April 8, 2009

A Step Forward For The Plans To Expand Fox Plaza (1390 Market)

1390 Market Site

A Preliminary Mitigated Negative Declaration has been issued by San Francisco’s Planning department for Archstone-Smith’s proposed expansion of Fox Plaza (1390 Market Street).

Fox Plaza: Existing View

The proposed project would entail demolition of an existing two-story retail and office building adjacent to the existing Fox Plaza office/residential tower and construction of a new 120-foot-tall, ll-story building containing up to 250 residential units above approximately 19,880 gross square feet of retail use on the ground floor. There would be no change to the existing Fox Plaza mixed-use tower, and no new parking would be provided (18 existing spaces would be removed): parking for the new residential units would be within the existing two-level basement garage at Fox Plaza.

1390 Market: Proposed Design

The proposed new 120-foot-tall, ll-story building would be generally triangular in shape, with the point at the corner of Hayes and Market Streets. The new building would be connected to the existing 29-story tower by an existing approximately 50-foot-wide atrium and retail space on the ground floor. Current plans call for the building to be clad in a combination of glass and stone with pre-cast elements, with punched square windows making up most of the Market Street and Hayes Street facades, while the Hayes-Market corner would be clad in a curving glass curtain wall that would extend up to an oval-shaped form on the roof that would enclose mechanical equipment, elevator rooms, and-at the corner-the upper level of the 11th-floor residential unit.

Design by Heller Manus Architects.

And while we don't have an official update on the appetite or intentions of Archstone-Smith to move forward, we do have the following comment from a plugged-in reader:

I've heard it's a done deal on Archstone's end, but they are having some issues moving people out who are in current retail leases. From what I hear Starbucks doesen't want to move to the tower where Archstone has set aside a space for them, unless A/S pays to move the Starbucks, and a couple other little snafus like that...

UPDATE: And another perspective:

This is not going through. This ridiculous proposal has been in planning for quite some time with Presidio Development. Unfortunately, no development wants to by the annex of Fox Plaza and seeing how recent condo projects have flopped (especially right next store @ the Argenta) it would make no sense for them to build 250 more condos just to have them converted into rentals.

Fox Plaza (1390 Market): 250 New Condos In The Works [SocketSite]

First Published: April 8, 2009 4:30 PM

Comments from "Plugged In" Readers

I've heard it's a done deal on Archstone's end, but they are having some issues moving people out who are in current retail leases. From what I hear Starbucks doesen't want to move to the tower where Archstone has set aside a space for them, unless A/S pays to move the Starbucks, and a couple other little snafus like that...

Posted by: Ryan at April 8, 2009 4:38 PM

Manhattanization!! Somebody burp me!

Posted by: sf at April 8, 2009 4:53 PM

That whole area is cursed by hideous buildings, with another apparently on the way. They tore down the Fox Theater to put in Fox Plaza, which with some modicum of respect for its brutalist architecture could, could, just maybe, be made to look reasonably interesting -- if only the buildings around it were. But nope, not in ticky tacky SF. God. Someone break out the dynamite.

Posted by: Brutalism at April 8, 2009 5:02 PM

It is nice to see civilized development (i.e. not a high-rise) filling the forlorn spaces between high-rises. This illustrates density can be achieved with mid-rises.

Posted by: flaneur at April 8, 2009 5:04 PM

Brutalism - From the Prelimiary Mitigated Negative Declaration: "The new building may also use some of the existing columns and foundation on the north side of the building that were designed to support a second office tower that was proposed at the time Fox Plaza was constructed but was never built."

Posted by: flaneur at April 8, 2009 5:14 PM

Struck a nerve much? :-)

Posted by: sf at April 8, 2009 5:25 PM

and what exactly does "done deal" mean right now??

Posted by: Louis at April 8, 2009 5:27 PM

"In the absence of an appeal, the Mitigated Negative Declaration shall be made final, subject to necessary modifications, after 20 days from the date of publication of the Preliminary Mitigated Negative Declaration."

Posted by: flaneur at April 8, 2009 5:40 PM

The Empire State Building is a pretty cool structure, wouldn't you say flannie? How bout them pyramids of Giza too? Midrises are the answer. Fresno and Modesto are the 21st century model! Always thinking ahead, genius!

Posted by: sf at April 8, 2009 6:10 PM

I think the new building has an ideal height for the Market St. corridor. I don't know what the color scheme will be..... I also wonder if it will complement the Argent (or whatever it's called) on the other side of Fox Plaza.

The current structure is like an after thought of an after thought. Just too awkward. I never understood it and always felt dirty going into it.

As far as the high rise Fox Plaza.... I always think of bad 60's Cairo apartment architecture...

I also like (according to the sketch) that they will be taking down the trolley lines on Market. ;) Cleans it up a bit.

To Ryan's comment about Starbucks wanting to be paid to move... I hear the US Postal Service is also having money issues.... Perhaps they want to be paid, too. Maybe they can use the money to improve their customer service.

Posted by: StockBoySF at April 8, 2009 6:16 PM

On April 8, 2009 4:53 PM "sf" wrote:


Manhattanization!! Somebody burp me!

...and then I read this, at the S.F. Chron, discussing the trailer of the new Star Trek movie:

Now other Trekkers have explained that a nuclear war gave way to a new San Francisco Bay Area, but that doesn't mean people would not want to protect the Bay and our beauty. I just can't see that happening. San Franciscans have fought the "Manhattanization" of the city for years, why should they stop after a nuclear war?

I don't get it. What is wrong with Manhattan? You have limited space for commercial real estate on an island (and on a small peninsula). If you want density to support all those cool clubs, restaurants, theaters, etc. don't you kinda have to allow for high rises? Someone please point me to the canonical S.F. manifesto against tall buildings so I can get clued in.

Posted by: Brahma (incensed renter) at April 8, 2009 6:39 PM

This is not going through. This ridiculous proposal has been in planning for quite some time with Presidio Development. Unfortunately, no development wants to by the annex of Fox Plaza and seeing how recent condo projects have flopped (especially right next store @ the Argenta) it would make no sense for them to build 250 more condos just to have them converted into rentals.

Posted by: ainthappening at April 8, 2009 6:42 PM

At what height/story does the existing mixed use tower turn from commercial to residential? I'm assuming it is at a height above the newly proposed annex (ie, no homeowners will have their 'views' blocked)?

Posted by: tony at April 8, 2009 7:00 PM

Brahma - What would the Castro or Union Street feel like with a few high-rises? I bet there would actually be fewer cool clubs, restaurants, theaters... Have you been on Market St. near Montogomery at night, on weekends?

Posted by: flaneur at April 8, 2009 7:02 PM

tony: The existing Fox tower, so far as I know, is 100% rental, there are no homeowners. Somebody speak up if I'm wrong about that.

Posted by: Dave at April 8, 2009 7:55 PM

flaneur - Montgomery St? That's because those towers are almost all commercial and empty at the times clubs would be open. What kind of comparison is that? Compare a low rise residential area to a high rise residential area, like many parts of Manhattan, and guess what? Clubs, restaurants, etc in both.

Posted by: anon at April 8, 2009 8:16 PM

Dave is correct, Fox Plaza residential is currently 100% rental. The design looks fine to me and appropriate for the location, much better than what appears to be that permanent hole in the ground across Market (Crescent Heights). I really question whether or not this is going forward though. Hasn't Tishman been trying to unload Fox Plaza since last summer?

Posted by: pica1986 at April 8, 2009 8:30 PM

I like it, but will the envelope stuffed with cash be too thick to make it under Chris Daly's door to get this approved.

Posted by: Jimmy C at April 8, 2009 9:31 PM

flaneur — haven't hung out near that area on nights or weekends in the last ten years, so I can't say, but your larger point w.r.t. The Castro, and other areas is taken.

Anyway, I found something. The term is a '70's thing; should have web searched before posting. From Wikipedia's History of San Francisco:


During the administration of Mayor Dianne Feinstein (1978-1988), San Francisco saw a development boom referred to as "Manhattanization." Many large skyscrapers were built — primarily in the Financial District — but the boom also included high-rise condominiums in some residential neighborhoods. An opposition movement gained traction among those who felt the skyscrapers ruined views and destroyed San Francisco's unique character. Similar to the freeway revolt in the city decades earlier, a "skyscraper revolt" forced the city to embed height restrictions in the planning code.

When I read this I imagined a packed meeting of the planning commision of the time — during the public comment period, all eyes on an unkempt grey-bearded man in a M65 field jacket at the microphone intoning, "A spectre is haunting San Francisco; the spectre of Manhattanization! All the activist groups of The City have entered into a holy alliance to exorcise this spectre..."

Posted by: Brahma (incensed renter) at April 8, 2009 9:33 PM

"The Empire State Building is a pretty cool structure, wouldn't you say flannie? How bout them pyramids of Giza too? "

Too which I'll answer: the Parthenon, the Grand Trianon at Versaiiles, the Salk Instititute. You are confusing bigger and better. Not an uncommon mistake...

Posted by: flaneur at April 8, 2009 9:40 PM

There are some great clubs and bars downtown, near or in high rises. Fusion Lounge. Supper Club. 181. 111 Minna. BOCA. The Gold Room. Fluid Ultra Lounge. Harlot. Top of the Mark. etc. etc. etc. Flannie is not the best expert to speak about bars, clubs, and nightlife (she's not exactly what you would call a 'fun' person.)

Posted by: sf at April 8, 2009 9:43 PM

"Montgomery St? That's because those towers are almost all commercial and empty at the times clubs would be open. What kind of comparison is that? Compare a low rise residential area to a high rise residential area." Okay. How about Golden Gateway Apartments at night, or Cathedral Hill at night?

Posted by: flaneur at April 8, 2009 9:48 PM

"There are some great clubs and bars downtown, near or in high rises. Fusion Lounge. Supper Club. 181. 111 Minna. BOCA. The Gold Room. Fluid Ultra Lounge. Harlot. Top of the Mark. etc. etc. etc". And yet, these don't make neighborhoods I would want to hang around.

Posted by: flaneur at April 8, 2009 9:53 PM

flaneur - Golden Gateway and Cathedral Hill towers are poorly designed, and basically the equivalent of gated communities in the sky. If you want to see what good high rise residential neighborhoods look like, take a trip to Asia, or if you don't have the time, a trip to Vancouver. Design matters much more than height. I can show you hundreds of low rise neighborhoods in the US that are places that you wouldn't want to hang out in.

Posted by: anon at April 8, 2009 11:07 PM

Sorry flaneur - got cut off by accidentally hitting the button too quick. Using your pick-and-choose method, how about all of the mid-rise and 3-4 story apartment buildings built all over the US for the past 50 years? Those neighborhoods suck because they ignore the street, just as the Cathedral Hill towers and Golden Gateway towers do. That doesn't make all mid or low rise bad. It makes bad design bad.

Posted by: anon at April 8, 2009 11:11 PM

I like how the perspective chosen for second rendering for the proposed building shouts out "LOOK HOW WELL I COVER UP THAT UGLY FOX TOWER !"

... check it out. The new building covers up 2/3 of the tower.

So the public has two choices :

1 - endure looking at an ugly slab

2 - see a semi flatiron facade that will look modern for at least the next 5 years.

Posted by: The Milkshake of Despair at April 9, 2009 12:02 AM

"How about all of the mid-rise and 3-4 story apartment buildings built all over the US for the past 50 years?" So designers were dumb and incompetent for the past 50 years, but now they are so much clever? For centuries, great cities have been built out of mid-rise buildings. The formula has been proven to work. I say Let's stick to it.

Posted by: flaneur at April 9, 2009 12:20 AM

Anyway, I think we all agree we like this building.

Posted by: flaneur at April 9, 2009 12:27 AM

"If you want to see what good high rise residential neighborhoods look like, take a trip (...) to Vancouver." I haven't been to Vancouver, I have only seen pictures, but there was an antisceptic quality to the pictures I was shown. One of my favorite neighborhoods in San Francisco these days is the Mission. Somehow I have a hard time imagining all the bakeries, taquerias and second hand stores that attract me to the Mission flourishing at the foot of high-rises.

Posted by: flaneur at April 9, 2009 1:02 AM

Why must one person's opinion (or one group's opinion) be forced upon everybody else? It's the utmost elitist attitude and it reeks. This country is full of it and we're falling apart because of it. (Or, to quote a previous smart aleck commenter, "it's responsible for all the suffering in the world"). I like single story buildings. I like 10 story buildings. I like 100 story buildings. I don't like all single story buildings. I don't like all 10 story buildings. I don't like all 100 story buildings. But I'm not going to force the entire city to be a 100 story building. And vice versa versa vice. There are better, healthier hobbies out there than trying to enforce one's opinion on other people's lives and neighborhoods. I also think that it must be very frustrating for somebody like that, to witness all the growth that has happened in this city in the past 2 years alone. (The construction has stopped because it's a national quagmire, not a local barricade.) High rises don't have to be everywhere, but clustering all the towers into one neighborhood in SOMA is a work of art form afar, and up close too, in some cases. Coming in the Bay Bridge and having downtown soaring beside you in such dimension is a stunning, skin tingling event. Even the biggest high rise hater must admit that. We can't change everybody's minds. We might not change anybody's mind. But there's a beauty to it that I suppose isn't realized or appreciated by all. And we are finally having our day. Now on to life...

Posted by: sf at April 9, 2009 1:05 AM

flaneur - why erase the comment about going to Asia? All major cities of Asia have high rises and are not antiseptic (and neither is Vancouver, BTW) - and guess what? SF and the Bay Area have one of the largest Asian populations of any major city or metro area outside of Asia (on a percentage basis and nominal basis). This suggests that maybe we could do a few things right.

And sf is right. We don't have to have every neighborhood be high rises, but it doesn't hurt to have a few.

Your comment about cities doing it for centuries is ridiculous. Of course high rises were not built before the invention of the elevator, but one can hardly call Manhattan or Chicago or Hong Kong or Tokyo or Rio de Janeiro "antiseptic".

Your question of what changed in the last 50 years? Planning dedicated to the automobile, which has reversed course in all of the important ways in the last 5-10. We've no figured out that killing life on the street does exactly that. Has nothing to do with the height of the building.

Posted by: anon at April 9, 2009 6:42 AM

A. I love those renderings (grainy b&w retro chic anyone?)

B. The fox bldg is so hideous that I'd be thrilled to have a post modern flatiron bldg covering it up at least partially. But I really wonder if this will get built in the next 5 years and if planning dept has the sense at least to extend developers entitlements so they can weather the credit crunch. I'm sure planning will come up with all sorts of 'extension fees' and accompanying paperwork, of course. Might as well keep a few more paperpushers employed...

Posted by: 45yo hipster at April 9, 2009 9:55 AM

Much recent construction has relatively plain sides with fancied up corner turrets. This is visually interesting in that way the long side of the building has fancy details along the top that are similar to the kind of cornice on older buildings along Market Street, but the corner turret element is relatively plain and clean.

Posted by: Mole Man at April 9, 2009 9:56 AM

More condos, but axe'ing parking spaces? Ha, yeah like that will fly.

Posted by: lolcat_94123 at April 9, 2009 12:33 PM

There's a parking lot around the corner anyway...

Posted by: flaneur at April 9, 2009 12:51 PM

I still think we should invite insallation sensation artist Christo to do a permanent 'wrap' on fox plaza.

Posted by: 45yo hipster aka PAM-LiM at April 10, 2009 9:16 AM

This push for high rises isn't surprising in a city full of size queens.

Posted by: jt at May 4, 2009 11:31 AM

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