600 Van Ness

The chain link fence which was cemented into place around the abruptly shuttered McDonald’s at 600 Van Ness has been keeping the taggers and transients at bay.

And while McDonald’s has yet to file a formal proposal for developing the site, they have started to explore the parcel’s potential and met with Planning last week to discuss the possibility of a mixed-use building to rise, with residential units over a boutique hotel and 16,000-square-feet of retail space.

Developed for McDonald’s in 1978, the Van Ness Corridor site is zoned for development up to 130-feet in height and plans for a 13-story building, a mix of senior housing over parking and a new McDonald’s, were approved, and permitted, for the site two decades ago, but those plans have long since expired.

Comments from Plugged-In Readers

  1. Posted by anon

    This would really be a great spot for a supertall, something like the Chicago Spire (1200 or so feet, residential).

    • Posted by Futurist

      No it wouldn’t; not at all. Site is too small. There is literally NO adequate urban transit, meaning a serious subway near by.

      It’s not a Chicago site by a long shot. But a good site for a 20-30 story project for senior housing and mixed retail.

      • Posted by anon

        Transit can come after the building.

        Glad to see that you’d at least support a medium-low density highrise option here.

        • Posted by moto mayhem

          haha. there are no real transit projects approved for SF that will be done in the next 10 yrs. The idea that transit will follow housing might work in some cities, but in SF we ahve 3rd world transportation and we cant handle the current population. Im all for density, but the transportation problem in SF is a joke and a slightly faster bus line is not going to solve any problem. THis new fast busline, BRT, might have been a big improvment if implemented in the 80s, but we are now in 2015.

          • Posted by Sierrajeff

            +1. Even *if* the City started seriously talking about real transit in the Van Ness and Geary corridors – BART, underground Muni, whatever – it would be *decades* before anything is built. And believe me, I’m not happy with that; in fact I think it’s an embarassment to City, State and Federal laws that restrict our ability to do large-scale infrastructure in this country. But it is what it is; to say you’re going to throw up a supertall and “transit can come after” is almost humorously irresponsible.

          • Posted by anon

            I would argue the opposite. To say that we’re going to neglect meeting housing demand until that fantasy subway comes along is humorously irresponsible and a gigantic drain on our economy.

          • Posted by zig

            BRT works very well in other countries.

          • Posted by zig

            “in fact I think it’s an embarassment to City, State and Federal laws that restrict our ability to do large-scale infrastructure in this country”

            We built BART to San Mateo Co. are building BART to warm springs and then to San Jose and I think are researching how to get BART to Livermore. In SF out big project is the Central Subway

            I personally think these are all dumb projects but all expensive

          • Posted by moto mayhem

            “BRT works very well in other countries.” in other citites, its generally combined with light rail and a very usable subway system. here the end all be all proposal is BRT.

          • Posted by zig

            “in other citites, its generally combined with light rail and a very usable subway system. here the end all be all proposal is BRT.”

            I was not aware that Curitiba or Bogata are famous examples without subways. Works very well if you do it right

          • Posted by moto mayhem

            “Curitiba or Bogata” good point. i wasnt actually thinking of cities in 3rd world countries when i was thinking of a broad mix of transportation to go with BRT. I think you proved the point.

          • Posted by anon

            Brazil may be a developing country, but southern Brazil is very much not 3rd world. And yes, Curitiba’s transit system makes SF’s look 3rd world.

          • Posted by moto mayhem

            Interestingly my wife is Brazilian (from Sao Paulo), and I have been down to southern brazil about 10x over the last 5 yrs. i think we are making the same point here. Most people would not recognize curitiba as a major international city. frankly most americans have probably never even heard of it. Much of Brazil may not be 3rd world, but more than half of it certainly is, and the other half is developing (or maybe now, we should say deconstructing post developing).

            The point is that SF is probably known as one of the highest tech cities in the world, we have tons of money and the city budget is ginormous compared to other cities with <900K people. Yes, our public transport is worse than curitiba. Curitiba is about 1.8M people or double the size of SF. Cities all over the world have planned for and make improvements in transportation infrastructure. The fact that we egotistical rich city of san francisco have not is a complete joke

          • Posted by anon

            But we can’t possibly use some of the things that other places have made work well, because? You’re being just as egotistical as those that you decry, by saying that we can’t possibly use something that lowly Curitiba uses, even though it has much better transit than here, because you know, it’s “third world”. We have to have gold plated subways or nothing, goldarnit!

          • Posted by Orland

            You people all talk like SF is somehow unique as an American city with transit and other infrastructure inadequate to its needs. There is a matter of cost and what an incredible bloody economic drain the F’ing Pentagon is to the subject. Something very worthy of reassessment.

      • Posted by R

        ‘literally NO’?

        It’s a 1/2 mile or less from 2 BART stations, surface rail, cable car and countless bus lines. That’s as good as it gets.

        • Posted by Futurist

          No, I’m talking about if there were a supertall at that site, it would warrant a subway with direct connection to the building to serve the thousands of occupants.

          Not a 1/2 mile away. ridiculous.

          • Posted by david m

            it’s like a 7 minute walk to market from there, not even. man, what world are you living in?

      • Posted by Bertie Anglis

        The Chicago Spire site would have failed your test. It was not near a subway.

      • Posted by BobN

        The Chicago Spire wasn’t actually that big a building, at least in terms of footprint.

        Here’s a photo of the foundation. The building was to occupy only about a third of the (not very big) site.

      • Posted by S

        Is this the new San Francisco? People drive over 60 miles to work in the valley but can’t walk 4 or 5 blocks to Bart from this spot?

        • Posted by Brian M

          What are you, some kind of COMMUNIST?

          You forget that the 4 or 5 blocks are very difficult for my Raskal! I demand Lincoln Navigator parking at my doorstep and my place of employment!

    • Posted by louiemondot

      Bring in the super tall!

    • Posted by Sierrajeff

      No, that would be a ludicrously out-of-place building, given the scale of nearby City Hall and environs, and the development plan for Van Ness.

      • Posted by anon

        Ok, so make it the same size as the buildings at Van Ness and Market, still several times what’s being proposed here.

  2. Posted by MisterD

    I’m just glad to hear *something* is being discussed finally. Boutique hotel? Retail? Bring it. Just get rid of that horrible, space-wasting monstrosity.

  3. Posted by BTinSF

    I also don’t see a supertall or even a highrise here. As the article says, zoning all along Van Ness is for 120 ft, about 12 floors. This is similar to the Grand Concourse in the Bronx which is a model I admire. If there were to be any taller buildings on Van Ness, the Planning Dept. concept of emphasizing the terrain would put them near the top of the rise between Nob and Cathedral Hills.

    I prefer to see the tallest buildings downtown and in the existing clusters, one of which is at the nearby Market/Van Ness intersection. Actually, this site is ideal for what is proposed: Residential over boutique hotel over street level retail at 120 ft.

    One thing though: The public transit is much better here than most of the city. Not only will there be (hopefully soon) BRT along Van Ness itself (currently 2 bus routes with very frequent service) and 2 nearby bus routes on cross streets (31-Balboa and 5-Fulton) but it’s only a 3 block walk to Civic Center BART and Muni Metro (subways).

    • Posted by BTinSF

      One more thing: A larger project (footprint, anyway) should be possible if desired. Besides the McDonald’s parking lot, the next lot is vacant and the building next to that on the Golden Gate block (currently housing an English as a second language school) is in disrepair and probably could be purchased.

    • Posted by moto mayhem

      in 2015, we are talking about new buses coming in 5 yrs that will saves 2 minutes on a commute, as a major transportation solution

      Does anyone see a problem with that? transportation engineers from 50 yrs ago must be rolling in their graves laughing at this

      • Posted by Sierrajeff

        A lot of people see problems with that. Unfortunately, none of them are on MTA, and apparently none of them vote, either.

        • Posted by BTinSF

          If I were Muni God I’d build a Geary subway before I’d build one under Van Ness. The Van Ness busses are certainly crowded but they aren’t terribly slow and the distance, even from the Bay to Market St., isn’t that far. BRT is a very good option for this particular route, taking cost/benefit into consideration. But I do agree they should get on with it.

          • Posted by zig

            Of course you are right. All these lines of a map people never think about where the subway is going and who is riding it. BRT is perfectly fine on Van Ness IF it connected to a Geary and Market street subway. In fact I am not even sure we need a Geary subway much east of Van Ness. We need to think realistically here

            The biggest failure in my opinion is putting BRT on Geary downtown. That is just awful

          • Posted by Sierrajeff

            I think a Geary subway is *most* needed east of Van Ness. East of Van Ness is where things really get bogged down, between the shorter blocks and hills. In fact I’d be much more of a BRT supporter if there were a BRT tunnel (a BRTT?) from the FiDi to Van Ness (with a couple subway-like stops along the way – the T in Boston does this at Harvard, where there’s an underground bus stop). Once past Van Ness, busses can flow much better on the now-straight-and-wide Geary. (And other busses, such as the Balboa and California expresses, could also use this BRTT.)

          • Posted by zig

            Sorry I just mistyped. I meant the Geary subway is needed East of Van Ness for sure but I am not so sure west of Van Ness this is strongly needed

          • Posted by moto mayhem

            west of van ness is sorely needed. have you ever tried to get on the 38 geary in the morning west of van ness? at least 3 buses have to pass before you can find one with even standing room. going just to van ness would not be transformative because all those people who live west of van ness are not going to get off the bus at van ness and switch to subway. most of the people going into fidi on geary bus are coming from west of van ness

          • Posted by Orland

            All admirable analyses and comments. Now, pay for all the suggested fixes.

  4. Posted by BobN

    Why didn’t McDonald’s keep the restaurant open? It must have been making money, only more so year after year as the area improved.

    • Posted by Bertie Anglis

      80% of their restaurants are owned by franchisees, though it looks like this one might have been one of the 20%.

      Either way, whether it was a franchisee or McDonald’s Corp., I’m sure they’d say that it was more economical to shut the restaurant than to eat into their profit margins with SF’s rising minimum wage. (The solution would be to raise prices, but then their sales volume would go down, since most people are eating at McDonald’s for the low prices, not the stellar food quality).

      • Posted by Amewsed

        Jackpot for McDonald’s. The land and its entitlements are worth much much more than running a fast food restaurant. They should do a hard look at what other stand alone property they own in the Bay Area. $$$$.

    • Posted by BTinSF

      This location was a nightmare to operate, I’m sure. It was constantly invaded by “homeless” vagrants harrassing the paying customers seeking spare change and even camping out at tables. I once saw an intoxicated homeless person who needed a shower more than a little completely disrobe in the middle of the dining area. Another time one joined me at my already occupied table and demanded “spare change”, then started screaming at me when I refused.

      More than once I called McDonald’s HQ to complain and “suggest” they hire a security guard like the Union Square and FiDi fast food places have–no response.

      • Posted by BobN

        Hmmmm… the Burger King around there seems to manage to deal with it. Although it always seemed much busier than the McD.

  5. Posted by Bay Guy

    I suppose that building “elevated trains” (somewhat like New York) might be less expensive, but then more nimby types might surface. Any thoughts about this (please try to be kind). 😉

    • Posted by moto mayhem

      im all for it, but you will get tons of pushback from NIMBYs on this for sure.

      • Posted by zig

        But I am sure not near your home

        • Posted by moto mayhem

          im OK with it. I chose to live in a city, not on fantasy island.

          the transportation here is horrendous, and big changes /sacrificies need to happen. we need to stop thinking about incremental improvements every 10 yrs and think about what transportation should be like in 15-20 yrs from now when we have a million people and NO subway

    • Posted by zig

      I like the outdoor escalators in Hong Kong. We could have saved so much money on the Central Subway and they would have gone about as far from Union Square!

    • Posted by anon

      BART to SFO’s elevated portions cost just as much as the subway portions, so it’s not always as cheap as you might think.

    • Posted by James

      An El train down Van Ness wouldn’t be bad. It’s wide enough that it wouldn’t overwhelm the street.

    • Posted by BTinSF

      Consider the flowering of Hayes Valley that has occurred when the shadow-inducing elevated freeway came down. Elevated transit structures seem to destroy street life in the Bay Area (maybe because it’s cold and sunlight can be scarce here). It’s not a question of NIMBYs. I’m a huge fan of “Manhattanization” but there are no “Els” in lower Manhattan.

      • Posted by Orland

        I certainly share your appreciation for what has happened in Hayes Valley with the removal of the Central Freeway. Still, there is a flourishing community in Brighton Beach Brooklyn directly beneath an elevated section of the Coney Island line. Of course, it’s largely Russian Jewish immigrants who came in the 80 ‘ s and brought it with them.

      • Posted by cfb

        BTinSF:

        Of course warmth and sunlight will be relatively scarce in the shadow of elevated rail/freeways (duh!)…but you seem to be implying that the actual climate in the Bay Area is cold and lacks sunshine, which is totally silly considering that almost anywhere in the US that’s not in the desert southwest or in CA to the east/south, gets less sunshine than the Bay Area (including SF proper)…and that includes all cities with “Els” in them. And while SF proper may rarely get hot weather, the outer east bay, south bay and non-coastal parts of the peninsula and north bay do get it on a regular basis. I know you live in a literal desert (Tuscon) half the year, so maybe try and recognize your bias when it comes to talking about the climate in the Bay Area? Look up some statistics or something?

  6. Posted by Snark17

    Less than 20-30 stories is a waste of this location.

  7. Posted by flight505

    Anything taller than 30 feet on the north wall (Elm Street) will put shadows on two playgrounds at the adjacent elementary school. 130 feet will keep the entire school in shade for most of the winter, and a good deal of the fall and spring. The Tenderloin needs a grocery store and low-income housing. If they wanted a hotel,they should have kept the Jack Tar/Cathedral Hill Hotel.

    • Posted by Sierrajeff

      Yeah, you can’t teach unless there’s full sunlight. That’s why there are no good schools or universities in Manhattan, all the tall buildings casting shadows. *fail*

  8. Posted by Serge

    Build like mad here. Tall and dense. That way we can save the nice little Victorian cottages that everyone is so trigger happy to blow up.

  9. Posted by SF

    there aren’t any good hotels in the area, so i like that idea.

    I was hoping they’d develop a “large” grocery store – whole foods, trader joe, i’d even be happy with a safeway.

    i don’t like the thought of more senior citizens… sf is a young city, it’s bad enough having so many seniors at the opera plaza across the street… we need young families if anything specific.

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