August 10, 2010

222 Second Street Seeks Certification (And Exceptions) This Week

222 2nd Street Corner Rendering

While the proposed redevelopment of Treasure (and Yerba Buena) Island gets its own special session on Thursday, certification of the proposed 222 Second Street project is on the agenda for the regular Planning Commission meeting later that afternoon.

The preliminary recommendation from the Planning Department is to approve the Final Environmental Impact Report for the 26-story office building with 5,000 square feet of ground floor retail as proposed, and to grant a height exception to allow the building reach 350 feet on a 3,700 square foot portion of the site which is currently zoned for 150.

222 2nd Street Rendering

The 222 Second Street Scoop (For The Second Time) [SocketSite]
The Things You Can See From Those Virtual Views (222 2nd Street) [SocketSite]
Speak Now Or Write Later: Treasure/Yerba Buena Island EIR Hearing [SocketSite]
San Francisco Planning Commission Agenda: 8/12/10 [sf-planning.org]

First Published: August 10, 2010 9:15 AM

Comments from "Plugged In" Readers

What an atrocious, uninspiring design. Another oppressively symmetrical glass box of which the city has far, far more than it's share.

Flat roof, squared corners everywhere and built right out to the sidewalk line. The developer is building on virtually every square foot of the lot and still wants an exemption to go higher than allowed.

Good grief this is a monstrous sized building for a tiny lot - just take a walk by it someday and see how small this parcel is.

Why is the city allowing developers to blanket downtown and now SOMA with such banal architecture?

Posted by: Gil at August 10, 2010 9:51 AM

Was this trying to be like the New York Park Avenue towers built in the early 60's? Nostalgia is O.K. I suppose, but can't we dare to expect more? I'm surprised they did not throw in any of the current gimmicks that so many love such as a roof top windmill or other "green" attempts to put lipstick on a pig.

Posted by: Underwhelmed at August 10, 2010 9:58 AM

If the builders need an exception then the city should get something out of them like a larger sidewalk setback, planting trees some trees, putting in bike racks and/or installing a green roof/solar array. Ideally, they builders would be required to do all of that.

At least, that's what they do in most major cities.

Posted by: badlydrawnbear at August 10, 2010 9:58 AM

While this is probably Yet Another Green Glass Tower that won't match its rendering, this is appropriate for the neighborhood. It's right next to One Hawthorne, and it's very close to the tall buildings on Mission. And I applaud density in this town -- it's what's needed here for the SF economy.

I don't understand Gil's comments, as usual. This building is neither symmetrical nor flat-roofed, from the rendering, and the lot is certainly bigger than a typical parking parcel in the area.

Posted by: sfrenegade at August 10, 2010 10:17 AM

"At least, that's what they do in most major cities."

Indeed it is badlydrawnbear.

There is an integration of architecture, space and environment in many if not most major cities now where large office projects get built.

It's like San Francisco is left behind in some kind of insular architectual other-world more fitting to the 60s.

The lack of streetscape is incomprehensible to me. San Francisco supposedly has the toughest downtown buildingi codes but that is hard to believe given the awful results we've seen in the last 2 decades.

Posted by: Gil at August 10, 2010 10:18 AM

I dont have issue with the proposed design. It's smart and mod and I prefer this isnt set back from the sidewalk like some tudor suburban home.
The exemption is for only 3700 sq ft of the total lot. Honestly, I think you people just like to sit back and complain about everything. Not every single building needs to be an oscar winner. With all the scrutiny each proposal gets, you'd think SF would be stocked with award winning design instead of almost completely bereft of anything noteworthy.

Posted by: Joe at August 10, 2010 10:21 AM

I'm the developer of this building. Thanks for your comments. We ARE putting in solar elements into this building.

We will be installing passive solar heating arrays, otherwise known as "windows" on all four sides of the building.

In addition, the rooftop solar heating technology, usually referred to as "tar and gravel" will be provided on most of the roof.

We don't have a windmill, but with the large, flat boxy design of this building, terrific amounts of wind are pretty much guaranteed in all directions, allowing neighboring buildings to put windmills up and get 50% more wind. In fact, we've designed this so that the sidewalk will practically be a wind tunnel, allowing the city to erect windmills at the sidewalk level and generate copious amounts of electricity.

We did include a setback, which you can see above the 4th floor. It is almost 1 millimeter deep, allowing significant light and air.

Bike racks are not possible, because, as you can see from the photos, we've narrowed the sidewalk to only 2 feet wide to allow us to build a bigger building that extends onto the sidewalk, and so surely you can agree that there is no room for bike racks. However, we have offered to add two bike racks next to the garbage cans in the back.

We don't have any trees, because that would be expensive, however, we will be putting up *photos* of trees in all of the bathrooms. Surely you can see that this is nearly the same thing.

Posted by: tipster (not really the developer) at August 10, 2010 10:21 AM

It looks like 555 Mission which looks pretty damn nice in the skyline when comparing it to 95% of the other buildings in SF. I agree that the building should meet the ground in an attractive manor and may need a few tweaks but it works well with it's surroundings and it's a helluva lot better than a freaking parking lot! That and it'll block the view of that big-blank-beige wall on the east side of One Hawthorne. Approve and build.

Posted by: spitpalm at August 10, 2010 10:33 AM

I don't understand your comments either sfrenegade - that this structure is approriate for the neighborhood.

Just because the older building didn't have plazas and green space, were built to the lot line and are bulky and square doesn't mean we need to keep to that pattern.

This is not the approach other cities are taking where they are trying to improve the quality of their downtowns by doing things with architecture that weren't done before. Correcting past mistakes.

By your logic no downtown tower should have a plaza as that is the norm for so much of downtown. Yup, let's keep building to the lot line and planting 3 spindly trees on the narrow sidewalk in front.

Like I said, I don't understand arguments like yours. It sounds like "settling" - why should SF just settle when it could make changes which would improve the quality and livability of downtown?

The city that knows how is really falling behind other major cities now when it comes to mapping out a dynamic architectual future for thier downtowns that integrates the need for green with the need for development into a win win formulaa.

Posted by: Gil at August 10, 2010 10:39 AM

I agree. It looks like they modeled this after 555 mission, which is a really nice building. In fact, i bet if we went back to the 555 mission proposal, you would see many of the same "complaints".

Build it. It is 100x better than the existing parking lot.

Posted by: john at August 10, 2010 10:40 AM

"Just because the older building didn't have plazas and green space"

Have you spent much time in this area? It's pretty clear you haven't. The buildings I'm talking about are not that old. You can see that some of them are even shown as a construction site in the satellite view of Google Maps!

The newer buildings in the area all have plazas/public space and/or green space, which I believe might be required by law. The proposed 222 2nd has public space -- read the prior SS post ("an enclosed [8,750 square foot] publicly accessible open space at the ground floor")

Posted by: sfrenegade at August 10, 2010 11:06 AM

There's nothing wrong with the building, it's just wrong for that lot. It's like a tumor.

I can't understand why they city even HAS planning codes if ever time someone asks for an exception, it's granted.

In the EIR there's a helpful chart that basically shows that whenever some developer wants an exception, the planning commission bends over and grabs their ankles.

Posted by: Mikey at August 10, 2010 11:20 AM

I am for replacing the empty lot but go to the first link above, The 222 Second Street Scoop (For The Second Time) [SocketSite], and check out the renderings.

The building is practically IN the street. the buildings next to it are set back farther, have trees planted, allow more light and are much more resident friendly.

If the builders want a height exception then the city should get wider sidewalks, some pedestrian/cycling amenities, and some green design elements. This SOP in other major cities.

If you look at the new building built in Chicago and NYC the city is forcing the buildings back, adding trees and other landscaping, and forcing the buildings to be energy efficient and more environmentally friendly.

Posted by: badlydrawnbear at August 10, 2010 11:44 AM

"The proposed 222 2nd has public space -- read the prior SS post ("an enclosed [8,750 square foot] publicly accessible open space at the ground floor")"

Come on - this is a farce. It is an enclosed hidden plaza. Invisible from the street. Doing nothing to green the street or area - or break the wall of development at street level.

The developer is getting away with the bank on this one. Being granted a totally inapproriate height exemption and giving diddly squat in return.


Posted by: Gil at August 10, 2010 11:44 AM

Beautiful, elegant, simple modern building. Love the simplicity and transparency of the curtain wall.

I only wish it were taller.

Posted by: noearch at August 10, 2010 11:49 AM

The next two buildings west are also built to the lot line! I propose that we make the approval of this building contingent upon the neighboring buildings being lifted up and moved back 5 feet. The only thing that is important here is that we have trees! and rainbows! and unicorns! and my stupid useless opinion!

Posted by: Bob at August 10, 2010 12:14 PM

OMG a city I'm scared!!

Posted by: Girl at August 10, 2010 12:35 PM

Tishman Speyer is the developer, and they are asking for multiple code exceptions. Not just height, but wind, building mass, and sidewalk shading. If the exceptions are granted, this will be the first building south of Market to be allowed this many code exemptions. There were a number of Alternatives proposed in the draft EIR that would not have required all these exceptions. Unfortunately, Planning staff completely ignored the Alternatives and rubber stamped the project without so much as suggestion of compromise from TS.

The residential neighbors at 246 2nd and 199 New Montgomery made numerous comments on the EIR regarding the negative impacts created by the buildings mass and bulk, which were also completely ignored by Planning staff. As neighbors of this project, we fully expect a large building to be constructed on this parking lot someday. We just want it to be a code compliant building that is appropriate for the adjacent area.

Posted by: OneEyedMan at August 10, 2010 12:52 PM

I live three blocks away from here and walk past the site everyday on the way to work. I fully support this building proposal. The parking lot is a dead zone on the 2nd St corridor. 2nd St. itself is developing nicely and this will help with the process. This building also helps fill in gaps in the skyline. The buildings around 2nd and Folsom and 3rd and Howard are marooned from downtown and this building links to them. Approve it please!

Posted by: Michael E at August 10, 2010 12:55 PM

I walk 2nd street towards the ballpark every morning. I am glad this building is holding the corner. That intersection is an unfortunate break in the fabric. There are enough open spaces in the nearby Yerba Buena (or numerous other parking lots in the area), I don't feel a plaza is warranted in this location. Far too many around the city are underutilized currently. The addition of a building on the SE corner would do well to finish the intersection off.

Posted by: tNOB at August 10, 2010 1:01 PM

Ive been following development on this site for quite some time now, and the previous post by oneeyedman is really par for the course unfortunately.
It seems like every building in SF has a neighbor who is upset re: the amount of variances necessary to build something which just so happens to impact them.
blah blah blah variances, blah blah blah, wind, shadow, height, blah blah.
Anyone who thinks our planning dept rubber stamps anything needs to get out and see how things are done in other cities. Only in SF does >3 years for approval = rubber stamp.

Posted by: joe at August 10, 2010 1:11 PM


http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2758/4046955921_c57ccc2e44_b.jpg

I am still convinced that this design is more in keeping with Manhattan circa 1955 - 1960! This is hardly cutting edge design or forward thinking urban planning. There should have been a more generous pedestrian space surrounding this structure, landscape, and a much more imaginative design!

Posted by: underwhelmed at August 10, 2010 1:26 PM

So THAT'S why they jacked up the monthly and daily rates at this lot. Trying to squeeze as much revenue as they can before they start to dig I 'spose. This is not a nod to S. Palin, but BUILD BABY, BUILD!

Posted by: killbotkondo at August 10, 2010 1:42 PM

Yes, it's a big rectangular box. San Francisco's skyline is made of drab rectangular midrise towers. In that sense this building fits in just fine. But San Francisco's skyline is boring! How about something a *little* bit adventurous, not just another shoebox.

Posted by: James at August 10, 2010 1:43 PM

This building also helps fill in gaps in the skyline.

I've heard this kind of argument before and it's never made any sense to me. Sorry, but who cares if there are "gaps" in the skyline? Am I missing some important aesthetic consideration that a major city must be a swath of large buildings?

TS will try to get away with whatever they can, that's business. But the planning commission should either stop publishing codes or stick with them. The problem with the planning process isn't necessarily the complexity, it's the arbitrariness.

Posted by: Mikey at August 10, 2010 1:43 PM

The building is not an symmetrical box. It is more like 3 boxes. A nice, clean modern design.

What style do Gil and Co. want instead? Post-modern, like the jukebox Marriott? Stucco and bay windows?

Posted by: Dan at August 10, 2010 2:05 PM

I agree. It is a very clean, fresh modern high rise..purely functional, minimalist facade..going to be a great addition to this part of The City.

Yea, I don't think Gil and his followers really know very much about good modern architecture anyway..They seem stuck in the 70's.

Posted by: noearch at August 10, 2010 2:13 PM

"I am still convinced that this design is more in keeping with Manhattan circa 1955 - 1960!"

Or Manhattan in 2001:

http://www.kpf.com/project.asp?R=1&ID=352

Posted by: spitpalm at August 10, 2010 2:18 PM

Gil said Seattle has better weather than SF, and that it doesn't have dumpy rundown-house-filled 'hoods or boxy architecture, so I think it is wise to ignore Gil's urban planning critiques.

Posted by: realtormon at August 10, 2010 2:21 PM

Yeah, needs more bay windows. lol.

Nobody seems to be putting this rendering with the rendering a few days ago of the transit complex. By the time this building is finished it's going to be kitty-corner to a park.

Posted by: EH at August 10, 2010 2:33 PM

I've been in Seattle since Friday. Rained all weekend and has been gloomy since then. How is it there?

I have to agree with Gil though, not many 'hoods' here. Everything is pretty nice and clean, almost suburban, with a lot more trees and foliage. Not nearly as urban and diverse as SF. Outside of downtown the neighborhoods feel more like Oakland and Berkeley.

Posted by: spitpalm at August 10, 2010 2:34 PM

Not 'hood as in "The hood." Just neighborhoods. There are a bunch of dumpy little neighborhoods in the northern parts of Seattle, like parts of Ballard and parts of even nicer areas like Magnolia.

http://www.redfin.com/WA/Seattle/8034-26th-Ave-NW-98117/home/166079

Shangri La, that ain't. ^

Posted by: realtormon at August 10, 2010 2:52 PM

Would like to see a rendering looking East down Howard with 1 Hawthorne in the foreground.

Posted by: WH at August 10, 2010 2:52 PM

Not 'hood as in "The hood."

Ah, got it. Yeah, pretty much anything along Aurora and lots of South Seattle as well.

Anyhow, I hope this one gets built.

Posted by: spitpalm at August 10, 2010 3:04 PM

Any time there's an "interesting" design proposal, there's always those that will say the building doesn't blend into the neighborhood. Can't win in SF.

Posted by: brandno at August 10, 2010 3:11 PM

Noearch? I am stuck in the 70's? San Francisco has a skyline stuck in the 70's! There is nothing about this tower that makes a great design. Yes, it is modern but I would say it is mediocre at best. The way this building treats the sidewalk and pedestrians is unforgiving and very John Portman 1977! The lack of ANY real landscaping goes against what every other urban area now demands builders include in their projects. The only way to create a great city is one building at a time, and that is why we all now suffer with One Rincon Hill and the Marriot Jukebox.

Posted by: underwhelmed at August 10, 2010 3:15 PM

Gidget will work in this building after she graduates from college.

Posted by: VancouverJones at August 10, 2010 3:43 PM

Can all of these people complaining about this building cite a few buildings they think are cool or appropriate or architectually interesting or just plain better? No one ever does that, instead crapping on what's proposed, regardless of what it is.

Posted by: sfrenegade at August 10, 2010 3:54 PM

^architecturally, obviously.

But seriously, show us these buildings in Chicago, Seattle, Portland, Paris, and Amsterdam that are so much better. I would love to see them and to be educated.

Posted by: sfrenegade at August 10, 2010 3:56 PM

Can all of these people complaining about this building cite a few buildings they think are cool or appropriate or architectually interesting or just plain better? No one ever does that, instead crapping on what's proposed, regardless of what it is.

The JP Morgan building on Mission
The Chevron Building on Market
The Millenium
555 Mission

Not many...

Posted by: Mikey at August 10, 2010 4:04 PM

Posted by: badlydrawnbear at August 10, 2010 4:21 PM

I like this design, I really do. But I liked it even better the first time TS used it on Mission. Do they have to practically replicate the same building just a couple of blocks away? I wouldn't even mind if it was on the other side of the skyline, but it's right there.

Posted by: Turin at August 10, 2010 4:28 PM

Thanks, Mikey. I've made this request more than once, and no one has ever responded.

Chevron Tower at 575 Market? That was *actually* built in the 70s. :) And I don't personally find it attractive at all.

JPMorgan's building actually does look nice, and I think I've pointed to it before as better than green glass towers before.

For 555 Mission, are you referring to its public space? The rendering for 555 Mission looks an awful lot like the rendering for 222 2nd to me:
http://www.emporis.com/application/?nav=image&id=141112

Posted by: sfrenegade at August 10, 2010 4:28 PM

Thanks, BDB, looks like those are the Hyatt Center and One North Wacker, in case anyone wants to look them up.

Posted by: sfrenegade at August 10, 2010 4:40 PM

You can also include the Deloitte building across from 326 W Monroe. No outdoor greenery but has a pushed back lobby for extra wide sidewalks and a large indoor bamboo forest that is visible to all the pedestrians as the walk by.

Posted by: badlydrawnbear at August 10, 2010 4:49 PM

The lots in the Chicago references are about 2-3x the size as 222. I totally agree that pushing the tower to a corner and doubling the height, making for a more slender tower would be ideal, but the NIMBYs would try to kill that idea as well. You really can't win here which is proven by the drab skyline everyone is complaining about.

Posted by: spitpalm at August 10, 2010 4:51 PM

@spitplam, I take your point about the Chicago buildings. I only brought them up as examples of buildings that sought exceptions and variances from the city of Chicago the city won concessions to the design that made life at street level much more pleasant for ever pedestrian/cyclist/motorist who drives by these buildings.

My only big criticism of this project is that the building will be granted a major height variance in exchange for what for the people who have to live and work in the area? wider sidewalks? Nope. More trees/greenery? Nope. Green roof? Solar panels? EV charging stations?

Posted by: badlydrawnbear at August 10, 2010 4:59 PM

@BDBear: re your two Chicago buildings. Note there are no people hanging out in those nicely landscaped setbacks. It's just a point in time tho, and of course, it's possible that immediately after the Google Street View car passed by, people came out to enjoy those spaces.

But I doubt it. My point is that setbacks and wider sidewalks and nice landscaping aren't a panacea. The goal is to create a space where people enjoy hanging out. We've all seen many corporate plazas (be they "hidden" or "in plain view" from the sidewalk) that are desolate, regardless. And we've seen spaces that are lively with people, some of which are on full blocks were all buildings meet the sidewalk right at the lot line.

There's a couple well-proven things that bring people to an urban place:

1) Interesting retail
2) Movable street furniture (ideally both tables and chairs), that people can position any way they like.

Neither of these require setbacks, actually.

I'm not against setbacks, mind you, but I'm against the oversimplification that one or two architectural elements will magically create an attractive place for people to gather. It's much richer than that. And frankly, architects have much less influence on that than they think they do.

PS, See:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_H._Whyte

and

http://directcinemalimited.com/dcl/title.php?id=452

For some of the key original work in this area.

Posted by: Kurt Brown at August 10, 2010 9:11 PM

that is why we all now suffer with One Rincon Hill and the Marriot Jukebox.

count me as one of the very few who love the Marriott Jukebox.

as for this building. it's fine. it's nothing special, but not all buildings have to be special IMO.

it is disappointing that SF continues to plan in a non-pedestrian and non-bike friendly way.

much of this nabe and surrounding area could have been redesigned if there was intelligent planning set up years/decades ago, but in the end no intelligent planning was done or adhered to. (all IMO of course).

as someone says above, the problem is that SF "planning" has become completely arbitrary. There seems to be no long term vision or focus in the city. I'm baffled as to why.

I would have loved to see the "Vancouverization" of SoMa, South Beach, Mission Bay, etc... instead we have... well we have what we see. a weird amalgamation of different building types haphazardly put together with little to no thought to non-car transportation options. except, that is, to restrict parking so that people are forced to have no car and also not given (what I consider to be) acceptable non-car transportation options.

if they're going to nearly double the height restrictions, I see no reason why they couldn't at least expand the sidewalk and put in a few trees.

maybe plan further ahead and start installing major bike thoroughfares and bike stalls?

====
on a side note:
those Chicago links are interesting to look at, but you have to realize that part of Downtown Chicago would correspond to SF's FiDi, so it's more business oriented and not really comparable to the nabe in this SF post.

IMO it's hard to compare SF to Chicago when it comes to Skyscrapers. Chicago is a skyscraper city, SF is not. thus you can build 'scrapers in Chicago that won't work well in SF, and you can build things in SF that won't work well in Chicago.

Posted by: ex SF-er at August 10, 2010 9:29 PM

"that is why we all now suffer with One Rincon Hill"

speaking of ORH I noticed on the drive home tonight that they have new signs up, "Now selling!". I wonder what they've been doing for the past couple of years?

Posted by: diemos at August 10, 2010 9:46 PM

ex-SFer wrote: "maybe plan further ahead and start installing major bike thoroughfares and bike stalls?"

For the last 4 years, SF has been restricted from creating more bike lanes by a lawsuit (by Rob Anderson and friend). That lawsuit finally ran its course, and the city has started work on adding 35 more miles of bike lanes to the 49 currently existing.
http://www.sfbike.org/main/court-give-final-green-light-to-bike-lanes/
http://www.sfbike.org/main/mayor-newsom-and-city-celebrate-bike-lanes-on-townsend/

The city has also started adding more bike parking on sidewalks and on streets.

Posted by: Dan at August 10, 2010 10:47 PM

Dan:
thanks for the update and the info. I didn't know that.
This is great news.

The timing is unfortunate because I would have liked to see some bike-only transportation routes (i.e. no cars at all) as opposed to a bike lane on a street, and Mission Bay/South Beach would have been PERFECT places to do it since that area used to be underutilized. it's easier to put bike only and transit only lanes in before the area develops out as opposed to retrofitting them in later

imagine if there were a street that ran through MB/SB etc right up to near downtown that was bike only. You would have tons of people biking that.

I personally ride my bike in the summer to/from work. around 12.5 miles each way, and of that about 5-6 miles are bike only (no cars), about 5 miles are bike lane on side city streets, and 2 miles are on the street through cars.
the bike lanes are packed with bikers at various times a day.

if you build it, people will come, especially if you have anti-car policies in place like SF does.

Posted by: ex SF-er at August 11, 2010 6:00 AM

@kurt brown, please notice in the first street view that while there are no people in the plaza there is also zero traffic as well. The second link does include some people walking through the plaza there is also very little traffic, it is clearly early morning.

You are right that just because you build it doesn't mean that it will be used but I spent a lot of time working in the area when these buildings first opened and I can promise that at lunch time on a nice day the seating is full of workers enjoying the weather and the added greenry.

Ex-SFer is right though this area does compare more to SF's Financial District then the Mission.

Overall I find it surprising that for this building the city did not require a bigger setback or request some greening of the streetscape or the building in general. The square footage the builders gave up in Chicago is huge when you consider the full height of the buildings yet, somehow, the city managed to wring the concession from the builders and those blocks are now much nice to work in or even walk through for everyone residents, commuters, and tourists alike.

Posted by: badlydrawnbear at August 11, 2010 6:15 AM

"Overall I find it surprising that for this building the city did not require a bigger setback or request some greening of the streetscape or the building in general. The square footage the builders gave up in Chicago is huge when you consider the full height of the buildings yet, somehow, the city managed to wring the concession from the builders and those blocks are now much nice to work in or even walk through for everyone residents, commuters, and tourists alike."

Developers get away with murder in SF despite the supposedly very strict building code.

It's basically the Planning Commission ignoring the code and granting all sorts of exemption for nothing in return.

We've seen this with the shadow ordinance and though the initiative is delayed to a later ballot, it will come back. Precisely because the commission does not enforce the codes. Their discretion has to be taken away and it will hopefully in the next few years.

Developers are raping downtown SF in a way that is no longer occurring in many other cities - cities like Chicago or Portland that demand at least a quid pro quo.

It's a shame that San Francisco is giving away the store and allowing it's downtown and SOMA to develop into an uninspiring, greenless and non-friendly pedestrian hodge podge.

Even with Mission Bay the failure to do grand parks along the Bay - to open itself to the bay -is unforgiveable.

Other cities are becoming more grand while SF is stuck in the 60s or 70s - a rather tacky mix of cemented in wind-swept plazas and boring buildings.

What do you all think - it's gotta be something in the water! Casue approving junk like this tower is otherwise inexplicable.

Posted by: Gil at August 11, 2010 9:09 AM

Does anyone else miss the days when Gil was just proclaiming that no more development would take place because of market conditions, rather than telling us that we need to shut down development through ballot initiatives in order to stop developers from "raping downtown."

Your old story was laughable Gil, your new one is scary.

Posted by: anon at August 11, 2010 9:16 AM

Actually, Mission Bay's plan is for nearly all of its waterfront to be parks:

http://missionbayparks.com/future.php

Posted by: Dan at August 11, 2010 9:24 AM

"rather than telling us we need to shut down development through ballot initiatives in order to stop developers from "

Oh yeah. I'm all for another development initiative.

How 'bout an initiative requiring the Planning Commission to adhere strictly to the code - granting exemptions only for significant public benefits granted by the developer. Like setting back the building further from the sidewalk, putting in lush plazas, incorporating a grand fountains, or being bike friendly.

This si common sense stuff that other major cities are doing and having success with.

A developer wants an exemption to go higher than permitted - grant only if the developer's building takes up a smaller lot footprint than allowed.

Posted by: Gil at August 11, 2010 9:38 AM

Or the days when Gil aka Chicken Little went on and on and on and on and on about how jobs and the people who fill them were leaving butt-ugly San Francisco for beautiful places like Seattle and Portland.

Gil still has never explained why she hasn't yet moved to Seattle or Portland with their bright, sunny (yeah, right), Reaganesque "Morning in America" futures.

She still hasn't explained why she hasn't yet left this hell on earth with no future called San Francisco.

Put your money where your considerably fat mouth is, Gil. Until you do, your credibility is less than nil, sister.

Posted by: nnona at August 11, 2010 9:40 AM

Gil, I would actually be fine with that IF AND ONLY IF the reverse was also the case - by right development is allowed for any zoning. No appeals, no neighborhood complaints, just this - a lot is zoned for X amount of units and height, and the building can start tomorrow. The way that it is now, both sides want endless reviews of everything, so every development needs exemptions for something.

So, while this development might not go through as proposed, any development that meets the downtown plan or Market-Octavia plan, etc, can proceed without any time lost.

Posted by: anon at August 11, 2010 9:49 AM

LA's downtown has more setbacks from the street, more greenery, and more separation between buildings but isn't pedestrian-friendly. Manhattan has very few setbacks and separation between buildings but is a great place to walk.
Density and street-level retail and cafes make for a good pedestrian experience.

Posted by: Dan at August 11, 2010 9:52 AM

There are more shapes in the world than rectangles; more angles than right angles. Many of today's best architects take advantage of this fact. Why are we happy to settle for generic glass boxes?

Posted by: Brillo at August 11, 2010 10:17 AM

"Density and street-level retail and cafes make for a good pedestrian experience."

Agree and agree with Kurt Brown's comment re: actual traffic in these plazas. I don't see a lot of people in many of these plazas except during the rare warmer weather we have here during lunchtime. There are more things we need to do for pedestrian traffic and pedestrian-friendliness than plazas that are barren most of the time.

Posted by: sfrenegade at August 11, 2010 10:38 AM

"No appeals, no neighborhood complaints, just this - a lot is zoned for X amount of units and height, and the building can start tomorrow. The way that it is now, both sides want endless reviews of everything, so every development needs exemptions for something."

This would be brilliant for the planning process here. Right now, every NIMBY gets a voice and tries to shut everything down. The reason developers try to reach for the stars when asking for exemptions is because this way they can overreach and then compromise so the NIMBYs can feel like they gained something. If everything that met the rules was allowed to be built without further review, you'd see less of what people are complaining about.

Posted by: sfrenegade at August 11, 2010 10:41 AM

"There are more shapes in the world than rectangles; more angles than right angles. Many of today's best architects take advantage of this fact. Why are we happy to settle for generic glass boxes?"

Precisely!

If anything SF's downtown architecture is getting worse - especially with the copy-cat glass boxes.

Hung glass external walls are cheaper to do than other approaches - which is why that is the rule not the exception now for SF hi-rises.

Even one of the pro-any-developement Planning Commissioners said during a hearing a few years back - could we please not have so many blue glass buildings?! Course he then turned around and voted for yet another one.

Non-glass hi-rises are generally more interesting, warmer and provide a contrating relief of sorts.

Take the W hotel or the Hyatt on Union Square. s

The Hyatt is a very simple design and decades old now but it's exterior walls provide for a more inviting structure than if it was all glass. It's a tiny lot really but the developer put in a nice little plaza with a beautiful fountain.

But, alas, hi-rise architecture has deteriorated since the day that structure was built.

Posted by: Gil at August 11, 2010 10:47 AM

"There are more shapes in the world than rectangles; more angles than right angles. Many of today's best architects take advantage of this fact. Why are we happy to settle for generic glass boxes?"

Is this supposed to be a serious critique? "Many of today's best architects" charge a lot more than Saitowitz.

Posted by: EH at August 11, 2010 11:08 AM

I think it's a very weak argument that assumes one would get "more interesting architecture" from shapes other than a rectangle. The interesting architecture comes from the talent of that particular architect or firm, not from the shape they create. Current trends are lots of curvy, twisty, bendy curtain walls and facades..Most likely a trend that will be dated. And a great building has little to do with what the fee of the architect is. It's talent, experience and understanding the context and goals of the client.

Great modern buildings in NY are generally tall, vertical, rectangular shapes, with elegant, refined curtain walls. And I think the planning commission should keep out of the business of designing. Some of them may not like "blue glass" buildings, but that's not their business.

I would rather hear Gil just say he/she does not like rectangular buildings that create weak arguments for other shapes and forms.

Posted by: noearch at August 11, 2010 11:34 AM

I think it's a very weak argument that assumes one would get "more interesting architecture" from shapes other than a rectangle. The interesting architecture comes from the talent of that particular architect or firm, not from the shape they create. Current trends are lots of curvy, twisty, bendy curtain walls and facades..Most likely a trend that will be dated. And a great building has little to do with what the fee of the architect is. It's talent, experience and understanding the context and goals of the client.

Great modern buildings in NY are generally tall, vertical, rectangular shapes, with elegant, refined curtain walls. And I think the planning commission should keep out of the business of designing. Some of them may not like "blue glass" buildings, but that's not their business.

I would rather hear Gil just say he/she does not like rectangular buildings than create weak arguments in support of other shapes and forms as being just "better" for us.

Posted by: noearch at August 11, 2010 11:36 AM

The quality of a building need not be dictated by the size of the lot or the size of the budget. It is only limited by the size of the imagination of the architect and builder.

An all-glass facade building can be made into a work of art when put into the right hands.

http://www.nytimes.com/imagepages/2010/03/15/arts/15nouvel1.html

Posted by: jlasf at August 11, 2010 12:29 PM

Exactly!

Posted by: noearch at August 11, 2010 1:10 PM

jlasf "An all-glass facade building can be made into a work of art when put into the right hands."

Exactly. The problem isn't the materials or the shape itself, it's what's done with them.

noearch: "interesting architecture comes from the talent of that particular architect or firm"

Also true. And a talented architect will most likely come up with something graceful and unique, possibly using materials in an interesting way (e.g. Nouvel). This architect's imagination has accomplished none of that. Textbook modernism like this may be some people's preferred style, but for me it is a solid C effort: not a fail, nothing praiseworthy.

Posted by: James at August 11, 2010 1:11 PM

an interesting observation, nothing more:

one of the reasons that little interesting goes on in SF architecture is the process itself. the cities that have more open building rules allow different people to innovate and try and sometimes fail. the blending of "normal", "winners" and "failures" makes for a phenomenal architecture scene.

SF is so restrictive that in the end everything must be built by committee. whatever makes it through that committee tends to all be pretty middle of the road stuff. a bunch of middle of the road stuff just isn't as interesting overall unless done JUST RIGHT (like Paris).

an admittedly bad analogy might be a music scene. Let's pretend that you ONLY had the Pop "top 20" radio station, and there was nothing else. You'd get a lot of recycled musical ideas, a few good songs, but mostly nothing special. You get the Des Moines music scene with new bands doing covers of pop 20 stuff. yawn.

but when you have a more open music scene that has not only pop 20, but also Country, Alternative, Funk, Rap, Rock, Heavy Metal, Polka, etc, then you get a very vibrant music scene. you'll get mixing and innovation.

which is why places like Austin, Seattle, and Nashville have such great music scenes despite their relatively small size... (I'm not forgetting SF, NY, LA, Chicago of course).

these types of cities create winners like mashups (which owe some of their popularity to Booty in SF)... and failures like the Macarena.
(Ha! now the Macarena is in your head!)

interesting architecture isn't usually built by committee. It is happened upon through lots of trial and LOTS of error. The trial/error doesn't happen in SF as much as it does elsewhere.

Posted by: ex SF-er at August 11, 2010 2:02 PM

Curse you ex SF-er. May the image of dozens of line dancing punters flap their hands in your nightmares tonight. :-)

Posted by: The Milkshake of Despair at August 11, 2010 2:14 PM

Not that it's news that Chicago's architecture puts SF's to shame, but I was was particularly awestruck by the new Aqua tower on a recent trip, with its wavy balconies that are not only stunning but serve as a windbreak. The 555 Washington tower that was killed is a great example of how hard SF works to avoid anything interesting.

Posted by: A.T. at August 11, 2010 2:27 PM

Agree that it's pretty hard to build anything here.

But why so much discussion with endless comparisons of our city to other places.. It gets tiring.

And James: so called "textbook modernism" is not bad. This new proposed building is simply elegant, perhaps timeless, not tricky, not trendy, not clever, just solid, good, modern and clean. Back ground buildings can be successful too.

Posted by: noearch at August 11, 2010 2:35 PM

A.T.'s exactly right on 555 Washington. I can't believe we care as much as we do about shadows.

San Francisco: No NIMBY Left Behind.

Posted by: sfrenegade at August 11, 2010 3:10 PM

Let's face it, the NIMBYs have way too much power in this town which is why architects and developers don't even bother wasting time and money on the designs we'd all love to see. Look at Heller/Manus - very bland and average firm but they know how to work the system here in SF. Their best projects have been tweaked by better architects and their best solo attempt, 555 Washington, was shot down over shadows and a few birds.

Posted by: spitpalm at August 11, 2010 3:52 PM

Does SF really need more office space right now? There is tons of vacancy as is.

Also not good news for any buyer with and eastern view at 1 Hawthorne.

Posted by: anon at August 11, 2010 4:42 PM

"Does SF really need more office space right now? There is tons of vacancy as is."

That too.

Posted by: Gil at August 11, 2010 6:03 PM

^^I really cringe every time i see Gil post. If socketsite had a "banned" function Gil would be ghost like Swayze. Remind me to check in with Gil the next time i'm at the store about to buy some milk, because i may not need any more milk with my current supply at home.

Posted by: Soma at August 12, 2010 12:41 AM

Someone should be banned because they bring up high vacancy rates in commerical office space? Or lack of landscape and setbacks on city streets? Or lack of funding for rail lines to connect to Transbay? If a totalitarian mindset is what is desired by "SOMA", perhaps the best way to shut someone down is by presenting facts and arguments that make them embarrased to be incorrect? Constant negativity is not desirable, but neither is pretending problems do not exist, and right now, vacancy rates are high, landscape is needed on city streets, and funding is not completely secure for rail to connect to Transbay.

BTW, I will agree with Noearch that although this building may not do all that is hoped, at least it does not have bay windows and has a style appropriate to the time in which we live.

Posted by: Anti Ban at August 12, 2010 5:42 AM

"Someone should be banned because they bring up high vacancy rates in commerical office space?"

He should be banned because he blasphemes against the specialness of SF. ;)

Posted by: diemos at August 12, 2010 7:01 AM

It's not that there are high vacancy rates in commercial office space and therefore this building is a bad idea.

It's that there are high vacancy rates in commercial office space and therefore the developers of this building should have to withstand special scrutiny because they're requesting a height exception to allow the building to reach a height more than double that which the section is currently zoned for. If they hadn't asked for the zoning exception, then a lot of the hackles being raised wouldn't have been.

Posted by: Brahma (incensed renter) at August 12, 2010 11:37 AM

@ diemos
"He should be banned because he blasphemes against the specialness of SF. ;)"

You mean by exaggerating the same concept of "specialness" of places like Austin, Portland, and Seattle? ;)

There is a huge tonal and substantive difference between reasoned criticism and indiscriminate doomsday bitching.
------------------------

@ Anti Ban

"perhaps the best way to shut someone down is by presenting facts and arguments that make them embarrased to be incorrect?"

If this method truly worked, we wouldn't have heard from Gil in months (or a certain Ohioan realtor for years). Though I will say I don't agree with the idea of banning anybody.
------------------------

@ Anti Ban (2)

Nobody is pretending that the problems you list don't exist here in SF. Our friend Gil, however, pretends that problems like these don't exist in places like Portland and Seattle.

She also pretends that the sun shines more in those places than in SF. She also pretends there are no bland or ugly neighborhoods in other cities that are considered "beautiful" on an international level. Etc, etc...

Classic "grass is greener" syndrome pumped up on Barry Bonds level steroids.

Clearly, there are some personal or mental issues that cloud Gil's outlook on life in general. But really, she shouldn't infuse relentless and mostly baseless negativity into every thread she possibly can.

Posted by: nnona at August 12, 2010 2:56 PM

I'm probably wrong, but my guess would be that Gil lives in Northwest now after a 3 year run in San Francisco. He/she was priced out or became sick of SF's problems (homelessness, crime, etc.) and wanted to Se(a)ttle down somewhere a little more livable. Now, out of frustration and maybe a little envy, he/she trolls local blogs happily bashing the city he/she could no longer stand to make him/herself feel better about the move north.

Posted by: spitpalm at August 12, 2010 3:13 PM

"I'm probably wrong, but my guess would be that Gil lives in Northwest now after a 3 year run in San Francisco. He/she was priced out or became sick of SF's problems (homelessness, crime, etc.) and wanted to Se(a)ttle down somewhere a little more livable. Now, out of frustration and maybe a little envy, he/she trolls local blogs happily bashing the city he/she could no longer stand to make him/herself feel better about the move north."

Not quite. I was born in SF, raised in SF and other Bay Area cities. I'm still local - I live in SF proper.

Trying to get a transfer north but with the job situation that will take several years. I have enough years with my company that I don't want to give up accrued vacation time and credits to the defined benefit retirement plan which would happen if I quit. Not that anyone would want to quit a job in this market.

I've purchased a home in the Northwest this year and recently invested in an LLC deal in Portland so I have put my money where my mouth is so to speak.

Posted by: Gil at August 12, 2010 3:44 PM

Congrats....I hope you are happier up there. I have a lot of friends that made the same move.

Posted by: spitpalm at August 12, 2010 6:42 PM

I've taken some strong hits here as well, for my outspoken opinion at times, about architecture/design, quality of construction, design fees, etc. Some people may even hate me, or hate to read what I have to say. Like I've said before: too bad, then don't read what I have to say.

But I still support Gil's right to have an opinion, however radical or controversial. This "censoring" or "editing" or "banning" anyone because they offer contrarian views here should never happen.

Posted by: noearch at August 12, 2010 8:58 PM

Exceptions all granted. EIR certified. All votes 5-2 or 4-3.

Posted by: OneEyedMan at August 13, 2010 10:44 AM

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