June 28, 2010

399 Fremont: Interim Plans Set To Bloom For The Californian Site

399 Fremont Current

Approved for development in 2006 with a performance period set to expire in June 2008, Fifield started clearing the site for the proposed Californian at 399 Freemont in November of 2007. In August of 2008 the Planning Commission granted a 12 month extension of the performance period to June 2009, and then again in June 2009 to June 15, 2010.

On Thursday the Planning Commission is expected to grant another 12 month extension for the now 452 unit (and 238 parking spot) project which would expire on June 15, 2011. The site will be planted and bloom with wildflowers in the interim.

399 Fremont Flowers

Despite an attempted sale in 2007, Fifield still owns the parcel as far as we know. And the latest rendering of what is entitled to eventually grow:

399 Fremont Rendering

The Californian on Rincon Hill: 375 Fremont St. [SocketSite]
Are They Clearing The Way For Someone's Californian On Rincon Hill? [SocketSite]
The Californian on Rincon Hill (375 Fremont): Website And Renderings [SocketSite]
The Californian On Rincon Hill: No Longer Coming Soon (If At All) [SocketSite]

First Published: June 28, 2010 10:15 AM

Comments from "Plugged In" Readers

Nothing even close to that rendering will ever get built at that site.

There I said it.

Posted by: Tom at June 28, 2010 10:39 AM

ok, you've said it. so what?

This will get built, perhaps in a different form, but it will get built and it will and should be tall.

There I've said it.

Too.

Posted by: noearch at June 28, 2010 10:56 AM

Noearch - I can't believe a design professional like you would like this building. It should have a lot more setbacks, to make it less overwhelming, and more balconies, to mark its residential character. As to the blue glass...

Posted by: flaneur at June 28, 2010 11:57 AM

No way construction starts by the new June 15 2011 deadline. There is no market for new luxury condos in SF.

So will the developer keep getting these extensions for the next 10 years and more? Hope not. At some point the city needs to bring this doomed project to an official end by not granting any more performance period extensions.

Posted by: Gil at June 28, 2010 11:57 AM

Architects are great at designing things that don't actually make "build-able" sense. Yes, it looks cool with all your fancy renderings. That's great.

From a what will sell standpoint, there is no way this will get built as a high rise site. Please do prove me wrong and show me a high rise that makes sense.

Posted by: Tom at June 28, 2010 12:21 PM

"From a what will sell standpoint, there is no way this will get built as a high rise site. Please do prove me wrong and show me a high rise that makes sense."

Agree Tom. These high-rises around Transbay are about to make even less sense. Just read where there may be no money for HSR. The Feds are backing off and the private investment portion looks like it ain't gonna fully happen.

Most of these mis-placed plans for towers in this part of SOMA were counting on high speed rail coming to fruition. Without that the whole house of cards collapses.

Posted by: Gil at June 28, 2010 12:30 PM

I was wondering if we'd see some "prettying up" regardless of the fate of the Green Development Agreement legislation since Turnberry Lansing has already gone forward prettying up their site without any entitlement guarantees. Glad to hear we'll see flowers instead of dirt/rocks/junk. That's a much better way to greet entrants who take the first downtown San Francisco exit off of the Bay Bridge (Harrison Street exit ramp on left side of the bridge).

Posted by: jamie at June 28, 2010 12:37 PM

Gil/"Tom": It's helpful to back up your pronouncements, e.g., with a link or an explanation. You wrote: "Just read where there may be no money for HSR." The federal gov't's contribution has been reduced from $4 billion to $2+ billion, and California is planning on spending many billions more in bond money. Of course, much more money needs to be raised, but it is incorrect to say that there is "no money for HSR." And every indication is that HSR will go to the Transbay Terminal.

Posted by: Dan at June 28, 2010 12:51 PM

A High Speed Math Problem - No $$ For High Speed Rail.

Here is the requested link. It's about 10 article down from the top.

http://www.capoliticalnews.com/

Posted by: Gil at June 28, 2010 1:15 PM

Note that Dan is also talking about the amounts in the 2011 FY appropriation that have been reduced from $4B to $2.5B. I believe the feds already kicked in $2.25B under ARRA. Given that we're still in the planning stages, it sounds like $4.75B for the near future ain't bad.

Anyway, I agree with your overall response to Gil. It's way too early to say that there is no money for HSR.

Posted by: sfrenegade at June 28, 2010 1:20 PM

Gil, that's an op-ed (and a crappy one that just parrots other negative op-eds I've read).

Furthermore, if the feds contribute $2.5B in FY 2011, that's $4.75B from the feds + $4.75B from the CA bond, for $9.5B. So only another $1.25B needed from the feds by 2013.

To quote the author about the $2.25B granted under ARRA: "This was 28 percent of the $8 billion in stimulus distributed nationally." The feds might have a problem with rail as a mode of transit, but it seems so far that if they do fund rail, a large percentage of funds will come to CAHSR.

Posted by: sfrenegade at June 28, 2010 1:36 PM

I have no problem with tall buildings on Rincon Hill, but in its rendered form this one (like ORC but even more so) is incredibly boring and a real waste.

Posted by: Shza at June 28, 2010 1:46 PM

Ok, where did I say that I "liked" the building, as shown in that concept rendering?...no where.

I support a tall building like this to be built at this site. Makes sense from a dense, urban design point of view, near a huge new transit hub.

For the record, I like One Rincon. I want this project to also be a well designed, elegant and very tall residential tower.

Posted by: noearch at June 28, 2010 2:26 PM

I like the idea of a wildflower garden IF it is maintained. better than rubble.

obviously, something will eventually get built here. If this was a different city I'd say it'd happen sometime in the next 10 years.

being that it's SF, who can possibly know. It may be in 5 years or 50. may get some NIMBY's who want to save the "historic" wildflower garden in a few years or some other ridiculousness.

but the numbers probably don't add up to make this place happen in the near foreseeable future. IMO it was obvious back in 2007 that most of these towers around ORH wouldn't get built anytime soon.

as for hoping that HSR will save the day: The trainwreck of this HSR process is only outdone by the trainwreck called the California budget. how on Earth anyone can feel confident about HSR in California when you're facing rolling insolvency is beyond me.

my guess is that HSR will eventually face pressure as lawmakers look for spare change to cover the $19 billion hole in the budget

Posted by: ex SF-er at June 28, 2010 2:46 PM

Balconies have great value. At least a few floors should have some units with balconies.

This design seems like a placeholder used mostly to help determine what sort of height and envelope might be allowed.

My guess is that some kind of tower is inevitable because of the land value and location, but a full ten stories for the rest of the structure is too tall and will end up being a maximum of eight stories with some parts being lower even than that.

Posted by: Mole Man at June 28, 2010 2:49 PM

The towers are not predicated upon HSR, and even if they were HSR is doing just fine. The house approved $4B, the senate $1B and they split the difference. HSR funding is coming along just fine.

But it really doesn't have any bearing on the towers, while this one may not get started by mid 2011, there will be plenty of big towers in the area within 10-20 years, with or without HSR. It's where jobs are, it's where high paying jobs will continue to grow, in fact many companies are moving up from the peninsula right now:

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2010/06/21/MN541E04FV.DTL

Posted by: lyqwyd at June 28, 2010 3:14 PM

as for hoping that HSR will save the day: The trainwreck of this HSR process is only outdone by the trainwreck called the California budget. how on Earth anyone can feel confident about HSR in California when you're facing rolling insolvency is beyond me.

Totally agree Ex-SFer.

To go forward with this is madness and especially at this time and especially as the public may well have been lied to on ridership figures to help sell the bond issue.

The state is actually closer to 40 billion in debt and that jumped 1.8 billion last week when the GOP blocked the unemployment extension and state worker aid package. The Governor had counted that money as being a given.

If anyone thinks more federal funding is going to come for this when there is the threat of a double dip don't count on it.

This is a boondoggle and it would still be so even if the state were not in precarious financial straights.

Posted by: Gil at June 28, 2010 4:04 PM

Just for fun: Plant a few protected flowers, throw a lizzard or 2, call the ultra-green types, and see this project become unbuildable.

Seriously,

That's the best area to put high rises. Time to improve the skyline on that segment. NH/RH/TH/FiDi on the north, RH on the south. This will make the Bay Bridge ride back into SF even more beautiful at night.

Posted by: lol at June 28, 2010 4:14 PM

I'm not sure who you are referring to when you say "hoping HSR will save the day", since nobody except Gil & ex-SF have said any such thing.

You can say boondoggle all you want, but HSR is a proven success all over the world. You can make all the unsubstantiated claims you want about funding not coming, that doesn't make them true.

If anything HSR should be accelerated over other spending, it will bring a huge number of jobs once construction goes in to full swing.

HSR is the last funding that state politicians will cut, as it's one of the few ways to get federal funding, in fact CAHSR just applied for more fed money (over $2 billion). Who knows if they'll get it, but it's one of the few remaining ways to get significant federal funding for the time being.

Posted by: lyqwyd at June 28, 2010 4:23 PM

"as for hoping that HSR will save the day: The trainwreck of this HSR process is only outdone by the trainwreck called the California budget. how on Earth anyone can feel confident about HSR in California when you're facing rolling insolvency is beyond me.

my guess is that HSR will eventually face pressure as lawmakers look for spare change to cover the $19 billion hole in the budget"

Don't understand the "saving the day" comment either. But if there's no money coming from the general fund to pay for HSR, and if HSR's income stream covers the cost, as the economics have shown, then what does CA's insolvency matter?

The CA budget is pretty complex. There are numerous things that aren't part of the general budget. HSR is via a bond measure for $9.95B that matches other investments in the project, and had previously been funded by the state. I'm never surprised by the misinformation out there about HSR though. For some reason, the myths are more powerful than the truth.

Posted by: sfrenegade at June 28, 2010 5:13 PM

I guess all those C and D units in the Millennium overpaid for their so-called protected views!

Posted by: soma resident at June 28, 2010 6:21 PM

lyqwyd:
I only spoke about HSR since others above started talking about HSR. I actually think that this building won't be built anytime soon with or without HSR.

as for the viability of HSR: it obviously can be a rousing success. I have strongly advocated for California HSR for decades. look at my previous posts about HSR where I strongly advocate for it.

Seeing the process play out in real time on the other hand? boondoggle.

HSR works in countries that really want it with favorable political headwinds... specifically Europe (France especially) and Japan.

as for California where key parts of the peninsula is fighting it tooth and nail... hmmm... not so much. in a bankrupt state? starts to get questionable. Sure, MAYBE HSR's income stream would cover the cost... once it is up and running.

but first you have to build it and grow the ridership which takes time (years to decades?). It's been how many years and people are still arguing where the terminus will be? it's been how many years and still they're talking about speed-restricting it on the peninsula? and California is going to fund it with a bond issue you say? hmmm... what are the interest rates for that loan going to be? Do nearly bankrupt states get the same loan terms as financially responsible states? do you think that California's bond issues are going garner favorable interest rates? Is the money in the HSR coffers SECURED and a done deal?

I haven't checked in a while, but last I did there was not long term funding sources set in stone. I haven't seen guaranteed loans for this project. I haven't seen untouchable long-term federal funding sources either.

Forgive me if I have my doubts that HSR is as untouchable as you think it is given the horrendous state of the CA and National budgets. Something eventually will have to be cut. soon it could be cutting HSR vs Medicare. I'm sure HSR will win out over medicare.

"U.S. President Barack Obama endorsed the goal of cutting the U.S. deficit in half by 2013, but voiced concern that reducing spending too drastically could stifle economic growth."

indeed he did. the "austerity" meme is growing steam around the world. (FWIW: I think it's a poorly thought out meme, but the world doesen't listen to me). Greece continues to collapse. the Eurozone is a mess. the US is little better. And California is the poster child for mismanagement and excess. it's not only me who compares Greece to California.

So I won't hold my breath on HSR until it's up and running.

Posted by: ex SF-er at June 28, 2010 7:04 PM

So if HSR rail actually gets built, why would anyone want to live in a big high-rise next to it? Are these high net worth folks going to be commuting to LA or something? I mean, if you have the money to buy a "luxury" condo in San Francisco, why does being next to a train station, HSR or any other kind, add value? Does proximity to Grand Central Station add value in NYC? Me, I'd rather not battle a battalion of cabs to get to my front door....

Posted by: wonkster at June 28, 2010 7:50 PM

The city is allowing high rises around the Transbay terminal because that increases the value of the city-owned land, which helps the city finance the terminal. The mix of commercial and residential components of the high rises will depend on the demand for each as the buildings get built, which will be over quite a number of years. The combination of the HSR terminus and new towers undoubtedly will infuse a new energy into the area.

Posted by: Dan at June 28, 2010 9:37 PM

you said "as for hoping that HSR will save the day", which not a single person suggested, in fact the whole conversation about HSR was started by Gil making the unsupported claims that 1) the towers were based on HSR success, and 2) that HSR would never happen.

Californians really want HSR or they wouldn't have voted for the bond in the midst of the worst economic situation since the depression. Despite a few grumpy old folks with more time on their hands than sense, and getting way more attention than they deserve, the Peninsula residents want HSR or they wouldn't have voted in favor of it 2 to 1. HSR works successfully, in every country it's been built in, including places that are very similar to California.

If CA goes bankrupt, which I highly doubt will happen, then you can talk about funding problems, until then there is voter approved funding, as well as federal funding. Even if the project is delayed, the funding is still there. No project this big ever gets full funding before construction is even begun, fed funding almost always comes in spurts, and there's no need, as this is a decade long project. Do you think the funding for the Interstate Highways System was locked in on day 1?

I never said the funding is untouchable, just that it's a lot more secure than funding for many other projects, due to the large amount of matching federal funding.

I think having secured about 25% of the required funding ($9B in state bonds + $2.25B in federal funding) in just a year is pretty damn good!

Posted by: lyqwyd at June 28, 2010 9:41 PM

Gil, I asked for a link to support your position, and you link to a far-right wingnut's website? The page you linked to features this quote:
"Obama has lied about protecting this county--he is the first US President to give back parts of an American State--80 miles of Arizona--to a foreign government."
I think he's referring to some public land on the Arizona border that was closed off to the public during the Bush administration, but is somehow blamed on Obama. Your link shows me that you read some Minuteman conspiracy nut's opinion site, but tells me nothing about HSR.

Posted by: Dan at June 28, 2010 10:03 PM

Re: "first you have to build it and grow the ridership which takes time (years to decades?)."

From what I've read, recent lines that have opened (Spain, Taiwan) have taken large majorities of air traffic within a few years of opening.

In Taiwan it's basically taken all the passengers from air traffic along its route, and was turning an operational profit (not including debt repayments) within months.

Posted by: Al at June 29, 2010 12:54 AM

you said "as for hoping that HSR will save the day", which not a single person suggested, in fact the whole conversation about HSR was started by Gil making the unsupported claims that 1) the towers were based on HSR success, and 2) that HSR would never happen.

your paragraph contradicts itself, unless Gil is not a single person. You make it sound as though I just pulled the HSR comment out of my butt. Before my post THREE separate people posted about HSR, although you are corret that only Gil stated that it would/wouldn't impact this particular building. I simply followed this line of reasoning.

all that said, it's immaterial because I don't think this building gets built soon regardless.

Californians really want HSR or they wouldn't have voted for the bond in the midst of the worst economic situation since the depression

indeed they did. Californians vote for a lot of things that they want, regardless of whether or not they can pay for them. I'll believe Californians really want this when they vote for a TAX INCREASE to fund it, not yet another bond that defers the pain of payment to the future.
Until now, this was no problem since all the bonds would be funded at a reasonable rate.

But do you think this is the case going forward with some of the most populous and "important" states all facing extreme budget issues? Do you really think that the Federal govt will prioritize funding HSR while getting the crushing requests from the other 50 states, some of them just as important as California (like NY)?
will bond creditors continue to give California favorable rates on its bonds going forward as CA continues to teeter towards insolvency while doing nothing to improve its budget?
Perhaps... but I have my doubts.

on a side note: I talked about POLITICAL will for HSR which is different than VOTER will. for instance: VOTER WILL was 100% against TARP. Political will... for TARP. what happened? Voter will does NOT equal political will.

If CA goes bankrupt, which I highly doubt will happen, then you can talk about funding problems
LOL, I totally disagree. CA doesn't have to go bk to ruin funding for this project. again, look at Greece. It isn't bankrupt. Now look at their Bond rates. I'll help:
http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/quote?ticker=GGGB10YR:IND

remember: Greece isn't bankrupt. So are you sure I have to wait until California is completely bankrupt before I question their funding sources?

do you think HSR flies if the bonds that fund them are at 10%??? this stuff can happen quickly by the way. Greek bonds went from Sub 5% to 12% in just 5-6 months. then fell to about 7% after the Eurozone/IMF rescue package, and now marched right back up to 10% in just 2 months.

bonds aren't only affected by bankruptcy. they are affected by PERCEPTION of ability/willingness to repay.

The PERCEPTION is rapidly becoming that CA is unable to pay for all the things the voters and politicians have enthousiastically voted for.

Posted by: ex SF-er at June 29, 2010 9:54 AM

Greece and California's financial situations are very different. California has much less debt and a much bigger economy compared to Greece. California's problem is that unlike Greece, it has to balance its budget every year, and unlike Greece, it has super-majority requirements to balance the budget, so that the Republican minority can block any budget without offering an alternative. California has a political problem that prevents it from responding to this deep recession with a consequent sharp drop off in revenues concurrent with an increase in demand for assistance. Hopefully this will change, whether by constitutional convention or a set of constitutional amendments put on the ballot by advocates of good government.

Posted by: Dan at June 29, 2010 11:03 AM

What constitutional amendment(s) do you suggest?

Let me start - state budgets are restricted from increasing more than a certain percentage of the inflation rate. 100%, 125%, 150%.

Short of any constitutional restrictions on spending the idiots in Sacramneto will keep on spending beyond the state's means.

Pension reform via the constitution? Do state workers need to be put on a 401K type program instead of a defined benefit plan? Some kind of major shift is needed there.

Posted by: Gil at June 29, 2010 11:39 AM

Do you really think any such amendment could pass? It would face extremely well-funded opposition from public sector unions, and would hardly have any funding of its own.

Posted by: flaneur at June 29, 2010 12:04 PM

There would have to be a package of constitutional amendments that would only go into effect if they all passed, making good government changes endorsed by a cross section of political heavyweights.

Posted by: Dan at June 29, 2010 12:27 PM

"all that said, it's immaterial because I don't think this building gets built soon regardless."

agreed

"I'll believe Californians really want this when they vote for a TAX INCREASE".

To me that's a ridiculous requirement, since that requires 2/3 majority. If Californian's didn't want it, it would have lost.

"Until now, this was no problem since all the bonds would be funded at a reasonable rate... But do you think this is the case going forward ..."

Our bond rating is better today than it was last year, or in 2003, and at various other points in the past, and is still solidly in the investment grade. We've already sold over $5 billion in bonds this year, so the facts do not support your claims. And that's for general obligation bonds, if the HSR bonds use HSR revenue as a guarantee they will probably be rated higher. California is not Greece, nor is it anything like Greece, so their bond rates are irrelevant. Greece's budget deficit is over 13% of Greece's GDP, California's is a little over 1%. All your talk about Greece has absolutely nothing to do with California.

Bonds sold in March are in the 2.5% to 5.5% range, for your completely fantastical scenario, the interest rates would have to stay high for years before it would impact the ability to sell the bonds over the long term and complete the HSR project.

"VOTER WILL was 100% against TARP"

That is 100% untrue.

"The PERCEPTION is rapidly becoming that CA is unable to pay for all the things the voters and politicians have enthousiastically (sic) voted for."

That may be your perception, but that doesn't make it true.

You have failed to show that HSR bonds are more at risk than other CA bonds, or that bond rates will skyrocket in CA, much less stay high. Without that, all your theories about HSR funding difficulties are baseless.

Posted by: lyqwyd at June 29, 2010 12:35 PM

lyqwyd:
we simply disagree.

you think that HSR funding is secure.
I do not.

You think HSR coming to California is a sure thing in the near future.
I do not.

You (evidently?) think that California's structural budget problem is not a big deal.
I disagree.

we both agree that HSR is amazing and will be an important source of travel going forward.
we just disagree if CA can implement it correctly.

Posted by: ex SF-er at June 29, 2010 3:33 PM

"we simply disagree"

Yes, but I would like to quibble with your interpretation of comments:

"You think HSR coming to California is a sure thing in the near future"

not true, I would put the odds 2:1 that it will happen, but 100:1 that it will either happen more or less as planned within a few years of the current schedule, or not at least for several decades. I do believe the funding is more secure today than it was at any time in the past, but that's far from a sure thing.

"You (evidently?) think that California's structural budget problem is not a big deal."

I think California's budgetary issues are very serious, and that we'll have to make some very difficult decisions, but nowhere near those of Greece, nor is CA anywhere near bankruptcy. I just don't think they are particularly important with regard to HSR funding. Things will have to get a lot worse for a long time before it jeopardizes HSR funding in my opinion.

"we both agree that HSR is amazing and will be an important source of travel going forward."

That I certainly agree with.

"we just disagree if CA can implement it correctly."

Actually I do not disagree with you on that issue. Even if the funding were 100% secured today, I would have serious concerns about our leaders ability to implement a well thought out HSR system, and some of the recent decisions make my concerns even greater.

I expect they will waste billions on unnecessarily complex elements and not spend money where it could have actually made noticeable benefits. But this is no different than any other major project in California, highway, water, energy. There's always a certain level of corruption and poor judgment, but they do usually get done once they make it this far, and they do usually meet their functional goals (but rarely budgetary or time-line goals)

In the end I think it will be a decent, overpriced system. I think it will be very successful and will have operational profits quite soon after it is finished, even though it could have been so much better, and significantly cheaper. Oh well...

Posted by: lyqwyd at June 29, 2010 4:06 PM

Anyone have any updates?

Posted by: Sfer at September 30, 2010 3:36 PM

Posted by: SocketSite at July 26, 2012 11:51 AM

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