Originally expected to occur this “Spring,” the formal process to adopt San Francisco’s revised Central SoMa Plan is now expected to be initiated in July, a shift which could push the timeline for the plan’s expected adoption back from the “Summer/Fall” of 2017 as well.

As proposed, the revised plan raises the proposed height limits for numerous neighborhood parcels, including an up-zoning of the Flower Mart site to allow development up to 270 feet in height; a 400-foot height limit for the Creamery/HD Buttercup parcels at the corner of Townsend and Fourth (upon which Tishman Speyer has proposed to build a residential tower or two); and a re-revised 240-foot height limit for the 725 Harrison Street site to allow Boston Properties’ proposed office project to rise as rendered above, or at least with a few tweaks.

And if adopted, the plan could pave the way for an additional 7,800 units of housing, and office space for an additional 45,000 jobs, to rise in the area roughly bounded by Folsom, Second, Townsend and Sixth.

43 thoughts on “Timeline to Adopt San Francisco’s Central SoMa Plan Slips”
  1. SF in a nutshell… take action to create more demand for housing, while not taking steps to add additional housing.

  2. My understanding from the real estate division at the SFMTA is the Yerba Buena subway parcel can’t be built more than 7 stories due to the technology used to create the cut and cover subway station, zoning be damned.

  3. This city is being developed recklessly and this spot-zoning of essentially a baker’s dozen blocks in SOMA for an enormous number of additional people piling into an already packed city is a prime example. Anyone who has spent any time in that area knows its already very very crowded on work days and a ghost town on weekends. 45,000 additional worker bees will make the area insanely crowded and displace the alarmingly criminal street scene into other neighborhoods.

    1. I think an additional 7,800 housing units will make it not such a “ghost town” on weekends. That’s as much housing as being built in the Rincon Hill and Transbay combined.

    2. so you’re claiming it’s a ghost town on weekends (which is factually false) while also arguing against being in new residents because they will make it too crowded.

      I say the problem is that this isn’t implemented quickly enough.

    3. Prop M severely limits the construction of new commercial space. The city is already nearly at the limit for its allocation of large commercial spaces. While there is allocation left for small commercial space, you are not going to seeing space for anything close to 45,000 “worker bees” for many years.

      The proposed new housing will also take many years to be built out.

      I would stop all the breathless handwringing over a problem that is years in the future, if it ever happens at all.

      Finally, by definition, a comprehensive plan cannot be spot-zoning, as comprehensive planning is the exact opposite of spot-zoning.

  4. This is an example of completely reckless planning. The jobs/housing ratio is an incredible 5.8/1. That is criminal.

    This will significantly worsen the housing and traffic/infrastructure crisis. The tube and bridge are at capacity – does not planning get this? The jobs/housing ratio should be 1/1. Even a 1/1, a fair number of the new jobs will go to people who won’t be able to afford the new Central SOMA units and will purchase/rent in the East Bay (mostly). The traffic crisis will worsen even at a 1/1 ratio, but not near as much as will occur with this plan.

    The city PTB refuse to address these issues – at some point the voters are going to have to step in and take the lead. In this case a logical response might be an initiative requiring a 1/1 jobs/housing ratio in the Central SOMA plan.

    1. This is a transit rich area that is particularly well connected to the Peninsula and also to East Bay commuters. Much better than certain parts of FiDi. Therefore the workers in this area will not have to live in San Francisco.

      1. That is the point – the workers here will not have to (or not be able to) live in SF. The connections to the East Bay where most will likely end up living (bridge and tube) are at near capacity. Gridlock hours will grow and gridlock area will spread. This is a reckless plan.

        1. I think you’re right, quality of life will improve and commute times will decrease when people are able to live within walking distance of work. To not make the problem worse we probably need about 2.5/1 since I think we can assume that two adult households both adults will work, and then there are some number of children spread around in the households. Probably though we can get away with Without this it’s just going to push housing prices in SF even further and force people to commute.

        2. As a 30 year resident of SOMA, i could not agree more. This plan adds fuel to the girdlock fire by encouraging more commuters as well as deterioration of quality of life for current residents. We don’t need more office space. What SOMA needs is a lot more market rate housing so workers can walk to work. Our planners’ blindness is astonishing and yes, criminal.

      2. Transit rich? You think the Central Subway will do anything to relieve congestion? Caltrain is limited by geography…it’s great if you live near a station on the peninsula and work near the 4th/Townsend station. For everyone else in the greater Bay Area this is a transit desert. Even if they take BART to Powell St. they will have to walk several blocks to the Union Square part of the station (descend 10 stories) and wait for a 1-car T train.

        I agree that many workers will not be living in SF.

        1. in addition, 2nd street is going to be an absolute nightmare after the car lanes are removed for bike lanes, which will greatly increase backup for bridge and incrase congestion in other streets

          1. I work at 2nd/Mission. It already is a nightmare. The car ban on Market and turn restrictions only add to the overall mess of the area. And, it’s not just driving. Busses are always stuck in traffic. I often see cyclists avoiding the dedicated bike lanes in favor of the sidewalks (partly out of necessity since the lanes are blocked and partly because they are total insensitive jerks).

            I’d like to know how much office and residential space has opened up in SOMA, bound by 5th St. and the Embarcadero between King St. and Market St., since the N-Judah extension opened in 2000. My fair guess is hundreds of thousands of square feet. During that time how much attention went towards transit? The T-line? The Central Subway to nowhere? The TTC bus station? None of these projects have or will do anything to address the growing congestion problems.

          2. @Mark – I’d guess its more than hundreds of thousands of residential and office space which has opened in this area since 2000. The Linked in building alone is several hundred thousand feet plus all those residential towers on Rincon Hill. That huge complex on King kitty corner from AT&T Park was build in the early 2000s and looks to be several hundred thousand square feet itself.

            The question is at what point does the gridlock of this area become so bad before it kills the goose that laid this golden egg. As in when workers have to spend an hour each day just getting out of downtown and into downtown. Companies will think more than twice before moving jobs to SF, but the bigger threat is some companies already here will move workers out of SF because of the ever worsening transportation logistics.

    2. yeah, Dave, just do the math. Caltrain is expecting to deliver an addition 5-10k passengers per AM commute into the 4th St station, after they spend a few billion $ currently unfunded. Throw in another hour or so lengthening of the already 3-4 hour AM rushing hours crunch on 101 and 280 and BART and the Bay Bridge, and 5-10k additional parking spaces, and viola: gridlock for nearly 8 hours per day for nearly a mile around.

      Fortunately, SFMTA is way ahead. They already plan to redo Brannan St, converting half of the car lanes to cycle tracks just in time to address the needs of the ~2 million sqft of new office space proposed in the 2-3 blocks of Brannan surrounded by freeway ramps. Glad I can walk to work.

    3. Again, Prop M limits office construction. You are not going to see enough office space to house 45,000 workers for decades, if it ever materializes–who knows how businesses will operate 25 years from now? In the meantime, the Bayview redevelopment area is now exempt from Prop M office space limits, so new office space will go there, not Central SOMA.

      And, voters need to stay out of the planning process. Every time they pass some whackadoodle initiative, they make housing and/or office space more expensive and more scarce, and then they wonder why it is do expensive to live and do business in SF.

  5. The 400 ft parcel should be 700 ft. Make the Caltrain corner the Transbay center for the south of the city and build towers there. It doesn’t need to be ‘kept short’ to respect SoMa’s character. That corner is currently a pass-through area which is completely dead on the weekends. I live right there and would much prefer going with tall slender towers than table topping with ugly mid-rises.

  6. Great project and can’t wait until it is fully built out. With the Central Subway going basically within two blocks either way of this district, it will provide a vital link.

    A definite positive for the City as it grows.

    1. CS is BS. It’s not a link to anywhere other than bridging Chinatown with the Asian community in Vis Valley. The 15 bus did this quite well on its own.

  7. SFYIMBY party has endorsed a position to demand better Jobs:Housing balance in Central SoMA. Honestly, in a plan area this large, with a systematic regional housing shortage, there should be a 1:1 balance. We are often accused of being “shills” of developers, but anyone who looks closely at the plan can see that it will be an unmitigated disaster.

    30,000 net new office workers not accounted for in the plan projection will flood every open house and pounce on every craigslist ad in the city offering more money for scarce housing.

    To give a sense of proportion, the Central Market tax break added about 3,000 jobs (the housing is just now getting approved, years later). This was widely decried by “progressives” as having caused the spike in rents this decade. Central SoMa will create over 10x more unmet housing need, yet Jane Kim supports it. SOMCAN and TODCO have spent years pushing for it to have less housing.

    The possible Brisbane development that the SF Board of Supervisors unanimously denounced for dumping residential need across the border into SF? 4,000 jobs : 0 housing.

    Kim, Peskin, Ronen, etc don’t have any problem with San Francisco dumping 30k wealthy house hunters into the neighborhoods and surrounding cities? What Hypocrisy. Didn’t they spend countless hours on hearings decrying the 10k or so people who ride tech busses to jobs down-peninsula? How much ink has 48 Hills spent on that?

    And worse, as it is now, most of the jobs come in a few big parcels that already have plans drawn up and are just waiting for the plan to pass. The housing part is tentative at best, maybe 20 years down the road. At worst, well a lot of the housing is actually zoned mixed use, and the archives of Socketsite are filled with the ghosts of residential projects that have been downsized or killed. The one large residential tower by Tishman Speyer is anything but certain, as planning has thrown up barriers, and it may be more profitable to just give up and build office.

    The planning department is probably right that we need to expand. Office rates are so high it is hurting businesses. But a more balanced plan that didn’t choke of residential development to match the commercial development would create a more balanced neighborhood and prevent a rent-tsunami that is entirely predictable and avoidable.

    1. It’s true though. The city makes it so difficult to build housing at scale. And people battle against every new development.

  8. On a side note…looking at the map, what are the chances of Muni extending the N-Judah past 4th/King using one of the Caltrain tracks to loop around 7th St. to the Warriors Arena at 16th/3rd? The tail tracks already continue under 280. Certainly a much more economically feasible alternative to burying Caltrain under 3rd.

  9. At some point in the future people will look back at all this over development and vomit. The SoMa use to have a funky kind of feel and a mix of urban ethnicity and income levels.

    Once this plan is adopted and monster buildings spread like a cancer they might as well start calling this part of SF, Fakebook city.

  10. BTW….this is the same kind of [poor] urban planning that took place in Vancouver. The city approved tonns of high rise development downtown with no residential. All of a sudden what was supposed to become urban infill became a urban disaster with all the workers moving to the burbs for housing. The freeways became gridlocked with reverse commuters. We are about to join that club…..sorry I’m having to lean over the toilet to puke now……just thinking about this crap plan.

    1. No. You don’t even know what you are posting. Vancouver did the EXACT OPPOSITE. Vancouver built thousands of units of new housing, but failed to construct sufficient office space, so businesses were forced to look to the suburbs to find office space.

  11. @Jon Schwark Interesting point about the Central SOMA plan office components being built out long before the residential components. Which would of course turn this re-zoning into a full fledged disaster.

    This is why I opposed Prop O. My suspicion is the HP Lennar project will see front loaded office development over residential development now that the M cap is gone. The only saving grace about HP is that the jobs/housing ratio is, I think, not near as egregious as that of the Central SOMA plan. 10K units of housing and 3.5 million feet of office space.

    1. All the plans from Mission Bay to Candlestick totaled up anticipate 35k jobs to 20k units of housing. That isn’t going to save us, despite SF Planning painting it that way.

      Btw 2.5 workers per household is way to high. Remember a lot of the housing is designated for low income/ disabled/ retired etc. much will get bought by rich retires downsizing into the city. A lot are studios. Real average is expected to be more like 1.2 -1.3 workers per household.

    2. How the hell is the new office space going to be built in light of Prop M? The city is already at the limits of Prop. M allocation. Also, why would a developer stand in line to build in Central SOMA for years waiting for office space allocation when as you note Prop. O allows them to build now in the Bayview redevelopment zone (once they jump through all the other numerous planning hoops, which still takes years).

  12. I for got to mention all the hot money flowing into BC-V from China and other Asian countries. This causing housing prices to skyrocket. Money just parked in “safe havens” (see name link) We know this is also happening here in SF. I will grant this article is from 2014 and there has been some blow back from all the abandon empty houses sitting around.

    Next try this story on for size: A radical proposal to fix Vancouver’s real estate crisis: Build high — really, really high

    1. Same in SF. Chinese/Asian investors buying up properties left and right…with cash…over asking…driving up prices to more ridiculous levels so they can dump their money in our country. Part of the housing crisis is not having enough inventory which is dislosed more often to the public than the foreign investors’ part of the problem.

  13. The zoning is actually mixed use and can be used for either housing or offices. Those numbers are just guesses by the planning department. Residential demand and Prop M will actually determine what happens.

  14. Thanks for the links, but the issues BC/Vancouver are facing hardly seem relevant to questions of zoning in the soon-to-be new SOMA.

    1. They are most certainly relevant when Vancouver is touted as the “poster child” of smart development. We need to understand what Vancouver is doing right, as well as learn from its mistakes.

      1. The only thing to learn from Vancouver would be to build more office space, which would require SF voters amending the anti-growth Prop M.

        1. The city needs a robust mix of commercial and residential space, especially the latter. However, there are many factors to consider and attitudes to change, in order to get anything done properly. If workers can’t afford to live in SF, then job centers should consider moving to more affordable areas where people live, rather than spending hours commuting each way. Not all office development needs to be in downtown SF.

  15. Clearly not enough housing in the mix. Since it is there it should be all market rate as well. I know, that’s not happening…

  16. Re: Planning. If you want to be angry about the process, be angry that the city spent 10 years on the eastern neighborhoods plan, which was adopted in 2008. Then they turned around and started the central soma plan, which overlaps with the eastern neighborhoods, and here we are 8 years later, delaying the adoption of a zoning proposal that has been in the works for essentially 20 years. Who’s to blame? staff? cequa? sf community planning process? I don’t know, but that should be looked at – other major cities don’t spend 20 years making zoning decisions.

    In terms of jobs housing balance, I agree it is important. I agree that we should have a citywide jobs housing balance and I agree we should have a mix of jobs and housing everywhere. I’m leery of setting a neighborhood specific goal – it denies the reality that some neighborhoods are specialized job centers and others are not. Also Prop M – the office cap from the 1980’s downtown plan – was a clumsy effort to moderate job growth. Let’s strike that down and replace it with an improved version that makes a tie to housing production.

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