88 Bluxome Street Site

As we first reported last week, the paperwork for a ballot measure entitled the “Don’t Demolish Recreation in San Francisco Initiative” has been filed with the City.  And while the initiative doesn’t specifically name the proposed redevelopment of the San Francisco Tennis Club site at 645 5th Street as the demolition it’s intended to prevent, the proponent of record and text make it pretty clear.

As designed by IwamotoScott Architecture with Studios Architecture for Alexandria Real Estate Equities and TMG Partners, who entered into a contract to purchase the site from the relatively new owners of the Bay Club last year, the proposed 88 Bluxome Street development now includes 764,000 square feet of office space rising up to 250 feet in height over a 16,000-square-foot gym on the eastern three-quarters of the tennis club’s Central SoMa site.

88 Bluxome Rendering: Bluxome Street

A landscaped mid-block connection would be lined with restaurant and retail spaces and the entrance to 52,000 square feet of new PDR space (the majority of which would be located underground, along with a 195-car garage).

88 Bluxome Rendering: Mid-Block Connection

The project’s mid-block connection would provide passage from Bluxome to Brannan Street.

88 Bluxome Rendering: Brannan Street

The western quarter of the site is envisioned to be developed with a community garden, a 27,000-square-foot community/recreation center (which is roughly a tenth the size of the current tennis club on the site) and a child care center for 80 kids, with the corner of the site at Brannan and 5th dedicated to the City for the development of around 100 units of below market rate (BMR) housing.

88 Bluxome: Site Plan

The proposed plans for 88 Bluxome are currently under review by the City, with Planning’s preliminary feedback due to the development team by the end of June.

32 thoughts on “The SoMa Development a Ballot Initiative Aims to Block”
    1. If you look at the proposal from the developer, they don’t build any BMR housing or a park, despite the spin. Also there is law on the books that requires replacing public or private recreation in western SOMA. So the developers proposal is illegal.

      1. Interesting about the law requiring replacement of public/private recreation facilities. This is central SOMA so it sounds like it may not apply. The Supes could easily take care of this and save the trouble and expense of an initiative by creating a similar law for the Central SOMA.

      2. I live in the area. The tennis court is an ugly deadzone. What the developer is proposing is a huge improvement to the area with retail, public space, and aesthetic value with what they’re building. It’s a little selfish for staunch NIMBYs to oppose every development, especially when the proposal would actually improve the lives of those living there…

      3. DB: It is you who are putting the “spin” on this! – the project sponsors are giving over a very sizable piece of the site for BMR housing, community recreation center, daycare, and community open space. Whereas what sits there now is a huge anti-urban, anti-pedestrian, inward-focused brutal box of a building, accommodating the use of the privileged few who can afford the $10k a year dues to play tennis indoors – a use that is arguably one of the worst imaginable for an inner city transit-served site within a continually densifying city.

    2. Hi Nopa,

      I think there is a lot of misunderstanding. It is not a “rich persons tennis club.” Some people have been coming here 30 years to just do what they love, something that takes their mind off, like how some people commit monthly funds to going to happy hour, eating out.

      I think we all spend money how we see fit. And frankly, the people moving into these office spaces, and condos, these are the people gentrifying neighborhoods, driving out mom and pop shops with their community buses to tech firms who get ridiculous tax breaks.

      You can thank Ed Lee for all this development, and not charging large companies to operate their businesses. These people are the uber rich, that are driving out locals, locals like people going to a sport they love for 30 years.

      Bay Club has made this illusion of grandeur-you walk in there, and you’ll see people of all ages, ethnicity, sexual orientations, coming together. You tell me how another cubicle field to work for the man, and some 3 million dollar condo is going to make that space better than some tennis?!

  1. It is a “club”…it is exclusive until you pay for it. What is it that makes this so special. Heck my father went and played a GG Park courts as an adult and in city public courts while growing up. He never felt the need to join a club and so why should a private activity be protected when a higher use is housing now?

  2. it looks like a nice design at a glance. I like the way the facade seemingly undulates and has an elegant, ephemeral, elusive transparency.

  3. The vicinity in the photo has at least an area equal to the tennis courts as single layer vehicle parking. How can the city ever achieve density when so much of the area is covered by surface parking lots, likely serving office workers for a small fraction of the day? This is a broken and outdated model.

  4. This looks like a good initial proposal in terms of density, massing and architecture. I think it would change this part of SOMA in a good way if some one build high density, its not sacred ground, and did a really good architectural design, executed well and not watered down.

    Re ballot – it is a stupid measure. There is no rationale to grant a private property, club or whatever the use, special legal protection so it can continue to provide a private benefit. This is only governed by law, planning code and whatever commercial transaction has been done. Nothing special about a private tennis club any more so than a multiscreen movie plex, retail center, collective work space, yacht club, people like those things too and tennis playing is certainly not a protected activity. stupid, frivolous, self indulgent. whoever said there needs to be a higher bar for a ballot measure is right.

    I dont know when we will reach the tipping point for a dysfunctional system of governance in this town (state) — includes this stuff, room 200, bloated budgets 9BIL and growing — i hope it is soon.

  5. The BMR argument is false IMO. The developer is offering a small piece of land to the City. The City will still have to fund any housing built there.

    The reality is another 750K of office space will worsen the housing crisis and the traffic crisis. Several thousand new workers pushing prices of residences up further or, if they choose to live outside the City, worsening the commute.

    This initiative is broader than this site BTW – it will sell easily with voters IMO.

    If the developer does not budge this project is likely DOA.

    Which begs a question – there are 8 million square feet of proposed office projects in the pipeline. To that add this additional 750K (if it is not counted in the 8 million total) – that is 10 years of allotment under Prop. M Why is the planning commission even considering more projects right now when there is already a huge backlog?

    1. @Dave, regarding the commute and traffic, this building is a half block away from the new T stop at Brannan and 4th, and a block away from CalTrain. Additionally, both the 45 and 30 have stops at Brannan and 5th and the 47 has a stop at Townsend and 4th. Also, the building is roughly a 10 minute walk from the condos in South Beach.

      1. Oh (again), the N-Judah starts/terminates at 4th and King. I think that’s it…

    2. Good point on the connection between office space and residential. Maybe the city should put in a ratio requirement of 2 res to 1 com so that there is 1 extra apartment for every 2 built.

  6. The sad thing is, people will fall for this and it’ll probably pass. Everything like this passes in San Francisco it seems because people have no real idea what they are voting for and just read the headline title.

  7. 3.6+ million sqft of net new office is proposed for just the two blocks of Brannan between 4th and 6th, once this one gets added to the current pipeline report projects. To handle all the extra people there will be a new surface light rail station at one end estimated at 3-6k riders/day and Brannan will be converted into another half-car-half-bikeway like 2nd, with one lane of car traffic and one dedicated bike lane in each direction. More sound urban SFPlanning balanced development and infrastructuring.

    FWIW, 3.6 million sqft of office could fit 20,000 workers, give or take a few hundred ping pong tables. Glad I walk to work.

    1. Really? I knew it was bad but not 3.6 million sq. feet bad. I can think of the twin 11 story towers going up a block away but those can’t be more than a million sq. feet. I must have missed the announcement for some of these projects.

      Saving grace is Prop M – hopefully most of these projects get pushed out to the end of the 10 year backlog. And by then some of these plans who be significantly change given the economic and job situation in the Bay Area and SF.

    2. The biggest is for the Flower Market. Below is the list for Brannan 4th to 6th from the current pipeline report, doesn’t include this project. And there are many other office projects within a few blocks, and the Giants 1.7 million sqft of new office at Mission Rock, and of course two that just completed on Brannan near 3rd. Net additional office sqft and address:

      1,512,260 630-698 BRANNAN ST
      0,692,568 598 BRANNAN ST
      0,526,807 610-620 BRANNAN ST
      0,132,095 501 BRANNAN ST
      = 2,863,730 sqft total

      if things do cooool off, then maybe next cycle. If not repeal Prop M and go for broken…

      1. M won’t be repealed in our lifetimes.

        its a safety valve IMO as there is little matching infrastructure improvement going on.

        Given the Bart tube capacity and the BB situation what will be the project that finally tips the balance and SF downtown goes into extended periods of gridlock? At some point something has to give.

        1. uh, try past tense, not future tense for when SF downtown goes into extended periods of gridlock. The “project” was to replace miles of raised freeway with skyscrapers while not adding matching subway capacity. Voila, extended congestion in the SF CBD and BB to serve it, and the morass of cars in the east bay trying to get to the BB and past the BB around Emeryville/Oakland, and at 3rd and King.

          It is already so bad that some PM commuters from offices in San Mateo to the east bay that used to use 101 all the way through SF to get to the BB, instead use 280 to 6th St, then Brannan to 5th (this intersection), to get back onto the fwy to the BB at 5th.

          We have met the enemy and he is us. But maybe if we just build all of SoMa taller….and add bike lanes.

          1. I assume businesses don’t want to be in a place where their workers can’t get to the office or exit from it because of nightmare traffic/transportation conditions.

            At some point they will walk (relocate) away. SF is killing the golden goose with this overdevelopment.

            The tipping I refer to is, more accurately, when will companies start moving out because the transportation situation is hurting their ability to do business – as in get their workers to their place of business. Does no one at City hall or the Chamber get this?

  8. The comments opposing this project are lunacy. Central SoMa is one of the most transi- accessible neighborhoods in the western US. What should we oppose this and encourage more office parks in the suburbs? This is an eminently sustainable project – thing globally, act locally. All these NIMBY’s to is think locally and impact the environment negatively.

    1. The reality is that this location is nearly surrounded by freeway ramps which carry many more people than the nearby transit stations/stops.

      South Central SoMa is one of the most freeway accessible locations in San Francisco. That is what dominates the transportation here. And just to be completely clear about it, the two nearby 280 ramps (a block away at Brannan/6th and two blocks away at King/4th) handle ~160,000 cars a day (per CA DOT traffic count), while the Caltrain Station at 4th has about 27,000 passengers/day. And the on ramp for 80 one block away at Bryant/5th also carries more people than the Caltrain Station or the MUNI lightrail. Sheesh, the entire MUNI 5-line lightrail network only handles 150,000 riders a day.

      What’s truly loony are people that ignore the well-documented transportation reality of this neighborhood to spout off about how there being some transit “accessible” will magically make this “an eminently sustainable project.”

      Personally, I’m in favor of building more office space on Brannan. And I am sure it will happen, but I’d be extremely foolish to think it will mostly get filled by “transit” riders or that it won’t make the traffic much worse in an area already heavily congested.

      BTW, SFMTA recently published a long term rail plan to provide the kind of transit network within SF that would actually be needed by the yuge density increases underway in central soma and nearby neighborhoods (pdf at namelink): “The Rail Capacity Strategy has an estimated cost range of approximately $9.1-$16.8 billion.” And that’s just SFMTA, not a new BART tube or new BART stations or Caltrain upgrades, DTX, HSR, or much hyped loopytubes.

      There’s your rich transit, if you can afford it.

  9. @Jake – you’re right about the acute need for better transit. But given other options in the region – this is about as good as a site you’ll find – one block from Muni light rail, one block from Caltrain. I’ll take this over some Silicon Valley or east bay office park any day – as citizens of the region we ought to be building far more of this, and far less Apple, Google, or Facebook suburban expansions – which in my view are unconscionable.

    1. By East Bay office park I assume you are not referring to downtown Oakland which has better transit options than SF, plenty of underutilized lots, better weather, better access to cheaper housing. It is an urban center and by all rights the focus, for those who believe in building up such, should IMO be Oakland right now.

      SF is approaching build-out given existing infrastructure/transportation. Oakland is no where near that point. IMO.

  10. Build all you want, but replace what you demolish if it is sports and recreation. With all the office towers being built, where will people exercise? Recreation areas throughout the City are being demolished. If you care about the long-term livability of San Francisco, protect recreation and sports facilities.

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