As we first revealed last month, bonus plans for a 245-unit residential building to rise up to 294 feet in height on the northwest corner of Harrison and Hawthorne have been drawn.  And in order to build up to 294 feet in height upon the 650 Harrison Street parcel, which was recently up-zoned for development up to 130 feet in height per San Francisco’s challenged Central SoMa Plan, the project team is planning to request a building height waiver based on California’s Density Bonus Program.

That being said, based on the City’s preliminary review of the proposed development, it would appear that the project team miscalculated the maximum number of units that could rise on the site, a miscalculation which could reduce the project’s allowable density by 20 percent.

In addition, while the State Density Program does allow for a waiver of existing height limits, “requested waivers may not exceed that which is necessary to accommodate the extra density, incentives, or concessions conferred by the Density Bonus program.” And based on Planning’s preliminary review, “the proposed project appears to not utilize allowable building envelope to accommodate the additional density in favor of increased height” (which is likely foreshadowing for another proposed development in the city as well).

Regardless, the project team could still seek to build up to 294 feet in height on the site as a requested concession/incentive per California’s Density Bonus program. But the project team would have to provide evidence that the requested concession/incentive would result in an “identifiable, financially sufficient, and actual cost reduction” versus another approach in order to be approved. And typically, building up is more expensive than building out.

We’ll keep you posted and plugged-in.

Comments from “Plugged-In” Readers

  1. Posted by Notcom

    “would appear that the project team miscalculated the maximum number of units that could rise on the site”

    Hate it when that happens: some calc that’s – like – CENTRAL TO YOUR ENTIRE PROJECT gets farmed out to a ‘gofer’ and s/he flubs it b/c their IPhone battery is too low (or maybe they just can’t do their maths). Or maybe they’re really looking for a waiver wavier, hoping to exceed even the CDBP limits on the grounds that it would be a hardship to revise the plans at this late date (?) who knows w/ all the #$%^ people try to pull in this town…city…City.

    • Posted by Chris

      The density calculations and building envelopes can be very complicated. And, if it truly had been such an easy calculation mistake, the city planning department would have caught it much earlier. And, developers who are putting millions of dollars of investments just in the permitting and application process are not going to “farm out” anything to a “gopher,” whether you mean the animal or a low-paid temp worker. Also, it is an application that has to be reviewed by multiple departments and ultimately approved by the Planning Commission before anything even begins to move forward, so I doubt anyone was to “pull” anything.

      It must be hard to get out of bed every day with that giant chip on your shoulder.

      • Posted by Notcom

        “satire: (noun) the use of humor, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize people’s stupidity or vices” Perhaps it’s my kyphosisian state, early-onset cantankerousness or late-onset perfectionism, but yes, I do consider failure to get the main number right a bigee (alternately, maybe the argument that the language for calculating is too complicated could be advanced?)

        As for when the city should have discovered it, I would think during the ‘Preliminary review” would be pretty early on; but regardless of the specific timeline of the discovery, if I’m reading the info correctly, the developers themselves didn’t discover it, despite (1) having worked on the project longer and (2) having – I would hope – a bigger stake in it.

    • Posted by Scott F

      What actually happened is the Planning Department changed the way they calculate density bonus units, and their new way appears to violate the state’s density bonus law.

      I’m hoping the city reconsiders and lets this through at its full height without having to be sued. It’s exasperating that this would happen even in Central SoMa, which opted into ministerial approvals under a David Chiu bill. Here in San Francisco, even that isn’t enough to prevent the city using dirty tricks to downsize housing.

  2. Posted by FRONOFRO

    I think you should add a BUILD IT button on each article. Would be cool to see which projects had the most “support”

    I would definitely be clicking that button if it existed.

  3. Posted by Weewillie Winky

    We’re sorry to offend but this latest travesty looks like some high school kids’ Leggo project gone awry. Seriously? 294 feet on that corner? Not a huge fan of Prince Charles, but we sure need someone like him to start screaming and hollering about the lack of any architectural integrity and vision in this, and yes, Notcom, town….

    • Posted by Anonymous

      Periodic reminder that there’s no major city in the world where the majority of buildings’ architrcture is unique or remarkable.

  4. Posted by Jk

    Here’s the thing. The taller this get built, the more it’ll block the eyesore of Jasper.

  5. Posted by ExSFLandlord

    Interesting word….”foreshadowing”…..rhymes with shadowing….and that makes me think of San Francisco’s Prop K. I believe I read that the proposed project next door at 2nd and Harrison is having to provide a shadow study for impacts to South Park. This would tend to make one wonder if the same would apply to 650 Harrison at it’s proposed height…..just foreshadowing of things to come……

  6. Posted by Housing Proponent

    So @ExSFLandlord if this project didn’t cast any shadow on South Park would you support it?

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