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.

62 thoughts on “Redwoods, Sculpture and Funicular Ousted from Plaza Plans”
        1. definitely more elevator than escalator (it is not continuous movement like an escalator, there are cars like an elevator).

    1. 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…

      1. 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.

      2. 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.

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

          1. 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…

  1. 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.)

  2. 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!

    1. 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.

  3. 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.

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

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

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

  6. 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.

    1. 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.

      1. 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).

      2. 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.”

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

  7. 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…

    1. 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…

  8. 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!

  9. 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.

    1. 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?

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

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

  12. 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.

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

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

  15. 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.

  16. 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!

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

  18. 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.

  19. 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.

  20. 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

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

  22. 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.

    1. 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.

  23. 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.

  24. 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.

  25. 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!”

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

    1. 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.

  27. 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

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