Proposed 8 Washinton Site

With voters in San Francisco having overturned the approved plans and increased height for the development of the 8 Washington Street site above and some bad information making the rounds, a rather plugged-in reader summarizes, and editorializes, how we got here and what happens with the proposed development now:

It’s no done deal that the developer can just build an 84′ project [on the site]. The project was entitled as designed. It would have to go thru years of redesign, a new [Environmental Impact Report], [and] hearings at every commission that previously approved the prior plan.

The project was initially designed as an 84′ project. After 17 months of “community planning” workshops, the community and the Planning Department convinced the developer to step the height up in the back and down in the front. The same people who put [Measure] C on the ballot opposed the 84′ project and would probably put that on the ballot, this time saying it should be 40′.

Whether the developer or their financial partners (Calsters) are up for [another battle] remains to be seen. And what other developer would walk into this now? We may have another 10 or 15 years of parking lot and fenced club.

The proposed design for the project back when it was 84 feet in height, note the 28,000-square-foot public park at the northern tip of the site:

8 Washington Rendering

61 thoughts on “The Fate Of The 8 Washington Street Site: What Happens Now?”
  1. I am not sure who the anonymous “plugged in” reader is, but his/her summary is not quite accurate.
    An environmental impact report takes about 6 months to 1 year to complete. Much of the work done in the EIR for the rejected design could be used and just updated, traffic impacts, etc. should all be the same. There may have to be some new shadow studies done, though they would of course be less of an issue with a reduced height building. Provided the developer didn’t do anything crazy or ask for some special exemptions, it would be hard to provide a rational basis to reject a proposal that conforms to current zoning without risking a lawsuit from the developer.
    I anticipate the developer will have a new approved plan in about 1-2 years. It will conform to existing zoning, have fewer units, and pay less into the affordable housing fund accordingly. That is what I would do if I were the developer. Though, I would have probably presented this sort of plan to begin with to avoid the risk of a ballot measure objecting to the height increase.
    As for the notion of onsite affordable housing, it isn’t feasible. Condos have HOA fees, and for this building they would be several thousands of dollars a year, which is much too high for anyone needing affordable housing. In my own building, the people living in designated affordable units have to pay the same condo fees as everyone else, and even though our HOA fees are fairly low by San Francisco standards (about $8,000 a year for a two-bedroom unit), I know this is a real burden for the individuals who live in the affordable units.

  2. Well chalk this up to a victor for the uber wealthy — and those that have theirs so no one else have have it. This is a very bad precedent — and if I were a developer make me seriously think twice about any building in SF. The four seasons residents must be popping their champagne corks as I type this….
    As a SFH owner, however, I am elated as this just increased my property value — the tougher it is to build, the more expensive existing remodeled projects become…but what a bad policy and one that will eventually hurt, not increase, values of existing done residential units.

  3. @Chris:
    Though, I would have probably presented this sort of plan to begin with to avoid the risk of a ballot measure objecting to the height increase.
    The developer did present that sort of plan – and then the BOS forced them to go back to drawing boards and come up with the plan that was just shot down by the ballot measure. A fully compliant 84′ plan was the initial plan, that can’t be repeated enough.

  4. I think San Francisco needs to recognize Aaron Peskin for all his hard work in making San Francisco what it is today. Can we rename this the Aaron Peskin Memorial Parking Lot in honor of his hard work preserving this for future generations?

  5. A few experienced in SF developers looked at this site several years ago. Underline the words EXPERIENCED IN SF.
    I know that one concluded that the likely strategy for this site would be build 4 floors, moderately high-end housing, less than one to one parking ratio, around 250 units, open discussion whether condo or rental.
    BUT, the conclusion was that even “under-building” this site — because of its location and waterfront issues, would bring a potential firestorm of opposition, and best plan just to move on to other sites. Which was done very successfully. Elsewhere in SF.
    I have heard– but really don’t believe –the rationalization that the “City made him go higher”. It really does not work like that and a developer who would waste years of resources on a plan he “didn’t want” and to some looked destined to fail might deserve this fate. sorry to say that.
    I do think site site should be developed for resi, and its a badly underused resource, and it will probably now sit open for several years. not 1 or 2.
    Another issue is also more clear now — The ultra high rise zoning that was put through in the Transbay district was done because the “opposition” essentially wrote off downtown and decided to focus their efforts elsewhere. in this case effectively.

  6. Cal Housing,
    It is ridiculous to say that by not building some of the most expensive condos in San Francisco it increased your property value (unless you live in the Millenium Tower or St. Regis). It would be like saying that decreasing Lamborghini production increases the value of Honda Civics.
    This is a great precedent since developers, the planning department and the BOS all now realize that for certain parcels the zoning is just not going to be allowed to change.
    This parcel will get developed sooner or later, just in a smaller scale all around. Boo hoo.
    Next up: Warriors arena/mall/hotel/condos.

  7. Anan – Except the difference with the Warriors arena is that most of the city will turn out in droves if it goes to the ballot.

  8. Both of these 8 Washington proposals are so underwhelming and unexciting, I am so apathetic to this project. I still would vote Yes on B and C if I lived in SF on principle though.
    I just hope that these trolls don’t kill that beautiful Arena plan on the other side of the bridge.

  9. Problem is anan is that SF doesn’t have any Honda Civics anymore–it only has Lamborghinis and Merecedes. You may call yourself progressive,but your regressive.

  10. It doesn’t need a new EIR to be approved at 84 feet. This was already included as an alternative in the EIR.

  11. “Though, I would have probably presented this sort of plan to begin with to avoid the risk of a ballot measure objecting to the height increase.”
    I thought I read Planning and committees guided the developer to the current proposal for design reasons?

  12. The real story is how low voter turnout has become for pretty much all municipal elections across the country. With mail-in ballots, it couldn’t be much easier to cast a vote.
    Who is it, exactly, who isn’t voting? I would bet that the 35% that votes is the older, established crowd that is well settled in their rent-controlled apartments or prop-13 protected homes, while the 65% who don’t vote are the masses of Gen X & Y who generally don’t make time or see any value in becoming involved with civic affairs. But they pay $2000-$5000 in monthly rent. Ya think they’re all affected by yesterday’s election outcome?
    I’m just speculating here, but seems that there’s some value in figuring out how to activate the non-voters. Whoever can solve that riddle could really swing things in SF. It can only be 1967 here for so long.

  13. I think they combined a lot of precincts yesterday because it was such a small ballot so maybe people did not vote that much because they had further to go to vote. People will be back again in 2016 and 2015 to vote for/or against Ed Lee. At least I think it is 2015. Then they will just have to walk a block or so. Just think that is only 2 years away!

  14. The turnout was low because there wasn’t much worth voting on.
    3 minor elected officials running unopposed, and a few measures that the vast majority of people didn’t care about.

  15. Since housing inherently allows for considerable leeway in the expense allotted to upgrades, decreasing Lamborghini house production certainly increases the value of Honda Civic houses: would-be Lamborghini buyers can buy a Civic, gut it, and rebuild a Lamborghini inside the shell. You may click on any link to any SF house for sale in any neighborhood not considered especially desirable 50 years ago and observe the effect: Dolores St on the outside, Millenium Tower on the inside. And around here if you can only afford a Honda Civic house, you’re probably living in a Honda Civic car, under a freeway.

  16. It’s sadly ironic – or hilarious – that San Francisco Progressives were mobilized to protect the views of rich people on Telegraph Hill and rent-controlled tenants in Gateway. This is a project that had affordable housing onsite which was eliminated in reducing the bulk to appease Telegraph Hill Neighbors. Private tennis courts will continue on public land and there will be a parking lot on one of SF’s most beautiful sites.
    I think the point of the exercise– and lesson for future developers– is hire Aaron Peskin before you try to build anything.

  17. For a low turnout election it sure sent a big message to City Hall.
    Ed Lee got 84,457 votes when he was elected in 2011.
    Over 62,000 voted No on Measure C.

  18. Statistically, not sure what it says. Perhaps you can reliably conclude that the people opposed were more likely to vote, but that would just be conjecture.
    The one thing you can reliably conclude is that since San Francisco has 440,000 registered voters, then 14% (62,000) opposed it, while about 8% (35,000) approved it, and a whopping 78% didn’t care enough to vote, which could be interpreted to mean they didn’t have an objection to it since they didn’t care enough to vote.
    If you assume that most of those who were strongly opposed to it actually voted, then you could say that only about 14% of voters opposed it, while the remaining 86% either approved or didn’t care. But that would be conjecture too.

  19. congrats to the uberwealthy who keep unobstructed views and their own private tennis club . congrats on winning and duping a small army of uneducated “progressives” to vote with you. what a shame for the city. embarrassing

  20. @Bob
    This proposal decreased the supply of housing and INCREASED the cost of development because now every developer needs to consider the risk and thus the cost that neighbors who might loose views that are NOT protected and NEVER protected by SF zoning (and which they knew or should have known were not protected when they bought their places) will get another ballot measure blocking what is already zoned and allowed. This means less supply in the future (except even more and more expensive development) which in turns will drive up the cost of existing supply.
    So while I am sickened that very uber wealthy can get a ballot on the ticket, present miss leading adds and thus protect what otherwise is not protected (views — which again are NOT protected in SF), I am very happy when I look at the value of my house by the outcome of this measure.
    So go ahead and support these measures in the guise of protecting housing / housing availability or preventing abuses of zoning. Just realize what the ultimate outcome will be — a city of uber wealthy with pockets (likely less and less) of affordable rent controlled places and much lower supply of housing units. And pockets of under developed, rather ugly sites.

  21. The developer should put a Proposition on the next available ballot that does the following.
    I wide walkway that extends from where both Drumm St & Jackson end.
    A Mixed use space with retail along the walkways and the balance being housing but no higher then the development that neighbors it between Pacific & Jackson
    North of Pacific I would develop 1/2 the lot as a retail / dinning space with an outdoor space.
    Include a fair mix of below market units and you have a development.

  22. The idea that this was a victory for the “uber wealthy” is just idiotic nonsense. I see one listing for a one of the red-brick Gateway Commons condos on Redfin for $1.7M for a 2/2.5 ($1058/sqft). If you can afford that, you are probably “wealthy”, but not of the kind that would buy $20M mansions in Pacific Height nor as wealthy as the crowd the developer was hoping to attract. And lots of the local opposition came from the Gateway apartment complex which has a huge number of units (and hence voters). It’s rent controlled and hardly a hotbed for the “uber rich”.
    As for the private club, the Olympic Club it ain’t. Anyone can become a member just like at the Y. It’s decidedly middle-class and doesn’t even have a cafeteria.
    As for people who are gullible enough to think that this project is about building a public park rather than ultra luxurious condos, did you see the pro-8 commercials with Gavin Newsome and Ed Lee? They showed them standing in a public park with the Ferry Building as a backdrop. That would be the 5.3 acre Sue Bierman Park right across Washington St. from the proposed development. I can certainly see why the developers used the public park angle but anyone who bought into it is either extremely naive or unfamiliar with the area and its needs.

  23. ah, once again Socketsite and fans demonstrate they don’t know WTF they are ranting about.
    the 8 Washington EIR evaluated several alternatives, including one that conforms to the now re-instituted height limits (and included even more units too). it’s not totally the same building design as would result by simply loping off the upper floors of the 120 ft proposed mid-rise, but that EIR alternative would suffice for all the impacts of a reduced height project unless there were big changes to its urban design – which the developer needn’t do. parking will be reduced somewhat, and the new park will remain as planned.
    so, no, there is no need for another EIR. most likely DCP would just do a memo documenting the scope of such revisions, and that the prior analysis was adequate for them too. likewise for any other public agency approvals.
    then the financial deal with the Port would have to be renegotiated – obviously the Port would get somewhat less $’s than it hoped. but compared to $-0- they will agree. all the various exactions will be reduced proportionately too.
    both of these modest entitlement modifications could be done and approved in 6 months. any appeals of course would add more months – 3 at least.
    will the developer do this? they’d be crazy not to. they have way too much $’s sunk into the deal already to walk away in a fit of wounded pride. they won’t make as much as they would have before, but in today’s hot market in that location even a moderately smaller project is still going to make decent money for them.
    so stop wetting your pants, development hypsters, and move on to the next battle. older and wiser i hope.

  24. “lesson for future developers– is hire Aaron Peskin before you try to build anything.”
    That’s not a bad idea. I wonder how much money it would take to make him move somewhere else, say Los Angeles, Boston, or really anywhere that’s not the Bay Area?
    I’d be willing to contribute a bit to the ‘make Aaron leave’ fund. I think this would be a good investment in our city’s future.
    Maybe we can do the same for Art Agnos while we’re at it…

  25. @alfiejr,
    You seem like you know your stuff, condescension notwithstanding. But to let you know, I asked Peskin directly about the reality that’s likely to be the initial proposal moving forward. He said that they’d be happy to fight that fight in the future, that a new EIR would need to be done, and started rattling off environmental objections.

  26. @Truth – so what DOES Peskin want at this site? A crappy parking lot and green chain link fence? If he wants it to be open space or low-income housing or whatever then he should STFU and use the money wasted on ballot amendments to actually buy the land and build his Taj Mahal of Obstruction. Oh, but I forgot, it’s a hell of a lot cheaper to keep stuff from happening then it is to actually build something lasting……
    I’m a huge proponent for building more affordable housing but I think this “nontroversy” was a completely misguided use of time and resources. At the end of the day it does nothing to address affordability citywide (besides taking $11 mil from the housing fund), and signifies nothing beyond the ability of a group of narrow-minded zealots to protect a mirage of “San Francisco values”.

  27. Let’s just hope that the statute of limitations to challenge the original environmental approvals has passed and that a new set of discretionary approvals are not needed. For if a “mild” revision to any approvals are needed they are subject to referendum or legal challenge.
    I hope everyone realizes that this was simply a dress rehearsal for the forthcoming arena challenge. Newly minted “community activist” Art Agnos is practically saying as much in South Beach community meetings. Love how he comes into my hood of 15 years to tell me that he is saving it from billionaires.

  28. “Anybody who can spend $400,000 of their own money on a ballot initiative is uber wealthy.”
    Really? Wealthy for sure, but not necessarily in the same league as the people that will buy $20M mansions in Pac Heights or spend $100M trying to win the America’s Cup.

  29. If people think the defeat of 8 Washington (which will probably get built anyway) is in any way an indicator of the battle over the arena, think again. What did the “No on B & C” get as far as turnout? A 62% of 25% of the registered voters? That’s hardly a mandate.
    One of the spokespeople for the Warriors put it best: “Art Agnos has won a game of ping-pong and now he thinks he’s a Wimbledon champion”.

  30. Make no mistake that the Warriors now have to play massive defense at this point. Every elected politician is well aware of the results of the 8 Wash battle, and the arena opponents are more fired up than ever.
    Not only will the arena not be ready for the 2017 season, it may not even have broken ground by then due to lawsuits and ballot challenges. Since the U.S. will enter a recession in the next five years (maybe less), the cost of capital at some point will increase to where the arena is simply not financially feasible. There are certainly somve very smart individuals behind the Warriors franchise but frankly they had no idea what they were getting into.

  31. @ Truth: Peskin of course is threatening lawsuit delay tactics, even if the case is without merit. what he really wants is for the developer to come begging to him now to negotiate a project that Peskin will accept. which the developer will do if they are smart – cut a deal.

  32. Right on Rocco.
    Private tennis courts on public land, fewer BMR units, the ugly Aaron Peskin Memorial Parking Lot. Unbelievable.
    But preserved views for the Telegraph Hill bunch and the Gateway crowd.

  33. anon @ 9:11,
    Everything you said there was hyperbole, whether opinion or incorrect. The Warriors have several opinion polls showing hugely favorable opinion. Basketball is tremendously popular in SF. You have no idea whether the arena will be ipen bu 2017, same for your notion that it won’t have broken ground. Your given that the US will enter a recession is opinion. Your given that the cost of capital will make construction too costly is also opinion. Basically, you have nothing. Nice flame though, tipster.

  34. Am I supposed to be bothered by the fact that the tennis courts and parking lot will remain? As someone who works very close to the site, I’m glad I won’t be next door to a construction site that will destroy the views for many of my neighbors. There is plenty of construction going on south of Market, which is where the new developments belong. I’d love to build a new condo tower in Pac Heights, but I’m not stupid enough to think I can change the laws/environment to suit my desires. Somehow I don’t feel the need to shed a tear over this injustice, but I am enjoying a good laugh at those entitled brats who do.

  35. Somewhat unrelated, but interesting:
    Looking at old aerial photography, the outlined parking area in the above photo has been an open parking lot (originally bisected by Jackson) since at least 1938. The rest of the site was warehouses and factories, and the Wellman Coffee plant was located roughly where the pool is today. Just something I looked up on a whim this morning.

  36. OhNo! – No, you shouldn’t feel “bad” about a surface parking lot and health club remain, unless you feel that’s the best way to maximize the use of a prime waterfront parcel.

  37. @OhNo! – yes, you should feel bad. Surface parking lots are literally the spawn of Satan (seriously, I saw him giving birth to one once in LA). Parking belongs below ground, in order to keep the evil spirits bottled up.

  38. Anon — you have it about right. opposition is a delay game.
    Alfie — the “deal” you can go and “cut” with mr peskin anytime soon is no arena. good luck.

  39. “Looking at old aerial photography, the outlined parking area in the above photo has been an open parking lot (originally bisected by Jackson) since at least 1938.”
    Cue arguments in favor of historic preservation.

  40. I find it amusing that people think the defeat of this one property in a public vote means that suddenly San Francisco is anti-business and anti-development. For those of you that believe this, have you bothered to even look around at the San Francisco skyline lately? It’s anything but quiet and static.
    Having lived here for the better part of 20 years, I can say that never have I seen so much development and construction in that time as I do now. Not only is there finally significant residential development happening down in the urban core, but the city is finally investing money in repairing and upgrading its aging infrastructure. That’s done to accommodate business and growth.
    Let’s not forget than in a matter of a few years, SOMA will be home to one of the tallest buildings in North America.

  41. “Anybody who can spend $400,000 of their own money on a ballot initiative is uber wealthy.”
    Agree, and the so called “progressives” were in favor of this uberwealthy person over more housing. sometimes the lack of education is a serious detriment to progress

  42. People will mobilize in favor of the Warriors. I dont see those anti progress people winning that one. Why would we not allow an iconic gem on our waterfront?

  43. Because, unlike 8 Washington an arena on the waterfront would actually dramatically exacerbate the traffic nightmare that already exists on and near the Embarcadero.
    Sure, people who don’t live near it or have daily business near it might not care, but there will be plenty of well-funded opposition and they too will be able to feed off the anti-progress progressives and the rest of the “If Gavin is for it I’ll be against” crowd.

  44. The arena will have too much support city-wide and will beat whatever local/NIMBY opposition there is.
    With regards to traffic, well, if you’re using the Embarcadero to get from Point A to Point B then you’re doing it wrong. Every local knows that.

  45. Yes, we know you’re fond of that quip but it’s nonsense. What would you suggest as an alternative? 3rd to Kearny?

  46. “It isn’t nonsense. I’ve lived here 20+ years NO ONE I know uses the Embarcadero to get anywhere.”
    If that’s the case, the people you are hanging out with are not exactly the sharpest tools in the shed. Sometimes, the Embarcadero is the fastest way to get from point A to point B. Sometimes, it isn’t. People who are familiar with the area will know about various alternative routes and traffic patterns and make their decisions based on that.
    But the impact of an arena goes beyond the Embarcadero itself and includes Caltrain and Muni. Already, Giants games have a major negative quality-of-life impact on people who commute to the Peninsula on Caltrain and Muni. Adding hundreds of arena events, some of which would coincide with Giants games, won’t make the situation any better.
    And add to that the influx of new residents to the area due to all the new condos that being built. That will further strain the transportation infrastructure.

  47. “Sometimes, the Embarcadero is the fastest way to get from point A to point B.”
    Yeah, from about 3 A.M. to 5 A.M.

  48. “Yeah, from about 3 A.M. to 5 A.M.”
    I’m looking at the Embarcadero right now, and traffic seems to be moving smoothly in both directions although southbound seems headed to becoming heavy. If it was backed up, many people would try to use alternative routes clogging up those routes as well.

  49. Certainly, the perfect way to fix strained transportation infrastructure is to force develop to other places where we can’t see the strain. Out of sight, out of mind!
    It just boggles my mind that people see the solution to infrastructure problems as “just don’t build new stuff”.

  50. “It just boggles my mind that people see the solution to infrastructure problems as “just don’t build new stuff”.”
    I think it’s perfectly natural not to build something unless issues related to transportation infrastructure are addressed adequately. And it’s not like half the population of San Francisco will die if some billionaire sports team owners can’t move their team from a location 20 minutes away by BART to a new vanity arena.

  51. ^So let’s address those issues by building a new subway along 4th St, upgrading streetcars along the Embarcadero, building a new Transbay Terminal, and extending Caltrain to that terminal. Oh wait.
    All that I’ve heard is that, “ZOMG! Traffic will be turrible!” Then those same folks want more parking built all over the place in new developments.

  52. “and extending Caltrain to that terminal”
    You obviously have little understanding of the transportation issues at hand. The problem with Caltrain and Giants games is not where the SF station is. It’s that the normally full rush-hour trains get overwhelmed with Giants fans forcing many commuters to stand instead of sitting down using their laptops, reading, or just relaxing. Could this issue be addressed by adding capacity? It certainly seems possible, but it would be nice if it would be addressed as part of the proposal to build the arena. It’s kind of cavalier to suggest that a very hypothetical Transbay Terminal endpoint would magically address that issue.
    And as for the 4th St Muni line to nowhere. Do you really believe that that boondoggle will solve any transportation issues at all let alone for an arena on the Embarcadero?

  53. ^the Caltrain electrification project is supposed to increase peak service in 2019
    though if the Giants go ahead with their Mission Rock development plans and eliminate parking spaces it should further load Caltrain for Giants games and events at the Ed (Warrior) Lee Arena.

  54. The same exact fans that now cause congestion on Caltrain used to cause congestion on 101. The Warriors fans currently cause congestion on 580 and 880. That is where your analysis breaks down: the freeways are closer to max capacity than Caltrain. It is perhaps inconvenient to stand for part of a ride home, but it still takes the same amount of time.
    Caltrain should run more trains on game days though. I can’t imagine why they do not, perhaps the Peninsula NIMBYs complain too much.

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