As we revealed earlier this year, plans for a supersized 522-unit tower to rise up to 451-feet in height upon the former K&L Wine Merchants building parcel at 636-638 4th Street had been drafted and submitted to Planning for review.

While the proposed plans for the 46-story tower have since been refined to yield 513 units, in order to yield a development that’s closer to being a code-conforming project that could be approved, there are a couple of other revisions that would need to be made, including an increase in the proposed percentage of inclusionary housing units, particularly for low-income residents earning up to 55 percent of the Area Median Income (AMI), and a retraction of a request for a waiver from the required development impact fees. But otherwise, no showstoppers for the supersized tower were identified, at least not by Planning.  We’ll keep you posted and plugged-in.

46 thoughts on “Revised Plans for Supersized Tower Closer to Potential Reality”
  1. There really should be a(nother) state law that accelerates approval of projects like these along fixed-route transit projects that have been funded primarily via non-local funds.

    1. Momentum has begun to swing towards the YIMBY direction in California as well as nationwide (Washington St and NYC as recent examples as blue-leaning states finally realize that something needs to change or they’ll lose to Texas and Florida. Time will tell whether recent legislative victories in CA will translate to consequential zoning changes in SF, which in turn will translate into actual decreases in project approval time and increases to project approval %. But for the first time in my 15 years paying attention to this, I’m hopeful.

      1. there is little hope in SF unless we can replace a few members of the Board of Supervisors. im hopeful that can happen in 2024, but the district only elections are difficult to gauge. it makes no sense that we have district elections for politicians that impact citywide policy

        1. I agree with your broader point, but not about the district wide election part… Isn’t that how most legislative bodies work?

        2. It amuses me that you think that a few members of the BOS changing hands will make a material difference in this town. The “city family” and its enablers like the status quo just fine. The head of that family today (with direct authority over DBI, planning, transportation, police, etc) is none other than one London Breed. She likes the status quo just fine too.

        3. Abolish the Board of Supervisors. Concentrate authority, and therefore accountability, in the mayor’s office.

        4. district elections hold people closer to their constituents and make it harder for downtown money to buy politicians citywide.

  2. I’m curious about the Bank of America site on the corner, adjacent to the K&L site. They are closing this month. Seems like an obvious fit for more housing.

  3. LOVE it. This entire region needs to be covered with high rises of this size. Could be a cool midtown equivalent to downtown.

    1. What is there to Love? It’s just another Soulless Houstonian Mirrored Tower. It’s symbolic of everything wrong with development in San Francisco.

      1. What’s not to love?

        – ~750 new people have a home in San Francisco.
        – Huge new property tax revenue coming in every year to provide City services.
        – Lots of temporary and permanent jobs created by the building.
        – New lighting, landscaping and security.
        – 500+ units on the market will lower prices over time as the market is flooded with more units than buyers/renters.

        1. That is a most tired list of points. They have been touted now for decades to justify bad planning, bad design and greed. You could use those points to march glassy towers up and down the Panhandle too.

          1. So what are your points against? (Beyond your similarly vague, oft-trotted and fully subjective complaint about design.) What other uses would you propose for a site directly on a public transit line and one block from commuter rail?

      2. Could you share your unique and innovative designs for a mid-rise residential tower with 522 units (plus podium and amenities)?

        1. The fact is that a residential tower is terrible for that site, just terrible. Really what it needs is something inclusive for all San Franciscans, for example a dairy farm that teaches butter churning to the few remaining children who haven’t been priced out of the city.

      3. I was in Houston for a wedding recently for some former SF based friends. It was surprisingly clean with a distinct lack of homeless. Traffic was terrible but it seemed on the surface like a well run city. Downtown is similar scale to LA, so not walker friendly, but lots trees & parks. It’s also much more culturally diverse than SF. The big deal breaker is the weather. It was already high 70’s with lots of humidity.

    2. Yes, it looks like there might be upwards of four high rise clusters in SF eventually: Downtown, The Hub/Van Ness, Ballpark/4th and King, as well as a Geary/Masonic/Inner Richmond corridor after upzoning.

        1. No. You’d have heard the screams all the way in the East Bay if it had. (And – shaking head – how in the world would public transit serve such upzoning, given that the 38 et al. are already SRO *before* they even get to Park Presidio? Build a Geary subway, then maybe we can talk…)

          1. I agree with the underlying assertion here that if the area is upzoned and new projects such as the one above actually get built, traffic congestion will reach unacceptable levels without mass transit improvements.

            It’s already an auto zone. From a previous District 4 Mobility Study (scroll down to Appendix A Attachment):

            On a typical weekday before the pandemic, about 76% of trips starting or ending in District 4 were made by people driving with 35% being trips with people driving alone. High rates of driving increases congestion, making it more difficult for everyone to get around.

            Supervisor Myrna Melgar commissioned a new study on the possibility of rail on Geary from the County Transportation Authority which is supposed to be finalized by the end of this year. I expect the cost estimates that are delivered with it to shock the people such as ‘OMN’, ‘Panhandle Pro’ and the inescapable State Sen. Scott Wiener into silence regarding mindless upzoning of the corridor, because none of the folks advocating “high rise clusters” have any idea where to get the money to fund such a Geary subway and get it built before the high density market-rate housing does.

          2. Not to mention that if the high-density development occurs first, then it’s even more cumbersome and costly to build light rail or a subway. We need a transit czar (and a CEQA exemption for transit project, period) who can just make the decision to build a Geary subway (and a North Beach / Fisherman’s Wharf / Marina extension to the 4th Street line), and get on with it.

            Instead I feel like we’ve reached some kind of ossification vis-a-vis public projects – from projects such as these to a new bay crossing – and let’s not even get started on sea level rise mitigation – we just navel-gaze and twiddle our thumbs for decades without ever taking action. (I mean, no matter how much you want, and are able, to get individual cars off the road, having the Bay Bridge as an infrastructure bottleneck holds back growth for the entire region.)

        2. If you Google something along the lines of “SF Housing Element Geary,” zoning maps have been released. There is a cluster of 240 foot zoning around Geary and Masonic.

          However, it looks like the much larger cluster of new 240 footers is Van Ness between California and Lombard.

          1. I parsed through all the gentrification maps and finally found the height zoning map in the Housing Element Final Draft (dated 12/22). Looks like a piece of the MUNI Site at Geary/ Masonic and maybe a piece of the UCSF campus are zoned to 160′. No 240′ height zoning at Geary/ Masonic that I could find. The only zoning I saw up to 240′ West of Fillmore is at UCSF Parnassus.

          2. the fact that the Lucky Penny site has been vacant for so many years is really depressing. a 10-12 story apt building would be perfect for that location.

  4. What is the point? This is not getting built.

    Is it just to get the project entitled and have it ready in case a miraculous return to 2017 happens?

    1. Thanks for stating the obvious. It will be years before things settle out but, IIRC, entitlements can be extended twice. That’s about 9 years after initial entitlement – early 2030s for this project.

    2. If it gets built, it’s not like they will start work tomorrow. The city makes it incredibly difficult to get things built, so you have to kick the process off years in advance. It may or may not make economic sense to build in 2027, but if it does, then they will have had to have started the process today.

  5. Used to get Banh Mi at the diner on this site, and whiskey next door! City’s going down the tubes.

  6. density aka the propensity to push for platformed shoes to look above the heads of everyone else, while ignoring everything below… from foundations, to transit, to lacking neighborhood ammenities, to schools, pools, parks, and just penciled in profits…. we sure are getting supersized but for whom? 😉 we could do density elsewhere in the city and do a bit more balanced approach to transit and housing build-up can’t we planners plan a bit more than just be spoon fed the density equations and profit margin pro-forma BS daily?

    1. Getting supersized for the benefit of land owners who sell the parcel at a price reflecting the future improvements, the developers who develop only a plan and hire architects to do renderings so that they can get the project entitled for flipping to another sucker firm, the other sucker firm hoping to make a profit from the finished building and the real estate agents who will sell the overpriced units to people from outside S.F. and make a healthy rip.

      Most of those people financially benefiting will wind up taking their “winnings” and relocating to Texas or Florida once it becomes apparent that high density development in the absence of mass transit to accommodate the residents makes for an unlivable city.

      1. Let’s assume all of that is true. Who cares? It’s a business. They make money just like a coffee shop makes money by selling you a latte. If you want housing/latte’s in this world in its current form, developers/coffee shops are going to exist and profit. And society is better for it.

        Sure, I’d be down with the government building non-profit housing which would make apartments 20% cheaper. Let’s do it. Who is working on that initiative?

        I don’t hear any action from anyone to change the system. In the meantime, developers are going to take their 20% profit, and that’s fine. Land owners and developers should not be demonized for participating in the economy like everyone else.

      2. Not sure if you’re aware, since I assume you’ve been recycling these talking points for a decade, but there’s a brand new Muni line running directly in front of this building.

          1. Caltrain connects to Muni, BART, and VTA light rail. That is the definition of a network.

  7. From the Real Deal and referring to a proposal to cut SF’s inclusionary housing requirements by up to 50%.

    “Even with the reduced requirements, high-rise condominiums above eight stories and all apartment developments are still infeasible, according to the report. But some condo developments below eight stories “should be feasible with these reduced requirements.” Lowering the inclusionary zoning to the bottom end of the recommended range would allow for more mid-rise buildings, while the higher end would likely only make low-rise buildings more feasible.”

    This reinforces the economic reality that hi-rise residential developments such as this are economically unfeasible in SF at this time. Of note, the only hi-rise residential project under construction at this time (Market/Van Ness) has temporally halted construction.

    1. Hey Chicken little… Construction is halted because BART delayed due to tunneling and foundation inspections.

      1. FWIW, there are five highrises currently under construction in Sunnyvale. Yes, Sunnyvale.

    2. The site for 555 Bryant has been cleared and progress is quickly being made on the foundation and base structure.

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