While the developer who recently paid $65 million for the landmark San Francisco Armory in the Mission has ties to the Soho House chain of private clubs and hotels, the zoning of the parcel upon which the Armory sits (Urban Mixed Use) would have to be changed to allow for its conversion into a hotel.

In addition, while the Armory’s 40,000-square-foot drill court has been legally converted to allow for its use as a nighttime entertainment venue, the remainder of the 178,000-square-foot Armory complex, which includes a 54,000-square-foot basement level, remains classified as Production, Distribution and Repair (PDR) space.

And while San Francisco’s Proposition X, which was adopted by voters in 2016, generally prohibits the outright demolition or conversion of large-scale PDR space in the Mission, there is a grandfather clause for the Armory, for which an office conversion was already being explored and which would allow up to 60 percent of its PDR space to be converted to another conforming use.

As such, the Armory’s new owners are quietly pushing forward with plans to convert 49,999 square feet of PDR space across the Armory’s existing second, third and fourth floors, which currently total 58,560 square feet, into upscale offices while preserving 25,210 square feet of PDR space on the Armory’s ground floor, 53,500 square feet of PDR space in the basement, and the existing drill court’s use as an entertainment venue, at least in the near-term.

We’ll keep you posted and plugged-in.

36 thoughts on “The Hotelless Plans for the San Francisco Armory”
  1. I am not generally in favor of demolishing landmark buildings, but this building is an out-of-scale behemoth that in my opinion adds nothing to the neighborhood. It should be demolished in favor of something that will be additive.

    The scale is very problematic. It look like the base of a tower that should be 50 stories.

    1. This is one of the coolest buildings in the Mission. Aside from its history, it’s just hella cool. Have you even been inside and explored it? I’m usually the one who laughs off “historic” claims, but this is a building the city should keep. It has plenty of opportunity merely by repurposing.

    2. And what, replace it with yet another soulless glass-faced mid-rise? This is one of the most unique buildings in the city, and it’s unique experiences like this that make a city – why come to S.F. if it’s all just glass boxes?

      1. My post did not suggest it be replaced with a “soulless glass-faced mid-rise”. Yes it is unique, and if the City would approach it as such and encourage developers to do something truly additive, I would be first in line to save it. But the City won’t, it will impose rules on its redevelopment that would apply to anything else and therefore it will not be all it could be. Yes, in this case, if we want to save it, I am suggesting spot-zoning. This building and block deserves special and singular consideration, in my opinion.

    3. I actually agree. I have lived in the mission for close to twenty years and have always felt this building just kind of looms menacingly and unpleasantly no matter how you look at it.

  2. It would be nice to see it expanded upwards to a permissible height given the footprint size. I still like to see some apartments as a way to finance the extra height construction and to offset the extra office workers. This way you can have activity in the building during the day and night.

    1. The Armory’s parcel is currently zoned for development up to 68 feet in height, which is actually lower than the drill court’s arched roof at 84 feet. The rest of the building currently measures around 60 feet in height.

      1. I meant it should be permitted to add five to eight stories to the existing building. Can’t see why more housing for the area would be a bad thing. More people means more commerce for nearby business.

    2. Not a bad idea, but in this case, I think just leave this beauty alone! The character it brings is pretty great as is.

  3. The pinball machine of zoning and land use around that building is perfect example of the same stuff done all over the neighborhood. But fortunately the trojan horse of PDR is already largely ignored, and tech workers are filling PDR spaces everywhere.

    MEDA/Chris Daly et al tried one of their amateur doomed to fail churlish chess moves back in the early aughts – to squeeze the owners of the Armory into selling cheap to their housing mafia. The owner sold it to Kink instead – a hilarious only in SF middle-finger to all that, and the fissures that resulted between the brittle conservative catholic wing of the Mission coalition and the messianic fauxgressive apparatchiks are still wide open like Valencia street after the 06 quake. Couldn’t happen to a nicer bunch.

    The building is an ugly pile, sort of vintage Madison Square Garden ugly. It needs to go but in the meantime, loving the fact that the 1% (who frankly I like even less than the fauxgressives) are street camping right in the middle of things. Priceless.

    1. I remember that fight and the string of bad supervisors which led to our current state from going good to bad, then bad to worse.

      When NYC visitors to SF complain about our homeless, crime, and filth, you know we have hit bottom.

    2. I remember! And didn’t Acworth just pay cash for it? No financing, no mortgage? Yanked it from out of MEDA’s noses.

      Agree with Amewsed 100% on the supervisors.

  4. Surprising to me how annoyed people in these comments are feeling about a building that’s been there since before their parents were born. Not trying to argue that age = worth, but perhaps in a time when SF is changing so dramatically, we can afford to slow down and really think hard before we tear down a national historic landmark.

    1. So are George Washington’s wooden teeth. But maybe its best to replace the dentures of old in this case with a beautiful set of new implants.

      1. > a beautiful set of new implants

        you mean yet another glass and stucco box. yeah, that adds a ton of character to the city. tourists love to come to S.F. to photograph glass as stucco boxes just like they have in Seattle / San Diego / Phoenix / Dallas / Houston / Atlanta / etc.

        1. Totally agree with you that our architecture is spit out of a software program and could be anywhere. But the Armory is just depressing. It looks like a prison.

  5. I love the Armory, in all its massive ostentatiousness. It’s unexpected and almost whimsical, a Dieneyesque (at least with the porn studio gone) castle in the midst of all of our urbanness.

    I think the plan for the space makes sense; filling the upper floors with PDR uses seemed a bit unlikely (although I guess Kink was a PDR use) and what is proposed provides a nice mix of uses. But this news flash from Socketsite is the same information that was reported in the Chronicle a couple of weeks ago. Must have been a slow (real estate) news day.

    I actually think the decision to move away from using the drill court as a concert venue is good news for the surrounding neighborhood, though some will undoubtedly disagree.

    1. While it appears the Chronicle reported “[t]he new owner of the historic Armory plans to lease the building to manufacturing companies, with the exception of the top two floors, which the investment group hopes to convert to office space,” and that “the new owners will honor the concerts already booked but don’t intend to retain [the drill court] as an entertainment venue,” that’s not quite right as detailed above and based on what’s actually happening behind the scenes (versus “according to Supervisor Hillary Ronen”).

      1. I stand corrected, you’re right, in that it seems to be the top THREE floors that will be office use. My bad.

        I’m presuming they still plan to phase out the concert venue — which wouldn’t really require any action or entitlement, they just stop booking new concerts — but it seems from what I read that they are being vague about that.

        1. We’re not sure what else you’ve been reading, or what you consider to be vague, but as we reported above, the new owners are actually positing to maintain the drill court as a nighttime entertainment space.

    1. And 2 years before that it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. Zero chance it goes anywhere, nor should it.

  6. I dunno, such a bizarro use of space- offices, nighttime entertainment/music, and forced/lowest use PDR on top (actually bottom) of that? And pay close to $350 PSF for that honor? Someone’s delusional about this being a wise investment IMO. If they could get all office use plus add a glass top structure, a la Tate modern, then maybe, maybe it would make sense. As suggested it’s simply bat sh!t crazy for the $65 mil price they paid.

    1. I don’t see it either. And that is taking into account the fact they will be able to convert 60% of the space to office use. So a bit more is coming – they are doing it in pieces (49999) to slip into the under 50K M cap which still has surplus allotments available – unlike the over 50K cap which no longer has excess allotments.

      This is a sketchy area which is not the most desirable place for office space. The streets are filthy and on and on. Plus all the restrictions as to what can be done with the building. Not likely the office space gets top dollar. At 65 million this makes little sense as an investment.

      1. A sketchy area?! It’s 2 1/2 blocks from the Dolores Whole Foods – walking distance from Duboce Park and Castro neighborhoods. Yeah it’s no Chestnut Street, but it’s hardly a bombed-out ghetto. Please take your reflexive S.F. bashing down a couple notches.

      2. I’m with Sierra Jeff on this one. It’s not only extremely central, but also close to precious Valencia st. Tons of well heeled techies love this area. Sure it’s not pristine, but young people coddled in the burbs love the urban-grit-light. They feel they are rubbing elbows with the real life!

        And no problem renting the office space (I assume it will be very nice) at a premium. I own rental condos near by, plus rent out a boutique office space there too. It’s easy to re-rent the office. BART, access to DT and freeways…office rentals are a cinch.

        Plus I’m so glad there will be offices going there…will make my condo rentals even more desirable in the future. Last thing I’d want is some MEDA-crapola. Sayonara to that!

  7. After selling 1800 Mission Street for $65 million in January of 2018, the porn king (Peter Acworth) has been completing 1031 exchanges into such San Francisco properties as 1155 Mission Street, 220 6th Street, and 2950 21st Street. He is using a holding company named “A Star Holdings LLC”, in care of a woman attorney in the Castro who had her law license taken away in 2016 (since recovered).

    1. Good for him!

      I hope someday I make the profit he made on one of my properties. I’ll be talking to a tax lawyer when that happens!

  8. I do believe that the aesthetics of the Armory building reflect the Soho House brand. My personal belief is that the developer can and will wait out the current politics in SF until the time is right to transition the site to a proper membership hotel.

    As SocketSite has reported, there is a lot of development in the works for the intersection of Market and Van Ness, branching down to Mission and South Van Ness (the former Goodwill site), Otis Street (the site of the proposed Hub District) and through the Duboce intersection. Once the Bart plaza at 16th is cleaned up and development begins there, this stretch of North East Mission will no longer be an overlooked zone but a central part of the city (as it should be!) At that time a hotel of Soho House’s repute will be very well placed at the Armory site.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *