The Hub from Corona Heights: Existing View

Planning delivers another montage of how San Francisco’s Market Street Hub Project could lead to the development of additional height, density and a more sculpted skyline for the emerging area around the intersections of Market and Van Ness and South Van Ness and Mission.

As the Hub could appear from Corona Heights if the current height limits for the area, which were increased to a maximum of 400 feet in conjunction with the City’s Market & Octavia Plan back in 2008, are maintained:

The Hub from Corona Heights: Massed with Current Height Limits

Or as the skyline could appear if the height limits were raised again in exchange for increasing the number of “affordable” housing units to be built on the parcels, with heights of up to 500 feet for the 10 South Van Ness Project and 520 feet for the City’s parcel at 30 Van Ness.

And once again, while not rendered in the images above, the corner parcel at 1 South Van Ness Avenue, upon which an 8-story building currently sits, is also proposed to be rezoned for the development of a tower up to 600 feet in height, which would make it the visual hub of the neighborhood.

129 thoughts on “Another Peek at San Francisco’s New Hub and Future Skyline”
    1. Amen which is why we’ve had 30 years of underbuilding. Leaning forward, City needs to rezone other major transit-rich intersections & their environs as part of this plan. why just one intersection? Can’t we reckon with other significant intersections simultaneously and have a revised zoning roadmap for the City soon?

    2. 100% agree, and max heights gotta go higher. Look at skyline…it’s like a 400ft wall. Can’t SF Planning see that! Van Ness (So. Van Ness) at Market area can easily handle up to 750 ft. That said, where on earth did 520ft max height come from–favorite combo lotto numbers perhaps?

    3. Actually Isle Vista CA is most dense place – 27,000 in one square mile. And they are famous for partying and deranged shoot outs as well

    4. Lets just bulldoze everything more than 10 years old and build up to 500 stories high everywhere. Don’t need subways or buses. We all have bikes. Even great great grandma.

  1. But it didn’t and I’m fine with that. Too much overbuilding anyway, and it won’t make housing more “affordable”, just more buildings.

    1. But it will happen. And SF being the second densest city in the country has and always been “just more buildings,” I’m always confused when I hear people in SF talk the way you do. You consciously move to a dense city and then complain all day. Maybe you should just count your blessings?

          1. “The nation’s most densely populated urbanized area is Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, Calif., with nearly 7,000 people per square mile”

            LA has a high moderate density for a very large area

          2. “Density” is a bit tricky to compare, because it depends so much on where you draw your borders, and for whatever reason NYC’s metropolitan borders are drawn much wider than LA’s, so LA ends up with an ‘officially’ higher density. If you compare “perceived density”, or the average population density of the places people live, you get #1 NY #2 SF #3 LA.

            Here is an article which goes into some depth.

          3. In terms of density, LA is not first. It’s not even third. It’s way down the list. Check out the wikipedia article on it. If we’re only talking about cities with 400,000 people or more, the density ranking goes:

            #1: NYC
            #2: San Francisco
            #3: Boston
            #4: Chicago
            #5: Philadelphia
            #6: Miami

            In terms of DENSITY, the city of LA doesn’t even crack the top 6. It has a lot of people, but spread out over a huge area. Thus the famous quote that LA is “72 suburbs in search of a city.”

          4. “In terms of DENSITY, the city of LA doesn’t even crack the top 6. It has a lot of people, but spread out over a huge area. Thus the famous quote that LA is “72 suburbs in search of a city.””

            Yes but those 72 suburbs are really dense for “suburbs”

            The thing with LA is the uniform density over a large area and compared relative to the downtown. This is one explanation for the really bad traffic

          5. Bay Area myopia at its finest. If it was not for the bay, San Francisco’s so called special density would sprawl on to Oakland, Richmond, and on and on all the way to Blackhawk. Ever hear of San Jose, the LARGEST city in the Bay Area!

            When comparing San Francisco’s special density I would use similar Los Angeles neighborhoods, the same would be true for comparing Chicago…are you talking about the Gold Coast, Streeterville, Lincoln Park, or are you talking about the sprawling suburbs which are still within city limits?

            Los Angeles wins the contest with the most density, but being a truly great city, Los Angeles could care less, especially about what San Francisco may think.

          6. @ LaLaLand:

            The ten densest census tracts in SF are all contiguous (aside from one, and all are within the tenderloin, Nob Hill, and Chinatown). and range from 74,000 people per square mile to 161,000 people per square mile…LA’s ten densest census tracts are not contiguous (they’re spread out and mostly in the Westlake and koreatown areas), and range from 67,000-94,000 people per sq. mile. Impressive, but not quite in the same league as the peak densities you see in SF. And of course SF is far more dense when looking a the entire city-limits (an equal-sized area in central LA does come close to SF’s density, but SF is still ahead). When it comes to urban areas and metro areas it’s true that LA is more dense, but not by a large amount. The Bay Area is right behind it, as one of the most dense urban/metro areas in the US. California as a whole tends to do suburbia a lot more densely than the rest of the country, it’s not just an LA thing.

            People do overlook LA’s urbanity and density all the time, but let’s not go pretending that SF can’t hang with it.

      1. I love SF. Been my home for over 30 years. A great place to live. But unlimited density will ruin it. Planned, carefully allocated density will work. And my name even implies I believe in the future of SF: not dense beyond recognition, but humane, livable and walkable.

        Your name “implies” you only want one thing.

        1. So you moved here after the Transamerica and BofA were built, and the 80s downtown boom, the biggest skyscraper boom in SF history. Interesting. And that didn’t stop you from moving here.

        2. As you’ve pointed out numerous times before, SF should be livable for those who can afford to live here. Maybe they can build public housing in the hub for middle-class folks.

          Walkable? Once again, you always defend 1:1 parking for new developments. Who needs to walk when you have a secured underground parking spot.

          Humane? For whom? The streets are filthy and filled with aggressive panhandling and homeless encampments.

          I also believe in the future of SF.

          1. You mean one can’t own a car and also walk and also use transit?

            Livable relates to scale and density. Would you prefer ultra high rises in Hayes Valley, the Haight, the Castro, Duboce Triangle?? where else?

        3. 600 feet is literally not unlimited density. It has a limit, and it’s 600 feet. And you definitely can’t accuse San francisco’s urban form of being insufficiently planned. I believe that building heights can and should scale with the width of streets they’re placed on; if you want to make SF more humane and walkable, the first thing we could do is reduce the width of Van Ness’ right of way by half.

          1. @futurist

            He’s pointing out the absurdity of your constant opposition to increasing height limits/density in SF, which is something that is sorely needed due to the severe lack of housing units. And before you go claiming that you lived there for 30 years…so have I . And I was actually born and raised here too.

            What gives you the right to dictate what the city’s character should be, while dismissing the opinions of the rest of us? Besides, pretty much no one who is pro-development wants to build high rises in the haight, castro, noe valley, marina, north beach, etc, and that’s because most of us believe in historical preservation as well as building enough housing/office space (it’s not an either-or type of thing), and others who don’t care about preserving SF’s old neighborhoods know it would be impossible to redevelop them, because planning would never allow it anyways, and it would also cause a massive backlash that would negatively affect all development in SF.

            Why even bring that up? It’s nothing but a scare tactic. But I guess hysteria and bad-faith arguments are the bread and butter of NIMBYs right?

          2. I’ve always advocated “responsible” growth. And in my view that means growth and density that is also balanced with appropriate transit growth (which we are making headways on), neighborhood services, quality of life and urban scale.

            You’d really have to begin challenging the elected officials and the Planning Commission and Department as to why increasing height limits and density are such carefully orchestrated regulations. These are the people who are largely determining the physical growth and direction of The City.

            And no, I don’t “dictate” what the city’s character should be, but sharing my opinion what it should be: we really are a small scale large city, and the essence of that should be retained, while allowing growth responsibly. there’s no scare tactic, or hysteria.

            Just understanding who we are as a city and how to retain our unique status among great, livable cities.

        4. The best way to “save” and “preserve” San Francisco’s unique neighborhoods of Victorian and other homes–the spots in actual danger of being “ruined” but, in fact, already unaffordable to everyone but the Zuckerbergs–is to allow dense, tall building in the areas where such building already exists and/or the architecture is in no way unique or historic. That would include the environs of Market & Van Ness. There is nothing there worth preserving and, as probably the most transit-rich corner in the city it is ideal for the densest/tallest residential development.

          In blunt terms, I’ll agree to let you preserve Noe Valley or the Haight in amber if you let me build homes for real people at Market/Van Ness. Take the deal because the latter is going to happen eventually anyway.

  2. It hardly looks like a hub – just filling in the wall stretching from the BofA tower to Rincon Hill.

    IMO this would be a huge aesthetic step in the wrong direction for a skyline that is already underwhelming.

    What are those 3 blocky buildings to the right in the rendering? Looks like they are 15 or so stories and they appear to completely cover the blocks they are on. They remind me of Soviet era proletariat housing.

    Come on guys an gals, SF can and should do better than this.

    1. lol, skyline aesthetics should be at literally the bottom of the list when it comes to the pros and cons of these things

    2. About thirty such more blocks of actual Soviet-era proletariat housing would totally solve our affordability crisis. Let’s get to work!

      More seriously, it looks great. Compare with beautiful “old-world” Boston’s ridge of skyscrapers from downtown crossing through to back bay.

      1. I agree. I think for many of the people who have been pushed out of the region, or for those who would have liked to move here but never got the chance in the first place, they would rather live here in Soviet proletariat style housing blocks, than not live here at all.

        There are probably hundreds of thousands of people who would be perfectly content to live in large block housing projects, as long as it meant they could actually be here to take advantage of economic, social, and cultural benefits of living in the inner Bay Area.

        It’s just the people who are lucky enough to be very wealthy, or lucky enough to have bought a house decades ago, who wouldn’t make that choice because they’re already comfortable.

        1. No no no! Luck does not in itself create wealth. Hard work, good decisions, good education and skills, living within ones means, saving and saving a lot are the key ingredients to wealth.

          Attributing wealth to “luck” as you say is really just an excuse for not achieving it.

          1. I don’t think he said that luck “in itself” creates wealth (although tell that to any lottery winner).

            But if you deny the significant role that luck does play in determining who becomes wealthy – luck in birth parents, aptitude, health, economic condition when entering the job market, a hundred other things – then you are deluding yourself.

            I’m not at all in the club saying that wealth is “all” the result of luck, or that hard work and discipline has no effect. But dumb luck is a huge factor. Millions of hard-working, disciplined people never end up wealthy, or even non-destitute, because of simple bad luck. And millions of undisciplined, lazy idiots become wealthy because of simple good luck.

          2. Everything you say about wealth is correct – but luck is equally important to the factors you list. There is just no question about this – many wealthy with high self-regard deny it. Very frequently they are political conservatives, i.e. money always equals merit. That’s basically a cosmic joke.

          3. That’s far too simplistic. Wealth is a mix of luck and skill with one or the other taking precedence during different times and places.

            If you had the good fortune to buy early on in Noe pre-boom, what other properties did you buy in neighborhoods about to rocket up?

            Being right once can be luck, being right 100 times in a row can only be skill. For every stock or neighborhood that rockets up, there’s some buyer that thinks they’re a genius for picking them. But how many people can consistently pick stocks or homes that beat the market over time? Can luck let a surgeon perform a cutting edge operation successfully 100 time? Let an engineer design a series of cutting edge computer chips?

          4. No, but he said NOTHING else except the word “luck”.

            But to be clear, I don’t consider myself “lucky”. (And I’m not trying to sound arrogant at all). but my husband and I early on, 31 years ago knew we would stay in SF a long time, did NOT want to be renters, began saving, and found a realtor who helped us (with her skill) target a neighborhood that had tremendous upside potential, and managed to work with our $100k budget.

            She found us the worst fixer on a block of fixers that as architects, we saw good bones, and potential to be a nice house to live in long term, and put our skills to work slowly remodeling it over time.

            I don’t see the “luck” part, but yes I am a grateful person.

          5. Yes, of course I didn’t mean to say that luck “in itself” creates wealth.

            As anon says, “Wealth is a mix of luck and skill with one or the other taking precedence during different times and places.”
            Hard work, decisions, educations, skills, budgeting, and saving, are all crucial factors to becoming wealthy, but any or all of those could seem to be worth nothing or everything depending on luck.
            Were you lucky or were you skillful that a good job, or a good investment, or a good spouse, happened to be available, at the specific time and place where you also happened to be looking for it? Clearly a mix of both in most cases, although the complete answer is probably impossible to ever know.

            Anyway, my point is that much of this discussion talks about what “we” want for “our” city, but it doesn’t even mention those people who would voice an opinion, but for their difference of fortune.

  3. These renderings are not showing any proposed design.they are simply showing the allowable massing under each of the proposed zoning/ ht limit changes.

    1. Yes, and that is the problem – the massing of the buildings to the right is way, way too much. IMO.

      The existing heights are fine. One can see a portion of the East Bay hills in the distance. With the most extreme option that gets blotted out. Much as the towers on Rincon Hill have blotted out views of the BB as it spans the Bay from SF to TI.

      1. Looks great to me. I couldn’t really care less about the views of the East Bay hills from Corona Heights. Views aren’t protected. The view from my office is diagonal from the new salesforce building going up. In a month or two my view of the BB will be gone. Trust me, I’ll get over it.

        And what’s wrong with more buildings? Tens of thousands of new workers and residents are projected to be in our fair city in the next twenty years. It’s not like they’re pushing for high rises in Noe Valley (*gasp*).

        1. And no, we’re not pushing for high rises in ANY of the small scale neighborhoods, nor should be.

          Along the major transit corridors, yes, like Market and Van Ness. But also a lot of those workers can and will live in Oakland. Stop thinking of The City as the only growth potential.

          1. yup, i’m totally with you. plenty of room for more housing and density–just as long as it’s not in my back yard.

          2. talk about growth potential, San Bruno has a BART station and new elevated Caltrain station within 1/2 mile of each other and rebuilt a huge mall next BART

          3. a BART station and new elevated Caltrain station within 1/2 mile of each other

            And, that is what is wrong with this country…

          4. You really assume a lot. Where in the world do you get that most new SF workers will be coming from Oakland? Even if we buy your logic, Market/Van Ness is hardly a major transit corridor for anyone outside of The City.

            Also, I never said anything about limiting growth to just SF.

          5. The areas near the Peninsula Bart stations really do have a lot of development potential. Almost all of them are surrounded by low-density single-family homes or vacant lots.

            Even more, the Peninsula Bart trains are much less crowded than the East Bay trains.

            Just look down there in Daly City, Colma, South City, San Bruno, Millbrae. Sure there are a couple token apartment buildings right up next to some stations, usually less than four floors, but there’s so much empty space, and so much wasted opportunity.

      2. “the massing of the buildings to the right is way, way too much. IMO”

        What exactly are you basing that off of? Is it too many dwelling units per acre? If it is too much, what is the right amount?

      3. Not only that, they don’t even show existing projects that are underway – e.g. Salesforce Tower. These images present a misleading image – and one that kind of gives potential ammunition to NIMBYs – because it makes these “Hub” buildings stand out more than they would if Transbay and other towers already under construction were shown fully built out.

  4. Why not a few 1200 ft or 1400ft towers in there? Market and van ness. Talk about a geographic center. Make it the next trans bay type mega project. That’ll break up the monotony of the 400-600ft towers that’s like 80% of the skyline.

      1. But that would counter your claim that most new workers would be commuting from Oakland. I guess it would be a win-win situation for you…no new towers and no new workers. You can rest easy now. Maybe grab a coffee at the classy Whole Foods on Market you like and savor the view down Market St.

        1. Those so called towers in Oakland would be where many of the workers COULD live. Some commuting into SF, but in thinking regionally many of those workers would also have great jobs in Oakland itself. I predict tech companies will begin looking toward Oakland for headquarter sites as well.

      2. I would be thrilled to see something like this go up in Oakland! I wish Oakland could pull that off, but the current reality is it cant…maybe down the road. Yes I would gladly like to see the lot after lot of decrepit surface parking losts in downtown oaklnd get built up with 400-1400 ft towers. One can dream!

        1. Give it time. Remember, twenty years ago Brooklyn was viewed as a second-rate borough. Now you can’t touch property in most areas. People were laughed at when they considered Glen Park or Bernal Heights after being priced out of Noe Valley. My, how times change.

          Sadly, the peninsula won’t see much in the way of height because the local jurisdictions are extremely anti-growth. Just look at El Camino.

    1. This. There’s clearly demand for this, why not just do it? People can take BART from the Transbay area (one financial hub) down to Civic Center BART which is walking distance to this. They should build at least 700 ft here.

        1. lol…there’s a BART station literally two blocks away from each end of the Transbay terminal. Is that not close enough to be considered the “transbay area”? Not to mention the massive amount of Muni lines nearby. And CalTrain (and HSR) is obviously in the plans, even if it might take decades to finally happen.

          1. lol back. I specifically said site, not neighborhood. Sure, the Market St. subway is one block away, but it won’t be connected to the TTC site. As for Caltrain/HSR at the site, it’s pointless to include plans for something that “might” happen in 20-30 years.

          2. It’s “connected” to the TTC site by these things that we call sidewalks – and less than a tenth of mile of them, in fact! I know, I know, only other countries and cities use those, we need something more high tech here.

      1. Sorry. Look at a map. The distance from the Civic Center BART station to Market and Van Ness is the same distance as Van Ness/Market to Van Ness/McAllister – i.e., 5 city blocks.

        1. You can walk that distance in about 5-10 minutes depending on how fast you walk. It’s really not that far at all.

          Also, you realize there’s a muni subway station at market and Van Ness, and multiple bus lines too, right? BART isn’t the only public transit option around, and it’s not needed at all if you’re just going elsewhere in SF city-proper…and it’s a very short walk to get to it from Van Ness and Market anyways.

          1. “BART isn’t the only public transit option around, and it’s not needed at all if you’re just going elsewhere in SF city-proper…”

            Because I want to spend 45 minutes on the 38 bus to get to The Hub versus less than 15 minutes from Daly City to CC on BART. Says a lot about SF transit.

    1. BART goes right underneath the intersection. They could put in a station there if they were willing to have curved platforms.

        1. This has been addressed before but deserves elaboration because an intervening station between Civic Center and 16th seems so obvious. Has it truly, definitely been determined that it is technically not feasible? At any cost?

          1. Not sure, exactly, if BART has even considered it in the 16 years that I’ve lived here. I know that the 30th/Mission in-fill study put an estimate at $500M over ten years ago. You definitely would get more bang for your buck at 30th. Given the proximity of Van Ness to CC, it might not be worth the investment. However, if a BART was extended from 16th/Mission up Van Ness to Fort Mason/Aquatic Park a new station could be built under Van Ness between Market and Hayes, with a connection to the MUNI Van Ness station, and serving The Hub, City Hall and a stone’s throw from HV.

          2. A 30th/Mission station would be most welcome. I’m aware of the feasibility study done in 2004 which also concluded construction would wreak havoc on area traffic (transit and vehicular) for something like 30-36 months.

            I don’t know that the distance covered would really warrant a Van Ness subway — at least not until more pressing priorities like Geary were met. In spite the reactionary disdain for it so often expressed here, I think the BRT planned for Van Ness makes more sense currently given the significant cost differential.

            But a station on existing BART lines in the Van Ness – Market/Mission area serving a heavily upzoned Hub should receive immediate attention if at all possible. The potent ridership and key location warrant an additional station bridging the gap between CC and 16th.

          3. 30th and mission makes no sense to me. thats only a 6 blk walk from current station. much more pressing needs

          4. The run from 24th/Mission to Glen Park is by far the longest within SF. A 30th Street Station would get heavy usage and relieve the crush on related MUNI lines. Short of a very expensive expansion of the system, It is the current highest priority financially feasible project within the City (after keeping all the escalators running).

    1. Exactly. Those dense blocks to the right in the rendering are just plunked there. An abrupt and non-organic change from the blocks around them that are 2 and 3 stories and far less dense.

      There seems to be no purpose for this. Other than lets build taller and bigger. I suspect this won’t fly with San Franciscans. They gain nothing from this.

      1. Two things. First, the same could be said for all of SOMA. Former low-rise industrial area turned into mega residential towers. Second, what are your suggestions for organic growth?

        Anyway, this is far less damaging than our agricultural land being turned into auto-dependent strip malls and cul de sacs.

        1. Organic growth – one example would be a graduated increase in density from 2/3 story apartments to 20 story condos. Not an abrupt and jarring break from low to high density as rendered above. Zoning laws should facilitate this type of growth and not impede it as the Hub up-zoning would.

          As to SOMA, the central SOMA specifically, under current 85 foot heights – thousands of units could be added. Include PM, TI, HP and other areas. No need for any significant up-zoning. A low rise area, up to 8 stories by current limits, the SOMA could supply much of the housing needed – if indeed SF is going to top out at 1 million.

          There is an upper limit as to how many people SF can absorb and how many more jobs can be added here. IMO we are approaching that limit. And especially given the lack of adequate public transportation. Public transportation is not being seriously addressed at all. Including in this Hub proposal.

          1. Very good points and I agree with much of what you have to say. However, the Central SOMA plan is a sorely missed opportunity to add some necessary additional height to the area without sacrificing its “neighborhood feel” (quotes are required). Manhattan is jarring. 50-story buildings on one block and rowhouses on the next. I’m not advocating turning SF into Manhattan, but it does work there.

            Re: job absorption. I think there’s plenty of room to add both more jobs and more residents. After all, in 1950 the city had 750,000 residents and this was before any major high-rise development. Can we top 1 million? Sure. Parts of Geary can be upzoned. 19th Ave/Stonestown/SFSU area as well. SF doesn’t have to have one or two commercial hubs. If new job centers were thoughtfully spread out in other areas, it could result in less stress on the downtown core and perhaps create an incentive to upgrade transit in these new job centers. (BART under Geary?!!? No way!) And this is just in SF. Imagine if the entire Bay Area thought more carefully about its future growth potential.

          2. Central SOMA, though, does not need to add height to provide a more dense but human friendly environment. Just build out to current zoning. Most of it is not built out.

            19th Avenue? Where can density be increased there? SFSU/ParkMerced – yes.

            Organic means human friendly streetscapes. In part. The Hub plan does not provide for that.

            Its ironic that Seattle, Portland, Vancouver and even LA are paying far more heed to this critical aspect of what makes a city appealing and livable. While SF is not.

            Many of the towers in SOMA are set on podiums. Set apart from the sidewalks. On weekends the sidewalks are pretty empty. No vibrancy as the residents stay in their walled off citadels or hop in their cars and drive to the wine country or Pacifica.

            The Hub promises to be mostly walled off citadels.

            Where is attention being paid to the streetscape? Pocket parks, fountains, benches. Other cities are doing this. Going green so to speak.

            One thing that would help is restricting the footprint of major office and residential towers. “Forcing” street level open space.

            There was a time when SF enforced this kind of thing. Think of the Chevron plaza, BofA plaza, Transamerica redwood park. Even the Hyatt on Union Square has a small pocket plaza with a great fountain.

            SF is moving backwards IMO when it comes to this stuff and is being surpassed by many other urban centers which, unlike SF, are paying heed to and cultivating a more intimate and relatable cityscape.

          3. Stonestown should be demolished and rebuilt as an urban residential/commercial center. Toss in a meeting center for SFSU and a hotel. It works at Pentagon City in Arlington.

            I’m not disagreeing with the lack of vibrancy in SOMA and I’m sure The Hub will be like it as well. Heck, even South Beach is like that on non-game days. If done right, The Hub can work, and with height.

            Open space will always be a thorny issue to reconcile given the homeless/panhandling problems. Pocket parks are great, but when the crazies outnumber everyone else people go elsewhere. Weather is also an issue, given the fog and wind. I’m not saying it’s an excuse, but any intimacy at the street level is a lost cause when you’re dealing with a wind chill in July. I’m not sure footprint restrictions would make the area any more inviting, but breaking up the block with several buildings of different heights could reduce the citadel look and feel that you discuss.

          4. I like where you’re going on Stonestown, but I will trade you the Harding Golf Course as the best development site on the West side. San Francisco has an excessive number of golf courses IMHO.

          5. Open space, of all things, should not be a thorny issue. IMO.

            When I visit Portland and Seattle I get jealous. Those cities are running circles around SF when it comes to creating and sustaining intimate streetscapes. Heck, LA is leaving SF in the dust here.

            Aside, when folks first visit Portland they are blown away that the forests come right into the city. I sure was. This is due to some visionary folks who in the 1800s, as the city grew, blocked efforts to cut down these forested areas. SF could use a few such visionary folks right now.

            The homeless situation is used as an excuse to not even address the need for open spaces in these dense areas like the Hub. IMO. LA is warmer than SF, is progressive like SF and as such is a homeless magnet too. That is not stopping the city from paying heed for the need for open/green space.

            Stonestown? I doubt it will be torn down. I have heard there is a desire to develop more retail over the parking lots west of the mall (behind Macy’s).

            The lack of vibrancy SOMA on weekends is unfortunate bu partly due IMO to there not having been organic development of the area.

            The Pearl district in Portland is amazing. More vibrant by far than SOMA. And on weekends too. One difference is Pearl is a mix of old and new. It has grown more naturally than SOMA where block after block of new buildings were plunked down and the result is artificial, not engaging, not intimate. IMO.

            Exactly the same thing is happening with MB. IMO.

          6. (Open space, of all things, should not be a thorny issue. IMO.)

            Should not? Agreed, but the reality is that there are problems with our open spaces. Until the city finds solutions to correct the problems then the aggressive panhandling and other unlawful activities will continue. Central Park was cleaned up in the 90s. It can be done here too, but it’s going to take a cohesive effort from officials and citizens to put their feet down.

            (When I visit Portland and Seattle I get jealous. Those cities are running circles around SF when it comes to creating and sustaining intimate streetscapes. Heck, LA is leaving SF in the dust here.)

            Portland is smaller than SF and with a more pedestrian friendly city grid. LA is definitely making up for lost time and trying to correct its mistakes (mistakes that the Bay Area seems to be repeating), but it has a long way to go before it can be called intimate, especially given the sheer size of the area.

            (Aside, when folks first visit Portland they are blown away that the forests come right into the city. I sure was. This is due to some visionary folks who in the 1800s, as the city grew, blocked efforts to cut down these forested areas. SF could use a few such visionary folks right now.)

            It’s unfair to compare SF with Portland in this respect, especially considering the problems we face are a greater Bay Area issue than just what’s going on in the 7×7. West of Twin Peaks was forest and sand dunes. All gone once the Twin Peaks Tunnel opened up. However, I feel that the Bay Area has done some amazing conservation efforts over the years. The Marin Headlands, for example, was slated to become condos. I’m not saying mistakes haven’t been made, but the area around the Bay is greener than you think. At the turn of the 20th century, Queens was mostly farmland, until the subway was built and development followed. Northern VA keeps paving over more and more acres every year. It can be worse.

            (The homeless situation is used as an excuse to not even address the need for open spaces in these dense areas like the Hub. IMO. LA is warmer than SF, is progressive like SF and as such is a homeless magnet too. That is not stopping the city from paying heed for the need for open/green space.)

            You can build as much green space as you want, but when it becomes dangerous or inhospitable then people will abandon it. That’s the reality of the situation.

            (Stonestown? I doubt it will be torn down. I have heard there is a desire to develop more retail over the parking lots west of the mall (behind Macy’s).)

            Stonestown is a suburban-style, auto-centric mall that really should have no place in SF. Same for the Safeway complex at Church/Market. Talking about prime opportunities to create some more mixed-use, intimate spaces.

            (The lack of vibrancy SOMA on weekends is unfortunate bu partly due IMO to there not having been organic development of the area.)

            This is an urban planning problem. I’m no expert so all I can add here is that there has to be demand for certain services from residents in order to create a lively, 18/7 neighborhood.

            (The Pearl district in Portland is amazing. More vibrant by far than SOMA. And on weekends too. One difference is Pearl is a mix of old and new. It has grown more naturally than SOMA where block after block of new buildings were plunked down and the result is artificial, not engaging, not intimate. IMO.

            Exactly the same thing is happening with MB. IMO.)

            Portland’s urban planning mantra is much different than SF’s.

          7. West of Twin Peaks retains a small bit of that original forest. In the Forest Hill district.

            There have been aborted efforts at doing something special in SF. Westwood Park. Arts and crafts detached homes. Beautiful little district. A shame it was not carried across Ocean to Ingleside. Greed in the day to whittle down everything to 25 foot wide lots and maximize homes built/profit. its how we got the Sunset – one of the most unattractive residential areas around. IMO.

            Portland is different but the same. Over the decades and past century plus that city chose to keep what made it special. It was a fight of course, but the heroes today are those who fought that fight.

            There is a table top hill on the SE side. Forested at the top. An “anomaly” of the topography which in the way past some wanted to de-forest, some wanted to bring down. Those folks lost. The flat hill remains there today – one needs to take an elevator to get to the top. It has now long been an monastery and is one of Portland’s top tourist sites. Its known as the Grotto.

            I bring that up as a comparison IMO is TI. What should have been done with it – a public venue of spectacular dimensions with world class architects competing to design it has become a blocky hi-rise development. Adding 4K or more folks to a tiny island with no egress but the Bridge. Yeah right, they are all going to take the ferry.

            In the end I bet that most of the TI units go to wealthy part-time residents. Nothing gained for San Francisco.

            It’d be different if this was the exception to the rule, but it is the rule – from MB, to TI to the Hub and more. JMHO.

          8. … and of course the Pearl District in Portland is *not* super high-rise… certainly nothing like what some of the “build it higher” crowd here would like to see in SoMa (and elsewhere). The Pearl District is the perfect example of what I and others on here frequently say, which is that vibrant density does not require tall towers; it just requires denser uses generally – Paris, Piccadilly, Greenwich Village, Back Bay all are vibrant and dense but *not* built to great height.

          9. Good points. Yes indeed vibrant density does not require tall towers. Too many such can actually detract from that. There are of course towers in Portland, but far better integrated than here.

            Seattle has more towers but has too integrated them in a way that creates a more vibrant streetscape than SOMA.

            The tower the city hopes to sell the land for at Van Ness/Market as envisioned has a 10 story podium. That is awful. Its effectively a moat.

            Podiums can work but they haven’t in SOMA where they wall off the building from the surrounding area.

            A podium that does work – Embarcadero Center. Those podiums are short (3 stories) and open up to the sidewalk – passageways between either side of the block. Inviting one into the complex and not walling them out as Lumina and others do. IMO.

          10. Yes, agree completely with sierrajeff. That’s the essence of what appropriate density can become, without the need for “tall towers” as the only solution.

            I would add also, think of London, which I love btw.

          11. In 1925 Le Corbusier proposed to replace/eliminate central Paris with 60 story towers and block Soviet-style housing. Renderings of his proposal don’t look all that different from the Hub rendering. If you google Le Corbusier’s Plan Voison for Paris you can see for yourself.

          12. Organic growth – one example would be a graduated increase in density from 2/3 story apartments to 20 story condos. Not an abrupt and jarring break from low to high density as rendered above. Zoning laws should facilitate this type of growth and not impede it as the Hub up-zoning would.

            You may think that zoning should encourage this type of growth, but this isn’t “organic” growth. Organic growth would be removing things like height limits and seeing what organically grows from that. Planning exactly what kind of growth is and isn’t allowed is the opposite of organic growth.

  5. Wow – since when did the Planning Dept. get in the business of doing faux fantasy renderings for the devil?

    Oh, that’s right. Since forever.

    Any-hoo, the selling of this last innocent hind end of us (Van Ness @ Mkt) is clearly a team effort.

    Let’s thank the people who are cheerily selling us all out – because who needs a great world class city when instead you can have a tidy sum in a bank account that will soon be a news story courtesy of lame hackers?

    Apparently only insanely stupid and worse still actual people. The people who ru(i)n this town.

    1. Even world class cities evolve. SF should start with its pathetic transit which is far from world class. Maybe third world class…sorry, I meant emerging markets.

          1. Wow, that long list didn’t answer my question at all. What makes those better? Ridership? Number of station?

      1. SF has a 3rd world transit system for its density for sure. its shameful to be the high tech capital and the lowest rung on transportation

        1. Most MUNI riders would agree. However, another boondoggle project might be happening at some point during my kids’ generation…putting the M line underground between West Portal and SFSU. ~$3B project that will generate NO new riders and only shave a couple minutes off the commute. Can’t wait for the Feds to turn down that request for funding.

  6. Good plan, but I agree we need much more. Either San Francisco becomes much more dense, or it becomes a city for the rich only. Conservative Republicans couldn’t have done a better job driving the poor and middle class out of San Francisco. Ah, the irony.

    1. The middle class yeah, but SF’s poor population is actually a little bit larger now than it was a couple decades ago. The growing income inequality in America is very real.

  7. There are views and there are views.

    Are views a factor in this Hub proposal and its appropriateness? Absolutely.

    Are they at the top of the list of factors – no. There are plenty of other things that make this proposal wrong. IMO.

    As to views, we are not talking about a neighbor extending their home 6 feet and blocking their next door neighbor’s view.

    We are talking about a public view. A view that belongs to everyone. A spectacular view from Diamond Heights, from Twin Peaks, from Corona Heights.

    A view of the Bay, the Bridge and the hills across the bay.

    This view is one of San Francisco’s jewels. What makes it unique among cities.

    Just as the hills are/were at one time. There was a time when they could be seen from Twin Peaks and seen too when coming across the Bay into SF whether via ferry or the Bridge. Now the hills are walled off.

    San Francisco’s unique topography and how it is viewed from places like Twin Peaks should be cherished and preserved for everyone. Resident and visitor alike.

    Thanks to the Portrero Hill folks, efforts to up zone Mission Bay in the day were defeated. If the up zoning had happened the portion of the Bay still visible beyond MB would be gone. Hidden behind a wall of too dense 30 story buildings.

    San Francisco can sell itself out to developers who want to build higher and more dense. In the process, however, it will lose its soul – what made it special and unique..

    nyotalking about

    1. What are you talking about? How does this impact any of the views your talking about? It just adds more buildings in the market/van ness corridor. You can still see the entire city and Bay from Twin Peaks and Diamond Heights even if they built 600 ft towers here. Maybe there are certain angles where the Bay Bridge view will be blocked (I’m guessing from your condo), but not from the ‘public views’ you just listed.

    2. Yes, the thing that makes San Francisco special is the views of the city – but only very particular and precise views apparently, if you add more city to the views then the city views are ruined, we have to mathematically determine the precise quantity of city that can be included in all city views, something that all members of the view having city should be asked about to ensure that no more than a threshold quantity of city is built in addition to the present amount of city such that the measure of city quantity is within a particular tolerance of the ideal quantity of city that should be included in any view a member of the city might call their own.

    3. But what about people such as myself who love the views of a highrise skyline? There are a multitude of places in northern California that I can view nature in a more pristine state. SF is one of the few places where one can view an urban landscape. Let’s continue to enhance that landscape.

    4. Omg! They are “ruining” your views of the city by putting more city to view in your view of the city!

        1. San Francisco is not Chicago.

          The anti hi-rise sentiment goes back to at least the Fontana controversy in the 70s.

          SF will never (as much as one can say never) see a 93 let alone 100 story building.

          LA and Seattle are looking at 100 story buildings but, SF is not either of these cities.

          The Gang proposal looks stumpy at 30/40 stories. Why not develop it on one of the few sites zoned for 55 stories?

          IMO the Salesforce tower will be the tallest ever built in SF. IMO but a very safe bet.

          If anything I see a lowering of height limits as more likely than any increase in such.

          1. The Fontana controversy stemmed from the fact that people’s precious views from Russian Hill were blocked with the construction of essentially a wall along the north waterfront. I’m not defending its construction, but it made people think about their city. Same with the anti-freeway revolt. SF could have been ringed with miles of freeways, obliterating dozens of neighborhoods. HV is still recovering a decade after the CF was torn down and replaced (not with high rises, either). On the other hand, SF could have been ringed with miles of subways, given its density and demand.

        2. Because CHICAGO IS CHICAGO! good grief, why must you emulate a MUCH bigger city in terms of both population and land mass??

          1. So, what is San Francisco? I guess there is no fair comparison in the world which means we can’t debate skylines or transit or infrastructure. Why? Because it’s SF, after all. I don’t buy it.

            For a city that’s so anti-high rise there sure seems to be a lot of people willing to buy/rent those market rate condos going up all over the city.

  8. I’m sure this has been mentioned already by the many bright commenters here, but I’m too over to search for it. They changed out the pictures on this post. I am a journalist. In journalism school, where they teach you to contribute to society with something called integrity, that would have gotten you thrown out of journalism school. You can’t switch out the 1st set of fake pics with even more confusing fake pics just because the 1st set were accidentally alarmingly accurate.

    1. We have been following the plans and process rather closely, and we honestly have no idea what you’re talking about. But if you think you have the basis for an expose, please feel free to send it our way (

    2. Alarmingly? Shall I assume you have a bright future working for Fox “News” ahead of you? We’re through the looking glass here people…

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