Market and Van Ness

In addition to potentially raising building height limits, allowing for more density, and setting the stage for a number of public realm improvements, such as new public open spaces and safer streets, the draft plan for the City’s Market Street Hub Project envisions transforming the intersection of Market and Van Ness into “a civic, iconic, informal, monumental [and] bold space.”

And in terms of how to effect said transformation, Planning’s preliminary recommendations include pulling future buildings back from the corners and including grand MUNI station entrances within the towers, while adding canopies above the existing station entrances along the streets; planting more trees and new espaliers (living green screens); constructing wind canopies, new passageways and living alleys for pedestrians; and visually defining the crosswalk.

The Market Street Hub Plan: Intersection of Market and Van Ness
And of course, there are the private sector plans for a new plaza as well.

59 thoughts on “The Grand Plan to Transform the Intersection of Market and Van Ness”
        1. Yeah, for one. What will soon be a major municipal, commercial, recreational asset among many others.

  1. I think the sidewalk entrances to the subway should be eliminated whenever possible, and replaced by entrances in the buildings (i.e. ones that look like a storefront, only they lead to escalators/elevators going down). Many cities have this. It works well, and it makes the street nicer and more flexible in terms of future planning.

    1. Absolutely agreed. It looks like they are proposing something like that in the bottom left of the image and in 30 Van Ness.

    2. You can have both and placement depends on several things, like the type of building (commercial/residential), setbacks, connections to transit. Also, cost would be a huge factor given that the mezzanine level of the Van Ness station would have to be extended. MUNI can’t afford it.

      1. I don’t see it. Commercial or residential, we’re talking about large buildings. A subway entrance which takes maybe 20-30 feet of ground floor frontage will be fine in either. And the mezzanine level would have to be extended, what, all of 20 feet across the sidewalk? It doesn’t seem that big an issue, plus the city can have it be at least partially funded by the developer as part of their “public space” requirement.

      1. Pee is the least of their problems based on the stories I’ve heard about the Civic Center escalators…

        1. I keep waiting for the BART job title to be updated to Escalator Mechanic / Hazardous Waste Technician. And wondering if they’ll be dual represented by the Plumbers Union as well as IUEC Local 8.

    1. Funny, I’ve always thought that this intersection and/or the South Van Ness / Mission intersection are screaming out for giant European rotary treatment…

  2. It is time to build a Midtown area with this Market Street hub project. They should include two or three towers in the 700-800 foot range that would stand out from Downtown. The wind effect may be a negative as it does get blustery.

  3. The Mission Street intersection deserves a grand treatment as well possibly including as a roundabout with monumental artistic centerpiece.

    1. Hey we agree on something 🙂
      see my note above – So. Van Ness and Mission is such a mess – and such an impediment to pedestrians – it should instead be the Place d’Etoile of San Francisco.

          1. I notice a point? The term Homeless serves to sanctify/submit-to/ the problem. And a new phrase/noun would set the tone for a situation that’s not acceptable, and needs to be addressed. Camping? Streetful? Home-between?

          2. it’s beyond homelessness. “Surplus population” was the relevant 19th century term. More and more people are just “unnecessary” to the functioning of the modern economy, which basically involves moving mythical money from one hedge fund to another financial “product” or “investment vehicle”.

  4. This is not a midtown “area”, it is only 4 blocks. Building 600 foot tall buildings next to wide areas having 85 foot height limits (currently occupied by 40 foot tall buildings) seems non-sensical from any design standpoint.

    Rather than proceeding with a suspiciously-timed upzoning that seems to benefit a few specific developers, planning should extend the scope of this plan to include many more blocks along Market, Mission and VanNess.

    Even with improved transit entrances, these blocks are shaping up to have all the vitality of Rincon Hill – where the lesson that should have been learned is that building taller does not engage the street, it only removes people from it.

    1. Right? While the supes are busy falling all over one another with petty meaningless tit for tat legislation, they are silent as a tomb on this monstrous, sudden, sloganeered, sloppy plan. Its going to turn that whole area into a mini version of Century City. And the traffic flow? Right now its one of the few remaining ways for the massive through-put of 101 travel in the city. The other being poor disheveled 19th Ave. Its jammed all day everyday already. Where are these vehicles (mostly trucks and work vehicles because locals avoid driving there at all) supposed to go? Will they magically disappear like in the $0.10 cent renderings?

        1. Well in an ideal world … I’d love to see Hwy 1 tunneled from the Presidio to the south side of the Sunset hill (say, to Vicente) – with discreet exits [i.e., like the Storrow Drive exits in Back Bay, Boston] for Fulton, Lincoln or Irving, and maybe Noriega. The park would return to being a park, and 19th Avenue could be cleaned up and become a nice boulevard with a (real) planted median … or skip the median but add express bus lanes and bike lanes.

          1. Amen to that. It’s not like tearing down the cross-town freeway reduced cross-town auto traffic. When I dwelt on Cathedral Hill I almost got ran over every time I dared out for a quart of milk. If the density of SF’s going up and up, we need more tunnels for muni and cars. I’m thinking they could use that new sculpture at Trinty as a drill bit. Might cut-down on costs!

    2. Tall buildings didn’t remove people from the streets on Rincon Hill or suck life out of it; there was no life over there to begin with. Whatever they did there was only an improvement. Give it another decade or two, and it should improve further with a grocery store or two.

      1. Wow, you get to pay millions to live in an area that rides on the hope of getting a grocery store to breathe some life into it. TJ is partially correct…tall buildings don’t really engage people at the street level.

        1. You are severely underestimating the power of groceries that you don’t have to drive to; it’s the proverbial jar in Tennessee. And you’d see the fallacy of using Rincon Hill as an example if you put aside for a moment your jealousy for those paying millions.

          1. I agree with you sfcommie. Not exactly about the grocery store making the difference ( it will help though for sure) but more about give RH area a few more years. People who can’t see that now are fools!

            New transbays parks, one one the center roof, 1 one street level the size of union square

            Many more residential towers breaking ground now or soon ( tehama, twisty tower, Tetris tower in Folsom, parking garage replacement on Howard and Stewart, some BMR in the mix too… And I’m probably forgetting a few….All will rise before this cycle ends….

            More office towers going in ( 181, sales force, park tower, all already going up), DR claw Hq aka Oceanwide should start up by end of year. These are all happening before cycle ends.

            Those aren’t all rincon hill of course but they are very nearby and point is the area is quickly filling in. Shops and eats and bars and who knows what else will follow.

            It’s funny people can’t see it now.

            I’ve worked in that area since 2001 and its improved vastly and it continues to do so.

            There are WAY more people walking around those blocks now, and mean Harrison, Folsom, main, spear… Not just around the transbay area.

            Walking down Harrison from embarcadero to 1st st now vs 2001?? Even vs 2008. It’s a whole new city there.

  5. I agree with tj’s comment. Tall buildings suck the life out from the street. Applies particularly in such a pedestrian-unfriendly area as this. Needs lower height development, which do not overshadow the Beaux Arts building. A road diet is also required to make this area more of a place where people could conceivably linger – which is what a city should be about.

    1. > Tall buildings suck the life out from the street.

      yeah, I hate walking through the empty sidewalks of midtown Manhattan when I’m in New York City.

      1. Not an entirely accurate, but nicely sarcastic, remark. The daytime population of Manhattan is about 4 million people, on 22 square miles.

        1. What’s your point? His is that tall buildings don’t inherently suck the life out of the street (obviously), and you didn’t exactly refute it…

      2. Come on, NYC is the anomaly. Unfair comparison in this case. Most cities, even large ones, roll up their business district sidewalks after 5pm and on weekends. The Hub could be something great, but it will take more than a few towers to achieve something more than just a collection of tall buildings and “living alleys.”

  6. Agree with the comments above that this is way too tall and dense as proposed. Especially when the areas to the south and west are max’d out at 85. It not likely these other areas will ever be up-zoned.

    Something of the scale of the Golden Gateway would be far more appropriate. 20/25 story buildings on low platforms (3/4 stories). One Oak is just too massive for its tiny lot.

    As to the plaza, how about art at the 4 corners, water features – though not fountains maybe because of the winds. Benches?

    It needs lots more than large cemented in areas at each of the 4 corners with 5/6/7 spindly trees. Maybe planters? And shrubs – lots of shrubs.

  7. I don’t know why you don’t get it. The mezzanine level is the first level of the subway station. It’s more work than you’d expect to expand 20 feet UNDER the sidewalk to a new entrance. We’re talking millions of dollars.

    1. This is response to Alai’s comment…no idea why my comment appeared here when I clicked on the original thread.

  8. The streetscape would be greatly improved if the buildings were only 4-6 stories tall at the intersection, then stepped up to their full height further behind. The lower portions at front would then engage the street (and probably attract restaurants, etc.. with large windows overlooking the intersection) and possibly rooftop gardens. This would also help with the wind.

  9. Uh… a couple trees added to the ones already there. A canopy over BART (which has been rejected time and time again). Pulling back the new buildings from the intersection as all the proposals have.

    I wonder what the bill was for this bold study…

    1. There are canopies in the rendering.

      DC Metro installed some fine looking (and practical) canopies over its exposed entrances back around 2000. It can be done, but as with everything in the Bay Area, there are complaints, protests and countless studies.

  10. Upzoning this area to 600-700 ft will be amazing for the city. Lots of new housing and a new urban hub. This will make the surrounding areas near Market st a lot more enjoyable. All they need to do is build an iconic tower in that area and it will be perfect.

    1. Erecting an iconic tower doesn’t magically transform its location into something amazing. Nor does upzoning create an enjoyable, urban playground.

  11. Around 1907 a plan was developed that had a huge traffic circle with fountain type monument in the center of this intersection. I believe this was part of Burnham’s proposed plans for rebuilding San Francisco, which also included an incredible Ferry Building Plaza that was partially based on San Peter’s Square in Rome with a similar enormous Bernini style colonnade. They made “no small plans” back then, and we could do better than this proposal now imho.

  12. I rarely read the information from SocketSite. By the time all of these things will be built, I’ll be 6 feet under.

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