With up to 9,000 units of housing expected to be built within the boundaries of San Francisco’s burgeoning Hub District, which is off-centered around the intersection of Market Street and South Van Ness Avenue, the plan to guide the development of the neighborhood’s “Public Realm” (i.e., all the space between the buildings and towers) has been drafted.

The Draft Public Realm Plan sets forth the vision for how the neighborhood’s streets, alleys and open spaces could be designed, with specific recommendations for which streets, alleys and open spaces should be redesigned and a host of design strategies and examples.

Specific plans include a new 11th Street Bikeway between Market and Division and the integration of numerous other ongoing transportation and infrastructure projects.

And of course, there’s the complete overhaul of the intersection of Market Street and (South) Van Ness Avenue, the proposed framework for which includes a major widening of the sidewalks and more street trees, a further restriction of private vehicles on Market, separated bike lanes, easier and more integrated access to all modes of public transportation, and the proposed Oak Plaza.

And yes, there are plans for a fourth tower at that intersection as well.

86 thoughts on “Big Plans for the Burgeoning Hub District’s Streets and Plazas”
  1. Why does the VAN NESS BRT stop at Market St. and not continue southbound and get over to the mission or south van ness, possibly getting over to SF General as a link between hospitals?

    What capacity changes will be implemented on muni, underground and above for the increased population?

    Seems like the pack-em-rack-em-stack-em mentality of the development segment ignore consistently the turn-arounds of lyft and uber that turn this area into an impasse zone. SOTA school will add more pedestrians downtown as well as pick-ups and drop offs…

    1. Well politicians in the Mission already wen’t crazy when the bus lanes went in. Imagine trying to implement a BRT down Mission. It’s not a matter of how beneficial it would be for the community, but rather how knee-jerk they would go over allowing such a visible change.

  2. why are the crosswalks rounded? cars wouldn’t stop like that– even the rendering shows cars stopping on top of the crosswalk!

    1. When you think about how people tend to actually cross at crosswalks, they do follow such a pattern, cutting the corners at each side.

  3. Like widened sidewalks; please don’t let FUF narrow them with gardens that come out of precious ped space. We should be encouraging varied uses of sidewalk, not making them into gardens (which are fine let’s say by ripping out some SUV parking spots).

    1. I can’t believe you would prefer pavement over gardens for purpose of pedestrian passage. There is no more pleasant urban walk in this country than Chicago’s Michigan Ave which is a veritable conservatory.

    2. I love how you are specifically targeting “suv” spaces in your rant. So pickup trucks are ok? what about station wagons, mini-vans, convertibles?

      It just shows the incredibly charged narrow minded view that many so called liberal San Franciscans really have.

      1. It’s discrimination I tell you! When will we learn to judge vehicles not by the color of their paint jobs but by the content of their driver’s seat?

          1. I absolutely love what they will do to this part of the city. Now all we need is a Trader Joe’s on the ground floor of one of these buildings.

    3. needs green and a few benches for the people who need to stop and sit regardless of who uses them, seating is essential for the seniors, not just “dispatch” vehicles…

  4. I don’t see the east-bound bike lane at VN. Seems the sidewalk extends right up to the MUNI loading platform. Did they move the bikeway over to … Mission??

    Also, don’t see any shadows from 1550 Mission St or 95 Franklin. And it looks as if 1 S Van Ness has become a street-level plaza.

    1. If you haven’t already, we’d strongly suggest reading the detailed plan as linked above (and note our last sentence). The apparent “1 South Van Ness plaza” is simply an artifact of the rendering in order to clearly show the intersection.

    2. You can see the bikeway with some cyclists to the left of the loading platform (they didn’t paint it green). It’s the ideal way to build it, IMO, especially on such a large street.

      1. Thank you. After drilling down, those figures become bikes, not people waiting on a platform.

        However, I notice little room left for cars – on either side of the island. Is Market St finally to be “car-free”?

  5. I feel like this has a lot of potential as a busy yet inviting central location. The city should definitely encourage a lot of retail around it, including the side streets and second stories.

    One thing I’d like to see– the awnings over the metro entrances are obviously an improvement, but better yet would be to integrate the entrances into the buildings themselves. Significantly reduces maintenance, and it eliminates the bottlenecks that are caused by having them out on the sidewalks. It would be pretty easy to incorporate into the towers, and now’s the time to do it.

    1. “The city should definitely encourage a lot of retail around it, including the side streets and second stories.”

      I second your suggestion for more second-story retail. Certain other cities have this in abundance, and it is a great urban amenity. I never understood why San Francisco doesn’t have more of it, especially downtown where the demand clearly exists for more shopping and dining options.

  6. This part of the city which I already like a lot, even though I don’t get over there much, is going to be waaaaaay better once it builds up like this. I still wish the peak tower in this was 800 – 1200 ft to avoid the tabletop platuea extension of 400-600 along market creeping west. Regardless I like this plan mucho!

    1. In answer to my own question: Yes! At least, according to the May 13, 2015 SocketSite item indicating such a proposal had been submitted to SF Planning. Yet, these materials all seem to indicate a single tower. Has Planning formally issued a preliminary review scotching such a development?

  7. It’s kind of disappointing that more monumental is not being done with the S Van Ness/Mission intersection such as a rotary with central artistic piece. I recognize the Plan’s passing allusion to such potential by noting the important role the thoroughfare plays in the passage of US 101 traffic limiting “major transformation.”

    1. To start, Americans are supremely unfamiliar with traffic circles.

      And maybe im wrong, but i have a feeling its not standard operating procedure to put a roundabout in the the middle of a highway (van ness ave). Maybe the light rail tracks would complicate things too?

      1. It is also much too small a space for a multi-lane traffic circle. The corner-to-corner diameter across is as short as 120 feet, which is about the same as the intersection of Division, 8th, Townsend, and Henry Adams. By comparison, the smaller traffic circles in DC (eg scott) have about twice that minimum corner-to-corner diameter.

        The Mission and Van Ness intersection completes the 101 Mission/Van Ness on/off ramp traffic circuit. Until that ramp pair is closed and/or the Central fwy is torn down, the Hub will remain a bizarre multi-block auto exchange butchery of the 1930s, 40s, and 50s (namelink).

        1. That’s part of what makes the streets cool in that area, to me. It’ll be cooler with some towers coming in.

          That was a great sentence you wrote btw!!

      2. Not all Americans. Those of us raised in or near Washington DC know them well. Thanks to a French designer (Pierre L’Enfant), our national capital is full of them and many commuters navigate them daily.

        1. There are a number of cool roundabouts in Portland, Oregon and Vancouver, Washington.

          More locally, there is a single lane roundabout with fountain in the middle on St. Francis Blvd in St. Francis Woods.

          Californians should be familiar with them as the DMV handbook spends several sections on the rules for roundabouts and, in my last DMV test, one of the questions had to do with roundabouts.

  8. How do they get to the upper figure of 9000 new housing units in the Hub?

    Assuming they are counting NEMA and the old AAA building and adding in the 5 or so hi-rises and assuming 500 units each (? – One Oak will actually have less than 400 units and the old AAA building has less too IIRC) that comes to 3500 units give or take. It still leaves 5500 units to account for.

    A bunch of 100 unit buildings won’t get them to 4500. Is the idea/zoning for the other blocks in the Hub to fully build them out (lot line to lot line at 10 stories or so a la 1554 Market) to get multiple hundreds of units on each site?

  9. Well at least this set of renderings faithfully captures the awful shadows that will cover the area and the ant-like quality that humans will have when passing through our own little Century Sitty. (sic)

    1. I can’t tell if you’re mocking those who complain about shadows or if you’re actually complaining about shadows

  10. From pointless to pie-in-the-sky. “Better Market Street” – how? with what? when? at what cost? We’ve been fiddling with Market Street for almost a century, what magic bullet is the City going to find now that will turn it into either a Champs Elysees or (at least) a functioning arterial?

    (The answer, of course, is to bore a better subway under Market, to provide for better functionality – or even better yet, bore parallel lines under Folsom or Harrison, and under Geary, to take some of the pressure off the Market Street underground. Nothing else – certainly, nothing that can be done at the surface, is going to make life any better for the current residents of that area nor the city as a whole – let alone after 9,000 to 18,000 more people are added to that immediate area.)

    And “Octavia enhancement project” – oh god what now?! Replace a freeway with a surface street, then express shock and sadness that the surface street is clogged with cars – so now we need to “enhance” it (and as above – how, with what, etc.)? The only “enhancements” that SFMTA seems to speak are bulb-outs and bike lanes and BRT, all of which will make Octavia (and the backup onto the freeway stub) worse, not better.

      1. Building underground would be much more effective. Cars are not going away. They are increasing in sf, not decreasing. Empty Bike lanes are certainly making congestion worse

        1. Spencer – What evidence do you have that bike lanes are making congestion worse? I’m not disputing that claim, but would like to see the facts.

          Long term, bike infrastructure should relieve congestion AND reduce competition for public parking. But I would not be surprised that initially the reverse is true. Just would like to see the analysis leading to that conclusion.

      2. Right. Two words: Uber and Lyft. Forty-five-thousand cars from these “sharing economies” (BS) in our fair city each day. Unregulated. Unregistered. Tell me again about how City Planning and MTA are going to make all the cars go away again?

        1. “Suppress” private cars (and presumably car sharing like City CarShare and ZipCar). Regulate taxis to an absurdly limited number. Trash talk Uber and Lyft and restrict them as much as possible. Turn all gas stations into luxury condos. Now tell me how San Franciscans, especially the old and/or disabled, are supposed to get around the city again.

          1. Well, maybe all the Uber and Lyft drivers who have to leave their benefit-less “gig” economy jobs when the “hail mary’ driverless cars come along, can now start a new idisrupted sharing/gig economy based on rickshaws. How …retro!

          2. I said, suppress — not eliminate. Clearly, automobiles (including self-driving) will always be with us both as choice and need.

            Just as clearly, way too many unnecessary trips are made. Especially by solo drivers; especially for daily commute purposes.

            Suppressing that trend means adopting measures which discourage such behavior. Time to institute a toll on vehicles entering SF central business district beginning with selected times.

        2. agree 100% there is no real transit policy BRT and or LRV systems need to be super amped up to hold and carry the load. With SOTA site and more people jamming this area with developments, transit needs to get moving and quicker than ever….

    1. We don’t need another subway under Market. Its too redundant as is, we have BART, Muni, and F-line, along with numerous buses. Boring a BART line under Geary, intercepting Van Ness is much better.

      1. Agreed about Geary/Van Ness/19th Ave. Travel within SF is slow as heck on transit, but regional travel can be even worse depending on where you live and your destination. It’s faster to take BART from Walnut Creek to downtown SF than the L line from the sunset.

  11. Awful idea, look at the shadows created. Not to mention the wind tunnel effect which no one seems to have an idea about mitigating. What a miserable plan. How ludicrous to bother about pedestrian-friendly alleys. Smaller modern developments yes, but these monsters would overwhelm the area. Also, what about the setting for the beautiful Beaux Arts building? Does context not matter anymore? Reject this mess.

    1. Wrong. This area is already zoned to 400 ft. If you can’t build towers on Market and Van Ness….on top of a rapid transit line, then where can you build towers? I guess according to you, nowhere.

  12. Would be nice to see a round-a-bout installed here (Columbus Circle in NYC would be a great example of what I’m proposing). The buildings could have been taller though. Looks like a tabletop skyline is happening again in SF, this time in mid market. Hope a taller building is added to break up the flat skyline look.

    [Editor’s Note: With respect to the skyline, see: Another Peek at San Francisco’s New Hub and Future Skyline.]

    1. Sadly, that is physically impossible. The distance across Columbus Circle between the curbs of opposite buildings (curb-to-curb diameter) is about 360 feet. This intersection, Mission and Van Ness, has less than 90 feet from the curb at what would be One Oak and the existing BofA/SFMTA building on the east corner. That isn’t big enough to fit a one-lane circle like at 8th and Division. To fit a small two-lane circle like are found in Wash DC (240 feet curb-to-curb diameter) we would have to remove at least half of the footprint of that existing BofA/SFMTA building, set back both One Oak and 10 South Van Ness by at least 40 feet, and relocate entries to the underground that would then be in the right-of-way of your desired traffic circle.

      Besides, the SF way to build a traffic circulator is to connect a series of roads, preferably mostly one-way or with turn restrictions, in an irregular polygon enclosing buildings in a way that makes the entries to the buildings impossible to reach unless you traverse the edges of the polygon just so. The Hub neighborhood itself contains examples of these whimsy. Yet, some people think SF planning lacks creativity and a sense of humor.

      1. You’re confusing the intersections. One Oak and the BA/SFMTA buildings are at Market/Van Ness, not Mission which would be the likeliest candidate for a rotary treatment.

        1. Yes, thanks for the correction, I meant this intersection, which is Market and Van Ness, not Mission and S Van Ness.
          The Mission and S Van Ness intersection is ALSO MUCH MUCH TOO SMALL FOR A MUTLI-LANE TRAFFIC CIRCLE, as I have already pointed out previously to you and cfb, on a thread above.

          Aside from the physical impossibility of building a traffic circle at either intersection without taking a parcel or two or three or four by eminent domain, as someone that has experienced the many traffic circles of Wash DC enough to know them in detail, I think this is a deeply foolish idea. These two SF intersections pass tens of thousands of cars and many buses every commute. Sticking a wholly unnecessary vanity kludge from the horse and buggy days will only impede the already congested traffic. Notice that the congestion is well documented and is one of the rationales/excuses for the BRT.

          A traffic circle at Mission and SVN would impede both the 101 commute traffic and the Mission St traffic. It would make the multi-lane left turn from eastbound Mission onto northbound SVN more circuitous and what is now a very sharp left/u-turn onto Otis go almost in an entire circle. Doubling or tripling the width of either of these intersections to fit a traffic circle would also make for a longer time that pedestrians are engaged with the intersection. Oh, and urban traffic circles suck for pedestrians and aren’t so bike friendly either. Even SFMTA isn’t foolish enough to seriously consider this, let alone propose it repeatedly in public as have some SS posters.

          1. First of all, I never endorsed anything in particular but simply voiced my “disappointment” that something special is not under consideration while acknowledging the practical difficulties.

            I’m sure your criticisms could have been raised to every celebrated such traffic feature worldwide. I do think that the problems here are being overstated/overestimated. Given that virtually every building fronting these arterials is being rebuilt, I fully accept the potential use of eminent domain to better accommodate a plan with the replacement buildings designed accordingly.

            I believe this aspect of the “public realm” for this reworked part of town has been given enough consideration.

            Oh, and note that the Plan contemplates eliminating the turn from Mission onto Otis which would still actually possible with a circle albeit after having to go ALL THE WAY AROUND!

          2. “In particular, the Market and Mission intersections should be given a grand treatment. With respect to the latter, a roundabout with center art piece seems a natural. Think Columbus Circle.” — Orland, Socketsite, 2014.(https://socketsite.com/archives/2014/11/carpets-condos-offices-perhaps-new-mid-market-hotel.html)

            You’ve been advocating/endorsing this for years on Socketsite, without ever apparently understanding what it would take (as in the gov’t taking all or part of 4-6 parcels and impeding the travel of tens of thousands daily). But perhaps we should not expect you to take responsibility for your irresponsibility. Is that something else to add to your “never” category?

            To reiterate, Columbus Circle is ~360 feet across from the curb-to-curb of the facing blocks. The Mission and South Van Ness intersection is about 120 feet wide curb-to-curb at the narrowest and about 200 feet wide between the Goodwill corner and the corner of the Mission/Otis u-turn. A “Columbus Circle” in this location would take away private property from these blocks to create “a roundabout with center art piece” where nearly no one would ever go, impeding all modes of transportation: car, bus, truck, emergency, motorcycle, foot, bike….Might look pretty, but it would be pretty stupid, regardless of whether you personally “fully accept” it or not.

            The Hub doesn’t need more taking of private property for “grand treatments”; it needs healing, not another round of butchery.

          3. In another recent item about the “Hub” a few weeks ago, I expressed enthusiasm for the upzoning of the buildings so long as “great care is taken ” with the treatment with anenities at the streets and sidewalk level. The Mission/S Van Ness intersection in particular cries out for a ceremonial civic investment in the betterment of what could be a true asset along the lines of NYC’s Columbus Circle.

            I simply don’t understand your kind of defeatist naysaying from the outset because of refusal to overcome difficulty.

            Resort to eminent domain to constructively reshape a few acres of the City? Absolutely! These circumstances afford the perfect situation for such remedy.

            You seem to give pre-eminence to not “impeding” traffic. Spend 10 minutes down there standing on any corner and obvious, inescapable conclusion is that above all else what is needed is traffic CALMING.

            Your approach (seemingly built into this Plan) will result in just another sadly lost opportunity for San Francisco to excel for lack of boldness.

          4. Putting a boulder in the middle of a stream doesn’t calm the stream, quite the opposite, it increases the turbulence.

            Adding mid-block traffic lights and crosswalks is a much more effective and cheaper way to shape the traffic and make it safer for pedestrians. If you are at the corner of 12th and SVN how do you safely walk to Tap Plastics? How do you safely walk from 1650 Mission to 1655 Mission? How do you get from 170 Otis to your car parked at the meter directly across the street?

            Shortening the distance between traffic lights effectively puts the the driver’s accelerator pedal foot on a shorter leash. For those of you with a background in queuing systems, it is also fairly easy to model the effect as it breaks one deep queue into a series of two or more queues.

            BTW, adding traffic lights to calm waterfall speed traffic into cataract speed traffic is the “obvious” solution for our many surface traffic sewers be they in urban SoMa (Harrison, Bryant, 4th, …) or suburban SF (Sunset Blvd, Sloat Blvd).

            That’s the practical, feasible, proven way to “overcome difficulties” without the risks of foolish “boldness” in search of “opportunity” to cover their failures at elementary geometry and sophomore queuing theory with heightened elocution and vapid assurances that “great care is taken”.

          5. No wonder the “the city that knows how” has turned into the city that can’t figure out what the f*ck.

          6. Well, SF certainly knows enough not to f’up and gut the Hub to cram your silly carousel into the traffic maelstrom.

          7. dupont circle in DC is a clusterf*&K. THere have been a lot of pedestrian and car accidents there.

  13. This area needs a super tall to take attention away with the lost opportunity that was Salesforce Tower.

    One WTC has immediately become a symbol of NYC partly in thanks to its charismatic form. Salesforce Tower will be something that San Franciscans either want nothing to do with or desperately defend: ‘oh come on it doesn’t look THAT bad.’ (thats one of the most positive things I’ve heard about SFT).

    SF needs a 1200 ft super tall to make up for it…the Hub seems to be the perfect location for one.

    1. Your personal architectural judgement is not necessarily shared. Do you have spire envy because what was sold as a 1776′ building to replace the old WTC turned out to be mostly spire (and they even value engineered away the cladding from that).

      1. No. In fact I tried to like Salesforce Tower. I work in that ‘transbay’ area and the consensus I’ve heard so far from co-workers/friends is that it looks like an ‘uncircumcised *****’ to them. The fact that people who don’t know much about SF development or architecture are saying that is a bad sign.

  14. We’ll never live to see it here, but that’s the perfect spot for a raised pedestrian walkway spanning all four corners. Saw one like that in Shanghai. Similar sized intersection. Escalators/stairs take you up and down from the circle, and pedestrians and cars/buses/bikes never interfere with each other. In fact you can’t cross the street at street level because traffic never stops moving. It’s actually a really neat thing to see.

    1. I agree. This is a perfect place for above-grade pedestrian crossings. Maybe even connect the bridges to second-story retail in the new buildings on each side, similar to the bridges connecting the Embarcadero Centers?

      This sort of thing is very common in China, among other places, and is not only useful for convenience, but also in preventing pedestrian accidents (which I believe is one of the city’s stated goals).

      1. Oh no you didn’t! Pedestrian bridges kill street life experience almost every time. Just go to Minneapolis/St. Paul to see how much. Modern Chinese cities 2nd floor pedestrian falls short of original streetscape, Dubai too.

        1. disagree. think the pedestrian bridges make it more interesting and also cut down on accidents

        2. Or the Strip in Vegas – awful urban form.

          Making pedestrians change grades is a huge impediment to encouraging walking and will only make it easier for cars to speed. Good luck bicyclists…

  15. Maybe they’ll finally ban cars from Market. Only a tourist or an idiot would drive down that street to actually get anywhere.

    1. Go ahead and call me an idiot then. I drive on Market between Duboce and Castro quite frequently to get me to/from the western parts of the city. Banning cars on a major street isn’t going to remove cars from the picture. All you do is spill more vehicles on side streets which are ill-equipped to handle large volumes of traffic.

  16. Maybe they will look at the transit lines, route the F-Line around from Ghiradelli down this way underground or above, and look seriously at lines that extend further than just 2-3 blocks at a time….

    The F-Line was supposed to go out to Chrissy Field, via the tunnel, but the parks service already is removing the tracks and wanting to route it up beach st. (fine than route track properly down Van Ness above and below grade and get a line out to the presidio) than you can build more…

    1. The most logical underground route to Fisherman’s Wharf would be extending the Central Subway which is basically useless as planned for its 2019 release…uhh..unless you want to go from Moscone to Chinatown. A lot of people do that I guess.

      1. First of all, the Moscone station is at the far western end of the Moscone complex. Honestly, it’s faster to walk from Market St. than transfer at Union Square/Powell St., walk 2 blocks to the mezzanine, descend 100 feet and then wait for a T train to go one station. Poorly designed from the get go.

        Second, instead of BRT, money should have been invested in extending the Central Subway from Chinatown to the wharf and then down Van Ness…as a subway…connecting several flourishing neighborhoods with a faster, more efficient means of travel.

        1. I’ve talked to people involved in the Central Subway planning. Any time you bring up an obvious inefficiency they say ‘oh but the funding!’. The choice to have a union square station as opposed to going through the heart of the financial district will never make sense to me. Our FiDi is completely cut off from the residential part of the city. That multi billion dollar Transbay Area is also secluded from residential SF.

          But at least Chinatown will be better connected to Caltrain. That was such a HUGE problem to begin with. As if the people who flood the streets of Chinatown all day are rushing to their tech jobs in silicon valley.

          1. Hey, it took a lot of convincing to change the route from 3rd to 4th. If you’ve ever seen the proposal for a 3rd St. alignment you’d immediately wonder how in the world they got the job of transit planner. That alone is a head scratcher.

            The CS connects nothing other than the Asian community in Chinatown with the Asian community in Vis Valley. That was its sole intent, thank you Rose Pak. The city has no desire to extend it or make it connect to other vibrant, high density areas of the city. It messed up on the connection to Powell St. (station should have been under Market St. between Mission and O’Farrell for an easier transfer to Muni/BART). Even the current Union Square location lacks any accommodation for a future Geary line. Once again, the city has ZERO plans to place transit under Geary.

  17. BRT is a joke! Van Ness Avenue (US101) is one of the top three major thoroughfares in San Francisco. It’s been a “construction site” for the past five months – since October 2016. Every once in a while you might find a construction worker digging up a few rocks, or readjusting traffic cones. Traffic on Van Ness, Gough, Franklin, and Polk Streets is a complete mess. I talked to a gentleman a few days ago who identified himself as a City inspector for the BRT project and he estimated that there are 12 workers assigned to the two mile project.

    1. agree. BRT is a waste of time and trees. Hopefully, we can stop the one on Geary and get SF thinking about more transformative solutions like a subway, or even a raised train. The L in chicago is fantastic and also nice aesthetically

      1. Good luck. First, the city leaders have to buy into it. You really think our mayor gives a crap about transit? Second, the Geary merchants oppose anything that disrupts their 1950s strip mall sanctuary. Third, cost. Opponents immediately chime in about the high cost of a major infrastructure project regardless of its impact on the city and the region.

  18. Desperately need lateral entrances to the Muni Metro station at this intersection…how is that all entrances to “Van Ness Station” turn their back on Van Ness? As a resident of Hayes Valley I can tell you thousands of people flock to this station from Hayes/points North…a north entry would be incredibly thoughtful.

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