CFAH

As we revealed back in 2019, plans to demolish the façade of the burned-out Verdi Building at 659 Union Street, between Columbus and Powell, and redevelop the site in the heart of North Beach were in the works and even bigger plans for a 98-unit residential building rising up to 85 feet in height upon the site, with a boutique 14-room hotel and rooftop terrace/restaurant atop the development and a row of new ground floor restaurant and retail space below, were being drawn.


But and as we fore-shadowed last year:

“While the development as proposed was designed “to minimize [its] visual impact” and projected shadows on Washington Square, Washington Square has a designated zero tolerance (i.e., 0% Absolute Cumulative Limit) for new shadows to be cast upon the park by way of San Francisco’s Sunlight Ordinance (a.k.a. Prop K).

And as confirmed by the preliminary shadow fan prepared by Planning, the project is likely to cast new shadows on Washington Square Park as proposed.

As such, if the proposed project can’t be redesigned to eliminate any new shadowing of Washington Square Park, the project team will need to lobby for the cumulative shadow limit for the high profile park to be lifted (in addition to a rezoning and granting of a Special Use District for the site from San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors).”

And with that in mind and facing pushback from the neighborhood, the project team has since agreed to preserve the Verdi Building’s three street-facing walls and limit the vertical redevelopment of the site to a partially enclosed fourth floor, set to the rear of Verdi Building’s façade, “such that no new shadow is cast on Washington Park,” as newly rendered by Gould Evans below:

And with a horizontal addition along Powell Street and behind the existing building, in what is now a vacant space adjacent to the structure, the revised plans for the development would now yield a total of 23 residential units, a mix of 11 studios, 3 one-bedrooms, 6 twos and 3 threes, over new ground floor restaurant/retail space, with the fourth floor addition and rooftop open space envisioned as a new restaurant as well.

We’ll keep you posted and plugged-in.

Comments from Plugged-In Readers

  1. Posted by Zugamenzio Farnsworth

    It is a great location. During Covid I managed jogs all over town, and North Beach was a gem; actually shops, drinks, food, all over the place, in various corridors, and many establishments looked prosperous, with character even. This in a town where no one can figure out how to get shoppers shopping out n about, really. Whatever it is that place has, Jane Jacobs must be clapping.

  2. Posted by Notcom

    “limit the vertical redevelopment of the site to a partially enclosed fourth floor, set to the rear of Verdi Building’s façade, ”
    So, then, there’s no rendering of what’s actually proposed at present here?? (What’s shown is the interim proposal…right ??)

    • Posted by SocketSite

      That’s correct. The new rendering is on its way.

    • Posted by Michael Waldo

      We live near the building (we could feel the heat of the fire in our apt.). The first plan would have been hard on us and our neighbors. This new plan sounds and looks good. Now let’s get it going! There’s too many empty buildings in the hood.

  3. Posted by Hunter Oatman-Stanford

    what a bummer – the first try was so much more interesting and suited the neighborhood well. Need to revoke the shadow law. 🙁

    • Posted by Brainthink

      How about no. Admire intrusive architecture somewhere else, people actually need to live here.

      • Posted by Hunter

        Shadows do not make places “unlivable”; people can’t live here because it’s obscenely expensive. Adding 4x the new units (and affordable ones) in a project like this would do a lot more to make NB livable.

        • Posted by not sure why this is all caps

          Shadows are a positive good! If I had my druthers parks would be in shadow 50% of the time.

        • Posted by Dixon Hill

          Have you spent much time downtown in the winter when the sun is low? It’s a cold, dark, and dreary place.

          • Posted by I Feel Like Chicken Tonight

            You ever been to Paris? Whole lot more shadows there and it’s the most beautiful city in the world.

          • Posted by Zach

            Yes. Still think we need to build higher and build more affordable places. During your lunch hour, you can find a nice sunny place to sit and have lunch. Other times, you’re in the office and suppose to be working anyways!

          • Posted by Dixon Hill

            @Zach–This isn’t going to be an “affordable” project. Very little high-rise product is affordable. That’s a red herring.

            @Feel Like Chicken–Paris and San Francisco is apples and oranges. Much of Paris is low-rise (Marais, Latin Quarter, etc.) and the streets in those neighborhoods tend to be much more active than ours with attractive cafes and boutiques. There are newer parts of Paris dominated by high-rises…the areas that tourists rarely visit.

          • Posted by SFRealist

            The proposed building was not a high rise. It is just the height that most buildings in the walkable part of Paris are.

            If you want cafes and boutiques, then you need people to buy things. That’s where buildings like this come in. You also need a city bureaucracy which doesn’t disfavor them. People have been talking about making it easier to do business for decades, but I’ve yet to see a Mayor actually push it through.

      • Posted by Jack castle

        SF can’t just be old NIMBYS against anything new. We will outvote you soon to allow progress.

      • Posted by Anonymous

        What a ludicrous take. So many of the old apartment buildings that people claim to admire for their character and architectural value are literally illegal to build today because of attitudes like this. It’s MUCH more accurate to suggest that people who have visceral reactions to mid-rise buildings should abscond to sprawling suburbs, because a dense city clearly isn’t the place they feel comfortable.

    • Posted by Rob D

      I agree! I like having some shade to sit in at a park. “made in the shade” is a saying for a reason.

      This area would really benefit from more housing and the added retail on the ground floor will be a great addition to the community as well.

      • Posted by marcos

        There are these amazing things in parks, trees, that provide both shade and a carbon sink. But trees don’t work without sunshine,

      • Posted by Brian M

        The entire Bay Area economy is based on eliminating the need for retail and replacing it with remote aps serviced from Satanic Mill “Fulfillment Centers” funneling even more money to 0.1% of the population. why walk anywhere when an impoverished “task rabbit” in a dying car can deliver everything to your doorstep?

        • Posted by Notcom

          I think you’re confused: that’s STILL retail. The alternative to retail – i.e. “buying goods from someone” – is self-sufficiency.

  4. Posted by Panhandle Pro

    This might be the rare instance where I agree with the shadow law.

    – This building is south of the park, so it should impact sunlight quite a bit.
    – Washington Square is the only flat park in North Beach and is the central hub of the community.
    – The proposed project is an ugly bolt-on to the existing building.

    • Posted by not sure why this is all caps

      Sounds like you don’t agree with the shadow law so much as its outcome. Death to Prop K!

    • Posted by Anonymous

      Better cut down all those pesky shadow-casting trees then!

      • Posted by Tor

        As they are doing on 24th Street between Potrero and Mission.

      • Posted by marcos

        Hmm, relax on the grass in the sun dappled shade of a tree or amidst the shady, cold, windy venturi effect of high rises, I wonder which one most people would prefer?

  5. Posted by Jason

    is this seriously not going to be the next stop on the central subway? (granting that by the time the subway opens this new building will have already burned down too)

    • Posted by Bluntcard

      Perhaps they’ll have subway entrances in Washington Square park? It should be encouraging that the tunnels to North Beach are completed. Marc Benioff could easily donate the funds to build a NB station.

  6. Posted by Bluntcard

    Well, thank goodness. It looks like someone helicoptered in a prefab building and plopped it on top of an old, elegant building. This is more offensive than just tearing down the beautiful old structure and building anew.

    • Posted by Anonymous

      What’s offensive is totally meritless and subjective demands for architectural homogeneity. “It’s not to my tastes, so it shouldn’t be allowed to exist at all” is a damagingly conservative worldview.

      • Posted by Bluntcard

        I’m flattered you think I have any influence. I’m just expressing gratitude that not everyone can accomplish ransacking a beautiful city for personal gain.

        • Posted by Anonymous

          Great! And I’m expressing gratitude you feel that evidence free, classist opinions like yours have quite literally no value! You’re figuratively burning to the ground the ability of current and future generations to make a home here and then claiming that others are doing the “ransacking”.

          • Posted by Bluntcard

            Future generations aren’t going to want to live here if any hideous structure is approved in the name of housing.

          • Posted by joe

            Last time I checked, humans don’t live forever, which means that future generations absolutely will make a home here. But don’t expect destruction of the urban environment in order to make changes that your generation thinks it’s entitled to. No matter how many third-rate buzzwords you can regurgitate.

          • Posted by Anonymous

            Nothing more hilarious than entitled classist telling everyone else they’re entitled. You are LITERALLY advocating for making housing even more unaffordable than it is now. You either know this and don’t care due to irredeemable selfishness, or you don’t understand are just ignorant. Either way, just a truly embarrassing way to be.

            Anyone who claims that “the urban environment is going to be destroyed” by adding a few stories to a burnt out multistory building in one of the country’s densense cities and neighborhoods is not a person that anyone should take seriously.

          • Posted by marcos

            Hopefully, YIMBY will treat the residents of new luxury condos with the same disgusted contempt they show for existing San Franciscans.

        • Posted by Anonymous

          *Vikings talking to each other after burning a Celtic village to the ground and killing everyone*

          “Such a shame. I can’t believe someone would ransack a charming village like that.”

          • Posted by Hgfd

            This has been burnt for 7 years. Why all of a sudden are they finally paying attention to this??

    • Posted by Robert

      I actually enjoyed the quirky quality of the original proposal. It was similar to the way buildings on SF hills look stacked on each other because of the slope. The new rendering is the typical “non-architecture” that seems to emerge from SF’s entitlement process.

  7. Posted by Adam

    What do you know, they will be able to save the original brick exterior after all. Funny how that works.

  8. Posted by sf_historian

    This iteration is fine and appropriate. Public spaces such as Washington Square are important and irreplaceable. Context matters. These spaces aren’t toilets for aesthetically-challenged REITs to take a dump in.

  9. Posted by Michael Waldo

    Did I miss the description of affordable units?

    • Posted by SocketSite

      Two (2) of the units would be provided at below market rates (BMR) as proposed.

      • Posted by Marvinsnephew

        What happened to the “affordable” units that were there before the fire? With 2 BMR units, that’s only 9%! How is that allowed when the burned units were much less expensive (rent controlled)? Shouldn’t they have to meet the current minimum of 21 or 22%

  10. Posted by Theresa Flandrich

    About 6 weeks ago, I attended a public presentation by the sponsor who said this was a fire RESTORATION project and that some of the former residential tenants would be returning to comparable sized units in this rent controlled building.

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