75 Howard Rendered at 220 Feet

While the hotly contested plans for a 220-foot building with 133 condos to rise at 75 Howard Street were approved by San Francisco’s Planning Commission last year, a pair of appeals and one swing vote could overturn their decision this week.

With one member absent last month, San Francisco’s Board of Appeals deadlocked 2-2 on whether to uphold the appeal of an exception to allow for the building’s full height and mass. And if last month’s votes remain the same, Commissioner Bobbie Wilson’s vote on Wednesday could decide 75 Howard’s near-term fate.

In addition, a second appeal, with respect to a pair of approved variances for the project, will be heard this week as well, but we’d be surprised if that challenge succeeds.

75 Howard Rendered at Dusk

45 thoughts on “Waterfront Development Close to Being Overturned”
  1. After Good Vibrations (San Francisco Lament)

    Drove Embarcadero in the rain, nine thirty was a Superbowl night
    Couldn’t get close enough so I had to, I had to stop
    Call it repulsive, call it retarded, call it insane
    When my city need to grow and soon it’ll pop

    It’s a matter of pay to play, a matter of shrimp boy, it’s a matter of fact
    You can call them Campos dogs
    Ring a bell my voters salivate how’d you like that?
    Bring me the check I’ll tell you, how much is it gonna cost
    Cause right now I am


    Waiting for bread, just like Bobbie Wilson did
    Well I’m waiting for bread, just like Bobbie Wilson did

    1. Look on the bright side…maybe in 50 years when this city is less of a joke (fingers crossed) an actual skyscraper will be built on that site, rather than a stubby under-built nub.

    1. OMG! Yes, save those views. They are under attack! All those poor office workers in the adjacent buildings. What will they do? I guess they’ll just have to go outside and look at the Bay. For shame!

      1. Views are indeed a huge factor in choosing office space. A big factor in choosing where I work is the location and the views. If I’m expected to spend half my waking hours at work, I want it to be as nice of an environment as possible. People make many sacrifices (not just financial) for the sake of environment. These are reasonable concerns.

        1. Those of us not a 1%-er are so happy for you that you have so many options of where to work that “what is my office view” gets to be a deciding factor. The rest of us 99% couldn’t give a squat and are about to bust out the world’s biggest orchestra of the world’s smallest violins.

          1. You seem more interested in taking away views from people who have them, which strikes me as pathetic at best. You do realize views are a huge part of real estate valuation, don’t you?

          2. You do realize that views are not protected by law and it is only by way of self-interested political clout that too often it wins out in situations inimical to the City’s wider interests.?

  2. I just don’t get why the Board of Appeals (a sort of gadfly amateur entity with appellate jurisdiction over just about everything ) is even a part of our City government. I would love to see the Charter amended to eliminate it.

  3. I hope they turn down this development. It’s too tall and a blot on the landscape. The developer and their acolytes on this site state that this type of development will help address the lack of affordable housing. It will not, and they know it. Just puts more expensive properties on the market. Affordable housing needs to be built on cheaper sites outside the center.

    1. I think its too short for this location. Stop wasting the wTerfront with short squat buildings. No fat on the wTerfront

    2. I am not an advocate of building tall just to build tall, but how is a building that is surrounded by skyscrapers too tall for the site? And, how is the existing 8-story parking garage less of a “blot” on the landscape? If we were talking about a virgin forest or a pretty Victorian neighborhood, I would be able to understand your point of view. But, given what is at the site, I just cannot understand the opposition—period.

      This is so much wasted energy and time on something that will not negatively impact the city. How much time and taxpayers dollars has been wasted drawing this whole approval process out? If your concern is about affordable housing, then channel your energy there, not on fighting a mid-rise building right in the middle of freaking downtown.

      1. Playing devil’s advocate, a truly code-compliant project wouldn’t have been subject to the pending appeals and “waste” which are based on the granting of exceptions and variances to San Francisco’s Planning Code.

        1. For practical purposes, it is code-compliant. The area is zoned for 200 feet, plus a bonus 20 feet if a development meets certain requirements. Yes, I understand the developer was granted a variance from the requirement to taper the building at the top as is normally required for the extra 20 feet, but I think that is pretty much nitpicking. That is not quite the same as developer asking for a substantial variance or a spot rezoning as is being done with the Jeanne Gang tower proposal.

          And, you do not need to use quotes around waste, as I am not using the word figuratively. I did not argue the individuals challenging the project lack a legal right to challenge it, but in my opinion (one assume everyone here is posting his or her opinion), the time and money the opposition is making the city and developer spend on these challenges is a waste of resources.

          I guess the developer could just dump any effort at good design, put up an exactly 200-foot cube, and give the opposition a big “f” you. Maybe, that is what will happen, and it will certainly piss off those challenging the project. They really don’t care about the extra 20-feet. They do not want a development built on the site, period. And, they would be just as displeased with a 200-foot building as they are with the 220-foot proposal.

    3. This is short-sighted, in so many ways. What do you expect those well-heeled out-of-towners who would have bought these luxury apartments will do instead? Give up on their dream of living in SF?

      No. They’ll buy something else and upgrade it to their standards. The money is coming regardless, and it will displace people unless we build new buildings to soak it up.

      I also don’t understand the conflict between building luxury on the waterfront and building “on cheaper sites outside the center”. Why not do both?

  4. It’s a beautiful building and would improve the appearance of the bayside skyline. It is no taller than the other buildings along the Embarcadero but is more attractive. It should be built but probably won’t be. Eventually we’ll get something squat there that belongs in a suburban office park.

  5. Insanity squared. Build it at least to this height and hopefully taller. As to affordability, the units will generate handsome property tax revenue to fund necessary city services everyone thinks are free.

    1. Amen DM. City services are currently paid for by small businesses, and some large businesses, which are barely able to stay afloat. This occurs of course while Twitter and other well connected tech companies flush with investor money and the tiny number of “biotech” businesses in Mission Bay pay little or no taxes. San Francisco is the way it is, violent on the edges of society, lacking in middle class housing, affordable only for the truly wealthy, and dealing with 19th century infrastructure for a simple reason: Those in the political class, including “planners”, the DCCC power structure, “I’ve got mine, but you can’t have yours NIMBY’s, etc., have no vested interest in pushing positive changes, and yes market rate developments that pay taxes are one aspect of this!

  6. The height has some significant consequences for sunlight access in the park during peak hours of use. I believe this to be more critical than blocking views from other towers.

    1. The building is to the WEST and considerably north of the area getting the bulk of use in Rincon Park. That actual shadowing will be so minimal as to be inconsequential is an astronomic fact.

      1. No… you fought this argument a while back, and lost, the studies done paint a very different picture than what you describe. Yes the building is Northwest, so in the sun in the summer afternoons when people get off work and spend time in the park…

  7. You mean the grassy spots with art work? It is not a park like Dolores Park or the Presidio. It is basically a walking area, and I am not sure how some slight shadowing in one small section would make it any less appealing to take a walk through. I walk through the area fairly often, and I do not think I would even notice any shadowing from the new building, but I would notice the visual improvement of seeing the ugly parking garage gone.

    This is a significant factor in why everything in the City is so expensive. Every project is fought tooth-in-nail, whether it conforms to zoning or not (and yes, I know the building got a 20 foot adjustment, per law, for meeting certain requirements). Where do you think all those lawyer, architect, and consultant fees go? Yes, they get baked right into the price of every new project and drive up the cost of housing and office space in the city. The attorneys and consultants are the ones making out like bandits, whether a project ever gets approved or not, they are laughing all the way to the bank at our expense. I am not arguing for an elimination of all zoning or design review, but when you take oversight to the extreme as San Francisco has done, you make everything exponentially more expensive and you contribute to a system of “pay-to-play.”

  8. Each additional floor increases the price of all nearby property. The taller you build, the more expensive everything gets. Applying simplistic supply and demand (i.e. each additional floor adds supply, so price should go down) completely misses how property is actually priced.

    The build!build!build! crew here surely know this to be an empirical fact, based on real estate values worldwide, but they promulgate the myth that building taller skyscrapers keeps costs down. It’s demonstrably false, but most people either can’t get beyond the inapplicable S&D model they learned in Econ 1, or they know which side their bread is buttered on and realize that promulgating the myth is to their advantage.

    1. So building less housing when demand is high drives prices… down? Is that why prices in SF have fallen to historic lows?

      1. Nice reductio ad absurdum, but you well know property is sticky on the way down. On the way up, it’s all “free markets, baby”, but on the way down, it’s government welfare for billionaires and millionaires to try to delay the kind of price discovery that leads to deflation.

  9. You turn a miserable parking garage into quality housing, and yes it improves the neighborhood. And yes, as the neighborhood improves, values rise. But Supply and Demand for housing isn’t a block by block principle – it is city-wide, region-wide. In the simplest terms, a thousand households move into a city, a thousand housing units are constructed, the system is in balance. Alternatively, a thousand households move into a city, 500 housing units are constructed, there are two households competing for each unit. The price gets bid up. Those who are more economically successful win; those who are less economically successful lose.

  10. I don’t understand why there is a second vote on the issue. Generally, if the vote of a reviewing body results in a tie, the appeal fails. If there is a requirement that cases must be decided by the full body of the Board, why’d they bother voting in face of Commissioner Wilson’s absence in the first place?

    1. The Board isn’t required, but has the option, to continue the matter in the case of a tie. The vote to continue, without which the appeal would have effectively failed, was 4-0 despite a plea from the development team.

      1. Thanks for that explanation. You have to wonder what were the dynamics leading to granting appellants a continuous or whether it’s a tacit agreement to do so in all cases where a vote results in a tie meaning denial of the appeal.

  11. My problem with all of the vertical building that is occurring is that we don’t have the infrastructure to deal with all the people. Our roads are so crowded it is starting to impact anyone trying to go anywhere. Parking is another issue that is not being addressed as we keep adding vertical population. If it continues we will end up like London where you can only go to the city center on alternate days and with special passes.

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