Central SoMa Plan Area

The 260 acres of land bounded by Market, Second, Townsend and Sixth Streets, which will soon be bisected by the Central Subway and is collectively known as Central SoMa, is currently zoned to support the building of 8,225 new residential units and office space for another 19,140 workers.

By selectively increasing height limits on certain sites, primarily south of Harrison Street, up to 400 feet in height; removing land use restrictions to emphasize office uses in the central portion of the area; and modifying the system of area streets and circulation to meet the needs of a dense transit-oriented district, the first iteration of the City’s Central Corridor (now SoMa) Plan, which was drafted three years ago, added the potential for building an additional 3,490 housing units and office space for another 27,820 jobs within the area.

But as we wrote at the time:

“It’s a great start, but with San Francisco projected to add 190,000 new jobs by 2040, filled in part by a projected 150,000 new residents by 2035, and for which 92,000 housing units will need to be built, are the plans for San Francisco’s Central Corridor with excellent regional transit accessibility adjacent to existing job centers and urban amenities big enough?”

This afternoon, a revised Central SoMa Plan will be unveiled and presented to San Francisco’s Planning Commission.

The draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the revised neighborhood Plan is then expected to be released next month. And if all goes as currently envisioned, the City’s Central SoMa Plan could be adopted and in place by mid-2017.

We’ll keep you posted and plugged-in.

UPDATE: New Plan for Central SoMa Doubles Additional Housing and Space for Jobs, but not all developers are going to be happy.

47 thoughts on “The Grand Plan for Building Up Central SoMa Is about to Be Revealed”
  1. A more appropriate question is, “how many people can our awful filthy outdated antiquated dinosaur sickly lame transit system support?” Answer: Not many.

      1. and it does a crappy job of managing the current ridership. imagine how the lack of planning will affect our transit in 10 yrs

  2. A paramount question is – can the city infrastructure handle more jobs and people? Given that infrastructure improvements are decades away.

    This huge up-zoning will have long-term negative effects on the city as a whole. Not just the immediate surrounding area.

    Do any long-term positive effects outweigh the negative ones?

    If nothing else, this plan needs to be submitted to voters for a thumbs up or down.

    1. Well as long as Prop M is in effect, this will get built out over the next 30 years. As long as every residential project gets fought tooth and nail, these units will be be built out over the same timeline.

    2. Democracy is not a good thing if it’s just an excuse for the ‘Have’s’ to maintain their tyranny over the ‘Have Not’s’ (those who already have a San Francisco residence voting to disallow anyone else from being able to have the thing same after them).

      And since we’re talking doom and gloom, consider this: if current residents of cities always got to vote on whether or not to allow their city to expand and grow with more construction and new people, then cities would never grow, we would all still be hunter-gatherers, and civilization would never have existed.

      1. “…we would all still be hunter-gatherers, and civilization would never have existed.”

        Say whaaaaa?

    3. Planning decisions made by San Francisco voters? Voters are too easily influenced by special interest spending and NIMBY thinking. No thanks.

      1. And the city PTB and planning commission are not influenced by special interests?

        Something this big should be voted on by the residents. Maybe if TI had been put up for a vote we might have gotten a world class venue worthy of a major city and not a raft of housing units crammed into boxy towers on unstable land.

    4. “Given that infrastructure improvements are decades away.”

      We can only wish that someone had thought to put a new transit link DIRECTLY through the middle of this area.

      1. One can hardly call the CS a huge infrastructure improvement. It will be interesting to find out how many people who use the Powell St. station will actually transfer to the CS to ride it to the Moscone/YB station…take a 2-block passage north on Stockton, descend about 9 stories and wait for a T train to travel south. Faster just to get off at Powell and walk the 2-3 blocks to Howard/Folsom.

        1. I’d imaging it will be more convenient for people who work in Mission Bay and are commuting in on Bart (or reverse commuting that way from SoMa)

        2. I don’t like the CS (it’s overpriced, doesn’t go far enough north, and doesn’t connect with TB Terminal), but if your best argument is “infrastructure improvements are decades away”, you have no argument.

        3. walk? Are you a communist? That would interfere with my sexting and posting on FaceBook! Where is my personal rocket pack?

    5. So long as you have a right to freely move about the country and there is a free market, population growth and economic growth are not things that are decided by governments. You can’t simply pass a law to change these numbers. What you can do, however, is plan ahead so that this expected growth is done right. Just look at what decades of planning to prevent growth has gotten us…

    6. No, it cannot. Under regional planning I don’t see why SF should be permitted to build even one more office. Its ratio of housing to jobs is already completely out of line with the rest of the region; adding twice as many jobs as houses only worsens the problems.

      SF would have to build housing non-stop for 30 years to come back to the regionally-planned ratio of jobs:housing. Allowing SF to double up on offices only worsens the housing and transit situation in the surrounding cities.

      1. BTW, not only is SF guilty of this, the SV is too. Building too many offices and not enough housing because of tax advantages. This contributes to the situation where so many workers have to drive hours each day between work and home. Its a negative factor in terms of quality of life.

        1. It’s easy to draw equivalence but the data isn’t there. SF has a jobs:housing ratio over 1.6 while Santa Clara County is 1.4 and San Mateo has 1.2, the regional average. San Francisco is the worst and getting worse. Building 190,000 desks but only 92,000 homes is going to make this ratio much much worse.

        2. Partly true. But, even if SV (and SF) built endless urban housing along all of its corridors and plenty of transit improvements to serve it, much of the population, with an average household size of 3.0 or below, needs 3,000 square foot houses with three car garages and massive lawns. This population would still commute from Tracy.

          1. jwb’s ratios are irrelevant. SF is a relatively small area compared to the surrounding counties. Almost all the jobs in SF are concentrated in a small percentage of our relatively small area. Almost all the people that work in that small percentage commute in via mass transit or car. Once a commuter is in a car or BART/Caltrain/ferry/Samtrans/Muni/etc and in for a 30-40+ minute commute, the area of interest to balance jobs and housing is much larger than little SF. That is exactly why the US gov’t invented the MSA. Any analysis of jobs to housing and/or commute flows and transportation needs below the MSA level is a waste of time.

            BTW, the reason that SF has had and will have a disproportion of jobs to housing is that a concentration of information workers is more productive. This has been proven. Thus we have a central business district (CBD) instead of jobs spread all around SF more uniformly. And new jobs tend to concentrate near existing jobs. It is actually worth more to be located in the SF CBD than in the Oakland CBD because of the expected increase in productivity. And we can pack office workers in less space than they demand/want/require for their housing. And crazy as it may seem, knowledge workers don’t care as much about open space at work as they do at home. Thus cities naturally evolve to a CBD surrounded by housing districts/suburbs connected by mass transportation systems (freeways/trains/etc). Even a suburbanize CBD like in the SV follows the same pattern. The SV CBD is centered at Sunnyvale and extends out about 10 miles mostly along 101.

            FTR, SF has been importing ~45% of the workers here from surrounding counties for many decades. And SF exports ~20% of our resident workers to neighboring counties, mostly San Mateo. Every workday, for about the past 50 years.

  3. The transit will follow the density and congestion and not the other way around. Waiting to upzone until the transit is built out is the same thing as never upzoning at all. America’s first subway system, the current downtown portion of the Green Line Boston, was built to relieve street level gridlock, not as capacity for future density. (A gridlock at the time caused in large part by streetcars & trolleys, both electric and horse-drawn)

    1. Wow, a sad and disturbing reality. Horrendous life shortening traffic congestion will never end no matter what you do, build or plan for…. positively apocalyptic.

      1. The more housing we have in SF, the less cars on the road coming to / leaving SF. If we have enough housing for those working in the City, traffic will be reduced.

        1. Such a pipe dream. Even if the majority live in SF, a significant fraction will come from the surrounding area. As the number of jobs increases, so does the raw number of people using all modes of transit.

      2. Life is sad and stressful…then you die.

        The choice, of course, is the remaining 40+ states outside the coastal boom areas. I understand congestion is not a problem…or affordable housing…in Canton, Ohio. But if you want an exciting job designing aps for the top 10%, SF is where you gotta be.

    2. The plan is equidistantly split by the city’s Central Subway plan. When the Subway eventually reaches Fisherman’s Wharf, residents in the Northern neighborhoods (North Beach, Russian Hill, FW, Marina, Cow Hollow) will be able to reach the southern tip of the Central SoMa plan in 15-25 minutes. Central SoMa residents have access to quick access BART and Caltrain so they can easily move in any direction.

      1. The city’s transit system (Muni) will never ease that gridlock, since it’s caused by commuters to the Bay Bridge. That’s a BART problem/solution.

        1. Many transit agencies operate in their home counties and in San Francisco. I fail to see why Muni cannot also do so (indeed, Muni serves Marin County, Daly City, and Brisbane, barely).

  4. Developments like this and the Mid Market Hub are a positive sign SF is moving forward. They are not going to be built tomorrow but over the next decade. I am sure there will be a economic dip in there somewhere. Cities prosper by growing and the infrastructure needs to keep up with the developments. Hopefully , we will have a moderate legislative board over this time.

  5. Does anyone want to take a guess at when we can be be relived that the ‘progressives’ on the BOS will decline significantly? Until then, not much will happen.

    So long, Campos, Mar, Kim & Avalos. I won’t miss you one bit. The end of their time wasting, money sucking on ridiculous plans couldn’t come soon enough for new residents (and many old ones).

    When will the scales tip – 2020?

  6. The biggest source of congestion in this “central soma” is the bay bridge. Every time the bridge has a hiccup eastbound the intersections of 2nd, 3rd, 5th, and Brannan, Bryant, Harrison, Folsom gridlock. Some even drive the wrong way on southbound 2nd to avoid the backup. The central subway will not alleviate this and the bay bridge is not going away.

    The next biggest cause of congestion is the 100+ events per year at AT&T park. When an event coincides with a bridge incident you get as much as 4 hours of frozen traffic (including buses).

    No amount of fiddling with street parking or restricting garage spots per unit will change or ameliorate these dominant external factors.

    1. Bingo. Don’t forget there will more than an additional 100 events/year if the Warriors stadium is built.

      How many of these new workers will live in the East Bay – to your point about the BB congestions. Some will live on the Peninsula? Let’s not forget the grand plan to take down the 280 freeway.

      All these promises were given in spades with the TTC proposal and look how that has turned out.

      How about tying approval for this up-zoning to funding in place and work started or about to start on the Caltrans extension to the TTC? Short of that all we will get is uber development with no real transportation and infrastructure upgrades.

    1. And it will only get worse once the city changes 2nd street to two lanes, which will obviously force the current traffic elsewhere. The 2nd street plan, which is the eastern border of the upcoming Central SoMa revision sounds even more ridiculous now with up zoning for greater density.

  7. Wow is anyone listening to the public comments in the PC? Summary: don’t build new housing or transit because it will definitely displace the filipino community. Also don’t build tall buildings because its insensitive for seniors. Make it a neighborhood for all (except people who have jobs and people who need to commute).

  8. Upzone it. We need the jobs and housing. The subway is going to be running in just a couple years, and the new trains start to arrive in December.

    1. “The subway is going to be running in just a couple years, and the new trains start to arrive in December.”

      The new leg goes … nowhere.

      1. The central soma plan generates $500m for transit needs. 2/3 goes to SFMTA. We should mandate the SFMTA use a large portion of that $300m to extend the Central Subway to Fisherman’s Wharf and North Beach ASAP.

        The project has already been studied, has political approval and would have thousands of riders as soon as it opens. Of course it would also require federal funds, but its easier to get federal funds when you already have substantial funding, planning, and a case for regional importance.

      2. The new leg goes to Chinatown. If you mean that Chinatown is “nowhere” but North Beach would be “somewhere” then you need to check your assumptions.

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