725 Harrison Rendering

San Francisco’s Planning Department has just finished its preliminary review of the proposed plans for a modern 240-foot tower to rise at corner of Harrison and Fourth, with a 130-foot-tall mid-block structure and a 65-foot ‘Base Building’ across the 725 Harrison Street site which encompasses three-quarters of the Central SoMa block.

725 Harrison Street Elevation

While generally praising the “playful and inventive architecture” of HOK’s design, Planning also provided Boston Properties with a few important notes, suggestions and requests:

1. “The Planning Department requests that the project more directly address the open space requirements proposed in the Central SoMa Area Plan. This would include providing [Privately-Owned Public Open Spaces] POPOS that use up to 15% of the development site with the remainder being provided either offsite, detached from the public realm above grade, or indoors… As this site has a special roofline and ramp character, the Department also suggests exploring how the roof could be used as an extension of ground floor POPOS as a continuous open space experience which, if done as a truly public interface with the street level, would satisfy the ground level POPOS requirement. This could be an extraordinary and unique landscape and architecture experience.”

2. “The Department recommends providing a mid-block alley through the site from Harrison to Perry Street generally aligned with Lapu Lapu Street. While there currently is little activity on Perry Street, this would provide future access to potential recreation space under the highway and generally provide for more porous pedestrian circulation.”

3. “The Planning Department has two recommendations for the street frontage: the first is to eliminate office programming within the first 25 feet of depth from facades as it does not qualify as active use. The second is to find more ways to break the long frontage. The goal of the latter is to relate to the more common horizontal lot width dimensions to avoid a “mega-block” expression. This might be achieved by changing the pattern, texture, or rhythm of the vertical elements along the Harrison street façade or by providing vertical massing breaks.”

Also noted, while the site which is currently only zoned for building up to 85-feet in height is likely to be up-zoned for development up to 240-feet at the corner as part of the City’s pending Central SoMa Plan, said plan will also limit the maximum bulk of new towers to support the development of the area as “a mid-rise district punctuated with occasional ‘spire-like’ towers,” and the bulk of the proposed tower will likely need to be slimmed-down to a maximum of 15,000 square feet per floor.

59 thoughts on “Praise for a Playful Tower Proposal but Notes as Well”
  1. YES please.

    I hope that it does last

    YES people will say that it’s ugly, but yeah, so what? I’ll take a few grand ugly bulidings over what San Francisco has in excess, boxy, bland, forgettable buildings.

  2. High comedy that the existing building with the massive ad signs on top is staying. Real middle finger to BP right in the center of the project, gotta love SF…

  3. I’m curious about what motivates someone to actually build one of these “playful and inventive designs,” as I would think the construction costs would be higher than a “boxy, bland building”: just the extra cost of having dissimilar structural members on every floor, plus wouldn’t seismic costs be higher with an irregular structure (?).

    Does the novelty provide advertising value – look Maude: there’s that mescaline trip tower! – or do they command higher rents?

    1. My guess – drab building along a drab highway says this is a second tier space for second tier tenants. Cool building attracts first tier tenants and first tier rent.

    2. If I had to choose between the Whole Foods building and this one, it’s obvious where I’d go, and it isn’t Whole Foods.

  4. 2. “The Department recommends providing a mid-block alley through the site from Harrison to Perry Street generally aligned with Lapu Lapu Street”

    This would just create another alleyway for the homeless

    1. Why does planning ENCOURAGE alleys in SoMa? I hate SoMa alleys- I avoid them at all possible cost. They’re never my preferred method of traversing the hood. I stick to the busy streets where people can see me.

    2. Harrison between 3rd and 4th really isn’t that bad. I walk there every day. You’d surprise me if you could find more than 10-15 homeless people living outside there.

  5. Good news is this will never happen. The Central SOMA plan needs to go through the Board and the Peskin 5 will hopefully not allow any height increases in the area from the existing 85 feet.

    Trying to finagle the open space requirement is this? Allow above ground open space to qualify? The whole point is there is not near enough at ground level open space in SOMA.

    The bulk commendation makes sense. This is an ugly monstrosity IMO.

    But if it needs any kind of variance it is not going to happen. Hopefully the reasonable growth advocated on the Board will be added to next Supervisorial election and developers will stop even proposing this kind of project..

    1. Your sentiment lacks any urgency to the real need of housing in this city. How can you possibly see yourself as someone who cares about nice architecture when you fight change to such a degree non of the buildings that make this city beautiful could have been built under your watch?

      1. This is an office project and not a housing project.

        As is, if built out to its 85 foot current limit the SOMA would yield thousands of units more. Jake posted the number last year. It was big.

        The question is, how much more population growth can SF sustain? Its incredibly dense now. With PM, TI, HP and the SOMA to HP developments there will be enough new units to accommodate the growth to the projected 1 million in 2040 or so (yikes). No more up-zoning is needed.

        1. SF is approximately one -eighth as dense as Manhattan. It can easily handle a projected target of 1,000,000 and remain one of the great cities.

    2. Peskin is just one person on the board of supes. If just one of the ‘progressive’ board members approves the central soma plan, it’ll have enough leverage to pass.

    3. Dave said “the Board and the Peskin 5 will hopefully not allow any height increases in the area from the existing 85 feet.” why would you wish for them to not allow it.? Its a perfect place for density

    4. does anyone really want more open space in SOMA until we can address the homeless issue. Its like a zombie wasteland already

  6. We are spending a billion dollars for a new rail line along Fourth Street. There is no reason to do that if the neighborhood were to remain low-rise. And yes, 85 feet is low rise.

    1. Closer to $2B once all is said and done. One can sensibly argue that this stretch of 4th in SOMA should be zoned higher because of it straddles a “mass” transit line, but the opponents will cry that the character of the area will be comprised and if height increases happen here then why not along the entire length of the CS, including Union Square and Chinatown.

      1. the character of the neighborhood is that it is an industrial wasteland with a huge homeless problem. how can anyone want it to stay that way?

          1. They’ve conflated the natural awesomeness of youth with the awesomeness of the 1970’s, which is when they were young, and something like this would never have happened in the 70’s, when San Francisco was perfect. Hopefully, they feel, Captain 70’s himself, Aaron Peskin, can stop all this change and bring us back to that magical golden era.

  7. Requirements to “break up the mass” result in tacky, hodge-podge facades. Stop meddling in simple modern design.

      1. yep! there’s a reason why people write books about that building and not those condo towers with the aforementioned mish-mash facades.

        1. The De Young is an object building in a park setting. Totally irrelevant to this case.

          Nothing wrong with some rational diversity of design. You fear mish mash, I fear King Street

    1. Architects are trained to work within the parameters of a project. Breaking up the mass shouldn’t be a dealbreaker to a good architect.

    2. Yes!! I love that this façade is one solid concept. I abhor all of these buildings where every side feels you’re looking at a different structure. Or even multiple facades on a single face (looking at you, Rockwell)! It doesn’t have to be a monotonous creation, but a building should keep the same language throughout and not try to diminish itself. There are ways to vary that language and this does it perfectly.

  8. “a mid-block alley through the site from Harrison to Perry Street generally aligned with Lapu Lapu Street”

    so there will be a light or crosswalk across harrison there also? why else line up with lapu lapu, unless the city wants to encouraging jaywalking…

  9. Crossing Harrison at Lapu Lapu is not jaywalking. The imaginary extensions of the Lapu Lapu sidewalks across Harrison are legal unmarked crosswalks. Legally speaking, vehicles on Harrison are required to yield to pedestrians crossing at Lapu Lapu today. See: Know the Law.

    1. “except the prolongation of such lines from an alley across a street.”

      Is LL wide enough to be considered a street and not an alley ??

      1. This. In 20+ year here, I always assumed these were “alleys” not “streets”, until all the streetsblog-friendly SFMTA folks started on this kick of accentuating them.

        To be clear, I’ve nothing against mid-block crosswalks (done right), and those would certainly add to the walkability of SoMa. But it’s ridiculous to try to increase density in SoMa, yet require step-downs along all these “streets” to preserve their “character”, as though they’re suburban avenues and not narrow, already-hemmed-in alleys.

        1. I wish there were more of these alleys/side streets in SOMA to break up the long blocks thereby creating some off the main drag retail/commercial traffic.

      2. Also, wouldn’t the crosswalk also be a speed bump design on Harrison? Would the speed bump design carry through to Perry?

      3. Lapu Lapu is wide enough to be a street, but Perry Street on the backside of this development might only be an alley. From CA Vehicle Code Section 110:
        “Alley” is any highway having a roadway not exceeding 25 feet in width which is primarily used for access to the rear or side entrances of abutting property; provided, that the City and County of San Francisco may designate by ordinance or resolution as an “alley” any highway having a roadway not exceeding 25 feet in width.
        Having driven and walked that block of Harrison many times, I welcome the office building, the recommended walk-through to Perry, and most of all the traffic light and marked crosswalk at Lapu Lapu. I strongly doubt any speedbump will be built across Harrison. It is designated to continue to carry heavy traffic with much less on a dose of traffic calming than most of the roads around there according to the plan SS linked to above. I expect the mid-block crosswalk will be more like the one at Hawthorne and the one across 4th at Clara.

  10. needs to be 40 floors and add 10 floors of parking underneath.

    with water on 3 sides, I can’t believe SF doesn’t have more developer groups reach for the sky with their projects.

  11. Am I the only one who thinks this building is an over bloated t*rd? It’s right up there with the hideous Federal Building…

    ‘Cool building to attract first tier tenants…’ That is so funny!

  12. I love this proposal (at the projected height) but also think Planning’s recommendations have merit though have concerns about the bulk reduction criticism. Any decrease of the tower should be lengthwise only and certainly not in the width.

  13. The midblock alley should be a requirement, not a recommendation. The huge blocks of soma kill the street life (along with the traffic & bums)

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