As proposed, the redevelopment of CPMC’s nearly 5-acre California Hospital Campus at 3700 California Street will yield 240 units of high-end housing – including 12 new single-family homes, 14 new three-story townhomes and 214 multi-family units – spread across 37 new buildings rising up to seven stories in height on the southern border of Presidio Heights.

While the majority of the campus is actually zoned for development up to 80 feet in height, the proposed plans reflect “a vision that the neighbors and [TMG Partners] have together created during more than 18 months of meetings,” along with input from local community leaders and a neighborhood survey to determine “the preferences of neighbors regarding for land uses and overall project composition.”

But having just completed their preliminary review of TMG’s proposal, San Francisco’s Planning Department is “strongly encourag[ing] increased density on the site,” noting that not only would current zoning allow for the construction of over 300 units of housing, but nearly 500 units could be built upon the site if approval for a Planned Unit Development [PUD] was requested and secured.

At the same time, Planning is encouraging the development team to build far fewer off-street parking spaces than the 373 (roughly 1.5 spaces per residence) which have been proposed, a change which the existing neighbors (who would face additional competition for street parking) and TMG Partners (which would face lower values for the high-end units which are built) are likely to oppose if not simply ignore.

53 thoughts on “Planning Seeks More Density for Development in Presidio Heights”
  1. This makes it sound like TMG’s work in gaining neighborhood approval has resulted in Planning getting upset. It really is one or the other in SF. This is kinda hilarious to me. The Venn diagram of acceptable projects to planning and neighborhoods is just two circles really far apart.

  2. Another Concept where Planning “ideas for a neighborhood” are not in line for what the actual stakeholders want.

    1. By your logic, most projects would never get built. California, where property owners aren’t stakeholders in their own projects.

      1. Right property owners aren’t stakeholders, nor those trying to form families and the unborn. Just the adjacent neighbor’s parochial interests.

    2. In my opinion, Planning should be focused on a city-wide goal of increasing housing stock. It’s not the responsibility of only a few neighborhoods to absorb all new housing stock.

      Further, it would add to the vibrancy of the city to spread the new residents among many neighborhoods. I spend half of my year in Melbourne, Australia, and it’s amazing to see how they embrace mid-rise buildings in any suburb, but most neighborhoods in SF would absolutely wet the bed if such an idea were proposed, but Melbourne feels much more activated as a result of the increased density.

    1. The genius of the internal row of townhouses is one of the proposal’s best features. And, we should build a few more urban SFH’s around town generally than has been the practice.

    2. Not really. People want to buy new single family homes, so they get built. Also, the developer does not want to face a million lawsuits from the neighbors who have the deep pockets to fund litigation that would derail the developer’s plans. TMG knows the score, they know the game you have to play to get anything built in SF.

    3. I couldn’t disagree more. The city desperately needs more family sized structures (e.g 4+ bedroom places). The lack of such at anywhere close to reasonable prices contributes enormously the the fact that so may families move out of SF. The decision to build 90% of the new units as 2bds or less is basically locking in permanently at the level of infrausrtcure a strewed up demographic structure for the city of all young people and old rich people.

  3. As someone who live a block away, I can honestly say our narrow streets aren’t made for this amount of new residents. We worked with the developers on a compromise and to see the city ignore it is very upsetting.

    1. How does the narrowness of the street affect it? Cherry St is two lanes, two ways, with street parking on both sides, and a bike lane. Okay if you oppose this plan, but street size is not the reason.

      1. Maple and Cherry are both two way with lights at each; imagine the added traffic with these stops at both. Sacramento is also two lanes but gets clogged on weekends as people use it to avoid California. I live here so know of what I write…

    2. I would think that this plan would result in a significant decrease in car traffic when compared to the existing hospital use–no? I have a weird feeling the streets can handle this.

    3. I don’t see how narrow street affects people walking. I’ve lived on a “narrow” street in SOMA that had one lane in each direction, and there were 16 story towers on either side. If there are too many cars, maybe there needs to be a limit to number of residential parking permits, or price raised limit demand.

    4. I’m all for dense, urban development and infill where it makes sense….I’ve even advocated for 400+ ft towers in my area near Townsend Caltrain…But I agree with you. Presidio heights is not laid out to handle more density than what’s presented in this current version of the plan.

      Maybe if this development was directly on Masonic and Geary then it could handle 500 units (maybe), but that’s obviously not the case here.

      1. What do you mean it’s not laid out? The streets are largely empty at most times of the day. They are significantly more empty than anything in SOMA. I would counter that there’s plenty of capacity for 500 units.

      2. What about the elimination of all the hospital traffic? This isn’t new traffic, it’s replacing hospital traffic with residential traffic

  4. Maybe the Planning Dept. should first work with other governmental transportation agencies to ensure sufficient infrastructure before they go forcing property owners to destroy community character in pursuit of density that existing capacity cannot possibly accommodate. Muni is a joke. BART is no where nearby. Streets are potholed and narrow. Just saying…..

    1. How is the replacement of a busy hospital (with ugly architecture) with housing that looks a lot more like the community, a destruction of community character?

      1. Replacing the proposed 240 unit project with a 500 unit project – I think that is what ‘realist’ is saying will destroy community character.

        1. Exactly. “Character” is an excuse for slamming the door, locking the non-rich out of the neighborhood.

          1. Agreed that San Francisco isn’t building for the non-rich. Better chance in Gilroy or Livermore

          2. Yes! All neighborhoods need to increase their density, not just the Mission and Soma.

    2. 100% correct / same issues raised on Parkmerced but were ignored in appeals court. The issues continue to mount and all neighborhoods are game for redevelopment and use changes see also balboa reservoir and SOTA site exchange proposal at tech hub. The city and planning is not grasping the issue of infrastructure needs coming first so we all plunge down towards the cliff with little solutions for the capacity proposed. Lawyer up and join neighborhood groups to push for the common needs.

    3. I totally agree, but it’s MTA that should shoulder that responsibility. Our transportation infrastructure is a hot mess!

  5. How dare TMG foist a neo-classic project like this on San Francisco! How dare a project be built in San Francisco which respects its surroundings and community – including future inhabitants! No way – San Francisco is all about sterile boxes with no attention to detail and no open space. The game is build all the density one can squeeze onto a site – transportation infrastructure and parking be damned.

  6. There is no way that 240 units or even 500 units could create trip generation equivalent to a hospital. Dense buildings will be an asset aesthetically as a buffer to the single family neighborhood. Now add more buses to the 1 California line!

  7. The big, old, ugly hospital was there for decades and it didn’t ‘kill’ the neighborhood character.

    Truth is, few of the neighbors that have chipped into creating this plan are feeling the soaring rents in SF. Most of them are homeowners with an interest in maintaining housing scarcity which is driving up the values of their homes. City Hall has a responsibility to all the people living in a city where the price of housing is a major issue, not just the next-door neighbors. Therefore, SF planning is doing the right thing in demanding more density.

    1. SF planning can “demand” all they want. The developer will build what it chooses and what it knows will avoid costly lawsuits that would derail any project.

  8. Increase the residential density and add retail/commercial/office space to this proposal; surge the existing uses from the Laurel Heights strip mall into the new commercial space; tear down the strip mall and build a new mixed use residential/commercial development with better relationships to the street and without that surface parking. California Street has ample capacity for better transit and still accommodate old home owners in their Mercedes

  9. Looks fine to me, and I’m not even a neighbor. It seems plenty dense to me, with multiple 6 and 7 story buildings across most of it. I suppose Planning doesn’t like the 3-story buildings, but I don’t see why a block has to be built up to 7+ stories all around, esp in this area (more residential, less public transport), nicer to have a mix of heights, and provide some stepdown from the 7-story buildings to the lower elevations of the housing located further north. Also, this plans appears to have some nice green space (admittedly private yards) for birds/etc wildlife to survive in. Being market rate, it’ll be a mix of ultra-expensive and mere garden-variety expensive.

    By going from 240 to 500 units, I wonder if that would mean smaller units that are less family-friendly. This is a great opportunity to build more family-friendly (i.e. 3 bedroom units) housing in the city. I’d rather there be fewer, larger units than more, smaller units.

  10. Honestly there’s like 5 streets that lead to downtown, including Bush, California and Geary that are within a few blocks, so traffic shouldn’t be an issue. Especially since most sane people will take the bus.

    Parking on the other hand needs to be sufficient. Non negotiable.

    But wasn’t this the defacto flagship hospital in the area? I had my two children born here, and it was so convenient having this hospital. Will folks now drive to Van ness?

    1. Sorry but traffic is already tough in that area at many times, this is going to create more insane traffic especially at problem areas like California St. between Presidio Bl. and Arguello. If you actually live in SF and are cheering on dense development in outer areas poorly served by transit, I can only ask WHY? Building these luxury condos will do zilch to make housing affordable and will only further gridlock. So glad I’m leaving this summer.

      1. Because I’m hoping through more supply more fellow folks can get some housing. At least this won’t reduce supply.

        And yeah California is busy but you can take any of the other streets north or south.

        Also there is Muni 1, and the express buses on California.

        I’m just saying the increase in traffic is worth more families getting homes.

        1. Um, these units will be brand new luxury construction, in the most expensive neighborhood, in the most expensive city.

          The families that can afford those homes will fall in the top 1-2% earning households in the nation, if they even reside in this nation. It will accomplish absolutely nothing to make housing more “affordable”. That is just housing nut folklore.

          Also, I used to live in the Central Richmond and those buses are absolutely pathetic, four in a row and then nothing for an hour.

  11. Double the heights on all those buildings. Make half the increased density affordable, and start building ASAP. We need more housing, and we needed it yesterday. This site is urban and within walking distance of multiple frequent bus lines, so it’s a perfect place to concentrate growth.

    1. When I read in the national press that San Francisco’s problem is “restrictive zoning policies”, I always get confused. What restrictions? Pundits (who usually don’t live here) that say that the market will solve all problems if planning agencies got out of the way of developers can never point to where zoning was actually restricted or when.

      But here we have a clear place where the area is zoned for “up to 80 feet in height,” and the proposed project includes a number of SFHs and 14 three-story town homes, none of which will reach what the established zoning allows, primarily due to the developer mollycoddling the incumbent homeowners.

      This seems a clear example of how the real, effective restrictionists aren’t city policymakers or zoning.

      1. The developer isn’t taking direction from nearby homeowners because it wants to.

        The developer wants to build as many units as possible. But it knows full well that if it doesn’t respond to ‘neighborhood concerns’, this will never get built. City Hall listens to neighborhood groups.

        You can’t blame the developer.

  12. This is as wonderful a development proposal as we’ve seen in years which promises a neighborhood as if it had grown organically over decades. This is no place to cram in “housing” of undifferentiated blocks. Planning has its head up its butt.

  13. I think the city is wise here. SF needs more market rate units to ease the shortage and I think this location can handle it and then some – I lived in Manhattan for 10 years. I also agree less parking is needed given the impending driverless-car-total-urban-disruption coming in less than 10 years.

    1. Not too sure about the “total” or the “less than,” but I do agree we must start factoring that consideration in planning for the future.

  14. This is a respectful plan, acknowledging that Presidio Heights from its very beginning was an urban home for successful people. The density of units is greater than the nearby blocks, but reasonable. People should be allowed to have cars if they wish. Public transportation is not adequate and never will be in the lifetime of anyone reading this. This is a pleasant and thoughtful project and should be endorsed. The Planning Department should find other battles. We well know there is much to keep them busy.

  15. As someone who lives a block away, I fully support as much density as possible and am totally onboard with limited parking. This may be hard to believe, but we have two young kids and do not own a car. We specifically chose to live in this location because it is one of the best places in the city to be car-free with young kids. Excellent playgrounds. Two quick options for groceries in Laurel Village and Trader Joes and Target are easily walkable. I commute by bike but transit is also pretty reasonable with a number of express lines to downtown from California or Geary. Plenty of Zipcars in the neighborhood for getting out of the weekend on the city or running errands to places that are inconvenient by bus.

    If anything, my least favorite thing about living in Presidio Heights is needing to keep an eagle on on my kids crossing the street when we walk through the neighborhood – too many cars rolling stop signs and driving over-aggressively for a residential neighborhood.

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