88 Bluxome Street Site

As we first wrote and ruffled some feathers with respect to the half-block San Francisco Tennis Club at 645 Fifth Street when the Bay Club was sold to York Capital Management and San Francisco-based JMA Ventures last year:

“While plans for the Bay Club’s clubs have yet to be announced, we’d be willing to bet that plans for developing the 645 5th Street site were central to the acquisition, especially in light of the fact that San Francisco’s pending Central SoMa Plan could up-zone the Tennis Club site for development up to 200-feet in height.”

And as we expected, plans to raze the existing SF Tennis Club have now been revealed, and tennis lessons and other activities will take place at the new tennis club, for example, activities such as Pickleball for those who had their best pickleball paddles as well as others.

As proposed by Alexandria Real Estate Equities, which focuses on the development of urban science and tech campuses and is in contract to purchase the site, a five-story building with 369,000 square feet of office space, 5,500 square feet of retail and a 25,000 square foot fitness club would rise across the eastern two-thirds of the newly dubbed ’88 Bluxome Street’ site.

88 Bluxome Design

The preliminary plans include four outdoor tennis courts on the western fourth of the parcel as well. The preliminary plans do not, however, take into account the proposed up-zoning of the site.

We fully expect a “phase two” plan to build higher across the site will eventually come to light. And we’d bet against the four tennis courts surviving as proposed.

Ten years ago, Pulte Homes had planned to build over 500 condos on the Tennis Club’s Central SoMa parcel, but those plans were withdrawn in 2008 with the economy turning and club members having organized to Save [Their] San Francisco Tennis Club.

Comments from Plugged-In Readers

  1. Posted by Oh Dear

    Add some residential in a tower.

  2. Posted by Accounting

    When does the train storage lot at 4th & King move? It’s enormous.

    [Editor’s Note: San Francisco’s Caltrain Railyard Redevelopment Update and the City’s New I-280 Teardown Plan With A Caltrain Twist (And Turn).]

    • Posted by Sierrajeff

      2055 or so.

      Or more accurately, never. Caltrain is going to continue to need a staging area, given that even the best-case scenarios have only a couple tracks going to the Transbay Terminal (and, again best-case scenario, those will have to be shared with HSR). The need to stage multiple train runs, especially during heavy rush hours, will mean that there always has to be a staging yard somewhere. (Other busy train terminals, such as Grand Central or Penn Station in NYC, take care of this by having the entire staging area underground – but they do exist even in those examples.)

      • Posted by BTinSF

        There are proposals, as you may know, to build OVER the Caltrain yard, however, and functionally put it “underground”.

  3. Posted by Marten

    If the four courts stay in the plan, build a building over them or sink them and have four more on the roof. That would make eight courts total. Not bad.

  4. Posted by Sierrajeff

    Those 4 street-level tennis courts are a joke, right? We’re supposed to be concerned about improving density and improving walkability and streetscapes, and they’re proposing street-level tennis courts on a major N/S street?!

    [Editor’s Note: As reported above, “We fully expect a “phase two” plan to build higher across the site will eventually come to light, and we’d be surprised if the four tennis courts survive as proposed.”]

  5. Posted by Dave

    Five stories is plenty in the Central SOMA so its good to see they have this plan in place. But with the Prop M cap it probably will be quite a few years before they can win the “beauty” contest to get a go-ahead for the 369K of office space.

    As to the potential to up-zone parts of SOMA to 200 feet I never see it really happening. Yeah, the PC may do it but it will definitely be challenged and probably shot down by an initiative. No one but the developers are clamoring for more height and, as it is, plastering the area with wall to wall 5 story residential buildings will result in a huge density increase.

    • Posted by Bobby Mucho

      From the sounds of people on this and other blogs, I’d argue that a fairly large amount of people want the increase in height in these areas, and density as a result. The neighborhood is grossly under considered in terms of a PC-led development strategy. I’d much rather they consider adding a few pockets up increased heights—along with special use districts for certain types of housing / small scale businesses.

      Worst case, the developers will just lean on impending plans and ask for the height increase anyway, knowing its “in the works”.

      • Posted by Dave

        Pockets of increased heights, a few, maybe. And only if the City gets something in return.

        Like much needed public open space. Allow a few spots of increased heights, but limit the building footprint to 75% of the site with the remainder being open space. It was done at one time in SF. BofA building, Chevron buildings, Transamerica building.

        Require 40% BMR units in the up-zoned sites.

        A PC led development strategy is sorely needed. One that addresses issues of affordability and open accessible green space in the SOMA area. .

        • Posted by John

          Agree with this idea. We should have a couple sparse 400 ft towers with 40% BMR than contiguous blocks of 5 story builds full of offices and $3m condos. SoMa is starting to look like a bunch of bulky lego blocks.

    • Posted by anon

      “No one but the developers…”

      Um, and the people that want to live in those units…

  6. Posted by Aaron Goodman

    40/40, advantage developer, advantage profits, lost taxation due to increased density for transit improvements, and needed recreational space which is disappearing, perhaps they can negotiate a new tennis park lineal above the future caltrains sites and depot.?

  7. Posted by spencer

    I hear there some tennis courts at 8 Washington that are still open. This SOMA lot should be level and built to at least 20 floors. Can leave gym and maybe some indoor courts on bottom or top level. This is a great place for housing next to Caltrain . The area also needs more people as that block is frequently overtaken by homeless and very dirty

    • Posted by anon

      Most of the city is ‘frequently overtaken by homeless and very dirty’

      Residents in my building have called homeless outreach and SFPD hundreds of times but it doesn’t do much.

  8. Posted by Frank C.

    Another SF-caused housing market wasted opportunity and blow for the entire region if this site is underbuilt. I mean, what is prime land near transit, not in an existing residential neighborhood, not blocking anyone’s view for, anyway? And yet high rises can be built in Rincon? Really a joke.

  9. Posted by Jake

    At this location, 5 floors of offices will likely generate more Caltrain trips than 20 floors of residences. Both because office occupancy is much denser than residential and because the work destinations for almost all SFers commuting south are not near Caltrain stations. How many of the mega-companies of the peninsula and valley built their office complexes by Caltrain? As I’ve mentioned before, the percentage of SoMa residents that commute via Caltrain or BART is tiny. MUNI, walk, and car are how ~90% of residents at this location will get to work.

    The primary commute/congestion-time transportation at 5th & Brannan are the auto flows to/from the 6th St 280 ramps and 5th St 101 ramps. That has been true and known for decades. In the past couple years, the 101 backups have become so bad and so common that some drivers heading to the east bay use 280 to Brannan to 5th to 101. I’ve driven behind a few. And you can actually see the flow in the google maps. And this kind of flooding of every sidepath will only get moreso.

    Next year the Second street project will eliminate a car lane to add a cycle track. That will increase the backups getting to the Rincon Hill Bay Bridge onramps so much that hundreds of cars per hour that use them now will divert to the 5th St onramp. That is the plan. That is what is in the traffic EIR for the approved 2nd street project.

    Also, the Warriors EIR identified 5th St as the primary offramp for their attendees driving in from the east bay. That 1000 or so additional cars/hr will mix into what is already near gridlock on good days (non-Giants game, non-accident, Howard/Moscone not closed for corporate indulgence).

    Of course there is also the requisite bike lane proposed for Brannan. That should magically evaporate cars. Always does(n’t).

    I doubt you could find a better or more obvious example of how to create a gridlock than the incessant calls to increase density in this area without addressing the existing conditions and predicted effects.

    • Posted by moto mayhem

      whats the solution? I mean besides cancelling that horrific 2nd street plan. We do need more freeway access, and certainly better public transportation as well, but our planners heads are stuck in the seat of someone’s bike.

      • Posted by Can't think of cool name

        @moto, I’ll toss out one idea as a proposed solution – Any currently planned traffic proposal that *removes* motorized traffic lanes for other purposes (bicycle, foot) within a certain distance of Bay Bridge on/offramps needs to be canceled immediately.

        I don’t have the time to dig up the detail on what @Jake says, but I have to believe that comments about how folks in SoMa use a car as a major commute transportation platform are probably on target. If that traffic isn’t going way, don’t take away the means for it to move about as best it can until other proposals (mass transit focused in my opinion) are implemented to attempt to mitigate that auto traffic.

      • Posted by Jake

        @moto, if the problem we are trying to solve is to add more people to an area where the transportation surface is already near or at capacity, then we either have to add surface or reduce the load/person on the surface. We can add some transportation surface by either building above or below the street level. I think we all know we aren’t going to build anymore elevated freeways, except that weird busway thing from the bridge to the transbay terminal. We are adding surface subterranean via the Central Subway, though very very slowly at great financial cost and with extraordinary disruption to the street surface. Seems to take years to dig a hole in this town and decades to plan to dig a hole (caltrain dtx, hsr, bart tube 2). So, if you want to grow in the near term without tipping into gridlock the only way is to reduce the load/person.

        This location and SoMa generally has the normal load/person of the folks that live or work there like anywhere else plus it has a massive commute time load overlaid because it is the surface between the freeways and the huge complex of parking garages in the FiDi. Even if 50% of the new residents of SoMa either work from home or walk to work, they will still add to the load by adding people. We aren’t hermits. And if we were we would still need our pizza deliveries, etc.

        The only way to add people without increasing the congestion is to reduce the number of car commuters in the CBD. I’d love to be polite and say ‘carrots and sticks’ where the carrots are better transit, but that would be a lie, or at best a promise to be delivered many years out.

        The stick is to raise the cost to drive to work in the CBD. The easiest means is parking or more exactly the costs to enter and exit a parking space in the CBD. SFPark has already demonstrated that people respond to congestion pricing parking. It works to control the level of cars in an area. Now it needs to be extended to the entire CBD, including private non-residential parking. You want to drive in from Walnut Creek or Belmont or Sea Cliff to park in downtown at 9:30 AM on Tuesday to shop or work, expect to pay. You want to leave that parking space between 3:30 and 7 PM, expect to really pay, a lot, or enough that some opt out and either choose transit or wait for when there is less congestion and a lower fee.

        And if you think most people pay today, well, some do, but many do not. UCB did a study to understand how drivers responded when the Bay Bridge added a rush hour surcharge. They found that 76% of the rush hour drivers were headed to free parking. Some of those are not headed to the SF CBD, but the remainder account for roughly half of the drivers to the SF CBD during rush hour. I think we should charge them enough to gradually reduce congestion, making more street surface available for the inevitable increase in MUNI buses and pedestrians, and use the funds to buy the buses, build subways/BART tubes, and of course my stipend.

    • Posted by Frank C.

      Totally agree, would prefer 20 stories of offices to residential, actually. 5 stories of offices is just as bad. I am not sure of your 20=5 ratio, don’t have time for calculations, but we’re on the same page. .

      • Posted by Frank C.

        Also, proper density here means new employees or new residents will use the transit, it’s in their best interest. And it creates a virtuous cycle – more transit use, more constituencey for expanded transit (eventually) and more options for more people, and ultimate with a more extensive transit network, less need for cars for everyone. That’s good planning. Problem is transit is still not good enough – but should we stop building, then? 5 stories is the near-equivalent of not building anything. Are you against density, then? Then we’re not on the same page at all.

        • Posted by Dave

          Building out SOMA under existing height limits (5 stories or so) would allow for another 50K residents to be added per Jake in a previous post. That is hardly not building anything.

          SF is the tip of a Peninsula with poor transportation. How many more jobs/residents can be squeezed in?

          A more extensive transit network is a must. But like when will that happen? In 30 years or more? That won’t cut it. Someone needs to call the “emperor” out on this. Right now massive new development can’t be supported in SF given existing infrastructure and transportation. Fingers crossed the Giant’s proposal is defeated. But the Giants and PTB are putting tons of money behind it so I won’t be shocked if it passes.

          Businesses, already reluctant to locate in SF, will be even moreso as the downtown including SOMA turns into permanent gridlock.

          • Posted by cfb

            It’s a good thing you’re not in charge of anything, Dave. SF already has tons of open space (more than most US cities plus tons of literal nature right outside city limits), and what we need is more housing (and office space), AKA increased density. Not less of it. And the core area of the city is the perfect place for increased density because that’s where the best transit access is, as well as most of the jobs, and most existing high rises (so more of them will fit in fine from an aesthetic viewpoint). Not having enough is what put SF into this affordability crisis that most San franciscans are freaking out about, but building enough will definitely involve building a lot of stuff that you would probably consider “too tall”. So what do you propose? “Not enough”, yet again. I’m sure it’ll help this time!

          • Posted by Sierrajeff

            Yup, we need more transit; and ideally it’d be built in concert with increased density, but I’m willing to roll the dice and see if the increased density results (eventually) in increased transit – such as a 2nd underground line down Folsom or Harrison, etc.

            BUT, the biggest problem with that bet is the ludicrous timeline it takes to build anything in modern America. Planners could decide TOMORROW that a new Muni underground line was the best thing since sliced bread (say, from the TBT and then down Harrison and then intersecting the existing Muni at Van Ness and running out Judah to replace the surface N… just purely hypothetically) It’d still take 20+ years to get it done… an initial proposal and charette studies, then “community meetings”, then revised studies and initial scoping plans, then EIRs, then more refined studies, then actual engineering and station planning, and then finally digging (which, as shown by the Central Subway, can proceed remarkably quickly for the tunnels themselves; but apparently takes something like 1.5 eons for station construction – I mean, WTF is up with the Union Square station; Stockton between the Apple Store and Macy’s has been torn up for 15+ months!)

          • Posted by anon

            Build it dense enough and transit really isn’t needed for most things. I lived in Paris for a couple years and Tokyo for the last six months, and while both places have great transit I rarely need it. 99% of my daily activities are through walking, since I have every service imaginable in my neighborhood.

          • Posted by Alai

            Right. Businesses are reluctant to locate in SF because of gridlock. Not rent. Not the difficulty of paying their employees enough to afford their own rent.

            Sure, let’s hope that we put severe limits on development. Then we’ll have a bunch of businesses locating in SF, despite the total lack of space to locate in.

            I want what you’re smoking.

          • Posted by alberto rossi

            “nobody lives in SF anymore, it’s too crowded”

  10. Posted by Brian M

    Plenty of parking available in Antioch and Walnut Creek.

  11. Posted by skyscraperluvr

    Just looking at that aerial photo you would guess it was Stockton or Modesto or any other mid size town in America. SF is so lame.

    • Posted by cfb

      That’s an aerial of a warehouse district (that’s in transition). Most cities have areas like that, smart guy.

      • Posted by sf

        that area is within a few blocks of the CBD. And I thought it was common accepted knowledge that SF urban planning is lame.

    • Posted by Jake

      Give it a rest folks. Within a few blocks of here you have the HQs of Uber, Pinterest, Dropbox, and many other companies, as well as where Twitter, Instagram, and Wired were founded and flourished. I think little Brannan Street and this hood have pulled their share.

      Speaking of pulled, there is a fair amount of fiber optic under Brannan. A gift of the $ billions of VC money that engorged SF in the 1990s. It makes it much more attractive to build new office buildings here than anywhere else in SF outside of SoMa/FiDi, and almost all of the east bay. A lesson in don’t judge a neighborhood from the flyover.

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