November 6, 2007
Dorothy Lenehan’s “Realm” Is Rising Over At The Soma Grand
“Composed of 390 panels, most about 2-by-7 feet and 1/4-inch thick, the mural titled "Realm" is the biggest piece of glass art in the city. Three stories tall, it cost $800,000. (As required by local planning law, 1 percent of the construction cost has to be used for art.) Set in a shoji screen-like aluminum grid on the new Soma Grand building, the mural brings a blast of color to a gritty mixed-use neighborhood that's being transformed by a rash of commercial and residential construction.”
∙ Towering work of art [SFGate]
∙ The Soma Grand: The SocketSite Straight Scoop [SocketSite]
Night’s Week's Gathering: A Reader Driven Wrap Up (We Hope) [SocketSite]
First Published: November 6, 2007 2:21 PM
Comments from "Plugged In" Readers
I'd certainly rather spend 1% of a million-dollar purchase price on something else. ANYTHING else.
Posted by: anon at November 6, 2007 2:57 PM
quit yo' whinin. This looks really cool! Another unique touch in an area that is becoming more and more exciting with every new development.
Posted by: sanfranvalues at November 6, 2007 3:05 PM
This looks very cool. I'm curious what is on the other side of the windows?
Posted by: Me at November 6, 2007 3:12 PM
Nice colorful addition to the neighborhood. Will it help the blight and grit of the area? Who knows...
But I have to agree with anon, paying upwards of $1000/sqft and over a million+ for condos in this area is puzzling...
Posted by: missionbayres at November 6, 2007 3:28 PM
missionbayres: may I remind you that Nob Hill and Russian Hill were cattle farms 2 centuries ago?
Posted by: sanfranvalues at November 6, 2007 3:31 PM
And this and many other similar government-mandated programs tacking on additional thousands of dollars in expenses passed on to buyers are a major part of the reasons why the middle class are continually priced out of the city.
Posted by: g at November 6, 2007 3:32 PM
A cure for cancer and AIDS could be found tomorrow, and the socketsite readers would find something "disturbing" about it.
Posted by: sanfranvalues at November 6, 2007 3:35 PM
sanfranvalues, were Nob Hill and Russian Hill going for $1000/sqft when they were cattle farms??
The point I'm making is that for a neighborhood that's still in transition, that's STILL gritty and quite run-down, anyone paying $1000/sqft and up is foolish. Let's see some pricing that actually reflects the neighborhood's current condition, not what's it's going to be like in 5-10 years.
The artwork is great, I have no issues with that...
Posted by: missionbayres at November 6, 2007 3:50 PM
No need to go pre-Gold Rush here.
Less than 20 years ago, the Embarcadero Freeway laid aesthetic waste to much the the Embarcadero, South Beach, and even Mission Bay. Now there are (select) properties along that stretch that command $1,000+ psf. The Loma Prieta quake, while horrifying, was the catalyst for an amazing and positive transformation.
Don't write off mid-Market for the medium-long term. The sudden surge of dining and nightlife is being enhanced with dwellings. Some will suck, sure. But the transformation is happening. And it is good.
Perhaps Gavin will use his second term to step up and address quality of life issues in a meaningful way, accelerating the change. It's no secret that there's a huge groundswell of support for taking SF back from the chronically indigent. And let's face it -- they're the ones who ruin mid-Market.
Posted by: amused at November 6, 2007 4:25 PM
I have no problem with "indigent" people, it's the chronic derelicts that are the problem. There will always be poor people in America, it's the nature of capitalism. Can't just sweep them all away. After all, poor people add a level of culture and urbanism to a city. But the bums, the unemployed living on the streets- they are the problem. I think we should threaten a recall election if Newsom doesn't get the ball rolling a lot more aggressively to crack down severely on the homeless population- which damages our economy, image, and lifestyles as a whole.
Posted by: sanfranvalues at November 6, 2007 4:36 PM
Not to mention the PUBLIC HEALTH issues that the homeless derelicts create! I can't even let my dog go poo on the sand in the beach, yet the crazies can sh!t all over the sidewalks and somehow that ISN'T a public health concern which should be punished to the fullest extent of the law?
Posted by: sanfranvalues at November 6, 2007 4:38 PM
I agree that there are many things pushing up the price of housing (mandated parking, restrictive zoning, community nimby-ism, ceqa delays, etc) for the middle class, and while yes, the public art requirement does add to the total, is it really one of the worst culprits?
That being said, I'd rather see more well-designed buildings get built, rather than cover up bland condo-boxes dressed up with mediocre art.
Posted by: k at November 6, 2007 4:38 PM
I would personally pay no more than 400/Sq. ft to live in this building and area.
not going to happen, but just giving my 2 cents.
Posted by: Spencer at November 6, 2007 4:44 PM
Thanks for giving us your two cents.
From reading your many posts, that's one cent more than you're willing to pay for anything.
Posted by: amused at November 6, 2007 4:49 PM
Poor choice of words on my part. Typing while on a conference call. The correct word phrase is "chronically vagrant."
Posted by: amused at November 6, 2007 4:51 PM
Thanks for giving us your two cents.
From reading your many posts, that's one cent more than you're willing to pay for anything."
Posted by: McBravio at November 6, 2007 5:03 PM
I normally do not agree with Spencer's postings, but I work at the new Federal Building and I wouldn't pay anything to live at this location. Not even one cent. And I live in the Mission. Perhaps my judgment is clouded because I work right next to the building but this is probably one of the most depressing and disgusting areas in all of S.F. I can't imagine paying the kind of prices SOMA Grand is seeking. Seriously, the 7th street BART exit smells so overwhelmingly like urine in the morning it's as if all the methodone junkies who hang out by the western union all decide to urinate all at once at 8am everyone morning. Can anyone confirm whether this actually happens?
Does anyone know if SOMA Grand is selling any units?
I will put in a plug for Mr. Smiths. Great bar, and they bring in free pizza on Fridays.
Posted by: anono at November 6, 2007 5:23 PM
amused, your "2 cents" post is the most comical post of the year on this site. I applaud you.
Posted by: Kevin at November 6, 2007 5:53 PM
I still think Chip and Co. missed a real opportunity with the Soma "Grand". If you are going to try to get me to take a chance on this location, why not offer some really interesting architecture and spaces that could not be found anywhere else in the city? Chip got his start by building hotels that were unique, but in less than perfect locations, but customers took the chance because the hotels were different and fun. What is so interesting about the Grand? There are a LOT of choices when you get in the $1000 a sq. ft. territory. There is one developer in Chicago who builds award winning condo projects that people line up for even in this market all because of the design team they put together. Almost all of the projects are in "up and coming" areas, but buyers could care less as they are mostly intersted in the unique spaces themselves. The Bland is a Bayshore Freeway Ramada Inn that ruins the new Federal Building.
Posted by: anonarch at November 6, 2007 6:29 PM
This 1% for art requirement is just one (of many) reasons why housing is expensive in this City. 1% for art AND 15% affordable inclusionary units AND long delays at Planning AND payoffs to Chris Daly's flunkies AND, AND, AND....and then people are surprised that housing is expensive in San Francisco?
Posted by: Bob at November 6, 2007 6:37 PM
Chip would take over hotels that were already built and renovate them. I don't think they have many hotels built from the ground up. I know Acqua and Vitale are and they definitely have interesting spaces.
Posted by: missykay at November 6, 2007 6:43 PM
...back to the art.
I didn't even know it was glass until I read this article, it looks like a giant plexiglass advertisement (that's missing the tag line).
I am all for public art, however sometimes it would be nice to see exactly how this looks in the context of building, neighborhood, and scale before spending 800k and coming up with something that I am sure up close is amazing, when you are 40 feet below it looking up at it really doesn't leave much of an impression.
Now if it went up the side of the building to the PH level and maybe had a finish on the roof -That would be neat. Even the gates at Macy's seem to have a bit more depth and charecter.
Now this may be premature as it's not done being installed, but an ugly building base, is still an ugly building base even when it's wrapped with pressed glass.
Posted by: High Rise Harry at November 6, 2007 6:50 PM
"Chip would take over hotels that were already built and renovate them. I don't think they have many hotels built from the ground up. I know Acqua and Vitale are and they definitely have interesting spaces."
You are right on all points. I guess what I don't understand is as creative as Chip has been in the past, what went wrong at the Soma Grand?
The units and building itself are quite ordinary. I guess they are trying to make up for the lack of creativity in the architecture by pushing their free Yoga classes, Peets coffee, and twice monthly maid service.
Posted by: anonarch at November 6, 2007 6:55 PM
RE: the art...it looks perfectly nice. I'm glad that the city is making an effort to have there be some expense paid to not just providing shelter, but adding flavor to the city. I wasn't aware of the requirement, but was amazed at the volume of artwork I'd seen in/on/around buildings in the city.
If only that made the city actually beautiful. I must agree that some things have gotta give mid-market. I live downtown, my kid goes to school near the civic center, and every year there's the "walk to school day". My response is "you've gotta be F'n kidding me if you think I'm gonna walk my kid down market or mission streets".
I use Muni, and even the walk from the station to the school is unpleasant. I stepped on a turd this AM when I was bringing my kid to school. I wasn't paying attention, and I'm pretty sure, given the people who sleep nearby, that it wasn't a dog. I nearly barf'd.
That and the news that the obviously schizophrenic sign guy down at the foot of market attacked a cop (again), these issues aren't about poverty, they're about people who got no business living and sleeping on the streets with no help making my life worse.
The young drifters/druggies begging for money for their chemicals are a different thing, but they'll become this varied class of chronic losers eventually if they keep it up.
Solution? I dunno, but structurally something ain't working. Jail isn't gonna work, but perhaps we need to bring back group homes and institutionalization for the mentally marginal and incapable, rather than making them wards of the street, crime, and our police and emergency services.
Same goes for the addicts, but even if there was a bed for them to crash on, they might not make it there.
Posted by: whorfin at November 6, 2007 10:21 PM
I actually contemplated buying at SomaGrand and even got an opportunity to buy during the first weekend of release when prices were suppose to be ‘below’ market. Well, I was quickly turned off when the corner view units were going for $1000/sqft. Even lower floor units that faced west toward the future Trinity towers were around $700-800/sqft. Realistically I was expecting prices to be in the $500-700/sqft range and was quickly turned off by these outrageous pricing. The sales lady kept telling me “you getting in on the ground floor” and “it’s a can’t miss investment”. Well the more she attempted to prop up the neighborhood and the development, the more I was turned off. I just couldn't see how the whole mid-market neighborhood can transform itself from it's current cesspool to a safe, clean, liveable neighborhood in 5 years. Honestly, I think it will take longer than that, especially with the housing downturn...
Last time I checked a few months ago, they were 25-30% reserved. I’m not sure how many are under contract but they should be closing on their first units any week now…
Posted by: missionbayres at November 6, 2007 11:49 PM
SomaGrand received its TCO, and for those interested, you can now tour the building and see what it looks like from the inside as well as outside.
Posted by: Eric at November 7, 2007 8:30 AM
Well it's nice when you can see it.
There's a billboard essentially right in front of it as you drive on Mission towards downtown. So it blocks out a bunch of the pretty glass!
Should have been mounted a little higher I think
Posted by: bdb at November 7, 2007 10:01 AM
Doesn't this mean that it cost approx. $80M to build this building? Add in land and financing costs and you get to maybe $100M? The extra parking and commercial space is conservatively worth about $10M (probably $20M) to a real estate investor. That leaves about $80-90M in cost basis spread accross the 246 units. If the average unit is 900 sq. feet then average cost basis is around $400/sq. ft. for residential units. It seems like we can predict a range of about $350-450/sq. ft. cost basis for the residential units.
I thought I remember reading on this site that they were looking to get $600-800/ sq. foot on average. Nice profit if they can get it.
Posted by: anono at November 7, 2007 10:01 AM
FYI, the SomaGrand developer lives at The Palms.
Posted by: SC at November 7, 2007 10:02 AM
To those wondering what the "art" glass is in front of -- its the parking garage.
Two problems: first, the way this " art" is just inserted into standard aluminum curtainwall completely devalues any 'artiness' it may have had (a very cheap and lame installation solution); and second, that money could've simply gone into an artfully designed garage screen wall, as you can find all over the place, from the 50s onward (a fine example being the American Cement building on Wilshire in LA, designed by the master screen designer Erwin Hauer).
The bigger problem, why such a strategy wasn't pursued, is there is absolutely zero vision behind the design of this project -- its just more profit-driven, bottom-line thinking imposed on the market. I don't have a problem with $1000/sf, it its for good design -- look at Chicago, New York, Europe, Japan, even Miami or new stuff in LA -- people will pay for good design these days, period.
Posted by: citicritter at November 7, 2007 12:46 PM
I think people here are being to harsh on Soma Grand. Sure, it isn't world-class and the developer could've done a better job. It is also questionable whether it is worth that price. However, people are missing the larger point. This "mediocre" building is jumpstarting the rejuvination of the area. Over the next few years, we'll see its neighbors of Argenta, Trinity Plaza, 10th & Market project among others. The improvement of the neighborhood is far more important to me than whether a piece of art fits with an average looking modern building.
Posted by: SFhighrise at November 7, 2007 5:34 PM
While I think the concept is cool--I'm concerned that there has been no mention of the safety of such a large scale glass works in an earthquake prone area (esp. as much of Soma is a liquifaction zone).
Posted by: Micah at November 8, 2007 11:40 AM
the concept may be cool, but the condos sure aren't. They should have installed central air in a building of that size.
Posted by: sf_housedude at November 9, 2007 4:31 PM
Citicritter starts to hint on this. What the developers have done is use the artwork to clad their building in a veiled attempt to increase their profits (pun intended).
I question the beauty of the artwork. This is going to look dated in 10 years.
Miah: the building code requires safety glazing.
Posted by: passive at November 10, 2007 9:24 AM