330 Townsend Street Site

The development team behind a proposed 300-foot-tall tower to rise at 330 Townsend Street has shifted gears and architects, abandoning the original plans for an office or mixed-use development in favor of a 31-story building with 374 residential units over 11,500 square feet of ground-floor retail space and an underground garage for 291 cars.

And the modern design as envisioned by STUDIOS Architecture has been replaced by a more traditional design drafted by Solomon Cordwell Buenz (SCB):

330 Townsend Rendering 2016

The development would stretch from Townsend to Bluxome Street with a mid-block public paseo between.

330 Townsend Design

Keep in mind that the 330 Townsend Street site, which is across from the current Caltrain terminus in the city and a block away from a future Central Subway stop, is currently only zoned for development up to 85 feet in height.

But San Francisco’s draft Central SoMa Plan includes a possible up-zoning of the site to 300 feet in height, an increase which will have to be approved by San Francisco’s Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors and then survive any legal challenges or efforts to block it at the ballot box.

72 thoughts on “New Plans for a 300-Foot Tower Across from Caltrain”
    1. What’s there to like? A cold, sterile, corporate building that is 30 stories of more luxury housing, pushing the price point up even higher in SF. 8 stories of more luxury housing is enough – and the developer will make a bundle. Building luxury housing doesn’t increase affordable housing in SF. If we want affordable housing, then build affordable housing.

      1. So-called affordable housing is *subsidized* housing. And the funny thing about subsidized housing is that someone else has to pay for it. Which means you will never build much of it, and you will never build a very dense or large project in the areas that need it the most.

        This project is exactly what’s needed.

      2. More supply helps drive down pricing at all levels as we are currently now witnessing. We have more units on the market now than at any point in the last four years and prices are stabilizing/declining on both the rental and ownership fronts. New housing is luxury and will always be in a city that takes around 7 years to get something built in and has premium land prices.

      3. Actually, these types of towers do create lots of affordable housing. This tower will be required to contribute a significant number of units to the affordable housing pool, and it will be done without taxpayer subsidy. This is exactly what we need.

  1. another boring, bland poduim box, que up pottery barn for the interiors…..but i agree build it!!

    1. The building is not terrible, per se. But I much prefer the old brick building. We actually don’t have that many left and will soon have none at this pace. Oh well.

  2. Glad to see high density here but damn, the 2014 design was so much better. Hard to accept going from something with so much personality, to this.

  3. Please build it. A major upzoning and project like this will set a precedent for the rest of that area, which is currently filled with squat warehouse-type buildings (or empty lots). The region should instead be stacked with 15-40 story office, condo, apartment buildings

    1. “The region should instead be stacked with 15-40 story office, condo, apartment buildings”

      Uh, why?

        1. Adding supply in a boom doesn’t lower “insane levels” in prices. Adding supply in a boom doesn’t lead to an equilibrium. Quite the opposite. The increased supply itself is part of the boom, adding fuel to the boom. Prices only come down when the boom ends (as a result of layoffs, bankruptcies, declining stocks, increased interest rates, maxed-out credit, etc). Building an oversupply in a boom leads to the correction being even more severe than it would otherwise be.

          You can’t build your way to affordability in a boom, let alone a bubble. In a boom and bust economy like ours, there isn’t an “equilibrium” in housing economics, so supply and demand is only of many factors (and not necessarily even the most important factor) in the cost of housing. When asset prices are increasing, new supply pushes prices even higher. Moreover, adding density to a property increases land value, so housing gets even more expensive.

          It’s really great that everyone took Econ 1, learned a little about supply and demand, and can use simplistic S&D models to try to explain more complex situations. When you get to somewhat more advanced econ (and especially when you get away from the now disgraced neo-classical ideology), you learn about the many exceptions, qualifications, and adjustments to those simplistic models that everyone mistakenly thinks are universal and inviolable. Taking just one or two econ classes does more harm than good. It’s the fault of economic academics, trying to give everyone a little taste of the field. Unfortunately, learning just a little economics, and applying those idiotically simplistic models and theories to the real world often tells the wrong story.

          1. “Adding supply in a boom doesn’t lead to an equilibrium. Quite the opposite. The increased supply itself is part of the boom, adding fuel to the boom.”

            “In a boom and bust economy like ours, there isn’t an “equilibrium” in housing economics, so supply and demand is only of many factors (and not necessarily even the most important factor) in the cost of housing.”

            It’s hard to believe the nonsense being thrown around by those opposing development in SF. Are your wild theories actually supported by actual research or is it merely a statement of insanity? Are you stating there is infinite demand during a boom?

            The city is lost if these people are voting for our policies.

          2. Ok, you can’t consider that factors other than S&D cause “insane levels” of pricing in a boom. You prove my point.

            And I don’t oppose development. I oppose development that feeds off of and adds fuel to the bubble, that is geared to profit from short term speculation, and that displaces well-paying blue collar jobs that can sustain families in which the breadwinner doesn’t hold a college degree.

          3. “Building an oversupply in a boom leads to the correction being even more severe than it would otherwise be.”

            Well, yeah. That’s the point. If you want affordability, a “severe correction” from sky-high prices is exactly what you want.

          4. I’ll partially agree with you. During boom/frothy times, price expectations get so irrationally high that they drive up current prices. Who wouldn’t pay $1M for a condo that they think will soon be $1.5M?? And 3% down is only $30k which doesn’t even have to be your own money. Irrational expectations makes demand become very insensitive to price.

            But no boom or bubble lasts forever. And all the housing that gets built during a boom is still there after the bust. And building during the boom creates jobs. So people get employed during the boom and the additional supply makes housing cheaper after the bust.

          5. this is utterly ridiculous. once the boom is over, we still ahve a lot of new units that never wouldve been built without the boom. the new units help clear out demand at higher end, and when the levy breaks, more housing means lower pricing.

    2. It’s called the Central SoMa plan. It upzones the whole Central SoMa area (between 6th and 2nd st, Townsend and Market st) quite a bit.

  4. I too agree that the interim design is fairly lame. Regardless, I’m excited to see this area grow in the coming years.

  5. The 2014 design was a lot more interesting. I don’t think neighbors will accept having such a tall tower look so bland while also effectively blocking SoMa’s views of iconic towers in downtown SF and the transbay area. I think zoning this area up to 400 ft is going to be quite contentious unless planners and architects can come up with something a bit more inventive.

    1. How much of a view do you get of downtown from SoMa? Maybe if you’re on the top few floors of Avalon but then I don’t feel that bad for you, changing skylines is part of living in a city

  6. I wish wish wish SCB (same cold box) would just pack up and leave town. STUDIOS has designers/ craft/vision.
    SCB is a developer friendly, excel spreadsheets/ bottom line driven out of town sweatshop that does generic stuff.


    1. How do you really feel?

      I’m all for upzoning, but the design is really rather dull and uninspiring. I’d have preferred the brick façade be incorporated into the design to keep the industrial flow intact at the street level, but it’s only my opinion and there will be hundreds of SS followers who will disagree. Such is life.

  7. Given traffic and commuting conditions in the bay area any large apartment complex adjacent to transit should fill right up. Build this and more. And the design is o.k. – there’s already way too many fake brick facades in the neighborhood.

    1. Yeah, with that thinking, Portland should tear down most of the Pearl District because there are just too many brick facades around.

      However, I agree that a large apartment complex adjacent to transit fits right in. 291 parking spots do not fit if you’re assuming residents will get around on transit instead of by car.

      1. Are you sure? Tax records say 1985. Construction type is masonry and concrete, so not likely to be a fake facade, but doesn’t look like it’s an old building.

        [Editor’s Note:Built in 1920, [330 Townsend] is a 2-story, brick masonry commercial building designed in a utilitarian commercial style…clad in brick [and] capped by a flat roof.”]

  8. Oh, this is a disaster. that’s much too large for a location near transit. Ruins area character. And for regional affordability, it should be a 3 to 7 story building instead. Those filter down to poor people much faster. Because supply and demand concepts are elitist pseudo-sicience.

    Kidding, just kidding. Satire. Had to, because this is a unicorn project, of appropriate size for it’s location. Almost inspires hope.

    1. Thank you. This project is LITERALLY INSANE. Crazy! This is San Francisco. A cozy fishing and bread baking village. Not a major city like San Diego or Seattle.

  9. Has anyone asked [Supervisor Peskin] if he will bless such a big structure? Especially one that will house so many “newcomers” who are not part of the “people.” It is far away from his court on Telegraph Hill.

    1. I think he’ll be ok with it as long as he can’t see it from his living room window.

      I’m sure San Francisco would be a much different place today, much better in my opinion, if that man never bought a house with a view.

  10. How much additional housing and particularly affordable housing will this spot up-zoning in the Central SOMA yield? Versus just building out to the existing 85 foot zoned height? Is the gain worth the shadowing and traffic problems that would come?

    I think San Franciscans should ultimately decide (yes or no) whatever the final up-zoning plan is via the ballot. This is a large area near downtown and major changes, one way or the other, will impact much of San Francisco.

    1. 25% of 374 is 93.5 BMR Units. Having a building only 85 feet would yield a much lower BMR count.

      FYI, this area is ripe for height and construction. In the plan the City had for the demolition of the 280 extension, they stated they could raise the height in the rail yard area up to 600 ft.

      As for a ballot, you just want your progressive liberals at the Board to vote this down.

      1. Nice. No I feel SF residents should get something for any up-zoning. The Giants did 40% BMR for Mission Rock. 25% is not enough.

        If some sites such as this are to be up-zoned for 30 stories then along with that should be a requirement for a higher BMR percentage.

        That is why I think SF residents should vote on the plan – and they will IMO whether through initiative or Peskin and his allies putting it on the ballot – what is in it for San Franciscans.

        Someone above said it’d be nice for hi-tech workers on the Peninsula as they could commute to their residences near CalTrain in the Central SOMA.

        That, my friend, is the problem. This housing is not being built for San Franciscans in many cases. Specifically middle class San Franciscans. Further congesting SF so highly paid Peninsula bio-tech and tech workers can live here is not what, IMO, most San Franciscans want.

        1. Mission Rock was actually 21% affordable, not 40%, and would not have been legal under Prop C. The 40% number Jane Kim boasts of is a total misrepresentation.

          [Editor’s Note: It’s not fuzzy math but rather a basic understanding of the deal that was struck and the semantics behind “affordable” housing.

          As we reported at the time: “If the project’s proposed 240-foot height limit is approved by voters in November, and then successfully approved by the City, 12 percent of Mission Rock’s 1,500 units of housing would be designated for households earning up to 55 percent of the Area Median Income (AMI); 21 percent for households earning up to 120 percent of the AMI; and 7 percent would be priced to be affordable to households earning up to 150 percent of the AMI.”]

        2. Guess what: they’re still going to move to SF thereby increasing demand and prices for the existing housing stock in the many established (and largely inviolable insofar as any significant housing development) neighborhoods resulting in displacement of those San Franciscans. The place to accommodate the inevitable increasing SF population is an upzoned SOMA among others (e.g., Central Waterfront and SE neighborhoods).

          1. Well, that’s not necessarily true. They might move to the exurbs and contribute to horrible traffic instead.

      1. Won’t that proportion of uses just exacerbate the housing imbalance? This is why, whatever the final plan, SF residents/voter should have the final say.

  11. Unless people never leave their homes, I really don’t understand anyone who says “please build it now.” It’s equivalent to saying “let’s make public transit, walking, biking and driving even more awful than it already is”

    Anyone favoring more development should be forced to sit in a car, Muni or BART in rush hour every minute of the rest of their lives. God I can’t wait until the next downturn – hopefully thousands of never-to-be-profitable startups (and their employees) will vanish into thin air, never to be seen again.

    1. And this is the reason why the housing situation is where it is. The NIMBY people like you failed to build and prices are through the roof. This is an Urban City, if you want to live in the Country where you can walk around, move.

    2. “I really don’t understand anyone who says “please build it now.” ”

      When you consider that most people who say that are either in RE (banker/builder/realtor/landlord) or just eager to see their own property values keep shooting up, it’s not that hard to understand.

      1. “When you consider that most people who say that are either in RE (banker/builder/realtor/landlord) or just eager to see their own property values keep shooting up, it’s not that hard to understand.”

        Perhaps they are people who live in non-rent control apartments (most of SOMA) or too-small-for-a-family rent-controlled ones and might like to keep living in the area. If we don’t build, we get more newcomers jacking up rents for what is here now.

      2. people who want to see property values rise would say DONT BUILD ANYMORE. the people who car about housing prices and the housing shortage are the ones who want more built. you live in bizarro world

  12. “The Giants did 40% BMR for Mission Rock. 25% is not enough.” No my friend, they did not. You and I the taxpayers will pay for the difference between 12% and 40%. One of many important reasons to develop the Giant’s site was to help fund the Port’s multi-billion dollar deferred maintenance bill on the Piers. The “brilliant” deal we ended up with gives not one penny in land rent to the Port; it goes to non-profit developers for affordable housing instead. Despite what a self-serving Supervisor claimed, it is you and me the taxpayers who will ultimately have to cough up to repair the piers, which are a national historic landmark district.

    1. I did not know that but it adds to my belief that the City PTB and developers are scamming we the taxpayer. More reason to oppose the Central SOMA up-zoning. Like who does it really benefit. Not you and me surely.

      1. Sure it benefits the citizens of SF. All those new condo owners, including this development will be paying 1.18% property taxes that go into the general fund. Market rate properties pay a substantial higher property tax than BMR. These contractors are not charity organizations. Their costs need to pencil out and since we are a market economey, will give a profit to them.

      2. If you’re a long-time homeowner paying low property taxes due to Prop 13 not only do you benefit but the owners of these properties are the real people paying for the streets and transit you use.

  13. Does anyone know what the status is of the central soma plan? It’s been ages since there’s been any real update and there’s still only the draft eir.

    1. It’s going to Planning for approval some time this fall/winter. Then it will go before the BoS. Probably a couple years from adoption.

  14. this is appallingly ugly – the norm for much of what gets built. the previous studio project looked awesome – extraordinarily good. this new design is 300 feet of disgusting. “build it now”? you people are idiots. build anything? build crap?

    1. Appallingly ugly? Please, give us examples of what this should look like. It isn’t much different from the Studios office use proposal.

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