While San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors has granted Teatro ZinZanni and its financial partner, Kenwood Investments, the exclusive right to negotiate with the Port of San Francisco to develop Seawall Lots 323 and 324, two current parking lot parcels which front the Embarcadero between Broadway and Green, the Planning Department has panned ZinZanni’s proposed development plan.
As proposed, the development includes a 40-foot-tall hotel with up to 200 rooms on the southern third of the site, a 7,500-square-foot public park on the northern third of the site, and ZinZanni’s historic “Spiegeltent” enclosed within a bird-friendly glass gazebo and a back of the house outbuilding on the middle third of the site which is technically an unimproved right-of-way for Vallejo Street between Davis and the Embarcadero.
From the City’s preliminary review of ZinZanni’s plans in a letter to the development team last week:
“The Urban Design Element of the San Francisco General Plan discourages the vacation of streets for private ownership. In this case, it is especially significant since the unimproved Vallejo right-of-way represents an important view toward the waterfront, the historic bulkhead of Pier 9, and the Embarcadero.
Therefore, the Planning Department is challenged to support the vacation of the Vallejo right-of-way in the manner currently proposed because the proposed Circus Tent will block views to the Embarcadero and impede physical connections to the waterfront. The Department recommends the project explore alternatives that may include location of the theater on the parcel to the north – outside the public right of way – connected via a promenade, or even possibly a covered walkway, provided the walkway be open during the day to east/west pedestrian movements along the Vallejo Street right-of-way, and that it be designed to maximize transparency through the structure.
Alternately, the project team may wish to consider reducing the footprint of the hotel to include the theater component within the seawall parcel to the south. After exploring these alternatives, should the project team choose to present an evidenced-based argument establishing the clear infeasibility of any reasonable approach other than a vacation, it would be incumbent on the project team to work collaborative with the Department to ensure siting of all building elements within the former right of way in a fashion so as to minimize impacts to pedestrian movement and visual connectivity.
Regardless of the issue of street vacation, the current proposal locates the theater’s back-of house directly adjacent to the proposed public open space. The Planning Department recommends that public space be activated and not be fronted with “back of house” functions. One such means might include an outdoor seasonal theater with an exterior stage, or dining terrace. The proposed open space should be connected to and integrated with the public realm to the greatest extent possible.”
The impact to the view corridor down Vallejo Street as proposed (and as currently exists):
And a slightly closer perspective (but still from two blocks away):
Teatro ZinZanni had operated out of a semi-permanent tent on Pier 27 from 2000 to 2011 but was displaced for the America’s Cup and development of San Francisco’s new Cruise Ship Terminal.