PG&E Central Waterfront Plaza

As with the new PG&E substation on Folsom, the Central Waterfront substation which will rise 30-feet in height along 23rd Street at Illinois will be set back 30 feet from the sidewalk in order to accommodate a new public plaza designed by Stanley Saitowitz/Natoma Architects.

PG&E Central Waterfront Plaza

In a nod to its environment, close to the bay and more linear forms, the substation’s façade and plaza elements will be arrayed horizontally versus vertically along Folsom.

PG&E Central Waterfront Plaza

And once again, recessed led lights between the rippling concrete bands and pedestals will illuminate the walls and ground planes of the plaza.

PG&E Central Waterfront Plaza

Comments from Plugged-In Readers

  1. Posted by Elitist Pig

    So does this literally count as a wall on the waterfront? I thought we were all against this.

  2. Posted by Sierrajeff

    So strikingly at odds with the PG&E substation design! (Specifically, about 90 degree odds…)

    • Posted by BobN

      I wonder if we get a discount since all he did was rotate the design.

  3. Posted by alberto rossi

    Why is an architect whose buildings are notorious for their awful streetscapes getting work designing pedestrian plazas?

    • Posted by Elitist Pig

      Because that’s all in the PAST! This is the NOW!

    • Posted by John

      Can we all agree that the atrocity he foisted on the City on Folsom between 4th and 5th Streets is about the worst building in San Francisco? Not only is the prison-like exterior hideous, but the units themselves feel like jail cells. It is hard to believe people allow something like that to be built then argue endlessly about lesser planning matters.

  4. Posted by ph_goat


  5. Posted by jlasf

    During the night, it’s okay. But during the day, it’s just a wall. Why not a green “living” wall?

    And I agree with Alberto. Since the key function of the project is to make the street more people-friendly and engaging, why hire an architect who is known for his severe, cold work?

    • Posted by Orland

      I’d go for this for the entire substation building on Folsom. Give it The Hamptons treatment and turn it into one huge hedge.

    • Posted by Frisco

      Green living walls inevitably become brown dying walls. Look at the Cal Academy’s roof.

      • Posted by S

        probably the drought more than anything else. or perhaps the plants are dormant for summer?

  6. Posted by Bib B

    I hope the guy in the shorts in the third rendering isn’t going commando, the LEDs will light up his junk

  7. Posted by anonimal

    I liked it better when it was called the Pentagon Memorial.

  8. Posted by Oh Dear

    Great design, its gonna make a cool camp ground for street people.

  9. Posted by g

    Why not just paint the blank wall with a huge middle finger? I mean it’s a lot cheaper than Saitowitz and conveys the same sentiment to the street.

  10. Posted by GoBlueInOakland

    Both of Saitowitz’s plaza proposals for these substations are like an ironic hipster take on mid-century brutalism – right down to the Burning Man inspired LED displays. Just god-awful.

    Given that these plazas are fronting PGE substations that are basically giant, windowless concrete bomb shelters, the last thing we should be doing is turning on the shotcrete hose as the “coup de grace”.

    The goal does not appear to create active spaces (per the fantasy land renderings) – the real intent is to create indestructible, maintenance free frontage that easily power-washed.

    But if PGE really wanted to contribute to the public right of way, the design would skew towards biophilic principles and go full bore with a lot a drought tolerant greenery, natural materials, and even possibly a water element. Walter Hood has done excellent work in the Bay Area (Splashpark in Oakland, the De Young outdoor spaces, etc.) Greenworks PC in Portland and GGN in Seattle both to good LA work for public spaces.

  11. Posted by BobN

    Save the money and just plant some nice trees and a patch of grass.

    • Posted by Cal Culver

      I totally agree. This looks to be very uninviting.

      • Posted by sassyboyfrisco

        …and vile once homeless take it over and it reeks like piss 24/7 🙂

  12. Posted by rod lee

    Why not eliminate the wall. Dig a deep hole and put whatever stuff PG&E wants in that hole/basement, cover it up and put a park on top?

    • Posted by Adam

      To the contrary, the issues of sea-level rise and the waterfront location are hopefully shaping a design where vital components are elevated off the ground floor.

  13. Posted by Oakland lover

    Socketsite Editor – did you put the skateboarder in the picture in reference to the skatepark commentary on the other thread on the substation on folsom? nice…

    [Editor’s Note: Ironically, we didn’t.]

  14. Posted by brooder

    This seems to be too expensive for a future homeless camp.

  15. Posted by Karl

    did PG&E really pay the architect’s hundreds of thousands of dollars to come back with the same design twice, simply turning the visual from horizontal to vertical? Someone went to school for architecture to come up with this? Could PG&E have actually negotiated a 2 for 1 special with the architect…..then this would all makes sense.

    And why no RUN DMC fans in DogPatch??? seems more likely to find a RUN DMC fan in DogPatch then in those fancy Rincon Hill condos


    • Posted by BobN

      Better yet, a 0 for 0 deal.

  16. Posted by Jake

    This is where the other end of the new underwater power cable terminates. The cable that will feed the substation on Folsom. Behind this facade/building is an old electrical switch yard. They ain’t gonna bury it, but a ~30 foot wall would hide it. And you may notice the smokestack in the distance. That’s an shuttered manufactured gas plant. This location has one of those big scary PG&E gas lines. Until the Pier 70 project gets built, this area is going to be an industrial zone/wasteland.

    From the PG&E newsletter, March 26, 2015:

    “PG&E already has completed work to submerge conduit leading into the San Francisco Bay. This required the use of boats and divers to pull the conduit across the water and bury it under the bay floor leading up into the streets of San Francisco. Currently, PG&E is building trenches along Spear Street, Folsom Street and 23rd Street to accommodate the new line and a large electric vault. Once the trenches and vault are complete, the utility will pull electric cable through the underground conduit. Beginning in June of this year, a state-of-the-art underwater cable system will be installed under the bay between the two substations.

    Substation upgrades currently under construction at Folsom Street and 23rd Street will connect each end of the power line. The new substation expansions will be enclosed to provide a safer and more aesthetically pleasing environment for the community.”

    PG&E does care, about appearances.

    [Editor’s Note: Calling All Developers To SF’s Central Waterfront: Mirant Site In Play and the New Numbers And Timing For The Massive Pier 70 Project.]

  17. Posted by JB10

    Saitowitz produces innovative designs, in contrast to the bland rubbish that is generally puffed on this site. For a substation it looks pretty cool. I like it.

  18. Posted by MDG399

    the homeless will love it ….. it even includes night-lights for reading…. and late night trips to… the curb to pee and do doo

  19. Posted by formidable doer of the nasty

    When was the last time anyone saw a pedestrian on 23rd east of Illinois?

    • Posted by Dan

      Me on the way to the taco truck on 25th?

  20. Posted by jamesjr

    Hideous. Another homeless encampment/skate park.

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