the Eiffel Tower really does “stick out” in Paris. So does the London Eye. So does our own Sutro Tower.
    What’s your point?

  16. looks like a huge improvement to the area. certainly more beautiful waterfront skyline with that building

  17. please build it. It could actually be taller and still not negatively impact from a height perspective. I dont think the issue is height but design as others have said. Lets make the design on the waterfront something memorable. The warriors stadium will be amazing and we need other buildings whose design will transcend the crap that is there now. But it is DEFINITELY NOT too tall. this is a perfect place for density. good transit and near the waterfront.

  18. “Totally outrageous. This insane hig-rise construction must end. It is ruining SOMA. High-rises belong in Oakland and San Jose – not in SF. Hopefully the November election will result in an effective ban on any new buildings taller than 15 or so stories. It may help boost efforts to block the Hines monstrosity atop the new train center.” -tobias
    I really hope you’re not serious, because this is an idiotic opinion with no basis in any reality other than some delusional and myopic people’s vision for what they see as “quaint little, european” SF (most European cities are building tons of highrises these days, by the way). SF is a big city that is the 2nd densest in America, and is by far the largest single employment center in the Bay Area, with far more jobs than SJ or Oakland. It also has far more office space than both cities combined, and is not restricted to sub 300′ buildings like SJ (due to SJ’s airport). It also gains 200,000 commuters everyday. SJ on the other hand loses 50,000 to the suburbs everyday. And the trends also show that many people and companies are now preferring central cities rather than suburbs. The demand is there, it would be foolish to restrict development in SF, particularly to such a degree as banning skyscrapers. SF already has a few hundred more highrises than SJ and Oakland combined, and they’ve been getting built in SF since the 1800s…Yet somehow you think highrises are don’t belong in SF? 100% silly. You’re basically saying that the Bay Area’s main downtown should no longer be its main downtown, and that SF should consequently become an irrelevant museum city, just because you dislike tall buildings. I’m tired of people like you thinking SF is your own personal playground to manipulate, at the expense of the city’s economy and majority of its residents.

  19. I think it’s too thick and blocky for its location. A tower that tall that close to the water should be thinner and more gracile.

  20. “There are no community benefits.”
    You forgot to add “except for the millions of dollars of new property tax revenue every year”

  21. “Any up-zoning of the site, however, would appear to conflict with San Francisco’s Downtown Area Plan which calls for building heights to “taper down to the shoreline of the Bay” in order “to avoid visual disruption along the water while preserving topography and views.””
    I think that sums it up right there: we have a pretty good plan. It should take a compelling reason to change it. People were happy to see the Embarcadero freeway go, and the cited rule is the same idea: don’t mess with the city’s relationship with the bay.
    A bit farther in and I wouldn’t have any problem with it.

  22. it’s funny how most of the comments here that supports building it was done by the developer through different IP addresses. how clever they are to manipulate people.

  23. I would say that San Francisco’s leadership gets it right from time to time — the new Exploratorium, the De(De)Young — except those aren’t examples of what San Francisco’s leadership does. This POS is. These people have no taste. There is a weird flat, pasty pale blandness to San Francisco’s collective civic class. Like the Valley of the Dolls, but call it Twin Peaks and Zombies.

  24. “It would look better if it were taller and more slender. Why this fixation with making buildings squat and thick?” – zzzzzzz
    “I think it’s too thick and blocky for its location. A tower that tall that close to the water should be thinner and more gracile.” – Patrick
    Ah, the unintended influences of height limits. Put an unreasonably low height limit on high-value land and of course developers will seek to maximize on the lot and fill out the entire building envelope.
    What we end up with are these uniform, squat little boxes that have a much more negative impact on views (toward the bay and especially toward the buildings themselves) than if we were to allow taller buildings with appropriate massing/setback requirements.

  25. Lurk I beg to differ. Were your scenario the case the exception requested would simply be to ignore the massing and setbacks rules.

  26. Booo. Ugly. No reason for 99% to support. These will be priced so far above what average San Franciscan can afford. Choice should easy for most: disruptive construction, ugly deaign, more shadows, and blocked views VS housing for elite. More people in first camp than second.

  27. That’s a big up zoning ask? This project should go forward with a height closer to that of the existing buildings which all step down. Something topping out around the height of The Gap building would seem pragmatic.
    This and 8 Washington are the type of developments City Hall should be trying to make work instead of the terrible plans for Pier 30-32.

  28. SF is a small footprint city – many people want to live here – and will pay handsomely to do so
    350 feet …? Hell – I say go to 500 feet
    BUILD IT…!

  29. It’s funny how NIMBYs claim that anyone who supports this tower is in the pocket of the developers.
    I’m a working-class SF native and life-long resident who would never be able to afford to live in this tower or the others like it. And I say build them all. And sooner, rather than later.
    The more towers we have, the less that middle and working class neighborhoods will be gentrified by wealthy transplants, and the city will be able to stay at least a little bit cheaper than it would be other wise. We need to increase our supply of housing, and the best way to do it is with highrises, because the city obviously cannot annex any land and expand outwards. Within reason of course, meaning only in areas that won’t result in tons of historic buildings being destroyed. And guess what, that’s exactly where they’re getting built (downtown/soma, mission bay). Skyscrapers belong in downtown, and people need to stop having suburban mindsets in regards to the center of one of the biggest and densest cities in the US. It’s ridiculous.

  30. The rendering makes the building look as fugly as the Watermark. You would think they could do better at that location given that it’s arguably the most premium one for a new condo tower in San Francisco.

  31. These armchair design critics never give up.
    At best, they call it ugly. With no serious backup.
    At worse, they call it fugly. What are you? 12 years old?
    At even worse, they would prefer to copy a supertall in London.
    What else is new?

  32. More dense housing w/in a downtown core w/ transport, walkability, employment. Morph SF into a vibrant city w/ current tax base instead of a suburban NIMBY Prop 13 based anti-paradise financed by parking fines.

  33. Futurist,
    “These armchair design critics never give up.”
    So you are saying people should never express their opinions about the aesthetics of a building for fear of being “armchair design critics”? As opposed to what? Architects having about the same sense of aesthetics as the developer and realtor shills who will happily proclaim “Let’s build it NOW!” no matter what.
    This is fantastic location, but the renderings don’t make it look like a building worthy of the location.

  34. Regarding design critics, if you really want to hear negative vile comments, you should be around architects when they discuss other professional’s work. Buildings are part of all of our shared space and experiences, and it is normal for people to have opinions and to hope to influence how they want their city to change (or not change). People do not need an AIA behind their name in order to be granted the privilege to speak up regarding design, scale, and urban space.

  35. The tenants in the building behind the proposed tower will be pissed (as well as “No Wall/Waterfront”), but that’s the nature of the City; it evolves.

  36. Perhaps the CBD should have been built on the western side of the city and residential on the eastern half…

  37. I assume the 175 parking spots would be for residents? I’m all for building more downtown, but I’m really not a fan of losing still more parking downtown. I take public transit when I can, but sometimes you have to drive and the lack of availability and punishing prices for daily parking downtown are a drag.

  38. Oh, I have no problem with “armchair critics” here, when it’s done with some intelligence and depth.
    Read my comment again: calling a building ugly has no depth. Calling it fugly is a 12 year old talking. Wanting to copy an existing building is meaningless.
    And btw: AIA has nothing to do with being an architect. The AIA is a voluntary organization; it’s not a requirement of licensure or talent.

  39. What is the point of zoning when it is so routinely ignored/overruled?
    SF might as well just eliminate zoning altoghether…let’s make SF the next Dubai!

  40. Oh, sorry there Futurist, let me add some depth to my statement. It’s too “unremarkable”, not “distinctive” enough. Whatever, man, it’s just ugly, OK? I don’t care what they copy or don’t copy, just put some effort into the design. This really is the sort of location you should have to earn on architectural merit. Not every building needs to be a landmark but I’d like to be able to pick SF’s skyline out of a line-up next to Charlotte, Omaha and ‘generic Chinese metropolis #53’

  41. ug·ly
    adjective, ug·li·er, ug·li·est.
    1. very unattractive or unpleasant to look at; offensive to the sense of beauty; displeasing in appearance.
    I personally don’t have any opinion as to whether or not this particular building is “ugly” or not, but I find amusing the idea that you would have to be required to scientifically explain why something strikes you as “ugly”.
    By it’s very nature, beauty is in the eye of the beholder and is an opinion that anyone is entitled to have and express. The idea that you would be required to somehow explain it “in depth” before you would be allowed to express a subjective opinion about the beauty or lack thereof is somewhat silly.

  42. well, sure: yes, “beauty” is in the eye of the beholder.
    And yes, anyone is entitled to an opinion. No argument there.
    And certainly, I said nothing about a “scientific” opinion, but was only looking for more substantive words than ugly, or fugly.
    I haven’t really given an opinion on the building design, because, quite frankly, with these small on screen renderings, it’s difficult to criticize. There’s not much to see…yet.
    But there’s nothing silly about discussing the form, shape, color, details, site relationship, context, etc. with regard to architecture.
    If one doesn’t like it because they simply prefer no more high-rises along our waterfront, then say so.
    But it really is silly to just call it ugly, or “fugly” and run away.

  43. “What is the point of zoning when it is so routinely ignored/overruled? SF might as well just eliminate zoning altoghether…let’s make SF the next Dubai!” -anon
    First off, zoning is not routinely ignored in SF. But what is the point of zoning that’s so restrictive in certain areas (in terms of height limits) that city planners and developers have often felt the need to change/challenge it?
    The height limits that have been getting challenged and/or upped lately are in small and select areas (99% in downtown) where said low height limits (put in place by the misguided “anti-manhattanization” movement back in the 70s/80s, and some of which have recently been altered by the Transbay/Rincon hill plans) are holding back the city’s development. It’s not at all like height limits are being challenged or raised everywhere, or that exceptions are being granted all willy-nilly.
    And the raising of height limits in some areas is not the same as having no zoning, and will not lead to it either…don’t be dumb. SF will never get rid of zoning, nor should it, and these small handfuls of changes in recent years do not mean that zoning is for all intents and purposes eliminated in SF. That’s completely false, and shows a lack of understanding of how things actually work. SF will never be like Dubai, at all. Not even close. And no one is trying to make it like Dubai either, thank god. Chill out. SF is fine, and will continue to be fine….Yes, even with more skyscrapers in downtown.
    In fact, building more and building higher is a thing that will keep SF’s economy relevant and growing, and housing prices at least a bit less insane than they would be otherwise. And it’s not an either/or thing, as more development in downtown does not equal the entire city getting overrun with highrises. It just means that downtown will be getting some more. To go along with the hundreds that already exist there. I guarantee that your average person would hardly even notice the difference aside from the tallest proposed towers (and many will actually like the changes a lot, while most will benefit in some way or another, whether they realize it or not! wow!). This type of development is a good thing, and will not negatively impact the city whatsoever, aside from a few mostly wealthy people who’ll have their precious views get altered (there are not many poor people living on the hills with those views), or those who think every tower in existence is an eyesore. Boo hoo, welcome to the big city, and welcome to life; it’s full of change.
    With that all said, I agree the design for this tower should be much better, I just don’t hate it as much as some people seem to. But the height is fine.

  44. To many people it is possible for something to just be ugly without it having anything to do with high-rises or any other specific “architectural” reason. Sometimes things just strike some people as ugly, and there’s nothing more “substantive” to be said about it. If it is going to be front and center, in your face, permanent, there’s no reason for them not to say so. The fact that there cannot always be an explanation for subjective human aesthetic opinions does not mean that anyone is “running away”. Those that dismiss such opinions out of hand just because they are not accompanied by some sort of “substantive” conversation would seem to be the ones “running away”.
    If 1 person says it is ugly, so what. If 10,000 people say it is ugly, that might be something worth considering, even if none of those 10,000 people gave a detailed “substantive” explanation as to why.

  45. I’ll take ugly over boring. This building is boring.
    Some people think the deYoung is ugly (I don’t agree) but at least it’s not just a rectangular steel and glass box which is indistinguishable from thousands of other buildings around the country. Lots of people think the Guggenheim in Bilbao is ugly. Hell, the Eiffel Tower is ugly if you want to get technical – the proportions are all wrong. But (say it with me) [they’re] not BORING!
    No, I don’t mean to require a groundbreaking extravagant architectural masterpiece at that location but there’s no rule saying condo towers can’t be pleasing to look at. There are plenty of existing buildings in SoMa which would be worthy of a waterfront location, but this yawner if it’s built is not one of them.

  46. Take a look at
    This is how they do waterfront architecture in a Danish town you’ve never heard of which is about 1/3 the size of San Francisco. And our “world class city” is stuck with this kind of crap? BORING!!

  47. Very nice design on that Isbjerget project. But as you can tell it comes with substantial costs since a lot of floor area is sacrificed by those sloping roofs.

  48. Sure, that’s an interesting project in Amsterdam.
    But, it’s Amsterdam and the culture their UNDERSTANDS and SUPPORTS fairly unique architecture. It’s deeply ingrained in their society.
    San Francisco is largely very conservative, architecturally. That’s who we are. And this Dutch project, as cool as it is, would freak out most San Franciscans, including the Planning Dept and Planning Commission. It’s in our cultural DNA to accept more moderate architectural styles.
    Not to say we should accept mediocrity, of course not. And, I don’t feel this proposed tower is mediocre. It reflects may factors, including design criteria, planning code restrictions, height limits,materials, BUDGET, and context.

  49. What is the point of zoning when it is so routinely ignored/overruled?
    SF might as well just eliminate zoning altoghether…let’s make SF the next Dubai!

    I don’t recall the 40′ zoning that covers 90% of the city being changed more than a couple times. In fact, I can probably count the number of times that zoning has been changed (outside of a neighborhood plan update) on two hands.

  50. Anon, 7:31, read the Eastern Neighborhoods just for one example. The zoned height limits for a huge portion of the city was dramatically increased….from Transbay to Mission Bay, Western SoMa, South Beach…etc.
    This one change increased the zoning for hundreds our thousands of parcels. And seemingly every developer is looking for exceptions beyond that rezoning.

  51. ^Um, that’s why I said outside of a neighborhood plans update. Are you saying that a city can never be allowed to update its zoning? That’s bizarre.
    I assumed that you were talking about changes to the zoning after plans have been adopted.
    If we’re just talking about zoning being changed, then I’m furious about the change in 70s that put into place 40′ height limits everywhere! Why do we just allow zoning to change like that?! We should go back to having no height limits like it was before that dastardly change!

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