Problems for Skinny 13-Story Polk Gulch Building as ProposedAugust 25, 2021
As we revealed back in June, plans for a skinny 13-story building to rise up to 130 feet in height on the northwest corner of Polk and Olive, across from the Mitchell Brothers O’Farrell Theater site, have been drafted. And as envisioned by the project team, the development would yield 60 studio apartments, employing an Individually Requested State Density Bonus to develop four times the maximum number of units for which the 2,922-square-foot parcel is principally zoned.
But according to the City’s preliminary review of the project team’s work, the State’s Density Bonus Program would allow for a maximum of 23 units to be built on the site.
While San Francisco’s HOME-SF program would allow for 60 units to be developed on the 841 Polk Street parcel, at least 40 percent of the units would then need to have two bedrooms or more and at least 23 percent of the development would need to be offered at below market rates (BMR).
We’ll keep you posted and plugged-in.
Comments from Plugged-In Readers
Why try to make a skinny building appear more skinny with the two expressions. Just pick one and do that.
This goes to show that you can do a lot with even a little bit of land. Skinny structures like these can be found throughout the world. Look forward to seeing it once it’s complete!
If you want a success story in that regard look at Tokyo. They generally ban lot mergers to prevent the consolidation of land, but they approve tall buildings by-right. This has created a lot of reasonably priced housing in buildings 5-15 stories tall, and the varied landscape of diverse thin residential buildings really gives the city a lot of charm. San Francisco could really benefit from an approach like this.
You only see stuff like this in shall we say, not terribly well managed cities? No, that’s too coy. You only see buildings like this in places with zero government oversight.
You’ve said some inane things on this website, but this might take the cake. A building like this would be proposed anywhere that housing is in demand and land is expensive and scarce. And between CEQA and SF Planning, if there’s one thing San Francisco and California have in abundance it is government oversight of construction.
There is nothing inane about calling out a hideous out of scale tooth implant of a building. What is inane is the obvious developer booster crowd loop tape of “build build build.” Its a mantra about as sustainable as a frat boy telling the bartender “another double!” from his prone position on the floor. May the Millenium tower do a Dorothy’s house upon them so that their curling Brioni loafers are all that remain visible. San Francisco is a mediterranean climate city on a lovely slope with light and sky like very few cities and it’s being ruined by greedy gaslighting LLC’s from Texas who wouldn’t know Hyde Street from Polk without Google maps.
“You only see buildings like this in places with zero government oversight.”
If someone asked you to actually back up that claim, you’d find a lot of evidence to the contrary.
Really? Google around the notion of tall skinny buildings in low rise neighborhoods and see what global sprawl cities pop up. Not Paris, or London or Rome or Venice or Washington or anyplace considered well run from a preservation of the golden goose perspective. Our bird has been stuffed and mounted.
Those evil Texas LLC’s wouldn’t know the Tenderloin is low rise nieghborhood with Google maps either I bet.
“in low rise neighborhoods”
Now you’re changing your point. Polk street is not “low rise”, it’s part of San Franciscos urban core with quite a few taller residential buildings built across the past century. And no you will not see many tall skinny towers in cities without zoning code as those sprawling cities typically have shorter buildings because they are cheaper to construct, and in the urban cores of cities like that you will find wider towers and more lot mergers as it is more profitable for developers to consolidate land use like this.
Modestly tall skinny towers, 5-15 stories, can be an effective way to build middle class housing in older cities where land value and density is high. Tokyo, Taipei, and sure when you think about Paris you don’t think of big glassy buildings, but cities like that are covered with dense infill that you would likely reject if it were proposed here.
Good site, reasonable project. Can’t see why the city would try to limit it to only 23 units, except due to the fact that city staff and elected bodies are stacked to the rafters with NIMBYs and de-growthers. This site is less than 100 meters from the new 300-million-dollar Van Ness BRT and less than a kilometer from a subway station. The allowed intensity of development should be basically unlimited.
The limit is the default state due to zoning. The proposal relies on exemption from zoning to reach the height that allows it to contain 60 units.
Uh no, the state doesn’t have limits. The state has minima that it requires the city to permit. The state has bonuses and waivers that projects can try to get. The state does not in any way limit the intensity that a city may allow. And SF has an entirely discretionary planning scheme; they can allow literally anything anywhere, if they want to, with a hearing and simple majority vote.
To be clear, the site is currently zoned for a maximum of 15 units (and 130 feet in height). And while the State’s Density Bonus Law allows for density bonuses and zoning concessions, they’re not unlimited. And as outlined above, “according to the City’s preliminary review of the project team’s work, the State’s Density Bonus Program would allow for a maximum of 23 units to be built on the site.”
But once again, San Francisco’s HOME-SF program would allow for 60 units to be developed on the 841 Polk Street parcel, but at least 40 percent of the units would need to have two bedrooms or more and at least 23 percent of the development would then need to be offered at below market rates.
Yeah, I get it, no quibbles with what you are saying, but Kyle’s assertion that the state is somehow forcing SF to limit this proposal is a mischaracterization. SF can waive the density limit if they want.
Scott Weiner’s SB50 would have required the approval of this project, given the proximity to bus service and the supposed 130-foot height zoning.
San Francisco does have a program that would effectively waive the density limit for the site, as outlined above, but it comes at a cost to the development team.
I did not say the state (as in State of California) imposed any limits. I said the default state of any proposal on that site is to be height-limited by zoning. SB50, HOME-SF, etc. would enable deviations from that default state.
Once again, the parcel is currently zoned for development up to 130 feet in height, as proposed. It’s the allowable density that’s the issue at hand.
I appreciate the correction, Editor.
Sorry, I will read more closely next time.
who is the developer for this and do they have floor plans roughed out enough for us to see? just curious?
UPDATE: Proposed 13-Story Polk Gulch Building, (mis)Take Two
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