Up-zoned for development up to 200 feet in height, assuming the adoption of San Francisco’s Central SoMa Plan is upheld, detailed plans for redeveloping the nearly one acre parcel at 490 Brannan Street, at the corner of Fourth and upon which a Wells Fargo, Starbucks and 116-space parking lot currently sit, have been drafted and submitted to Planning for their preliminary thoughts on the project and approach as proposed.
And as designed by Pfau Long Architecture for Strada Investment Group, which holds an option to purchase the site, the development as envisioned would only rise to a height of 160 feet but still yield nearly 340,000 square feet of office space; 17,000 square feet of Production, Distribution and Repair (PDR) space on the ground floor; 3,800 square feet of retail fronting Fourth Street; a basement garage for 49 cars and 272 bikes; and 6,500 square feet of required public open space.
From the design team:
Our site is one of eight properties singled out as “Key Development Sites” in the Plan because of its high development potential and several important adjacencies, including a new MUNI station on 4th Street, and a planned bike and pedestrian thoroughfare along Brannan Street. The design of 490 Brannan therefore has an important responsibility to the public realm and Plan’s vision. The project also sits south of Freelon alley, across from “The Palms”, one of the few large-scale housing developments in the area, so the design should take reasonable measures to mitigate the impact on the residents’ access to light and air.
Mitigating scale and maintaining access to light and air at the street is an important aspect of the Plan. It defines two distinct methodologies for controlling bulk in new developments: The “Skyplane” method for buildings below 160 feet, which is a formula for measuring the “apparent” mass as perceived from street level, and “Tower” criteria for buildings above 160 feet, which defines a narrow tower atop a low podium.
Our site has a 200 feet height limit, and therefore qualifies as a Tower, but because it falls near the threshold between these control approaches, we studied both, to compare the development capacity, design potential, and the impact at the street level, keeping the spirit of the Plan in mind.
It was determined that by voluntarily limiting height to 160 feet to take advantage of the Skyplane method, the design potential was greater, the floorplates more marketable, and the massing was both more interesting from afar, and less imposing on the street, particularly toward the residences across Freelon. A Skyplane analysis was performed on the Freelon façade of a permissible 200-foot tower and compared to a 160-foot Skyplane scheme, the apparent mass from Freelon was measurably less in the 160-foot scheme. As recommended by the Key Site Guidelines, the 160 foot height scheme is proposed, with Skyplane controls resulting in better light, air and aesthetics along Freelon.
The proposed design therefore leverages Skyplane to create a lively and dynamic form, which varies from every view, and creates a variety of floorplate sizes and shapes, with many roof terraces distributed among many different levels. The plan applies Skyplane controls above an 85-foot podium. However, our design goes a step further by extending the dynamic massing down to the street level, to break down the scale of the long street-wall, while still doing its part to help define the street-room suggested in the plan. The intent is to apply varying façade treatments and textures to the different masses, to further accentuate the differentiation and expressiveness of the design.
And as envisioned, the building’s covered arcade, which wraps around the development from Brannan to Freelon, would satisfy the Key Site’s public open space (“POPOS”) requirement. We’ll keep you posted and plugged-in.