100 Folsom Street Rendering with Heights

San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors has officially heard the public testimony for the proposed amendment to the City’s previously approved Transbay District Plan, an amendment which would raise the height limit for Transbay Block 1, a block which is currently only zoned for development up to 300 feet in height but upon which Tishman Speyer has drawn plans for a twisty 400-foot tower to rise at the corner of Folsom and Spear.

In exchange for the spot upzoning, which would allow Tishman to build an additional 9 stories and 73 condos above the 30th floor of their proposed ‘Bay Tower’ at 160 Folsom Street, the development team has agreed to increase the total number of Below Market Rate (BMR) units in the Block 1 development from 112 (35 percent of the total) to 156 (40 percent overall).

The majority (30) of the additional 44 BMR units would, however, be allowed to be priced as affordable to those making up to 120 percent of the Area Median Income (AMI) which is currently $90,500 for an individual or $103,400 for a household of two.

100/160 Folsom BMR Chart

And as we first reported last year, there is a bit of organized neighborhood opposition to the additional height.

Originally scheduled for this week following its public hearing, the Supervisors’ vote on the amendment has been continued to next week.

UPDATE (4/26): San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors approved the amendment and increase in height.

64 thoughts on “Hearing for Twisty Tower’s Proposed Height Increase Underway”
  1. It’s a no brainer it should be approved due to LOTSA affordable housing benefits. That said, Peskin will probably wanna delay discussions yet another week (3times) and then eventually vote NO cuz HE didn’t broker the deal!

    1. The continuance this week is mandated by redevelopment law. They take comment sitting as “committee of the whole” one week and then they have to wait until the following week to vote on it.

  2. I agree approve this. On the plus side to the BMR are now interspersed in tower vs sitting seggrgated on the first 3 floors. This is a much better way to integrate the BMR!

    It really makes no sense to put all the “poor” literally at the bottom of the hill – its just too segregated IMO. Then again, at 90k – 104k being the qualification you aren’t exactly poor here.

    1. These are not poor people. Too much stigma comes along with BMR.. these are people making up to $80,000 a year.

    2. Hardly “poor” people: Just people lucky enough to be living WAY BELOW THE REAL COST of living in a luxury condo. I wonder how the talk in the elevator will be when someone finds out their neighbor up on the 30th floor paid 1/2 to 1/3 the price they just paid.

      Makes no sense. get rid of all BMR.

      1. Obviously the view from the 30th floor is part of the “luxury” market value that’s not in the bottom-floor units. I also assume that the BMR units don’t get the same marble surfaces, professional kitchen, designer light fixtures, etc… Correct me if I’m wrong.

      2. What’ll be more interesting is when the non-BMR residents want to raise the assessments or do a special assessment to add some amenity or change the color of the hallway carpet or even correct a construction defect they can’t pin on the developer.

    3. Why is putting the BMR units on the ground floor a problem? I don’t begrudge a developer trying to maximize their profit by getting top dollar for the more desirable units. Housing may be a right, but housing with a sweet view certainly isn’t.

        1. Does The City demand the units be interspersed throughout the building? I’m genuinely curious. All the BMR units I’ve been in that are located within a large development (say, The Metropolitan) tend to be on the lower floors.

          1. Do you know if The Metropolitan received any city funding (outside of the BMR funding)?

        1. That is true. But I don’t see that anyone has claimed this is a right.

          This is just a policy choice that the representatives elected by the people have made. There are thousands of such policy choices out there which benefit some people and/or create some burden for others.

          1. Thank you for your usual reasoned and objective perspective. What happened on the Teatro ZZ thing?

        2. The wealthy receive subsidies as well, many subsidies. If you are wealthy enough to own you can write off your mortgage interest. If you are not able to own, your taxes subsidize that write off.

          1. So what? Buying at market rate is a personal choice. Being able to afford at market rates also comes from making choices.

          2. So what? so… you’re right “buying market rate is a choice”, but should the rest of the population be subsidizing your choice to take out a loan by letting you write off the interest on your mortgage?

            My point is, you suggest that the BMR’s are a handout, a subsidy, but don’t acknowledge that the wealthy receive subsidies too, although in a different form. Some people could not “really” afford those market rate units if they couldn’t write off their interest.

        3. Hey Futurist.

          Mixing income and diversity is good and drives creativity and culture, and yes the rich get all sorts of subsidies as well, as others here note, and sorry not everyone is as smart, or on the same playing field in life as you may be, its just a fact. And gasp, some people actually choose to make less to pursue their true passions (teachers anyone?).

          It doesn’t mean we should be communists of course, but to deny a teacher, or how about your favorite chef or barista, a chance to live in new great area seems wrong.

          BTW I own in Orinda, and worked hard and saved and scrimped and earned my “right” to live in a very expensive area, and I own over 70% of the home / low debt, Im not “poor” rich. So I’m not even in the camp im advocating for here in this case.

          Im more about diversity and inclusion thats all. I kinda hate how all I see in Orinda is white older rich people and they make the same exclusionary holier than though arguments about that town, but I moved their for my kids sake (schools), not to be part of some exclusive club or to brag or flaunt my success. But I really wish they would develop more mixed income housing by the Orinda Bart / Downtown

          Its really a shame to me how snobby and holier than thou / exclusionary SF is becoming (Im not saying you are in particular, just a general statement). The “you have no right to live here” sort of comments. Sure I understand that to some degree, but we should also encourage and support the diversity…and hey someone still has to pick up the garbage, make the food, tend the landscaping, etc.

          1. My jaw just dropped a mile when I read your commentary about actually caring about “diversity and inclusion”, while living in a purely white, upper upper class suburban community. News flash: there are no “rights” to being able to live in Orinda or SF or anywhere else.

            There are no words. I’m speechless. But it is nice that you “kinda hate” (but not too much) is just white, rich older folks. Oh, ok.

          2. I left the city for the Peninsula (West of El Camino of course) so I could avoid diversity and be surrounded by my economic peers. We are actually quite diverse on our street, with whites, Asians, an Indian person and some Spanish speaking white folks from Europe (are those Hispanics?). A few are first generation immigrants too. I embrace diversity as long as everyone is earning six figures+ and has multiple university degrees and have smart kids that improve the local schools.

            Not so big on diversity if it drags down the quality of education in the area.

          3. Oakland lover – Nice to hear from an Orinda resident who supports high density around the BART station. That’s one big sleeping opportunity

      1. I believe most, if not all, of the BMR units will go into an 8-story building to be built upon a part of Block 1 adjacent to the market rate tower.

          1. Overlooked the table. This scheme represents a substantial change from your earlier 7/11/14 item on this project as well as illustrations I have seen representing separate buildings as opposed to a podium to the tower.

          2. The adjacent podium building, which would be 100 percent below market rate, remains a key component of the overall development, but the share and distribution of the BMR units has indeed changed as Tishman bids to secure the additional 100 feet in height for the tower.

  3. I work across the street from this tower and cannot wait to see it go up! Folsom St is really looking better now up to about first…with some activity getting underway around first and fremont st’s as well.

    Im going to miss the taco truck at the corner of spear and folsom though, boy was that good and it was one of the originals, there since like 2005 or something.

  4. B…b…but… Won’t somebody think of the SHADOWS!?!?! And, you know, the children. Or whatever.

    1. There will be a shadowing impact (especially till mid-morning) on the proposed Transbay Park immediately across Main Street. I think this negative effect of the upzoning is mitigated by both the added BMR units and aesthetics of extending the tower.

  5. I think it will pass. All the bellwether supervisors, such as progressives Jane Kim and Davis Campos along with moderate Scott Wiener, spoke in favor of the up-zoning at this week’s meeting.

  6. While great for additional BMR units, isn’t there additional impact for these units in regards to HOA dues? In addition to having to pay “market rate” HOA dues, having the units now interspersed throughout the tower add an additional price increase to the HOA dues for the BMR units higher up, since they would possibly have higher dues (as “variable costs”) than other BMR units lower in the tower because of the floor/views?

    1. Most HOA set their dues on the square footage of the unit not on floor/views. A 700 sq/ft unit on the 3rd floor with views of the street lights would pay the same monthly dues as the 700 sq/ft unit on the 20th with Bay Bridge views.

      1. You may be right that most do–and I don’t know the plan regarding this building–but certainly some buildings here in SF do charge higher dues for the same sized units higher up. My friend own a unit at The Summit on Russian hill and he claims this is done there, at least

  7. This is a fantastic looking building. Will the final project actually look like this or will it be value engineered down to something completely different?

    1. Absolutely. This is just a lottery giveaway of luxury condos to people who may not be able to afford one of those, but certainly aren’t needy. The city should extract fees from the developers instead which can be used either for other critical city priorities, or just use the cash to build or buy way more units of non-luxury-highrise housing for people who really need it.

      1. Agree,
        The city undersold the land for over 30 Million per opponents who compare the nearby land that was sold recently. OCII and the city are giving away valuable land to the developer at a price far below the true value. OCII values the land at $19.2 million, and it is giving the land to Tischman-Speyer at no charge.

        In exchange the developer is supposed to make 20% of the units below market rate (BMR). In addition, the developer is adding another 20% with its own resources. However, the land is worth far more than $19.2 million.

        The Board of Supervisors approved the sale of Transbay Block 9 at the corner of Folsom and First for $43.6 million or $1,380 per square foot. Block 1 (160 Folsom) and Block 9 are approximately the same size: 31,564 square feet for the parcel at Folsom and First and 33,762 for the lot at 160 Folsom. However, the lot at 160 Folsom is much closer to the Bay and will have much better views. Clearly, Block 1 is worth much more than Bock 9, but it is selling for less than half the price.

        The Board of Supervisors is supposed to make sure the city gets a fair deal. In this case, it’s a terrible deal for the city. If the land was sold at the true value, the profit from the sale can be used to build a few more mid rise affordable housing units in the area that can also boost the local economy.

    2. Totally agree. Period.

      Use BMR funds to truly build good quality and safe PUBLIC HOUSING for the truly poor and needy. They need this much more than the entitled (and sometimes lazy) BMR recipients.

      1. You’re right. Let’s chase the worthless middle class out of the city and build more public housing! History has proven this works the best. Let’s repeat history!

        1. NO, the “worthless middle class” (your words) are not inherently entitled to get housing at a special discount to them, all the while making $200k per year.

          I’m referring to truly poor, lowest income people who should not have to live in the filthy public housing we see on Potrero Hill, as an example.

    3. I just don’t get your and others’ position on this issue.

      It has absolutely no practical impact upon me and I suspect you are similarly situated. I don’t begrudge that someone else might benefit from this policy choice. Why would you?

      1. It may have more impact on you than you know if you are a homebuyer (not necessarily in this building). BMR units don’t come free. Somebody has to pay to the difference between what they sell or rent for and the cost of their construction and that somebody is the buyer of market rate units in the building. Higher prices for these units, in turn, boosts comps all over the city. That’s how we get to $300+ figures per square foot that those of us who can’t get a BMR unit (either because of our income of just because we lose the lottery) have to pay.

        1. Not accurate at all, the market rate is the market rate. The developer can’t tell the buyer to pay more because they have to sell another unit for less…

          Also $300 per square foot would be a steal, you can’t even build it for that!

          1. Market rate is determined by supply and demand. If the supply is reduced, the rate has to go up. And if the developers can’t make enough profit at a certain rate, the supply will have to go down. Therefore, bmr units affect the market rate.

  8. I’m guessing that the twisty facade results in some odd, if not bizarre, undesirable floor plans. These will become the BMRs.

  9. BMR’s don’t make financial sense. The city should use the funds for down payment assistance programs where they can offer 0% interest 2nd mortgages to bring the cost of ANY home down to an affordable level. They can then participate in the actual appreciation by collecting a return upon the sale or refinance of the property. And the owner can have actual appreciation opportunity as well unlike the current BMR model where the city sets the value and it’s limited to certain building in limited parts of the city.

  10. Out of the last 20 or 30 tall building renderings posted on SocketSite I think this is one of the very few that will become a true classic of SF residential architecture. What an asset to its neighborhood and surroundings, just permanently interesting to look at.

      1. I ask that a lot also MOD. They never have an answer, much less a logical, rational one.

        Must be that thing called envy. Nothing more.

  11. Spot re-zoning is bad public policy and would conflict with the design guidelines for the Transbay Redevelopment Project that state, “No variations shall be given for the maximum height and bulk regulations…”

    I understand the importance of making the city affordable to live in, but believe that it needs to be done responsibly and with long term vision so the city can be enjoyed by all citizens for many generations to come.

  12. So – here’s the deal. BMR condos are typically “throw-way” from the developers perspective. They make no money on these, and will most likely lose money. And, while the sales price is set to AMI, the HOA fees are not.

    HOA fees for a bulding like this could be between $1000 – $2000 per month, which the BMR purchaser must be able to show they can pay, before they will get a mortgage loan. Therefore, these units will sit empty, none of the “awkward” conversations in the elevator mentioned previously, and the developer will reap great profit on the additional market-rate condo units they are getting out of the height increase.

    1. … except the developer is left holding the bag for HOA fees on any unsold BMR units.

      1. I guess my point is that yes they are, but its all built into the financial model from the begining. Not saying its right or wrong, just that is the BMR game in this town for for-sale apartments.

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