The approved plans for the future half-acre Mission Plaza at the base of the Transbay/Salesforce Tower feature a grove of 20 redwood trees, a 41-foot-tall sculpture assembled from concrete blocks salvaged from the former terminal on the site and a funicular from the plaza to the new City Park atop the transit center.

But based on a shadow study of the redwoods commissioned by Salesforce, which has been lobbying for a more open plaza with the potential to host events and an unobstructed view of the Salesforce specific lobby at the base of the tower with Boston Properties’ support, new plans for Mission Plaza have been drawn, eliminating the grove and sculpture and changing the funicular to a gondola.

From the summary of the new plaza plan which is to be presented to San Francisco’s Planning Commission next week:

“Eliminating the redwood grove will allow much more natural light into the plaza, and enhance the movement of people from the Transbay Center. The plaza will be paved with in-ground LED light fixtures within the former tree wells, which will provide a unique experience for visitors. The gondola enclosure, which will become more prominent within the plaza, has been redesigned to respond to the curvature of the surrounding buildings with a steel and glass structure.”

And the proposed landscaping and seating adjacent to the gondola enclosure has been redesigned to “reflect the surrounding curved forms.”

We’ll keep you posted and plugged-in.

Comments from Plugged-In Readers

  1. Posted by Dubs

    Wait does that Gondola just go up to the top of the building and down again?

    • Posted by Alai

      You can think of it as an unusual elevator.

      • Posted by nickelodean

        outdoor escalator

        • Posted by c_q

          definitely more elevator than escalator (it is not continuous movement like an escalator, there are cars like an elevator).

      • Posted by Frisco


    • Posted by donjuan

      Out of all the places you could put a gondola in San Francisco, I wouldn’t think of putting one at the foot of a new 2-story structure…

      • Posted by ijustworkhere

        ^Yet again, I feel the pain of not being able to “like” a comment

      • Posted by Zugamenzio Farnsworth

        Overall..all things considered I think the new deal looks tacky. I say scrap it. Blank space isn’t all bad. And in fact the big up lights look smart. No trees, no funicular, no gondola, just up lights….and possibly: along the edge: those cylindrical traffic barriers, in an attractive finish.

      • Posted by Joel

        I dunno, the gondola would be pretty neat if it ran along Minna to Yerba Buena Gardens. Not sure if there’s sufficient clearances though.

        • Posted by Sierrajeff

          That was my thought – if it continued up and over, to another destination, it could be quite interesting.

          • Posted by Zugamenzio Farnsworth

            My latest idea: a big cylindrical glass elevator, but on the outside. the glass, or outermost glass layer, would be a semi-transparent led-compatible, billboard (covering the entire cylinder), you know like Salesforce’s lobby billboard(s). I feel the plaza needs an accent. field grass…it’s nice and all, yet…

  2. Posted by Notcom

    Gee, a plaza w/o trees will get more sun than one with them…I wonder how much they paid to find that out?

    (And I wonder how long before we hear that “the DHS has determined the gondola is a national security risk and will have to be eliminated”…but not to worry b/c a conveniently located stairway – somewhere in back – will provide the same access.)

    • Posted by Tony

      It’s because you can’t argue against trees, but you can argue against shadows.

  3. Posted by anon2.5

    Gondola? Doesn’t that require a full time crew? Escalator wouldn’t do for salesforce?

  4. Posted by Haris

    Gondola for just 4 stories up? Really? How many people can it transfer in a specific amount of time? Keep the plaza open! You do NOT need a gondola. The elevators that carry people 4 stories up at the aircraft carrier museum in NYC works just fine and efficient!

    • Posted by Orland

      I think it will be more of a novelty like the cable cars with other means associated with the Transit Center to transport the bulk of visitors.

  5. Posted by Adam

    I would have thought that a funicular would be able to carry more passengers up and down than a gondola will will be able to. Ideally you don’t want to have people waiting in too long a line to go up and down.

  6. Posted by Zugamenzio Farnsworth

    Maybe they could do a climbing wall for fitness aficionados doing the in-between.

  7. Posted by Futurist

    Good news. Keep it simple and glad to see that ridiculous elevator thingy gone.

    Keep the plaza open. Don’t junk it up.

    • Posted by nickelodean

      I’ll miss the metal michelin man, although would have preferred stacked tires alternative

  8. Posted by Torger Cobus

    I hope there are nearby stairs for the inevitable breakdown times.

  9. Posted by Can't Think of Cool Name

    So the difference between a gondola and a funicular is one rides on rails while the other rides on cables?

    • Posted by robert

      Funiculars are trains, specifically trains that are counterbalanced against each other.

  10. Posted by oakland lover

    Cant they please at least keep the funky sculpture! its so boring and bland in this latest image…at the the scultpure would have added some creativity, and it sorta goes along with the other random sculptures in the area… The redwoods would have been nice, but given the park right next to it no big deal. As for the gondola thing….what a waste of money and it looks outta place…they should just have a verticale elevator, more discreet.

    • Posted by Hunter

      The sculpture was already scrapped for being way too costly. But I’m assuming they will add some sort of public art—it is a lot of open concrete as rendered.

      • Posted by SocketSite

        The plaza is actually fully rendered as proposed. Bonus points if you can locate the new “art kiosk” (hint: it’s (somewhat) more evident in the nighttime image above).

      • Posted by The Milkshake of Despair

        I like the irony of a sculpture built out of scrap material being scrapped.

      • Posted by paulH

        Ridiculous that the sculpture was deemed too costly, but a gondola with ongoing operating and maintenance expenses got okayed. The most likely reason for these changes was mentioned in passing in the article: “Salesforce, which has been lobbying for a more open plaza with the potential to host events.”

        • Posted by SocketSite

          We wouldn’t gloss over the middle part of that sentence (“an unobstructed view of the Salesforce specific lobby” and potential signage), either.

  11. Posted by citicritter

    Compared to the funicular, the gondola looks ridiculously overscaled for the span involved — just like the ridiculously overscaled mast bridge built over Howard Street on the other side of the Terminal. Hopefully that was not the driving concept: two matching ridiculously overscaled infrastructural elements tacked on to the Terminal…

    • Posted by citicritter

      to clarify: the gondola cab itself looks kinda ok scale-wise in the space, its the scale of the requisite cable structure/armature that looks silly given how short the length of the trip is…

  12. Posted by steve

    A long arching staircase instead of the gondola would offer lunchtime exercise for the Salesforce employees (think of the Lyon Street steps). They need to step away from their desks. Also, they’re going to be sorry they got rid of the trees — with global warming, we’ll be thankful for every spot of shade we can get. 117 degrees in Phoenix. Yikes!

    • Posted by BobN

      It would save a lot of money if they just made it a zipline.

  13. Posted by Michael

    The funicular/gondola made sense when it was rising through the redwood grove, now it’s a leftover artifact of a more interesting and appropriate plaza design, looks ridiculous and kitschy on its own.

  14. Posted by pvc

    oh good. More treeless concrete in the city.

    • Posted by Pablito

      Yep. Cause when you poll the people about what they want they always say more and more shadows from giant buildings with 100’+ advertising led crowns but none from trees?

  15. Posted by c_q

    Well, one thing is for sure, if you build a gondola only 4 stories up, it will become the world’s shortest gondola ride.

  16. Posted by archiwha?

    o my gosh, the gondola has got to go — just use an elevator! or why not a sweet switch back stair?

  17. Posted by Kento

    I’m not a fan of the Gondola. If it went higher/further it would make sense but it seems silly for the distance. An escalator would be suffice. Either way, I’m beyond excited for all the development.

  18. Posted by Keepitup

    Well that looks totally stupid.

  19. Posted by Dave

    What is the leasing status of the Salesforce Tower – beyond Salesforce which is taking 50% of the space IIRC?

  20. Posted by Turin

    There’s a little of everything in this news:
    – No goofy sculpture = yea
    – No redwoods = boo
    – Furnicular -> gondola = shrug

  21. Posted by stevenj

    Waste of money on the gondola and the cable structure in the plaza is just plain ugly. There should be plenty of stairs, elevators and escalators in the building to get people up and down to/from the roof.

  22. Posted by Tausche Ludwig

    We need to add trees wherever we can. The redwood removal is thoughtless. To bend to corporate pleasure (special events are only that) is a shortsighted and nature less solution. The funicular was always a maybe kind odd added thing. Keep the redwoods!

  23. Posted by Orlandr

    Another change is the “101 First Street” address. They were previously going to go with 415 (as in the SF area code) Mission.

  24. Posted by Adam

    Another thought is that a company like Salesforce, or its CEO, both of which could easily donate the funds necessary to complete an art project or build an elevator- feel no need to do so, but feel completely free to dictate what will be built anyways.

  25. Posted by Hank

    Salesforce gets what Salesforce wants, and SF planning will rubber stamp. They already took public open space and are converting it to an outdoor area for their child care center.

  26. Posted by sassySFboy

    In other words…scrap chic and go with cheap, hahaha

  27. Posted by Friscan

    Disappointed in losing the redwoods. The juxtaposition of the tallest tree next to the tallest building would’ve played out well: and they are as close to the Bay Area’s iconic tree as any.

  28. Posted by Tim E

    Way too much overthinking. Giving up iconic redwood trees plus concrete big foot for an empty space and really bad idea of the gondola which as PualH noted in time will be costly to maintain and operate as well as becoming pointless the moment it breaks down looks like a bad decision.

    Given time the Redwoods will allow for an unobstructed view, other then a few trunks, into the lobby with an awesome natural canopy to boot for events. Throw in the fact that you can do like SFO does with a few lights and you have instant twenty xmas trees lighting up the area in a festive mood. Adding the 41-sculpture as rendered makes it only better

  29. Posted by SFRealist

    The little redwood grove next to the Transamerica building is one of the best spaces in downtown SF

  30. Posted by Someone stole my burrito™

    I’m thrilled the sculpture will not happen. As a monument to a tragic situation maybe it would have been appropriate, but just left overs from an old building, no. Plus it was hideous. The gondola is gimmicky and wasteful. A glass elevator would work nicely. I think the trees would have added a needed softness to the area.

    • Posted by Notcom

      Of course some people might argue tearing down the existing historic and functional terminal and spending (how many again is it??) billion$ on this thing that’s taken its place IS a “tragic situation”… whether using parts from it for a memorial would have an appropriate gesture or a further sacrilege is more debatable, I guess.

  31. Posted by Can't Think of Cool Name

    I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see Salesforce put their various mascots on display in the plaza. They’re already doing that to an extent in the lobby of their other building.

  32. Posted by Dave

    It’s unfortunate that the redwoods have been clear cut from the plaza. Fitting in a way though – an unremarkable plaza for an architecturally unremarkable building.

    • Posted by MB

      Well, we’re all entitled to our opinions. I for one, think this is a beautiful building.

  33. Posted by unlivable city

    I urge everyone to walk east to west — along what is basically a dark alley — from one end to the other of this increasingly weird structure in progress. Its a throwback for sure. Even the renderings are charmingly vivisected illustrations right out of the 50’s, and proudly display a strange stack of retail, bus lanes, mystical high speed rail stations — and least of all, a park that is beginning to look like the world’s largest parklet. The whole thing looks (salute to Roger Moore here) like the diabolical scheme of a Bond villain, something that is posing as an innocent architectural tapeworm but will soon launch itself from our intestines and toward the heavens. As in “heavens, that sure is the ugliest thing I’ve seen since the Metreon!”

  34. Posted by another anon

    Scrap the gondola and add a staircase. Or are people so incredibly fit that they don’t need any additional exercise?

    • Posted by Some Guy

      Gondola / funicular is *pretentious beyond belief*. Elevator is the most practical (lowest maintenance, not exposed to weather like an escalator) and the least use of space. City planning should grow whatever [is] required to JUST SAY NO to funiculars & gondolas in downtown.

  35. Posted by hundoman

    Does the new Gondola have enough space to fit homeless people’s shopping carts and such?

    If not … I am sure plenty of SF groups will protest about homeless people being denied access to the roof top deck of the new TransBay Terminal

  36. Posted by Brooder

    No homeless camp in the sketches?

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