Waterfront High-Rise Approved But An Epic Battle LoomsSeptember 4, 2015
San Francisco’s Planning Commission has approved the plans for a 220-foot building to rise at 75 Howard Street, with 133 market rate condos over a restaurant, café and underground ‘parking vault’ for 100 cars.
While reduced in height to fit within the principal zoning for the site, which allows for development up to 200-feet in height with the potential for another 20 feet depending upon the building’s design, the Commission granted an exception from the City’s Planning Code to allow for the full 220-feet, which could provide fodder for opponents of the project who had organized to “Save Rincon Park” (and their views).
Regardless, the Commission’s approval for 75 Howard sets the stage for an epic battle brewing over the proposed twisty tower to rise up to 400-feet at 160 Folsom and a threatened ballot initiative (or two).
Comments from Plugged-In Readers
I can’t believe 160 Folsom is under attack. It’s such a nice tower and the height is needed during this housing shortage
If you lived in one of the condos whose viewed would be blocked and would see the value of your unit take a big hit you would probably fight it to.
Especially considering how easy it is to delay these projects in SF.
Failing that I see another ‘No Wall on the Waterfront’ ballot initiative which is a, relatively, cheap and easy way to block the development.
“If you were rich you’d probably be selfish too” is such a lame argument.
Yeah, but anyone stupid enough to move into the Infinity and think they weren’t going to build anything else deserves to “take a big hit”, their complaints have zero merit. You don’t own your view.
But you do pay for your view. To say their complaints have zero merit is ridiculous. Complaining about taking a financial hit well into the six figures is beyond justified.
So do we need a market on views? I.e. the HOA owns a stake on the view of the bay, and votes to sell it to the developers who want to build a potentially blocking contract.
… and you live in a city, where you know that a new building can block your view at any moment. boo hoo.
no, its not justified. if you want a guaranteed view, build a highrise on a farm for yourself.
Yeah, it’s been the law in CA since 1898 that views are not protected. There is a way to gain such protection – you can enter into a restrictive convenant with your neighbors to prohibit them from building anything that would block your view. Of course, you are going to have to pay them for this. Anyone who failed to do so really has no basis to complain when his or her view ends up getting blocked. I feel for them, but that’s how it goes.
Yes, but they were too stupid to put those things together. Did they really think the entire transbay would stay as is? It isn’t up to a third party to maintain their view, and if they paid for the view they were robbed. They can go pound sand.
On top of that, the view being “blocked” is… more tall buildings. 160 Folsom is next to the Infinity, not between it and the water. The towers for both buildings are offset. Why not stop Rincon Hill #2? That blocks their view. Why not stop 181 Fremont? Gotta stop the Transbay Tower too, that blocks their view of other building.
I do not think a single building that is several blocks away is going to mar anyone’s view. Also, as mentioned, by law, you have no legal right to a view. Furthermore, the building fits entirely within EXISTING zoning.
There are a lot of things we may or may not like in life, but those of us who are not spoiled princesses simply learn to deal with it. No is going to take a hit, period, unless the market goes down (which it always does at some point). People will still pay big bucks for the Infinity units, even with a new building partially filling the view, and the units will likely sell for a pretty penny more than what the owners bought them for.
To say that anyone is taking a six figure hit is plain BS, which SF certainly already has more than its fair share of. There is absolutely no evidence to support a potential loss at even a fraction of that amount.
No that’s actually a terrible argument. Caveat Emptor (let the buyer beware) has been around for centuries. People buy these units knowing full well that the area is zoned for high-rises. If they didn’t do the research, then that’s their fault.
I’m glad everyone is so adamant about upholding the rules for developers!
I fully support building up to 300 feet at 160 Folsom, because that’s the EXISTING zoning for block. Not 400 feet, 300 feet.
I did my research and due diligence before buying and was fully aware of what the EXISTING zoning for the block would allow: 300 FEET.
But people who live downtown should know that there are towers going up all over the place. Their lack of planning shouldn’t affect towers that have been in the works for a while
Agreed. I’m constantly surprised that apparently people don’t do their homework for the amount they’re paying.
160 Folsom should be 300′, and then I would support it. If it goes to 400′ I would guess most of the top units would sit empty most of the time from their super rich owners who are rarely ever there, highlighting the inequality even more in this city (and creating additional shadows for everyone else) without helping the housing shortage in a meaningful manner. Just my opinion though.
Can you also let me know what the next winning lotto numbers are since you are able to look into the future and definitely state that the top floors of 10 folsom will be empty most of the time. Alternately, I can just make up items and state them as fact while adding the caveat that its “just my opinion”
Why wouldn’t these mystery people who would buy the 40th floor units simply buy the 30th floor units if it only goes to 300′?
For what it’s worth… I happen to like the tall towers in downtown Manhattan almost in the water.
and in Chicago, and Boston
No that’s ugly by SF standards. SF beauty is an abandoned parking lot or decrepit warehouse.
In a generation these John McCain type old fogies will be gone and we won’t have to worry about these cranks and their pre- WWII single family stucco nostalgia of San Francisco. Maybe even sooner if we all sneak up behind them and scream “Boo!”
Sue Hestor actually got up and made an impassioned speech for another ziggurat
I think it was Winston Churchill (or perhaps Jesus) who said, “A young man who is pro-development has no heart, and an old man who is against development has no brain.”
I think I butchered that somehow.
Gandhi, I believe
It was Jesus. Said this after the Jerusalem Planning Commission rejected his application for a 200 foot residential tower (which he believed would showcase his carpentry skills) right next to the Dome of the Rock. Some people think this is what drove him to his Plan B – becoming the Messiah and starting a new religion. Jerusalem never did get that condo tower, and rents there have been too high ever since.
This is also what spawned the oft-misquoted phrase “Don’t build it, and He will come.”
Life would be so much easier if the members of the Planning Department were elected officials.
not sure about this ….
Right – because elected officials are never prone to demagoguery or kowtowing to loud cranks.
It is sad that people are so shortsighted on this issue. This is a beautiful and unique city and planning needs to be done very carefully. People want housing now and don’t care what form it takes nor how it is achieved. If people really understood the issue no one would give these developers carte blanche to do whatever they want to our city.
People need to speak up and demand that 160 Folsom stay within it’s 300 foot height limit.
@Bill, as I am a part of “our city” as well, I’ll speak up and say I’m AOK with the proposed 400′ tower. I’m well aware of what this specific part of the city looks like from a distance and from street level as well and feel that there’s going to be no issue with that height in this location.
Carefully? 160 folsom is a gorgeous building. why wouldnt we want it to be popping up behind the overthunk ziggurats in front of it? Make it 500!
I would stand up and demand it be taller. I’ve lived here for 33 years and I like a dense, tall, hopefully 24hr downtown core. I would not build highrises in the Haight nor 3 story Victorians near the Transbay. There is beauty and uniqueness in high quality skyscrapers and I wouldn’t at all mind seeing a skyline full of them from my window.
Well said, fully agree, 20+ years in SF!
Bill, billl, bill….
this city has been shortsighted for years, hence the miss balance between demand and supply. If only we could eliminate the entitled first come, first serve attitude of the residents.
I feel like the expectations of city residents are just off. A city is dynamic and ever changing. What exists today, is not promised tomorrow. Cites will and should be allowed to grow and new residents welcomed.
Let me go ahead and edit Mr. Bill for everyone:
It is sad that people DON’T AGREE WITH ME on this issue. This is a beautiful and unique city and planning needs to BE BLOCKED SO MY PROPERTY VALUE STAYS INFLATED AND I CAN EASILY FIND FREE STREET PARKING. People want housing now (duh) and don’t care what form it takes (high rises please, no sprawl) nor how it is achieved (In SF, developers have to pay for things like installing Muni stations at Park Merced and re-working streets to make them more bike friendly. But yeah Bill, we’re totally Dallas or Las Vegas). If people WERE ON THE SIDE OF NATIVIST PROPERTY OWNERS AND THOSE WITH RENT CONTROL no one would give these developers carte blanche to do whatever they want to our city (I bet all the people who have bailed to Portland wish they could still call it “their city”).
Seriously guy, building more San Francisco isn’t going to kill the city. Limiting the type of people who can afford to move here, to only educated upper-middle class folk absolutely will. The people are the character of this city.
Well put… that’s almost exactly what I read. I think left out the tears and “The End is Nigh” sandwich board .
I think it should be 500. The design of this building is the best design we’ve seen for a high rise in SF to date. It’s beautiful
your view of the issue is really the shortsighted one.
my opinion: i will definitely support the ‘mission moratorium’ (as i think the ‘market’ is stupid and greedy and this city’s true wealth is in its diversity of people and culture). but from my neighborhood (soma west) to the bay, building heights should be doubled. i’d like to see 160 folsom rise to 1000′.
that’s so precious! how were the diversity markets trading today? good thing i bought stock in diversity when it was cheaper during the recession.
you’re an ass.
Who participates in the market, if not the people?
I think it’s naïve to suggest the market is “stupid and greedy” to back up a housing moratorium. It’s economic forces & young people moving back into cities changing the mission. So you can block construction for a while, but that’s going to drive up evictions. It’ll change one way or another…
the mission moratorium will cause less diversity. Building will lead to more diversity. the moratorium will lead to even mroe restricted supply, higher costs, and increase the financial benefit for landlords to ellis or sell out. With so few units, the few “diverse” people who are in the mission will get kicked out. With more housing being generated, they will have much more chance of staying. I also dont think the Mission is very diverse. RIght now, All i see are hipsters and a few latino families. Where are all the Asians and African Americans and non-hipsters? When i go to the mission, i rarely (almost never) see another african american. i see many more in the Marina,
moto mayhem, since you use the term so frequently, what is your definition of a hipster?
no answer? I truly would like to know. My thing is that people use hipster so much and so broadly lately that it doesn’t mean anything.
sorry i wasnt on over labor day weekend looking to quickly respond.
General anti-establishment attitudes (which many people have), but hipsters think that can expressed by meeting 2-3 of the below criteria:
wearing black skinny jeans, lots of tatoos, riding a fixed gear bike because its cool (although not proactical), put their nose up at people in suits, feel aligned with the plight of the poor latinos int eh mission (although the hipsters themselves are the biggest gentrifiers), wear t-shirts with funny slogans even though they are 40 yrs old, wear ugly beards because they think its cool.
the above is obviously some general superficial categorization which doesnt do this justice. But I guees its better than saying you know one when you see or talk to him/her.
OK. That’s basically my definition too. Also I might add they have those wider earring things in their lobes? But nowadays it isn’t that anymore. Go on Yelp and read some reviews. Every other person is using the term, talking about normal type trendy bars and restaurants. Which they’re also patronizing! Somehow it has been treated as a synonym for trendy?
Also, the Mission is not full of those types any more. Not for the last three years or so. I see all kinds of average tech worker types instead these days. Male and female. The women are wearing active wear, the guys facial hair and “cool” t shirts. But hipsters they are not.
Those hipsters may be hanging out in the Mission, but a lot less can afford to live there these days. Your average incoming Mission tenant is an overpaid 20-something techie moving here from someplace like Wisconsin or Missouri.
I’m pro-housing and I actually agree with your statement. We should be building up high in SoMa, Transbay, FiDi.
Agreed, but the Mission totally makes sense too. You shouldn’t get to hold onto 2 of the most central BART stations and be full of buildings no taller than 3 stories.
The City’s chief economist once said we need 100,000 units to really make a dent on housing prices. Do you know how much that is? It’s about 130 highrises the size of NEMA in mid market. Now try to dot them out on a city map, and tell yourself that somehow the Mission shouldn’t be a prime target despite our needs.
The mission moratorium is not going to make wealthy people not move into the mission. It’s only going to make it so that instead of moving into brand-new market rate condos, they will buy out existing residents it is happening, and will keep happening thanks to the policies you support.
So instead of having a mix of new comers and existing residents, we’ll end up with only new comers (and existing wealthy residents).
I love 160 Folsom and if anything wish it were taller, so it could be more of a landmark building.
I won’t complain about 75 Howard, because it’s within zoning and I feel pretty strongly that development rights in this City need to be protected from arbitrary appeals and NIMBYs. But that said, I did happen to walk east on Howard a few weeks ago, and do feel that this building will have a negative effect on the approach to the waterfront. Right now that last block opens up and gets lighter and lighter as one approaches Steuart… if I imagined the visual mass of 75 Howard, it was clear that a lot of that lightness would go away. BUT AGAIN, I’m just making an observation, and believe that the developer should be allowed to build anything it wants if its within code.
I like it. Build it but have enough parking spaces for everybody.
so that already clogged downtown streets can be even more clogged as tower residents try to live a suburban drive-everywhere lifestyle? (Hint…there is plenty of parking in TRACY. If you own three cars (per household), maybe that would be a better place for you? )
John Ebberling made his speech that the developer was taking another 20′ so should be asked to fund a lot of onsite affordable. The developer made a pretty clear case that they had reduced the total zoned square footage by slimming the base, and that as a design consideration, should let them have the extra 20′. The 20′ didnt actually add value Ebberling was trying to demand payment for. It made a lot of sense really, as a design consideration. And of course if the affordable was onsite, there would actually be less affordable units, and the NIMBYs already threatened this tower once and took it’s affordable contribution (to the Taylor and Eddy affordable project) from $20M to $10m. And legally, they cant require onsite anyway, so Ebberling’s point was pretty lame even for a long shot, and in the end, even Commissioner Richards refuted his argument.
[Editor’s Note: Keep in mind that while “slimmed,” the approved design doesn’t actually meet the standards for allowing an extra 20-feet in height and required an exception from the Commission.]
Until we have a real say in decisions architecturally in a cohesive manner that allows for public input and not just profit driven motives of banks, real estate investors, and private interests, we will continue to see towers for the rich.
Essential housing, takes years of planning, and efforts to demarcate where and how the units will be built and integrated into an existing system.
When the system is overflowing and backed up, in terms of transit, sewage, power, infrastructural needs, and the open spaces are so crammed as to be rendered un-useable, most people will flee, and the powers that be will be left holding the leftover detritus.
If the public agencies do not protect the public’s best interests, we have a mockery of the government system of checks and balances, and the public’s importance in the decision making.
If this was an international anonymous design competition we would see more thoughtfull approaches to the waterfront views, and open-space needs.
unfortunately the planning commission shows again that we are not looking seriously enough at the public’s concerns.
Actually, everything you listed above (let citizens meddle in architecture, make everything cohesive and the same, let everyone have a say in what goes on so the process takes decades to get everyone’s voice heard, build public housing projects that take the profit out of the development) is what is wrong with San Francisco, and why people like you are getting priced out.
Why would an ‘international anonymous design comp’ be any better exactly? Cloud cuckoo land – the city needs housing, its height is appropriate at a minimum – move on please.
Unfortunately, this city does not spend on infrastructure. We have streets in poor condition, overhead electrical wiring and a 3rd world level transit system (which is complemented by another 3rd world big city approach, the private shuttle bus line, e.g., Chariot). The focus is on social services, transfers, and some highly visible and expensive public housing projects such as the one in the Mission that spends lots of money to serve 72 households. Here, we have to suffer first and then the problem is addressed. This is not a problem of the planning commission but of the BoS.
The public should be told to go pound sand – and private owners allowed to do with their private property whatever they damn well please.
I don’t get to vote on the design of the next iPhone or the next Honda – except by stint of my pocketbook at point of sale. Real estate should be treated the same way.
I feel you, bro, but both of those examples (phones and automobiles) are indeed, exceedingly regulated…. The questions is how much input people should have for a given project or policy.
who is this “we”? Random people who live a mile away? Busy body socialites who have too much time on thier hand? Random radical chic activists? Racist NIMBYs?
What is this random, vague “public”?
Which one (or more) are you, I wonder?
Is a “Parking Vault” one of those automated stacking things?
Yes, but one that randomly reorganizes the cars every night so you can never find your own to drive away in.
I do not understand why “Commission’s approval for 75 Howard sets the stage for an epic battle brewing over the proposed twisty tower to rise up to 400-feet at 160 Folsom”? 75 Howard and 160 Folsom are 2 separate parcels.
The same people oppose both projects.
It would probably be to the benefit of those who support these buildings to refuse to lump them together like this, even on a site like this in this article. The reason the opponents are doing this is fairly clear: including 75 Howard allows them to make waterfront wall claims against 160 Folsom, for which these claims would otherwise be patently absurd given it’s a block from the water and behind a rather massive Gap HQ building. Each building by itself is much harder to argue against.
Perhaps all of us, editor included, should be careful to avoid lumping them together ourselves even when covering/discussing this area.
This is a great addition to the waterfront Skyline. I look forward to seeing it being built and excited to see the views from within.
Ugliest architecture I’ve seen. For that alone, that Designer / Architect should be made to eat the concrete when they break ground.
If the native Indians of San Francisco had a planning commission, they would have never allowed the 49er’s to pitch their tents on the hills of San Francisco. Get over it… cities change.
you realize the Spanish were here saving Indian souls well before the 49ers
This design is horrible and the city residents will never permit a building this high on this site. Once again, I ask – who is on this planning commission? Really? Perhaps we need a turnover of this commission?
Many of us think this is too short and we preferred the bigger design
But “the city residents” will never allow this, I tell you. Should it be capitalized “The City Residents” because obviously this is a unified force of nature that can swoop down and stymie the Evil Developers and their Cabal!
UPDATE: Approved Waterfront Development at Risk as Appeal Splits the Board
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