As a plugged-in reader writes:

People who think SocketSite readers are “too critical” of this building [SoMa Grand] should check out this scathing attack.

An excerpt from said attack by John King:

Everything is careful and cost-effective; the interior is sleek and smart. But like too many residential containers in the Bay Area and beyond, nothing about Soma Grand engages the scene around it. It’s a wet blanket at billboard scale.

And the line we almost missed (but a reader most certainly did not):

I’d gladly swap a lean version of Soma Grand for some of the towers in Rincon Hill or Mission Bay.

SoMa tower: Grand it ain’t [SFGate]
Comment: SoMa Grand: A Reader’s Unofficial Sales Update And Insight [SocketSite]

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Comments from “Plugged-In” Readers

  1. Posted by runner's high

    Ouch! After ripping SomaGrand a new one, Mr. King turns around and bam! “I’d gladly swap a lean version of Soma Grand for some of the towers in Rincon Hill or Mission Bay.”
    He does bring a very valid point about the building’s closeness to the Fed piece o’ work — under a certain angle it looks like Grand residents might have hard time keeping their cats from jumping off the balconies and onto the Fed building.

  2. Posted by McBravio

    Bitter Socketsite renters…er…I mean readers are too critical, but OUCH! When I read that headline on Sfgate i really felt bad for team SOMA Grand.
    [Editor’s Note: Wow, how original. And a quick reminder, the majority of SocketSite readers already own (with an average home value of over $1.1M), have household incomes of over $200,000, and are currently in the market for a property (assuming the 469 responses to our last reader survey might be considered statistically significant).]

  3. Posted by DerrySF

    Have to admit, I am loving the term ‘residential containers’!

  4. Posted by anon

    “[Editor’s Note: Wow, how original. And a quick reminder, the majority of SocketSite readers already own (with an average home value of over $1.1M), have household incomes of over $200,000, and are currently in the market for a property (assuming the 469 responses to our last reader survey might be considered statistically significant).]”
    Yeah right! I can’t believe Socketsite actually makes these statements purely based upon that survey. Just the fact that Socketsite used averages, one guy could have skewed the results by putting in a false income.
    [Editor’s Note: Median home value was $900,000. Median income was $187,500.]

  5. Posted by [citydwell4me]

    Perhaps the majority of SS readers are homeowners, with a home value over $1.1M, household incomes over $200,000 – but, I am almost positive the majority of POSTERS on here are NOT this group of people. It’s way too obvious they are mostly renters who believe the sky is falling in San Francisco and we would be foolish to buy anything, anytime soon.
    [Editor’s Note: It’s funny, but we find that the commenters who tend to challenge our reader demographics usually have household incomes and homes with values above the averages which they’re challenging. But they’re probably the only ones. And now back to the SoMa Grand…]

  6. Posted by Anon

    1. Things change — and in this area – quickly. In 10 years the building will be invisible; it will be surrounded by a whole new ‘hood of tall buildings. It basically will disappear.
    2. Unless your housing is a bedroom in one of the thousands of jammed, roomate-filled Edwardian flats throughout city– let’s face it, it’s impossible to live here under 150-250K income/year. Add kids to that and it’s more. Sorry but in reality, $200K is realistically on the lower end of SocketSite readership income.

  7. Posted by anon

    Are there any new buildings that John King does like? His long winded negative articles about SF architecture are getting old.

  8. Posted by Developer

    Back to Mr. King’s waxing poetic about buildings like they’re artwork – this just myopic. These projects have to carefully consider costs to ever have a chance of succeeding. Profit is part of the motivation for building for any builder/bank or investor. Or course there is a balance here that needs to be struck between cost, planning, and architecture that is a challenging brew at best. If Mr. King would be interested in investing the equity required on a project that only considers aesthetics, we’ll happily build his magnificent vision and leave economics to the critics.
    I have no involvement with the Soma Grand, but think that it’s a great project for which the developer should be commended. It’s a great example of revitalization of an underserved part of the City.

  9. Posted by Morgan

    Yes there are buildings that he likes, including the Soma “Grand” neighbor, the new Federal Building. Sure he is no architect, but he is writing to and for the general public and he is right about this building not being worthy of a great city like San Francisco.
    I also agree with King in that some of the best new architecture in Northern California is not in “the city”, but instead up in Napa and Sonoma Counties. Vineyard owners know that good design attracts the public, benefits the neighborhood, and is even good for business, and they are willing to build modern original designs.
    BTW, I own, I paid off my loan 3 years ago, so no more “bitter renter” nonsense please.

  10. Posted by blahhh

    “Are there any new buildings that John King does like? His long winded negative articles about SF architecture are getting old.”
    http://cdn.sfgate.com/g/av/slideshows/2007/11/26/glass_tower/soundslider.swf?size=2

  11. Posted by anon

    “I also agree with King in that some of the best new architecture in Northern California is not in “the city”, but instead up in Napa and Sonoma Counties. Vineyard owners know that good design attracts the public, benefits the neighborhood, and is even good for business, and they are willing to build modern original designs.”
    Developer’s point proved. Great, innovative architecture is made possible by deep pockets.
    Maybe if the developers did not have to subsidize the city and fight countless costly battles with the residents and city council to get something built in the first place, that money could be spent on great architecture.

  12. Posted by yao

    “…this building not being worthy of a great city like San Francisco.”
    give me a break. if every building had to be “worthy” of a great city like SF, then nothing would ever get built. it’s this type of thinking that has resulted in all of the headaches and regulations involved in building in SF today.

  13. Posted by Mole Man

    The big glass art thing really does work in a way that engages the street where it is visible. This building is bland and all, but that also makes it an easy target. What could have been done differently to make this building work better? Why has gone wrong with the process that causes great design to elude us?

  14. Posted by Michael

    I completely concur with Anon above. John King’s long, tedious denunciations of San Francisco architecture are getting very old. Why doesn’t he harangue our ridiculous planning commission, who insist on always playing it safe, and only allowing mediocrity?
    I can only hope that we are turning a corner, and we’ll continue to see new high-rises all over the city….

  15. Posted by anonconfused

    So are you all saying that John King is wrong, and that a lot of the new architecture in this city is good? Do you think the Soma Grand is a good design?
    He is not always negative. He is a huge fan of The Infinity. This is not about John King, it is about how a building like the Soma Grand ended up in San Francisco instead of Stockton. I don’t blame the planning dept., I blame the builders!

  16. Posted by buyerinthemarket?

    Has John King been inside Soma Grand? I am currently in the market for a 1 bdr + office condo (I am currently waiting for the market to drop a bit). I went to the Soma Grand recently, and was very impressed! First, the views of the city and bay are amazing, esp. since the prices are under $1 mil. Second, and, more importantly, the layouts are amazing and maximize the square footage beautifully. There are natural nooks for an office/den, large and open kitchens, spacious living room, which can be broken into dining and TV room, and nice closet space. I have been to many developments in town, and many of these layouts do not maximize the square footage. I would have to buy completely new furniture just to fit into these weird layouts (the Hayes comes to mind). I also love the floor to ceiling window, which maximize light. I also enjoy the hotel-esque amenities, including in the HOA fees. Some of these other buildings in town have outrageous HOA fees (Infinity >$700/month), and what do you get? For $700 a month, I want someone cleaning my condo, jeez. I also love the developer’s service at his hotels, so I know the concierge services will be top-notch. I agree with some of the posts that I think the project is still overpriced based on the current state of the neighborhood. Where do these developers get off charging such high numbers for their condos in neighborhoods that are still gentrifying? I guess it is up to us, the buyers, to resist purchasing until these numbers come down, and demand more reasonable prices. Maybe it is also due to the SF Planning and Zoning, which make it so unbelievably difficult for a developer to build. Why are we not building more apt buildings? The demand is so great in the city for apts, and yet we are not building any. Just look at the sky high rents due to the limited supply. Not everyone can afford >$1 mil 1 bdr condos and need an affordable rent. I think planning and zoning should loosen up and look to develop some of these vacant lots in the city (tenderloin/soma).

  17. Posted by Checker checker checker

    “This is not about John King, it is about how a building like the Soma Grand ended up in San Francisco instead of Stockton.”
    It’s statements like these that get buildings like this built here. Everyone wants only the “best” for grand old San Francisco, not something that could be built in lowly Stockton – so we end up with crap because everyone has to put in their say. Let stuff get built – even if you think it looks like it belongs in Stockton or wherever – and we might eventually get some interesting stuff built.

  18. Posted by jojo

    Editor: Turn down the smugness and look again. He’s not challenging the statistics. He’s saying what is certainly a truth: that the majority of *posters* here are doomsday renters who are cheering for a market collapse. (Sidenote: I suppose a down market has them out of the woodwork, but do they really think they are any less tiresome than rah-rah realtors are in an up market?)
    “Perhaps the majority of SS readers are homeowners, with a home value over $1.1M, household incomes over $200,000 – but, I am almost positive the majority of POSTERS on here are NOT this group of people. It’s way too obvious they are mostly renters who believe the sky is falling in San Francisco and we would be foolish to buy anything, anytime soon.
    [Editor’s Note: It’s funny, but we find that the commenters who tend to challenge our reader demographics usually have household incomes and homes with values above the averages which they’re challenging. But they’re probably the only ones. And now back to the SoMa Grand…]”

  19. Posted by grrr

    John King only seems to like buildings paid for by taxpayers and featuring stararchitects that feed off the publc $$$$ (federal building and that housing project on 6th) and then there;s that box for the ubber rich on Howard. Either way, he doesn;t have any room for function or economy that developers face, or the typical users of that development. Did he even talk to the architects of Soma Grand? Seems rather passive aggressive to only pick from their brochure and not get their rationale for their design. BTW. I don;t believe he’s ever said anything positive about the Infinity, either. I’m sure missionbayres did, but not him.

  20. Posted by anonyman

    Have to say, I agree with [citydwell4me] and jojo about the tenor of the regular (renting) posters who are cheering the downturn. I take it all with a grain of salt (no one is smarter than people who rent by choice — just ask them), but I don’t think the ones who point out which way the wind blows in the comments section deserve editor snark.
    Anyway, back to the Grand. It’s bland, it’s a big box… it pains me to agree with John King about the exterior. I don’t agree with his commentary in general, though, particularly about Mission Bay, which I think is (mostly) fine. Except for the one with the hideous art, it’s neither ugly nor so-trendy-it’s-doomed-for-immediate-obsolescence.

  21. Posted by um

    Is it now safe to now call it Soma Bland, for good?
    Tough article. Even though I’m not a fan of the Soma Bland, I feel sorry for all the new homeowners that read the article this morning. Must be rough.
    King is right. Soma Bland is just up there in the ugly building group along with One Rincon, Beacon, 170 Off Third and Berry St.

  22. Posted by bitterrenter

    Glad I didn’t buy here! More negative press than positive can not be a good thing.

  23. Posted by [citydwell4me]

    I don’t think the article in SF Gate will matter that much – more than likely it will drive more traffic to the building. We went to see it last weekend and it’s actually quite nice – from the lobby to the units themselves. If you are into the hotel-style living and amenities, it’s definitely worth checking out. The list of available services is pretty impressive, if not amazing. And don’t even get me started about the 2x per month housekeeping service – love it.
    So Mr. King doesn’t like the architecture – I tend to agree with many who have posted that like it or not, this area will continue to change.

  24. Posted by viewlover

    This is a place to live and what matters the most is the inside of your unit. Floor to ceiling windows are amazing, if you can stand the height, it can be heaven. It is pricey, but it’s reasonable to expect a price correction in the next six months and perhaps a good value can be had. If I were looking now, I would consider a nice unit there for around $700 psf. Even if I would lose in the short term, long term would be OK. Not sure if they offer a design center, but customizing a new home is very rewarding and in itself has value, emotional but still worth it.
    Given some of the feedback from people that have “actually” been there, they sound like they could be nice homes.

  25. Posted by anonfedup

    Look, there are plenty of projects built in America every day that are high density, rather affordable, and well designed. To call into question whether or not the Soma Grand is a great design has nothing to do with some imagined jealousy because a renter may wish to live there. Could it be that some find the building to be rather boring and perhaps ugly? Do we have to post our property title to show that some of us actually own our homes? My income is less than many renters in my neighborhood, but I had the good fortune to buy here in 1991.
    You can blame the planners, you can make excuses that you had to cut corners to break even, you can claim that neighborhood groups stop good design, but what about the projects that are well done in the city? (There are some) If they can build good highrise condos in Chicago and Vancouver, they could build them in San Francisco as well. Oh well, as others have said, “it won’t look so bad after some other buildings get built around it”. But have you noticed that this same excuse is used again and again for projects all over the city?

  26. Posted by viewlover

    nothing about soma grand engages the scene around it.
    That’s the criticism?
    What the hell does that mean? Really, is that even a tangible comment? It’s this kind of nonsense that fuels market stupidity. Can any one enlighten me on the value of an engaging building vs. a non-engaging building. Basically, how much more would you pay to have the reassurance that your new home was in a building that “engages the scene”, at least according to one critic?
    However, there was mention that the interior is smart, again, it’s the inside that counts.

  27. Posted by killbotkondo

    King is a hack.The man isn’t capable of acceptable syntax let alone critical essay. The Grand should be happy for the free publicity as someone mentioned before.
    “…box for the ubber rich on howard…” priceless, thank you.

  28. Posted by bitterrenter

    I feel sorry for the fools who bought into this trashy project whose views on the west side will soon be obstructed by the monstrous Trinity Plaza complex rising right next door. There goes HALF of your satisfied resident base.

  29. Posted by Eric

    King is right in many respects, but as Ali G may say, also dis-respect’ng; ultimately, what one builds is driven, unfortunately by wallstreet and the financiers….trust me, we would die to to build a gehry/meier/starck designed gorgeous iconic building in SF with views that still sells for about $500k – $700k. If there is another way to do it, please let us know http://www.agicapital.com/blog/2006/06/introducing_keeping_it_real_es.html

  30. Posted by um

    Eric, guessing you are from AGI? The people behind Soma Grand?
    Forget building a beautiful space with a view for $500k-$700k! Why not build something beautiful without a view. Forget all the hotel services, free coffee and outdoor space. I’d be happy with a low floor no view, open livable space, beautiful building for $700k. Thus why I think the treetops at the Infinity in the price range are winners.

  31. Posted by Eric

    Um….wait 2 years, we got something for you, plus alleyway-mews, community….and more.

  32. Posted by ricin

    The Federal complex resembles a fortress. What’s with the air assault shield on the roof? It reminds me of an ant far inside of a cheese grater cum armor barrier…

  33. Posted by SC

    I’m guessing that the term “all publicity is good publicity” doesn’t really apply to SOMA Grand.

  34. Posted by SC

    BTW, I’d like to see where John King lives.

  35. Posted by wheelchairgirl

    “Nothing about Soma Grand engages the scene around it”
    Considering the scene around it, what exactly would he like to see it engage? Some sort of dialogue with the Federal Building? Maybe instead of the tolerably uninteresting glass mural on SG they should have continued the ugly neon motif of the Fed and the pizza joint across the street? Not to mention the cheap porn joints a block east! How about engaging the Trinity’s construction site?
    Or perhaps it was engaging in a dialogue with the building that has since been demolished?
    Maybe it’s because I’m looking for a place to live instead of for architectural beauty, but “engaging dialogue with surroundings” was not on my condo necessities list. Oh, sure, I make fun of the Rincon Air Freshener, but I had a dozen other reasons for not wanting to buy there – and might have overcome my distaste for the Breeze look if Rincon had more going for it.
    Oh, and re the above comments about balconies of SG being really close to the Fed’s roof: you’re so right, if the sixth floor has any balcony units. Fifth floor balconies were a little too low; sixth floor and up can see over that roof, but even my weak throwing arm could land a half-empty beer can on the Feds’ roof from the sixth floor SG on that side.

  36. Posted by 94114

    I finally went to look at the models at the Soma Grand. I was pleasantly surprised. The units were very light and spacious and the finishes were very nice as well. The neighborhood leaves much to be desired but the units themselves have a very nice feel.

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