Moscone Center

The Moscone Center Expansion Project would increase the size of the convention center by 20 percent, from 1.2 million square feet to 1.5 million square feet, in part by expanding the Center’s footprint to Howard Street and raising the height of the buildings.

As proposed by the Moscone Expansion District, the San Francisco Tourism Improvement District Management Corporation, and the City and County of San Francisco’s Convention Facilities Department, the height of the South building would rise to 95 feet for the length of the building fronting Howard.

Proposed Moscone Center Expansion

Concerned about the building’s impact on the adjacent Children’s Playground and open space, not to mention the building’s aesthetics, the Yerba Buena Neighborhood Consortium is pushing for the design to be revised.

The group’s proposed alternative, which they have rendered, would lower the height of the Moscone South building mid-block but increase its height at the corner of Howard and Third:

Moscone Center Expansion: Proposed Alternative

Moscone Center Expansion: Proposed Alternative

The same two perspectives based on the Moscone Expansion District’s proposed design:

Moscone Center Expansion Rendered As Proposed

Moscone Center Expansion Proposed Rendering Corner

And from the neighborhood group with respect to their alternative:

[Our proposed alternative design] would include all the expansion space desired by the City, but its negative impacts on the Children’s Playground would be significantly reduced compared to the City’s proposal.  Esthetically (sic), its building mass on Howard Street would be broken into two visually articulated high/low elements instead of the monolithic “airport terminal” motif the City now proposes, which is far more appropriate for the fine-grained CBD urban character of the Yerba Buena Gardens and Neighborhood.

The Environmental Impact Report for the Moscone Center Expansion Project is being heard by the Planning Commission today and comments from the public will be accepted through June 16.

Assuming the EIR is certified and the plans are approved, construction on the project is slated to begin this November and finish in mid-2018 at an anticipated cost of $350 million, not including the expense of any revised designing.

37 thoughts on “The Impact Of The Moscone Center’s Expansion, And An Alternative”
  1. The neighborhood association’s proposal is much better – I don’t understand how anyone can look at the proposed wall looming over Howard and think it’s a good thing.

    (And this is *not* about height per se. This is not “don’t build it higher”. This is about the way the structure completely overpowers Howard, and especially the sidewalk on the southern side. My first reaction on seeing the proposal was that it’s a throwback to the worst of 1980’s sidewalk-ignoring architecture – but “airport terminal” captures the feeling too.)

    1. disagree completely. every street surrounding the south moscone building is horrible/borderline hellscape. this redesign fixes so much of what went wrong when this thing was first designed, brings way more space to the facility, and repairs the horrible street treatment along howard, folsom and third. to my mind, there’s no reasonable reason to oppose something like this other than “no wall on the waterfront”-ism, which is to say blind anti-development, anti-trade sentiment. a major neighborhood improvement.

    2. I’m really surprised you’re criticizing this proposal Sierrajeff. Is nothing to your liking?

      This is a much needed addition to keep our city competitive with the conference/convention venues. It brings in a huge amount of money for The City. This is urban. This is downtown. This is dense. As it should be. It needs to be big, with uninterrupted floor plates.

      Leave the design alone. Let the architects do what they do best.

      1. “Let the architects do what they do best.”

        That’s either naive or ignorant. Perhaps both. Architects are not infallible and there are plenty of poorly designed buildings in every city.

        I have no doubt the proposed mass is the cheapest and easiest way to get the expansion they want, but that does not mean it is the best design. I also have no doubt the proposed mass is functional, but it’s an eyesore.

        But if it is as simple as letting the architects do what they do best, perhaps we should take your advice and trust the architects of the alternative.

      2. If there were the best architects could do, I might leave it alone. But this is horrible, and as the neighborhood association’s drawings show, there are plenty of ways to expand the center without creating an Orwellian facade along Howard. If anything, your citing of the problems of the existing southern facade illustrate precisely why we should make efforts to prevent replicating the same along Howard.

        More generally, which part of my caveats were unclear? Why do you consistently launch into people, no matter how clearly they’re trying to be nuanced and respectful. I thought I’d made clear that I didn’t oppose expanding the center; just this hulking proposal for its presence on Howard.

        1. Just take ANY project with proposed renderings and ANY neighborhood group (I mean Nimby’s) will hire someone to come up with another solution. The average Joe loves to design and thinks he/she can. Then they will try to sway the public or officials that they know what’s best.

          Fact is Sierrajeff, you don’t know that this is NOT the “best” architects can do. You just don’t like it, cause you don’t like it. Anything the architects design will be seen as a “hulking proposal” by you and others. I’ll say it again:

          This is a big convention center is a very urban, dense part of downtown and it needs to be BIG and FUNCTIONAL. Let the professionals do what the city and the convention officials hired them to do.

          1. “you don’t know that this is NOT the ‘best’ architects can do”. Well, if I can follow the contorted grammar… I *do* know that this is not the best architects can do, because there are alternative proposals out there that are better. So by definition this is not the best. And today’s announcement that the powers that be have modified the design underscore that point – they’ve improved it, therefore what was proposed before was not the best.

    3. I completely disagree— the current Moscone South is a horrible experience for pedestrians. I walk this path every day, and it’s definitely the worst part of my daily commute.
      The sidewalk experience esp on the 3rd/4th sides is horrible. It’s sad to see so many people still confused about the weird inset sidewalks, and seeing them try to trek down the street against traffic is painful.
      Howard is also bad— if not dangerous, then just a poor experience for pedestrians.
      And all sides are completely boring/non-interactive when passing by.

      Maybe you have addl renderings, but from these few mockups I find it hard to claim the proposed expansion is a horrible thing, esp considering what’s currently in place. I’m open to changing my opinion upon more information, and not arguing this proposal is perfect— but from what I see it’s seems ‘good enough’, and with the much-added bonus of bringing Moscone to a competitive standing again.

      This isn’t an attack on @sierrajeff, as I much appreciate your well-reasoned comments on this site. I just very much disagree with your thoughts on this one.

    4. you wanna live in a cow town, move somewhere else. SF is a city of the future and we look/move forward. we’re not a bunch of regressive traditionalists longing for the old days.

      we do and create. we move, change and build. we blaze the path to the future. others follow us.

      f*ckin’ “airport terminal”. our airport looks better than most cities downtowns, you schmuck.

      GTFO of my town if you don’t like it.

      1. Thanks for your respectful, insightful comments. Especially pleased that you could infer so much about me, my views of San Francisco, and my personal and professional experience, all from my one response about one proposal.

        If you’ve read pretty much any other of my posts, you’d know how embarassingly off-base you were, and what a boor you’ve made of yourself. For example, I was one of the most vociferous opponents of Prop B, and if any thing some of the things I’ve wished for in this City, in comments about public transit for example, outpace most of the dreamers on this site.

        So please take your reactionary diatribes elsewhere; they contribute nothing to this site or its dialogue. You’re just making a fool of yourself.

    5. I think it is much better than the current design that looks weird

      Why can’t the building “loom” over Howard St? It is a downtown convention center.

  2. Fears about playgrounds are unfounded. Children will enjoy a good playground regardless of the building size next door. But the massing of the alternative is better for a full block, broken into discreet segments rather than a single monolith. I wonder if there’s a need for a single giant floorplate driving the official proposal.

    1. It is a convention center, so yes, there is a need for a single giant floorplate driving the official proposal. Large conventions typically want the largest and most uninterrupted space possible–they don’t want space broken up or for convention goers to have to go up and down floors.

  3. The “alternate” is butt ugly compared to the city’s original proposal, and the group offers no proof of any negative impact on the playground. The City needs this expansion in order to remain competitive with other major cities in vying for trade shows and their huge economic contribution (i.e. job creation).

    1. yeah, just seems fanatical to oppose this. like, moscone south is DRIVEWAY on three sides (fourth, third, folsom) how could removing two of those and replacing that with an attractive streetwall possibly be worse? fanaticism! we need a plebiscite!

  4. Neighborhood associations, yet again sticking their fingers in design in making a mess.

    As mentioned above, I have no idea how the original design negatively impacts the children’s playground / park. Their concerns are subjective and rely entirely on hyperbole.

    I don’t know how “two visually articulated high/low elements” make any difference at street level… and claiming that the structure is “monolithic” is entirely relative to any large structure. It’s not a very compelling argument.

    Without a little trust in the skill, insight and expertise of the architect/professionals, this city—nor any other—would ever be able to move beyond a less than mediocre state.

  5. The Howard Monolith plan sure would make it easier to argue that Howard should be closed between 3rd & 4th.

  6. Those that are going to argue against the expansion are looking at their own self interest and not the needs of San Francisco ,
    In truth ,, The Children’s Museum, Bowling Alley, and Ice Rink should have never been built here , and the entire block should have been devoted to the Convention Center ,

    I think that the city should relocate The Museum, Rink , and Bowling Alley to the block currently being used for the Temporary Bus Terminal ,,

    This would give the convention center the room it really needs for expansion , PLUS , it would add a destination space a single block from the new Trans Bay Terminal !

    1. This makes sense. The process here is so geared toward the most vociferous that this is the same outcome over and over

  7. The group fighting this has been fighting the urban renewal and displacement that gave us the convention center for over 30 years. It was they who got the center pushed underground and the parks of Yerba Buena put on top. The expansion is a big stick in the eye for people who worked for years to make this a multipurpose place, not just a convention center. My opinion is that people who want acres of uninterrupted floor space for their conventions can go elsewhere, and let SF cater to those who want to hold their conventions in a vital urban environment.

  8. I spend a lot of time in the Children’s playground with my son. Raising a “downtown SF” child, I have noticed you really do not get a sense of the dense urban fabric walking down the street or playing in the downtown pocket parks. The Yerba Buena Children’s playground allows children to see the perspective of all the buildings surrounding Yerba Buena including the MoMa and St Regis. It is a hidden special place for children downtown. If the convention center is build along Howard street as proposed the perspective will be lost and the playground will not be so special.
    I assume many of you have never been to the playground as I did not find it until we had a child. Please visit it and you might discover where the “lost” kids of downtown SF play in the magical playground

      1. yeah, how could the howard street frontage possibly impact your “magical playground”? some views here and there should cost the city millions in lost annual conventions revenue?

    1. I also go to the playground a lot with my children. I cannot comprehend your concern at all?? You mean it is bad because we can’t see SFMOMA and St Regis anymore? First of all I’d like to see some rendering before making any judgment. Secondly, it is hard to imagine how the lost of view of St Regis will impact the children??? I mean who really cares? The kids will just has as much fun irrespective of which group of high rises is visible.

      There are other problem that matter a lot more. Better toilet access will be most welcome. Street access is also terrible. People brought up it is bad pedestrian experience on all side and it is very true. This is bad example of “urban fabric”. The playground should not be ‘hidden’. It is really a result of bad design. Open your mind and take this as the opportunity to make the playground even better.

  9. @Spruce , but even the park @ Yerba Buena , is greatly different from its original vision , park had a dozen little zones , that in the end made little sense since they had little impact and were later removed

    But where the park got some focus the other side of the complex is still a muddle of ideas from the Museum, Bowling Alley, to the Rink , the city should move these attractions to the site of the temporary trans bay depost so that the Convention center can get the expansion it really needs

    1. Part of the Temporary Terminal site is going to be sold to help pay for the new terminal, and will eventually have over 700 units. The rest will be a park. I suppose you might be able to get one of those attractions included with the new residential development but I don’t think you can get all three in there.

  10. No wall on Howard! Nothing higher than 65 feet!
    What about the children + puppies that will be denied life-giving sunlight?

  11. We live in a region of 7-8 million people with really a single big downtown. Most of SF is zoned below 4 stories and a lot of it is zoned SFH. The rest of the region is a just SFHs everywhere. Yet we are bellyaching about a downtown convention center expansion partly because it was a fight 40 years ago and partly because the process allows the few with something to lose to hijack the process time and again from those who are only moderately in favor.

  12. The “airport terminal” comment is spot on. What were the architects thinking ???
    They should definitely implement the high/low design proposed by the neighborhood group.

  13. Good to see SS is covering this major Civic project.

    BUT! the [DEIR project information above] about both the City’s Moscone Expansion design and our Yerba Buena Neighbohrood Consortium proposals for it ARE BOTH ALREADY OUT OF DATE! There have been significant changes not reflected in the DEIR, plus our Comments presented yesterday to the Planning Commission.

    for all this lastest updated info you can go to our website: Save Yerba Buena Gardens

  14. Back to the drawing board – this is the best they have? BTW – why does Moscone need to expand? Arent the Warriors and the Giants planning on holding conventions in their sites as well? Personally, I think we need a time out from all this development. We have enough cement trucks, dump trucks and orange cones on the streets at the moment.

  15. The project is a very modest addition, and by building out the Eastern part of the block the city will be able to afford to subsidize the Museum and Park , though I think that the time has come to remove the bowling alley ,

    My thought build out the building as intended , but remove the existing Rink & Bowling , and replace that with more convention space , BUT with a new Rink on top of the extension of the convention center along Folsom ,

  16. Does this address the problem that make us close off Howard St for conference? I am grateful for all economic opportunities the conferences bring in. But the annual closure for two weeks is getting tired.

  17. hmmm, i don’t mind the proposal or the alternative. I’m leaning more towards the alternative, i like the tower.

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