CFAH

75 Howard at 220 Feet

Facing an uphill battle with neighborhood groups and a potential conflict with San Francisco’s Downtown Area Plan which calls for building heights to taper down to the shoreline of the Bay, “to avoid visual disruption along the water while preserving topography and views,” the proposed height of the residential tower to rise at 75 Howard Street has been further reduced from 290 to 220 feet, the maximum height for which the parcel is currently zoned.

The 20-story tower that’s now proposed and roughly rendered at its reduced height above includes 133 market rate condos over 6,000 square feet of restaurant/retail and a basement garage for 100 cars.

75 Howard Podium

The development will meet the City’s affordable housing requirements through payment of an in lieu fee into the City’s affordable housing fund rather than including any below market rate (BMR) units on-site.

And as noted by the Business Times, the downsized proposal for the project most likely means that the affordable housing deal that was in the works to help fund the Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corp’s affordable housing project at Eddy and Taylor has been cut along with the height.

Paramount Group, the developer of the project, had originally proposed to build a 31-story tower which would have risen up to 348 feet in height on the 75 Howard Street site, a proposal which included 186 market rate condos over a ground floor restaurant and parking for 175 cars in the building which is being designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM).

75 Howard at 350 Feet

The 75 Howard Parking Garage which currently rises up to 91-feet in height on the site was built in 1976.

Comments from Plugged-In Readers

  1. Posted by Anon

    Great choice. We don’t want another Wall on the Waterfront repeat of Miami or Fontana Towers.. need to keep SF’s waterfront looking beautiful and reduce shadows as much as possible on our parks. We also don’t want to set a precedent where any developer can just pay for height increases at the expense of everything else. Yes affordable housing is important but there’s a point when you have to draw the line to make SF a world class city.

    • Posted by Flash

      I never thought I’d say this, but I agree with you, Anon. 20 stories seems sufficient here. There’s already a bunch of taller buildings behidn it, with more on the way. It’s nice for this whole Transbay skyscraper district to taper down a little.

      • Posted by Orland

        The original proposal was already a modest tower by any rational analysis. The additional height would have had no effect (other than to provide fabulous spaces for human occupancy ) except for impeding the views of a few nearby offices and apartments at Rincon Center.

      • Posted by Futurist

        20 stories seems very appropriate; it fits in very well with the other tall buildings nearby.

      • Posted by Frisco

        “There’s already a bunch of taller buildings behidn it, with more on the way.” True, and that’s why this project is nothing like Fontana Towers. You can’t just trot the Fontana booby-man out every time something is tall near the water. The context makes all the difference.

    • Posted by Orland

      World class city? Laughingstock!

    • Posted by sf

      What about homeless people? Because they are pretty much everywhere on the waterfront and I never hear anything about them destroying the view or quality of life.

    • Posted by Zig

      World class my ass

      This must be satire

    • Posted by d-b

      The next target is the proposed 160 Folsom tower which is seeking a 400 foot height in 300 foot zoning. Perhaps they will also fall into line lessening the shadow effect on the adjacent waterfront park. Prop. B has had some rather amazing effects.

      • Posted by Orland

        Is that the Gang designed tower? That building needs to be at least 50% higher to fully appreciate its architecture.

        [Editor’s Note: New Details And Timing For Twisty 400-Foot Tower.]

        • Posted by Orland

          Looks fine in the isolated rendering. However, when viewed in the context of the surrounding neighborhood, it is simply lost. In real world terms, the previously agreed upon 300′ zoning for that property needs to be rethought and doubled.

          • Posted by SF local

            Agree that 160 Folsom should be 300′ tall at the most.

          • Posted by Sierrajeff

            I had exact opposite reaction – in the overall rendering, the 348′ tower stood out like a sore thumb, out of scale to the waterfront. 200′ is much more appropriate.

          • Posted by Frisco

            The scale of the waterfront has changed in the last 10 years, and it has changed before that. “Out of scale” is a way of locking in a flat conformity. It’s natural for cities to grow with some variation here and there. Like a forest, not a box hedge.

          • Posted by Orland

            The Gang tower is nowhere near being “on the waterfront. “

          • Posted by Orland

            Bad enough at 400′, at 300 it would be ridiculous. Like the start of something good which was not allowed to happen. It needs to be 600′ to realize it’s potential. I’m sure Ms Gang would emphatically agree. See Gerhy’s work near the NYC landing of the Manhattan Bridge.

            The fact that it will be across the street from the nearly identically sized four towers of Infinity and Lumina only accentuates the missed opportunity.

      • Posted by Moto mayhem

        Who cares about shadows? Are we a city afraid of our own shadows?

  2. Posted by BobN

    Is there any other waterfront city that has a “tapering down” policy like this?

    • Posted by Orland

      No, they maximize the use of such asset by smart, ad hoc development rather than dogmatic, unthinking emotional sentiment.

      • Posted by NoeNeighbor

        “Smart, ad hoc” development — in other words there isn’t any actual planning; developers just build as high as they can get away with. In this case the developer is proposing to build in accordance with the zoning regulations and a city plan — how is that “emotional sentiment”.

        • Posted by Orland

          Nobody is talking about whatever “they can get away with.” Zoning parameters are a statement of what is a priori agreed acceptable. Variances are granted case-by-case upon the basis of the merit of a proposal outside them.

          The “emotional sentiment” here is the setting of ridiculously inappropriate parameters and obdurately stubbornly standing on them without regard to the facts of an individual case. What I think of as the Sue Bierman-factor.

    • Posted by Sierrajeff

      Don’t like it, leave. It’s a perfectly appropriate policy. I’d much rather have this policy, and still see the topography and hills, than to have a series of 800′, 1000′, or more skyscrapers abutting the water as in Hong Kong or Singapore.

      In any event, there are variations of height restrictions all over the world. Paris and D.C., for example, have far stricter height limits throughout the central core.

      • Posted by Orland

        Look at the illustration of the originally proposed project from the Bay Bridge with the skyline as backdrop and say this with a straight face.

        I think you will have to concede that ad hoc planning is superior to hide bound “policies” without allowances for variation.

      • Posted by LJL

        Sierrajeff, I agree with most of what you are saying but the ‘don’t like it then leave’ line is BS. That line of argument is just a blanket invalidation of any dissent from the status quo. E.g., it would equally apply to “if you don’t like reading BobN’s comment, then leave.” Dialogue breaks down very quickly that way and it doesn’t really add anything more than does “I disagree with you.”

      • Posted by BobN

        Well, gee, thanks SierraJeff for inviting me to leave town for asking a perfectly reasonable question. I’m quite aware there are stricter height limits in some places. I was just curious if any other city had tried what we’re doing.

        Unlike our other great idea — squandering 100 years of development opportunity with hundreds of acres of 4-story buildings — I actually consider the possibility that some other place may have tried the tapering idea.

    • Posted by frog

      There are other waterfront policies. I’m not sure I love tapering down, but at least it’s a plan. I love one or two slender towers per block, some low rises or podiums between them and some green space. But the height to make that worthwhile is nearly impossible to get in this city. (I think many people agree with me, that mission bay, maybe Pier 70 and certainly some of the other large new developments could look amazing with this kind of layout.)

      However, given that most of the time, it feels like we have no plan, or we fight the plan (8 Washington, which was meant to step down nicely), it’s nice to see a plan come together, kinda. (I wish our plans were as good as the A-Team’s.)

    • Posted by anon

      Ever been to Vancouver? There is a 17-mile uninterrupted walking/biking path along the waterfront – and in general the buildings along the pathway are quite low.

      • Posted by frog

        But they have low buildings all over the place punctuated by tall buildings. And near the northern side, there are certainly some very tall buildings. The Rincon hill/south beach plan is probably right for that area. But I think that Mission bay and even Pier 70 would look a lot more unique and less monolithic if we went with sparse soaring height.

        When people talk about blocking views, that’s generally not what they mean, unless something is truly close or monolithic. What they mean is “I see something I’m not used to.” A large building, even half a mile away, doesn’t block very much. Pier 70 could be 50 stories high, all of it. And anyone on potrero hill would be able to have plenty of views from any window.

        • Posted by Orland

          Vancouver has thickets of high rises on those pathways and remains as “livable” a city as there is in North America. The Rincon Hill plan was expressly patterned after Vancouver.

      • Posted by BobN

        SF has an uninterrupted walking/biking path from the Presidio to Candlestick. Along most of it, buildings are short. What’s that got to do with the bit that passes along downtown? Vancouver has a “wall” of towers.

  3. Posted by Orland

    Aside from a narrow self-interest nearby NIMBYS, everybody loses.

    There’s no mention of the boutique hotel component which was a part of the original proposal IIRC. I suppose it’s been eliminated along with the additional, needed residential units as a part of the all-too-common “downsizing.”

  4. Posted by Esquire Type

    I like it. Smaller the better. Don’t forget, SF may be a world class city, but our muni system is third world funky lame chicken. We don’t need any more density until we figure out how to move people around. Plus, I enjoy walking that area and don’t want the tower cave feeling you get elsewhere.

    • LOL. San Francisco is nowhere near a world class city. Nice views don’t make a city world class.

      The “third world funky lame chicken” public transportation you mentioned is one of the many reasons why.

    • Posted by Moto mayhem

      Yes our public transportation is a joke and that’s why there is near 1:1 parking being planned here in the core of downtown. People will lose cars only if transit improved DRAMATICALLY. Agree we have 3rd world transit and 3rd world politicians, ideas, execution, vision, and gumption

    • Posted by R

      If you think our public transportation is “third world funky lame chicken”, you’ve never been on public transportation in the third world.

      • Posted by Moto mayhem

        Brazil, China, Russia and Korea (4 out of 5 BRICK Countries (developing) have better public transport in their main cities

  5. Posted by Jamie

    220′ works well…. I’m just happy to see the public parking garage demolished more than anything to help deter folks from driving into the neighborhood for work every day and shaving years off Rincon Hill residents’ lives from the added air pollution while they sit in traffic waiting to leave on the Bay Bridge,

    • Posted by frog

      I lived in that area for about 7 years. The air pollution was never bad. Lot’s of wind and an ocean breeze give us one of the lowest pollution rates of any major city. I get arguments about cars and parking from a planning point of view, but this killer pollution from the death machines stuff is just hyperbole.

      TL,DR: If cars scare you, move to rural Pennsylvania. Horrible allergies, but comparatively few cars.

      • Posted by Jamie

        Epidemiologists at the City’s Department of Public Health say otherwise

        Heck, there is a law in the Planning Code, Article 38, that requires new residential buildings in the area to include air filters.

        Shut up with the flippant remarks and check the facts, thanks.

        • Posted by Moto mayhem

          Air pollution is relative. Our air is near best in the world for large cities

        • Posted by Frog

          Looked it up. The cancer risk is 100/1,000,000 in our riskiest areas. I’m not sure if that is yearly or lifetime, but it’s probably lifetime. But that’s in the realm of the risk of a couple of CT scans.

        • Posted by frog

          Basically, we have a slightly increased cancer risk, likely truly to be immeasurable, right next to highway entrance ramps and no where else. And the solution even for people there is an air filter.

          This is not a major problem. And as for my flippant remark, you are more likely to be killed while biking in the city than from the pollution here. And if you lived in PA, like I suggested flippantly, you’d probably drive 30 miles or more a day and your chance of a car accident would propel your risk of death far higher than living in SF.

          Life is a risk, this is a small one with an easy solution.

  6. Posted by Sassy

    I didn’t have a problem with the higher version but think a high profile site like this deserves something less “meh”.

  7. Posted by PRE

    There’s a “neighborhood” group down there? Who knew! Nice to see that they’re so interested in shooting themselves in the foot by lopping off ten floors and getting the affordable component tossed off too. Ess Eff is so effed up.

  8. Posted by PRE

    And that awful gap building is the very definition of tapering down to the waterfront and it’s virtually the worst thing along the waterfront. This city is so parochial, world class my a—.

    • Posted by Orland

      No, Delancey Street is by far the worse thing on the waterfront. Way past time for that to come down and be replaced by some classy midrise towers worthy of the site. Think Chicago’s Lakeshore Dr.

      • Posted by haighter

        What’s wrong w delancey st? Sure, that land could be used for taller buildings, but they seem to run an excellent organization there. I lived across the street for years and they were a great neighbor. The place is very clean, well-kept landscaping and flower beds, and no loiterers / sidewalk sleepers.

        • Posted by Orland

          There’s absolutely nothing wrong with Delancey Street. Wonderful organization doing great work.

          However, their property on the Embarcadero is hideous and totally out-of-whack with what would be more appropriate for such a fantastic location. I do appreciate that, when built, it was a harbinger of positive use of the waterfront south of the Bay Bridge which inexplicably had been wasted till then. But, that contribution has been overtaken.

          Besides, for the amount they could command for that property today, they could greatly expand their good works elsewhere.

      • Posted by Sierrajeff

        I think the Delancy complex is great – and frankly the continued vacancies of their retail spaces speak volumes to the lack of demand for such spaces in this area – something the city needs to address.

        • Posted by Orland

          Can you possibly be serious? Do you not recognize that that miserably blank wall of papered over windows is directly related to the nature of the institution? Do you really believe that prime seawall property on the waterfront has no intrinsic value without being “addressed by the city?” Truly think that ground floor spaces in buildings the equivalent of Chicago’s Lakeshore Dr. would lay vacant in that location?

          • Posted by Sierrajeff

            I can possibly be serious. Can you possibly read my comment before reacting? If the retail spaces were occupied, it would not be a blank wall of papered-over windows.

            And not only do “truly think” that ground floor spaces on the waterfront could lay vacant in that location, I can in fact point to the real-world fact that the *are* vacant. I can assure you that Delancy Street would love to have revenue from leasing those spaces; and I can also assure you, from my walking by there on a daily basis for quite some time, that even rush hour there is simply not enough foot traffic there right now to support businesses.

          • Posted by Can't Think of Cool Name

            @Sierrajeff, per your foot traffic comment, it will be interesting to see how long the new Italian restaurant going in across the street at Brannan and Embarcadero survives.

          • Posted by Jake

            Yeah, the foot traffic around Delancy is primarily along 2nd Street and has been for … about 150 years.

          • Posted by Orland

            Tourist traps are dependent upon foot traffic. I’m talking destination worthy “classy.” Who (visitor or resident), in their right mind, would make a trip even to such a spectacular location to avail themselves to the amenities of the Delancey complex. A total waste of a potentially great asset.

          • Posted by sky's the limit

            “SF Bay south of the bridge and YBI is not a particularly attractive body of water.” — Posted by Orland 2 weeks ago.

          • Posted by Orland

            It isn’t. Particularly when looking out from Lot A/seawall which was the topic of conversation then.

            But this site is much removed from that including having fantastic views of the Bay Bridge which is one audacious looking structure from that vantage.

            Look, Delancey Street would be fine as a modestly priced motor court on the highway outside Napa on the way to Yountville. Here, it’s ludicrous.

            What’s needed is a wall of structures worthy of the site which would actually improve that area of the City, not a blight on what could be one of the more fashionable boulevards in the World.

    • Posted by invented

      The Gap Building is derivative ersatz crap that was downsized so as not to upstage the clock tower at Ferry Building. Imagine that. Under building this to 20 makes no sense. No one is home.

    • Posted by Ralph

      I think the gap building is quite nice. It’s nice that it steps back from the waterfront. The tallest part is pushed to the back of the site.

    • Posted by anon

      The term ‘world class city’ is and always has been a joke. The origin is Willie Brown (World class city, world class mayor LOL). SF is just a big small town and will never, never be a world class city. If you want to live in one, go to NY, London, etc.

      • Posted by anon

        people such as yourself who say things like over and over again despite constantly being proven otherwise. that’s the joke. no, not in the NY or London class. but yes, a world class city, an alpha –

      • Posted by Frisco

        The GaWC ranks San Francisco as an Alpha-minus, on par with Washington DC, Boston, and Barcelona, less than LA & Chicago, and far behind Hong Kong, Paris, NYC, London, etc. Not that we can’t do better architecturally or transit-wise. The question is ambition, and whether we want a “big city” or a seaside village.

        • Posted by moto mayhem

          some people want SF to be like amsterdam. A tourist village known for weed, prostitution and cycling, but that hasnt been important in about 400 yrs

          • Posted by The Milkshake of Despair

            You should step out beyond the Singelgracht on your next visit then. There’s a lot more to that city than the tourist core. It is like judging San Francisco based on the Union Square to Fisherman’s Wharf region.

            Amsterdam is a real working city with some stunning modern architecture.

  9. Posted by Orland

    What this “issue” underscores is the paralysis besetting any change in this city.

    I’m speaking of that wonderful triangular patch of asphalt in front of this property which has lain in waste for decades.

    A low enclosure around the perimeter of the space with a coffee kiosk and table seating would challenge any sidewalk cafe on the Champs Elysees as locus to simply enjoy a sense of place.

    How do these promises keep eluding us?

  10. Posted by Turin

    At least by fitting into zoning it should get approved much more quickly. I liked the previous design but recall many on here not liking it. For those that didn’t, you should get a redesigned tower. At least I hope so, because simply lopping off the top 11 floors would make the podium way out of scale with the shaft.

  11. Posted by SoBayNative

    Seems like nobody remembers that protecting the waterfront became a major issue after John Portman designed the series of buildings which became Embarcadero Center, cutting off views of the waterfront from the western vantage.

  12. Posted by asiagoSF

    re SF beinb a world class city… I love and live in SF, but let’s not get carried away. Anon’s definition of SF as “big small town” is spot on. And that’s exactly why I love this city. We’re no Paris or NYC and there’s nothing wrong with that!

  13. Posted by asiagoSF

    that would be “being a world class city”

  14. Posted by Bob

    SF is truly world class – In a league of its own – when it comes to being provincial. It feels like this entire town was infected with some virus that turns them into the HOA board of a mid level condo development in the suburbs.

  15. Posted by Louis

    “Don’t like it, leave.” sayeth sierrajeff…..

    idiot-speaking. even intolerant dopes dont have to leave.

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