475 Minna Street Site

Plans for a nine-story building to rise at 475 Minna Street, covering roughly a third of the existing mid-block parking lot on the south side of Minna between 5th and 6th Streets, are poised to be approved by San Francisco’s Planning Commission tomorrow.

As proposed and designed by Stanton Architecture, the building will contain 15 units, three of which will be below market rate (BMR). And what may appear to be a skinny garage door in the rendering, is actually, and rather inexplicably, a window into the building’s storage room for 15 bikes.

475 Minna Rendering

The proposal includes the planting of two new street trees as well. And the Western SoMa site upon which the 88-foot building would rise is zoned for development up to 120-feet.

47 thoughts on “SoMa Rising and Window Shopping for Your Bike”
  1. Another case of “b****” to the wall build-out.

    Up-zone Central SOMA? Yes, but require no full footprints such as this. No one is listening at planning – hopefully Peskin will push back on this kind of stuff. To the extent he can. Obviously only projects requiring exceptions that need to go to the Board. I am thinking 3M here.

    The next lot is a parking space. Require the developer to purchase it in order to build. As in the building has a restricted footprint to the property site.

    [Editor’s Note: It’s “5M” (as in 5th and Mission) not “3M” (as in the Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company and tape).]

    1. This is SOMA. All the other buildings are covering their entire lots. “Full footprints” set a historical precedent for density. Just look at the neighbors. And no, Peskin would be a nightmare if he opposes stuff like this zoning compliant, underbuilt building. That’s not how you build the center of a city.

      On a side note: great project, great location. Should be nice and (relatively) affordable with small units and no parking so close to the subway. We need more.

      1. I’m recently back from Portland and its downtown newer buildings are not built out to the lot. Its a much more, physically, beautiful city. Physical as in what has been built in the last 20 years and is being built now.

        You are right, this may be code compliant. But Supervisors are in a position to more easily put initiatives on the ballot. I’ve already e-mailed Supervisor elect Peskin on this. he is not my Supervisor.

        The issue of no open space requirement in the CBD for SOMA (East or West of 3rd) and the need to legally require it through an initiative. Like Planning and the Mayor sold out to developers on this IMO.

        San Franciscans need to trump the current PTB on this. IMO. An initiative prohibiting full lot build-out in the CBD and SOMA.

        1. Keep up the good fight Dave. You care about the character of SF, not the potential earnings for devlelopers and their syncohpantic real estate hangers on.

          Thanks Dave. I hope if I ever come back to SF, there will be someithing of interest left.

          1. Thank you. Where have you “gone on” to?

            I will fight the good fight, but once I leave my job, a while yet, I am moving east of Vancouver. Have a place there. No state income taxes, a banana belt and “true” neighborhoods. SF has lost that as has much of California.

            Still, he natural physical beauty here is stunning. Why SFers don’t demand such from the man-made physical structure escapes me. Build it! We don’t need open space. Cement over your front can you can park your third car there.

            It is sad what SF is becoming, IMO, and I know I am tilting at windmills. But you moved on, my cycling buddy just did – to Seattle, and more power to you.

          2. Did everyone just neglect the part where I pointed out that all the historical buildings around this lot are built to the full footprint?? Do I think that should be the case everywhere? No. But there is a clear historical precedent here and I don’t think people were whining about greedy developers building that way back in 1907. That’s just how you built a building. It’s dense and sensible.

            All this conspiratorial rigamorale or pining for SF to be a smaller city are wasted breath and not practical for what should be the center of our downtown. I understand where you’re coming from, but this alley in Soma is not the place to have a Portland cottage approach.

        2. The first diagram shows that the proposed project is set back from the rear property line. The second diagram shows that the yellow part, where the windows are, is set back from the side property line, obviously to allow light and ventilation into those windows and to the light well at the adjacent building. We don’t see what’s happening at the other side property line. So the only lot line where there is no setback is the front, which is in character with buildings in SOMA. There is no front setback, because what would you use the space for? This is appropriate for an urban location like SOMA.

        3. Downtown Portland is cute. Vertical livable and an easy visit. The rest of the place is prosaic and boring. anyplace else is indiscernible. As is (geographically) Vancouver. Neither compare to the beautiful urban tapestry of SF.

        4. Huh? What imaginary Portland did you visit? There is very little new construction in downtown proper aside from a couple of towers, and almost all of the midrise infill in the Pearl is lot-line.

      2. Actually NOT all SOMA structure have 100% lot coverage, particularly those in the SOMA alleys. I would welcome showing you existing residential in the alleys with back yards, even side yards.

        1. Having a back yard is one thing, but not using the full width of the lot in this instance is silly. Find me a building on the entire length of Minna that does not use the entire width of its lot.

    2. Um, what?! Require someone to buy an adjacent parcel? (From someone who may not even be willing to sell?) And this is a densely built out area, why should there *not* be full lot build-out?!

      1. Because lf, in this case, if they could not buy the adjacent parcel, then set back this building 20 feet and build to the full height.

        Developers are getting away with travesty in SF. IMO. If they want to really build, which they do, they will find a way to purchase adjacent parcels. To conform to footprint restriction which hopefully will be enacted. Even if driven by an admittedly draconian politician such as Peskin.

        Look at that great brick façade on the side o the adjacent building. Totally lost. If even there was a 10 foot separation is could have been saved – sort of. But sort of is bester than totally lost for a sterile blank wall the side of this building will be.

        1. That’s not a facade. The facade is the portion that facades the street. That brick wall was built with the intention of another building going in beside it because all of the historical buildings in this area have full lot coverage. Those windows are recessed there to create a light well and that’s it. The brick wall facing the project was never intended to be seen.

        2. It’s a lot line wall, where windows are required to be closed if another building is built adjacent. This happens in quite literally every major US city. A two-foot strip between buildings to appease some weird ideological stance isn’t useful “green space”, it’s the same thing that Jane Jacobs rallied against 50 years ago.

    1. Good catch and since updated above. The “between 6th and 7th Street” reference came directly from the Planning Commission documents for the development which could actually delay the hearing if anyone should protest.

  2. I’m curious about the nomenclature (CAN), specifically the overlap between BMR and AH: with – what – .003 percent of people actually able to afford “market rate”, it seems like something could, technically speaking, be “below”, maybe even well below market (WBMR), and still not be affordable in any meaningful sense.

    1. Market rate units sell regardless of whether only .003 percent can afford them. More people with deep pockets than you’d expect.

      1. OK, so it’s .3%; or maybe it’s even 3%…great; my point was there seems to be a gap between “affordable” and (simply) “below market” …or at least there might be a gap: the latter term seems so overly broad I don’t see how it means much. Maybe they should term it Basically-unaffordable-to-practically-everyone-but-we-don’t-want-to-admit it (BUPEBWDWTA).

        1. Bingo. The canard these towers are making a difference is just that. Unless you are one of the rare, rare breed to win the BMR lottery and, even at that, you all need to be making beaucoup bucks. BMR is what nusrses and cops can squeeze into maybe. And they make “good” salaries.

        2. Here’s a handy chart with respect to the allowable rents and condo prices for four of the City’s “affordable” unit tiers, for households making up to 140 percent of the Area Median Income (AMI). The current AMI is $71,350 for an individual in San Francisco, $91,700 for a household of three.

          1. So which – if any – of the 4 categories will these 3 “BMR” fit into ?? If market rate is – say – 25xAMI and these units are 24xAMI then they’re clearly BMR…and just as clearly NOT affordable, in any meaningful sense. I doubt the numbers are that stark, but I don’t think adding another layer of acronyms adds anything. (I’m not criticizing SS for repeating the term, I just don’t think it should be used in the first place).

          2. The City’s inclusionary housing program requires baseline, versus bonus, Below Market Rate units to be priced for households earning between 55 and 90 percent of the AMI.

            And there’s a reason we tend to use “BMR,” which is objectively accurate, versus “affordable,” which is subjective, when describing said units.

    1. Going any higher would likely require switching from wood frame construction to concrete and steel, and then the added expense doesn’t pencil for just a couple extra floors.

  3. Good idea to build something. Bad idea to have a 9-storey building looming over the neighboring 3-storey one. Minna is a narrow street. One for the build-it shills.

    1. Agreed, the 3 story building will be forever cowering in fear over its literally giant neighbor. How will it ever survive.

      1. Isn’t it urban planning 101 that building height should be proportional to street width: build tall on grand streets like Market or Van Ness, build shorter on alleys.

        1. The developer of the Mission and So. Van Ness is pushing up from 320 to 400. Yes Mission is a broad street however just a half block away there is residential at the 45 foot height. There is no where else in the city that has such an abrupt height transition, it is brutal and rips the urban fabric.

          1. Exactly. The 45′ height limit in the adjacent area needs to be raised so that there isn’t this weird abrupt height transition.

    2. Agreed, those Paris streets half this wide with 8 story buildings are basically the worst thing ever. Should be illegal to ever have a taller building next to a shorter one.

  4. RE: the comments about building out to the street face or not: This is a requirement of the Planning Code, as well it should be. Its one of the physical manifestations of a CITY vs. a suburb. It is not “greedy developers” or lax planning department, its an important urban design principle.

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