1314 Franklin Street Site

The refined plans for a 40-story downtown Oakland tower to rise up to 400 feet in height upon the western quarter of the Downtown Oakland block bounded by Franklin, Webster, 13th and 14th Streets, a block which is currently covered by the 520-space Downtown Merchants parking garage, could be approved by the city’s Planning Commission on Wednesday, along with a seven-story base building across the rest of the site.

As proposed by Carmel Partners and designed by SCB, the “1314 Franklin Street” project would yield 634 residential units over 16,500 square feet of ground floor retail space and a new garage for 600 cars.

While the block is currently only zoned for building up to 275 feet in height, the project team is invoking California’s Density Bonus law and plans to either provide 27 of the development’s units to households earning less than 50 percent of the Area Median Income (AMI) or 54 units for households earning up to 80 percent of the AMI in order to build up to 400 feet as proposed, a plan which shouldn’t catch any plugged-in readers by surprise.

And as we first reported last year, with respect to the thoughts and leanings of Oakland’s Planning Department: “Staff feels that this request is reasonable since it would result in a superior design by creating a slender tower versus that of if they were to request a waiver to the dimensional requirements that could result in a very tall and massive building that could negatively impact the Oakland skyline.”

60 thoughts on “400-Foot-Tall Downtown Oakland Tower Closer to Reality”
  1. I don’t think there’s much you can do that would negatively impact Oakland’s skyline. It’s not that impressive. This is another ugly building to blend in with the other ugly buildings

    1. From NB I-880 I think Oakland has a great skyline… varied heights, styles and lots of neon signage.

      1. I couldn’t agreee more. Oakland has great character in its skyline. Much better than huge charmless steel and glass cylinders stacked up together. Oakland needs to keep building a beautiful, historic, vibrant downtown, with plenty of plazas, sunshine, bike infrastructure, walkability and human scale for pedestrians.

        1. I agree oakland has a very nice skyline. As seen from the oakland hills you can see the grandlake, downtown, lake merrit, the bay, the macarthur maze, the ATAT cranes and shipyards, the bridges and the im on a pedastool city across the bay as well. Its really quite nice, though it could use some more iconic larger modern towers. The existing and older building are really amazing, especially some of the older brick ones, the tribune tower, and there are some really nice old churces too.

          just becuase its not tall doesnt mean its not good.

    2. I think Oakland has a very good mix in its skyline and will only get better with these new residential highrises as well as the proposed office towers. Buildings such as the Cathedral Building, City Hall, Tribune Building, Lemington Building, Latham Building, Rotanda Building give Oakland some beautiful historic buildings mixed in with the modern highrises such as the twin tower Federal Building, the very nice State of California high rise as well as the Kaiser Center and the Ordway Building, by Lake Merritt.

      I also love the beautiful historic 19th century low rise commercial and residential architecture at Old Oakland and Preservation Park. DTO is an elegant mix of old and new and the highrises residential in DTO will increase the density and vibrancy in what will be a lively 24 hour downtown.

    3. What’s wrong with Oakland’s skyline? Personally most skylines blend together to me outside of an Eiffel Tower, pretty much all big city skylines are a bunch of tall buildings

      This is good for Oakland and good for the Bay Area

      1. I agree. We need to balance out the traffic heading west bound on the Bay Bridge. Oakland getting taller and denser is great for our region.

        The Warriors decided to head in the wrong direction for the good of the region but developments like this, near Oakland’s downtown BART stations, will make a huge difference for our congested highways and BART system.

        1. Bay Bridge traffic does balance out daily. Right now (~4PM) the PM commute is building up to balance this morning’s AM commute. Completely wrongheaded to think there will ever be anywhere close to a balance within either the AM or PM commute. Not how it works here or just about anywhere wrt a major CBD and the suburbs.

          As for views and the Oakland skyline, well, Oakland does have very nice views from Skyline Blvd.

          1. And from Lake Merritt, JLS, 1700ft Grizzly Peak, gorgeous Mountain View Cemetery, etc..Oakland always looks its best when viewed from Oakland, not from some distant Bridge, or some freeway in another city.

          2. The SF centric commute does a huge disservice to our Bay Area region. It will correct somewhat with all the new residential and commercial construction in Oakland.

          3. The best part of the view from Skyline is the view of the magnificent and world famous distance, many miles beyond the scraggly Oakland lowlands.

            As for traffic flows wrt a CBD and suburbs, well, economics causes a “centric commute”, as I have explained to you before on SS. That’s why you will find Centric Business Districts in most every metro area. The commute allows large numbers of people to work in high density offices (100-300 sqft/person) in very high density CBDs (100k+ employees/sqmi) while residing in much lower density housing 400-1000 sqft/person and neighborhoods 2-20k residents/sqmi. all of which allows people to have higher incomes that come from the higher productivity of higher density work districts, without having to live in that density all the time (or even most of the time).

            Lman, you’ve been on your Rodney Dangerfield of Oakland crusade for years now and yet you still don’t understand the inescapable economic factors that created the fundamental relationship between SF and the east bay. The “SF centric commute” is a huge and vital service to our Bay Area region. Without it the Bay Area would be much poorer per capita; even Oakland would be poorer.

          4. Not at all. The SF centricity is an artificially created phenomenon based on creating an inflated narrative regarding a more logically positioned central city in the region and then funneling the much larger population of the east Bay over a congested bridge and under the Bay, to work in a much more congested and expensive environment. The dirty little secret which is responsible for the ugly Oakland narrative created by the SF centric media and other powerful SF institutions, is that Oakland is located where the major city in the Bay Area was supposed to be.

          5. wow, Lmano, what a jumble of nonsense. SF rose to prominence ~150 years ago because the Presidio controls entrance to the Bay (fortified since 1793), and the naturally sheltered harbor was good enough to land tens of thousands in 1849. That’s all due to geography, not your weird alt-history, ill-logic, and conspiracy fantasies. Even today, Oakland doesn’t have the population SF had 100 years ago.

            And why did Oakland’s population level off with practically no growth for three generations (1950 389k to 2010 392k)? Maybe Oakland has some problems and there be more pleasant places to live in the Bay Area.

            You seem to forget that the Santa Clara Valley is the real Bay Area inheritor and center of the great wealth and population boom of the post-WWII era, not the inner east bay nor SF. In 1950 Santa Clara County had about 100k fewer residents than the City of Oakland, now it has nearly five times the population of stagnant Oakland. Since 1950, Santa Clara County has grown in population by more than the total growth of Alameda and Contra Costa Counties combined.

            Oakland lost out to SF in the 19th century because of physical geography. It lost out in the 20th century to the south bay because of economic geography: plenty of land and the crops sown by Terman et al.

          6. By that logic Coronado should be downtown San Diego and yet San Diego is on the east side of the Bay. There’s a reason the terminus of the railroads are in Oakland, not in San Francisco. Also, the East Bay has vastly outpaced SF in population growth. Oakland unfortunately suffered from racism, white flight, and disinvestment, in the 50’s, 60’s, 70’s, 80’s, & 90’s. Now that the demographics in Oakland have changed, investment is now once again coming to Oakland and the population is once again growing. It’s that simple. The fear mongering and slanted reporting coming out of SF for decades didn’t help things.

          7. “There’s a reason the terminus of the railroads are in Oakland, not in San Francisco.”

            That reason is that there isn’t a railroad bridge over the bay. There is apparently one person who believes that the center of the bay area is ‘supposed’ to be Oakland. Real estate values for the last 150 years show where the actual center of the bay area is.

          8. We can’t really argue geographic facts as to where the center of the Bay Area really is. Many articles have been written stating that Oakland is the natural center of the Bay Area. A recent article describing San Francisco’s attempted annexation of Oakland and Berkeley in 1912 once again makes the case that Oakland is where SF was suppose to be.

          9. That’s just a touch difficult to square with the fact that real estate prices in SF are higher than Oakland and have been for the last 160 years.

          10. The railroad terminus in San Francisco’s Mission Bay was completed in the 1870s, when San Francisco had about a third of the total resident population of the State of California and about ten times the population of Oakland. Who could have known that the USA railroad network of the 19th century had many terminuses?

            Heavy freight railines (beltline) used to run along the Embarcadero and in parts of SoMa and even the Mission. In the long run (being our generations), these lands in SF became too valuable to use for industrial and PDR. Replacing them with much higher value office and housing accounts for most of the growth in SF for the past ~30 years and should for the next ~30 years. If only the rundown industrial and PDR landscape in Oakland had been equally attractive for conversion. Maybe in another few generations, after the more attractive and successful south bay and the tri-valley are filled.

            The Presidio of San Diego is in the City of San Diego, just like the Presidio of San Francisco is in the City of San Francisco. Both were founded in the 18th Century, as were their respective Missions, as were the towns that grew into the cities of San Diego and San Francisco.

            Oakland is not the East Bay, though it is located in the inner east bay. Similarly, SF is not the pennisula. The little town of Oakland started as only ~5 sqmi. The history of agglomeration and incorporation in the bay area and california is rather sordid.

            Elmano, given your rather bald spreading of alt-fact and ill-logic and your many years of these low-quality postings and articles, I really don’t think we are well served by your appeals to “many articles have been written…” The generally accepted demographic center of the Bay Area is south and east of Oakland, somewhere around Hayward. For most people, Oakland is where they pass through on their way to work and play and live in far more successful and wealthy cities and lands, and always has been.

          11. No, Oakland is the nexus of the BART system. Oakland is well all the BART lines converge as well as where all the freeways meet. The Bay Bridge is the artificial lifeline to San Francisco’s economy. Without diverting economic growth and prosperity from Oakland’s natural geographically superior location, SF’s economy would contract and wither. SF depends on diverting the vast East Bay population and economic prosperity from Oakland via a congested Bridge and BART system to naturally inaccessible San Francisco. Creating an “Oakland is scary and has no There there narrative” certainly helps to bypass Oakland while extracting wealth from the East Bay.

          12. Jake, let’s stop pretending that port operation shifted to Oakland from San Francisco because there was demand to develop the Hunters Point waterfront. The Port of Oakland grew because Oakland is a much more logical center to move commerce and connect to railroads. Same think is now happening with Oakland International Airport as international flights and growth has increased by 75% in the last two years. The vast East Bay population does not want to be forced to take International flights out of inconvenient “San Francisco” airport. SFO is also an artificially politically constructed “center” for Bay Area travelers.

          13. Yes, Elmano, Oakland is where some (not all) the freeways meet and the main junction for BART because … For most people, Oakland is where they pass through on their way to work and play and live in far more successful and wealthy cities and lands, and always has been.

            Curious, though, that you think being the primary transportation sewer for the Bay Area is a positive attribute of Oakland. How many acres of subprime downtownish Oakland are devoted to freeways? How many people living to the east of Oakland use those freeways to get to their work to the west of Oakland and never pay Oakland any toll or tax for those freeways? Sheesh, the main purpose of both the BART system and the freeways you extol are to transport people and goods to SF. What should be “scary” is the lack of reality and even common sense in your comments. Oakland deserves a more honest appraisal.

          14. Guys, can we all just focus on what really matters. Oakland has outstanding religious architecture. The rest is just details.

          15. Ah yes, San Francisco and Silicon Valley, connected by a once-per-hour milk train and two soul crushing freeways. Makes sense to me.

  2. SCB seems to have a stranglehold on all the new highrise development in Downtown Oakland — and that wouldn’t be so bad if their designs were a little more inspiring.

  3. Too bad Carmel can’t do a property swap w/ Shorenstein and have the latter erect their Blue Shield building here (preferably in a taller, thinner – or at least taller – format). But DO’s dispersal of office properties looks like it will continue.

    1. An office development wouldn’t qualify for a density bonus or the additional height as proposed. So the swap you’re suggesting would actually result in an even shorter, not taller, development.

      1. True; but I wasn’t suggesting the parties pursue it as a development strategy: more along the lines of wishful thinking. And of course since it’s been a few years since anything really tall has been proposed we don’t know what Planning’s response would be.

        1. My what a passion for legalities !! (which is nice – honest – since I think many of us are tired of the seemingly formulaic “will ask for a zoning variance” we see in SF).
          But let me rephrase and make clearer my primary objection: I think it’s too bad they’re putting residential in the very heart of downtown and adding office at the periphery. If the reversing this means living w/ a 22-story building at this site, then I would accept it.

          1. It’s not a passion for legalities as much as a reaction to the all too formulaic, and usually uniformed, “it should be taller” responses, which typically belie a basic understanding of zoning laws and city planning.

      2. This parcel has a height limit, which is unfortunate. Other downtown Oakland lots have no height limit — just max commercial FAR and residential density. Just a block away you could build 20 FAR as office and stack the max residential density + density bonus on top, for a 60-80 story tower.

          1. Well probably to catch maintenance workers, emergency improvisation for cushioning and….uh…

    2. I think residential development will be great for DTO. We need a mix. There is nothing worse than going to a downtown with only office highrises and no people after work and on weekends. I was in downtown LA a few year ago during Memorial Day weekend and the place was a ghost town. Plenty at tall shinny towers with no one on the streets. DTO is much more vibrant because of the residential in Uptown as well as the proximity to the dense neighborhoods surrounding Lake Merritt.

  4. As always, it’s super hard to tell from the rendering, but I think it looks nice and well proportioned. I dig the multi-story spans on the Franklin side.

    I’m also sort of surprised how quiet Oakland has been about the handful of taller proposals in the pipeline. Good for them, though. They / we need them.

  5. I like this. Very much. Kinda boring and basic, but still nice. Not too fat at all.

    Need more 400+ and a few 600- 800 in DTO, given the pipeline is currently mostly 300-400ft (per other disscussion and links here on this site).

  6. another smart addition to ease the region’s housing crisis. we definitely don’t need 600 more parking spots for a building steps from a BART hub, but sounds good to me.

  7. 400′ = 40 stories? How high will the ceilings be?
    1,070′ = 62 stories for the Salesforce tower.

    1. Assume 9 feet floor to ceiling height.

      Salesforce Tower marketing high ceiling heights (+14 ft) as a selling point.

      1. Wow, 14′ ceilings seems like quite a luxury in a high rise. I thought it was funny that 181 Fremont has more floors, but is much shorter. I wonder how much a full floor lease will cost on a floor high enough to have a decent view.

    2. 10′ is standard for residential high-rises. Office buildings as a general rule have much taller floor heights.

    3. They should make it 405ft. This would then surpass the Ordway Building as the tallest building in Oakland.

    1. So in other words… it’s 1,070′ tall.

      970′ is the “roof” height ( the “roof” being the top of occupied floors), but there’s still the mechanical box and crown above that, bringing the full structural height to 1070′.

      1. Well consider the discussion of its “height” was related to how tall each floor is, I think the the 970′ figure is much more relevant to that point. Unless each floor will get taller if they build the crown up more, the full structural height is irrelevant.

  8. I can’t stand SCB’s designs. One Rincon Hill (the giant dyson air humidifier) is the best example of how boring and unimaginative they are. They also had a 300 ft proposal in Central SoMa which just looked like a big glass box with balconies.

  9. Nice lookin’ tower, I’ll take two please.

    All this jib-jabba about Oakland vs SF, it comes down to culture. SF has its absurdities but at some levels it has its stuff way more together than Oakland.

    Oakland just needs to clear out the cultural trash and ennui of the last fifty years, then it will find a workable self-image and truly prosper in its own right. I’m guessing roughly another 15-20 years, maybe a little faster if our Dear Leader really does dismantle all welfare subsidies et.

    1. I now understand your attitude about Oakland. It’s the “culture” you don’t like. You prove my point why Oakland struggled starting in the 50’s through the 90’s.

  10. I sense a sort of moral superiority in your reply, I think. Seems to me that you want to hold me, or anyone else who will hold everyone to basic standards of decent conduct — INCLUDING poor inner city people — responsible for all the past inequalities up to this point.

    Good luck with that. You only add more fuel to the fire that appears to be lit under the government welfare net in this country. At some point, regardless of any past, everyone is accountable for their own actions (and neglects) under the law.

    I will not shed a tear when Oakland’s last side-show occurs, whenever that may be. Or when the last young black (or latino) male is senselessly shot down by one of his age peers. (>90-95% of all homicides in Oakland.) There is no possible defense of this behavior, period. It has to stop. Period. It’s not my problem to stop it. Period. It will be stopped eventually, the only question is whether it will go out with a bang (martial law, forced break-up & relocations of the ghettoes,) or, more likely, a whimper: ongoing gentrification will rightfully destroy the corrupted social and *cultural* fabric that permits and enables this unending cycle of violence.

    It’s not all rich peoples’, or white people’s, fault. Not by far.

  11. Go preach to the guy in the White House regarding “codes of basic decency.” Go preach to his corrupt cabinet.

      1. It’s rather unclear in that the developer has nothing on its site, and Planning refers to it as “dwelling units”.

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