100 Folsom Street Rendering

A proposed amendment to San Francisco’s Transbay Redevelopment Plan which would raise the height limit for Tishman Speyer’s proposed twisty tower to rise at Folsom and Spear – from 300 to 400 feet – is officially under review and working its way through Planning.

Dubbed ‘Bay Tower,’ the proposed 399-unit development, if built to 400-feet, is slated to be financed by China Vanke, which is Tishman’s equity partner for Lumina as well.

As we first reported last year, Tishman had been aiming to start construction for the Bay Tower development in February of 2016. And according to a plugged-in tipster, the development team is planning to start work as soon as approvals are secured.

But with opposition to a height increase having since organized, the timing for the development of Transbay Block 1 (a.k.a 100/160 Folsom Street) is now up in the air, or rather grounded.

An up-zoning for the site will require the approval of San Francisco’s Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors, the dynamics of which are about to change.

92 thoughts on “Height Increase for Twisty 400-Foot ‘Bay Tower’ Under Review”
    1. I guess we’ll see if he’s honest about being “progressive”. If he demands an increase in affordable housing to make it accommodate the needs of our citizens, sure. However, if he thinks building a little higher is too much to ask then we’ll know he’s just sticking up for the ultra rich being oppressed by having their precious views getting blocked.

    2. I hope Peskin votes for this, but I’m skeptical given that during the campaign he flooded me with mailers about how opposed he was to the 8 Washington “wall on the waterfront” development and to “luxury condos” in general. This is why I voted for Christensen. I wouldn’t call her pro-development either, but seemed a bit more pragmatic about it than Peskin. Sigh.

      1. Only because 8W blocked his view of the waterfront. If he were 1/2″ taller it wouldn’t have mattered 2c to him. JMPO

  1. Hopefully Planning does the right thing and rejects the height increase. Otherwise any developer on Spear street in the future will be able to request for a 400 ft building and use this building as a justification. Why even have a zoning plan at all if it’s not followed? It just gives people a false sense of what’s allowed.

    1. More height means more affordable housing. Serious question, why would you oppose a decision that will allow this city to have more room so as not to displace people?

      1. That’s the canard. More height? How much will the additional floors sell for? The typical nurse or plumber in SF sure won’t be able to afford them.

        This is developers trying to make even more buck off of SF. Has nothing to do with affordability.

        1. Except for the fact that more money would go towards affordable housing with the added height either on-site, off-site or to the Mayor’s Office of Housing as an in-lieu fee. So yes, it has everything to do with affordability. Keep ’em coming.

        2. The more units in the project the more BMR units or in-lieu fees will be require by the City. He isnt suggesting the majority of the units will be “affordable” but instead saying the BMR requirements will increase which could be considered a positive for affordable housing advocates.

        3. This is the kind of hateful commie mentality that makes the housing problem worse for the “poor”. It’s a simple math: more height means more BMRs available for your nurses and plumbers. That’s what’s important, not the developers making even more bucks.

          1. and also it means those wealthy newcomers (who are already here by and large, buying or renting in other neighborhoods, driving up the prices) will have somewhere else to go. Honestly, I think the architecture and quality of the building here justify the height increase.

    2. This is the last meaningful lot on spear…i work on spear. this is it. itll be built out after this one.

        1. I agree. Thats my point too. Sometimes I wonder if commenters here have an actual sense of the projects they are talking about or are just repeating “the arguments.” Like have then actually been in the nieghborhood or street the said development is on?

          I read that comment and was thinking, well unless they start demolishing buildings on spear, then this is kinda it. And I don’t see any of the buildings on spear from Market to the bridge getting torn down…with the possibly exception of the SW corner of Harrison and Spear because its only a couple stories tall and sits under the bridge – I could see that one going higher, like a mini Rincon hill tower or something.

          There are simply no other building sites on the street so the argument is void for this street. The other thing, Infinity towers, technically a folsom address (I think), sits on spear too – and its 400ft.

          I dont get the opposition here – the building is so cool visually. And next to the new transbay park they will build. I think it should be 600 personally.

    3. Watch as Peskin supports two 400 foot tall towers at 4th and Brannan….because he can’t see them from his castles on TH. JMPO

  2. It would be a shame if they get this height increase. This neighborhood is developing so vigorously. There needs to be careful consideration of the long term effects of the height increase. We cannot let developers and big money from out of state (and country) force our hand.

  3. if would be a shame if they do not get this height increase. Its a beautiful building at this height and adds much needed housing. Its nowhere near the waterfront and is in the middle of many other tall buildings.

  4. I am still waiting for an actual valid reason as to why this development and others in the Transbay District’s pipeline should not be granted raised height limits.

    So far I am hearing, in no particular order: you can’t change height & zoning to because that’s not fair, shadows will blanket the entire area in perpetual night, the tried and true “out of state” developer boogeyman along with a healthy dose of xenophobia about overseas funding partners.

    Remember contestants, you can’t mention “views” and property values directly but we know what this is about. Keep the entries coming!

    1. I like the building and I’m AOK with 400′, but I’ll play the game and toss out two reasons (that I’d like to understand more in general) – infrastructure support (water, sewer, electricity, streets, etc.) and congestion mitigation (is it needed and if so, what are Muni plans; any thoughts on traffic flow changes that might be needed).

    2. One blatant reason – not enough BMR units. The current guidelines for BMR are not strong enough and the only way to even begin to put a dent in the housing situation is to require all major residential projects to have a large BMR component. As the Giants did. It does not have to be 40% but it needs to be more than mandated today by planning.

      Exemptions to height limits should only be granted if the additional units added because of the increased height have a large BMR component.

      Requiring the added 100′ to be 40% BMR would match the Giants, but still the overall BMR would be less than Mission Rocks as the existing 300′ and its units are under existing BMR guidelines which are significantly less than 40%.

      1. Then get the ball rolling to have the BMR requirements changed – what you don’t do is try and block the existing project because you’re unhappy with the current guidelines. And you do understand that more height means more BMR units, right? Just checking.

        1. “…what you don’t do is try and block the existing project because you’re unhappy with the current guidelines.”

          I would agree if the “existing project” was code compliant, but it’s not. The closest thing we have to guidelines for a non code-compliant project is Mission Rock (40% affordable?).

          I’m not against building higher, but the City should demand a lot more than meeting existing guidelines for a code-compliant project in exchange for the extra height.

          1. IMO the aesthetics of the additional height (architectural benefit to SF) is justification enough for the variance.

          2. I really don’t understand the logic of more height (necessarily) enhances aesthetics. It really depends on, I feel how the final top is expressed, rather than just 20 more floors of the sameness below.

        2. The current guidelines for height on the parcel are 300′. If the project was built to the guidelines there would not be an issue. But the developer is unhappy with current guidelines it seems.

          The developer is asking for an exception here to the height guidelines. I have no problem with an exception process being available in planning but, if some exceptions are to be made, there needs to be a quid pro quo. The City gets something in return.

          The developer gets a height exception here and the City gets a BMR exception. Instead of the standard 20% BMR the City negotiates for more. 25%. Whatever.

          This exception process has been all to the developer’s benefit. Like the Hines project which got an exception even though Hines refused to accommodate the counter-flow lane for buses. That should have been the trade-off and that the PC did not demand such from Hines is inexcusable IMO.

          1. This project is 35% BMR as required for building where the old freeway was removed, and as JL posted on the previous SS report on this project: “This tower is being partially built on former state-owned right-of-way (Embarcadero Freeway). Part of the deal that transferred the parcels to the city was that 35% of new housing on the land be “affordable”.”

            FWIW, another 100 feet should yield about another 45 BMR and 85 market rate units.

          2. Quid pro quo Jake. If 35% is the current allotment at 300 feet then go to 40% at 400 feet. The Giants did it and, if the developer really wants this, they will do it too. The PC has to push back which mostly they don’t seem willing to do.

          3. If 40% of the additional units built were BMR, that might add another 7 to what they would build under the 35% requirement. If the entire project was built at 40% BMR to gain the 100 feet, then the majority of the additional units would be BMR. I’m sure the Planning Commission is eager to know whether you want them to be tough and demand 40% BMR share of all units, or go easy and only demand a 40% BMR for the additional units.

          4. From where do you get the impression the Hines project (replacing the Factory at Harrison/Essex) has gotten final approvals without allowance for a counter-flow lane the need for which Caltrans belatedly recognized?

          5. the way the giants did it was by reducing the total number of housing units and increasimg the percentage of the space in Mission Rock that will be offices instead of housing. The housing didnt fund the BMR units at that high of a percentage. So what we got was a deal that gave us 11,0000 jobs and 1,500 units of housing. Yes 40% was BMR, but who cares? It’s still pouring fuel on the fire for the 99% of us who wont win the BMR lottery.

          6. No, the Giants did not reduce the number of housing units to increase the BMR percentage. Their 2013 proposal to the port (namelink) was for 1500 housing units, just like their current plan. It also claimed to add up to 11k permanent jobs, just like the current plan.

            In the Jane Kim deal that they just got voter approved, the Giants agreed to increase the BMR from 15% to 33% and to reduce the tallest buildings. They have increased bulk to keep about the same total sqft. FWIW, the Giants 2009 proposal (also at namelink) had only 875 housing units.

            The Giants have always proposed to build predominantly office space at Mission Rock with some entertainment/retail and residential.

            You are wrong that “the housing didn’t fund the BMR units at that high of a percentage.” It did or will, according to the SF Giants. SFBARF, still pouring falsehoods as facts, but who cares?

      2. Sorry, the BMR program, while well-intentioned, is a mess. Rife with fraud and it adds a lot to already high costs of new developments.

        I live at the Infinity. We all paid for an offsite BMR building (in addition to our own units). The city should be able to effectively use all the millions of dollars in additional property taxes for affordable housing and not extort it from buyers.

        1. In lieu fees to offsite BMR are effectively a one time property tax. You don’t want to pay the fees/taxes, then don’t buy a new condo in SF. That ain’t extortion, just another city tax. And all taxes add to the cost of whatever is taxed. Probably should have charged you double.

        2. The BMR taxes are not extorted from the buyer –> they are extorted from the developer. Developers don’t set there sales price by adding up the costs — Prices are set compared to what else is available to the buyer. You would have paid the same, with or without the BMR fee.

          The new (annual) property taxes however are a great reason to support the height increase. The 100 feet is probably worth around 3 million a year in property taxes to the city, with only marginally more costs. (Very few kids live in these towers to educate.)

          1. Well, yes, extorted from the developer who then passes it on to the buyer.

            I don’t buy the argument that the developer costs have NO relationship to the price. Of course it does. The selling price is determined by the market – which is distorted but the BMR fees.

            If it WAS a tax it wouldn’t be factored in the assessed price, which it is.

        3. BMR requirements are not extortion. Simple as that.

          rw, if you prefer perennial taxes to one-time taxes, then we could revise the BMR taxes to add an annual assessment. These additional taxes on all new condos could be used to mitigate the ongoing costs of maintaining BMR housing.

          As many compassionate SS commenters have pointed out, it could be difficult for BMR owners to keep up with the HOA fees and special assessments in these lux buildngs. A modest non-extortive tax would go a long way to solving those problems.

          Would have never thought of that without your help. Thanks so much.

          1. Both taxes please. My basic point though is that there is no reason to oppose the BMR fee if the developers still want to build these projects (which the obviously do.)

  5. Build it! People need a place to live. It’s already in an area with highrises. It’s also a beautiful building.

  6. This project ain’t happening. IMO.

    If the developer wanted to go to 400 feet then build it on a lot so entitled.

    Ye audacity of the developer. I am not a Peskin fan, but his election will kill this project. At 400 feet – as it should be killed.

    1. Wow, I thought I was a leftie, but this kind of hateful mentality running in the city makes me vote rightie. (I, an advocate of low income and homeless housing, voted against the housing bond for the first time in my life because I was disgusted by the stupid politics and waste of tax money going on in Mission). Commies rather see the capitalist dead rather than take 35%. No wonder Soviet failed.

      1. sfcommie needs to take a course on the basics of capitalism which would recommend that the city maximize the value of an upzoning rather than giving it away to the oligarchs…

      2. That’s possible only when you are rational, not when your preference is to kill the goose out of hate. Just listen to the tone.

  7. Nice gimmick. Have any of you looked at the rendering? Hopefully, there will be some value engineering so this does not end up as such a parody of innovation.

    1. Maybe if we just jam some little sticks in the side, we can use magical acupuncture to cure the “Feng Schwee”.

      Next we are going to here from someone that the Quantum Alignment is off in the design and the developers should hire Deepak Chopra

  8. when the world economy collapses and the security guards abandon their posts, these buildings will taken over by road warriors. let it rise!

  9. I’m stunned that anyone would consider building an architecturally interesting building in SF.

    It’ll never happen (shadows! height! Chinese!), but it would be spectacular if it did.

  10. I don’t understand, I thought it was always to be 400′. Is the lot only 300? Even 400′ is a waste of the talents of the architect.

    Also wtf is up with this site being taken over by NIMBYs?

  11. This parcel was /is zoned for 300′. Which begs the question why the developer chose to build 400′ here. There are other parcels which are zoned for 400′.

    The Planning Commission will likely grant the up-zoning. The Board of Supervisors? That will be dicey especially with Peskin on board.

    The smart thing for Peskin and others opposed to this to do would be to demand something in return for going higher. Use the Giants’ Mission Rock as an example. Tell the developer that an up-zoning will be considered if and only if the developer agrees to significantly exceed the mandated BMR requirement as the Giants did.

    Then it is in the developer’s court.

  12. 300 feet, 400 feet. Doesn’t really matter much in the scheme of things. Big deal.

    But the incessant twistiness may wear on us soon. It’s a pretty trendy direction lately. Thank you Frank Gehry.

    1. It’s a variation on a theme as architects explore new tools. In other words, it’s authentic contemporary architecture. This design in particular interests me more than Gehry’s expressionism, or even Gang’s other work, because it is driven by pure geometry.

      1. What “new tools” are being explored? this is a been there, done that theme of design.
        Boring and repetitious on all 4 sides.

        Not innovative.

        1. The “new tools” are basically just computers. No longer do architects need to fit their structures into the 90 degree confines that lend themselves into “table lookup” engineering. Wild amorphous structures can be designed, delegating CAD software to size and place the structural elements soundly and with ease.

          AMO/OMA’s CCTV building in Beijing (the square donut Mobius building) would have been impossible without computer assisted design. OK, maybe not impossible but you’d need a building about the same size full of engineers and slide rules and No. 2 pencils to do it the old fashioned way.

  13. man, I hope they don’t build this. It’s a repeat of her other designs. Build something more original. This is anything but that. I think if she twists the design substantially and adds something she hasn’t done before, it could be spectacular.

  14. I have no problem with increased heights as long as it means – NO MORE PARKING. Build these towers with zero parking I’m cool with it.

  15. This is a rare chance for SF to get a little of the nice, bold architecture it deserves, and as such the building should be more prominent. And yes, that should mean more BMRs. It’s being considered because some of the buildings zoned for more height ended up being shorter.

    1. Funny how some buildings did not build out to the full evenvelop. Such as Mission/Fremont. 30 stories when it could have been about 60.

      There must have been an economic reason the developer went to just half the allowed height but, as the City has zoned only 6 or 7 of all city parcels for that kind of height – 650 feet plus – why not reserve it for a developer who is going to pretty much build it out – or up.

      Not sure if I like the design or not. it is different but could grow old quickly.

      I agree wwith those who say its needs more height – I also think it needs to taper as it reaches max height. Why not parcel F which would permit a 60 story building? Except I guess it is zoned for offices.

  16. I love it when SocketSite is flooded by one-line negative comments from people we’ve never heard from before. Blatant trolling, anyone?

    p.s., build it. Beautiful building. And ludicrous to have a 300′ height limit here regardless of the proposed building.

    1. A growing audience, hot-button issue, and project which will directly impact a few hundred people might have something to do with it as well. Of course, it’s always easier to simply assert trolling, or blame “haters,” when a position isn’t the same as yours.

        1. I would agree completely with Sierrajeff: for those of us who have been here on SS commenting for a number of YEARS we see a lot of quick newbie, clever, even dumb names come and go in one day. I have my own theories that a number of these “new” names are put on by some old familiar names, just to stir the pot.

          And I think that SS knows this.

          1. You’re welcome to your theories, but they’re wrong. The driver is an increase in reach along with new channels and tags for specific projects and neighborhoods (which have resulted in more individual comments). We actively discourage multiple-personalities and simply stirring the pot.

          2. I agree with you that they probably know. I’ve noticed a small but distinctive shift in their reporting towards a more NIMBY slant. Its pretty clear that someone on their team was pro prop I, and that someone is anti Warriors arena. They were pretty much the only news site in SF that didn’t cover Campos’ “stabilization” plan, while editorializing that Prop I wouldn’t make a difference if it were enacted.

            I suppose if you want yet another place to learn about the myriad ways NIMBYs can fight a building then this will be the place – but thats not what I started reading this site for.

          3. As someone who does not consider themselves a NIMBY – you all agree of course – I for one appreciate the diversity of honest opinions at Socketsite.

            No secret I don’t feel hi-rises are proper for SF. But, I am not an ideologue on this. The Pei design for the what is now Mission Bay neighborhood blew me away. Canals and 40 story buildings – it would have been great and I would have strongly supported it.

            The Gang tower? Let it go from 30 to 40 stories if the BMR goes from 35% to 40%.

            The ideologues on either side won’t listen. A shame.

            That is my fear with Peskin – will be draconian and say no to any negotiations on projects appealed to the Board as Gang will be and, I think, the 5M project will be too. That serves his base no more than those on the other side.

            I’m just happy Socketsite lets me post honestly – because this is a pro-development site generally. That is my perspective and others are free to disagree of course.

    2. Why is it ludicrous? You always seem to be pushing height limits without any logical reasoning other than you LIKE taller buildings.

  17. It’s a beautiful building by an important architect in an area that could use some daring. I’m all for it, whether at 300 or 400 feet. Is this a real city, or “Carmel by the Bay” with every project near the water now considered a “wall”?

    1. This is quite a real city, but it doesn’t mean that San Francisco has to become the next Shanghai with mega towers everywhere.

      1. Since when is a 300′ or 400′ building a “mega tower”? And since when does allowing some more 300′ or 400′ foot towers on a small section of the waterfront (that is already lined with towers) equal SF becoming Shanghai? Nice hyperbole. You sound like art agnos or sue hestor or something.

  18. Height at this location is negligible. The problem is that the design should have more of a heightened lobby lower floors, longer taller base column and glazing at the lower floor, maybe even tapering up towards the materials. Bottom or Top could have been “designed” more, instead it looks like a big monolith plopped onto a minuscule base.

    The flashing and details, will be a lovely cost-over-run, but hey that’s modern design, the more complicated, the more money. KISS was I believe the better use of the dollars invested…

  19. With this type of design, will the construction be similar to other recent towers where its concrete poured from the center of the building, raise up a level and repeat, or the traditional steel structure? Asking since it is such a twisty design, and not a lot of long straight vertical lines like the other towers. Anybody?

    1. I’m pretty sure the twist is all in the facade, and the guts are probably about the same as any other skyscraper going up in SF right now.

    2. The building will have a pretty standard steel moment frame and braced frame system. Nothing unusual. The façade is really just attached in a panelized system to the steel frame.

  20. Any of you engineers think this design might have a wind effect on the sidewalks at ground level? I like the design just wonder if the design will cause streaming wind to travel down the side of the building slamming into the sidewalks.

    1. I’m not an expert in fluid dynamics but have a gut feel that this design won’t result in any unusual vertical air flows. Fluids tend to flow along the path of least resistance. Going from top down requires overcoming a small but persistent pressure differential.

  21. My understanding is that only the low-rise buildings will have BMR units. Increasing the height will only put money in the developers’ pockets. My question is, how do the BMR residents afford $1000 monthly HOA fees?

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