March 21, 2012

Envisioning San Francisco’s Central Corridor As An EcoDistrict

Central Corridor Area of Study

With an opportunity to build between 6,600 and 14,000 new housing units, and office space to support 22,900 to 46,700 new workers, San Francisco’s Planning Department is working to develop an innovative vision for San Francisco’s Central Corridor.

One of the visions presented earlier this month, the redevelopment of the Corridor as a central "EcoDistrict," improving self-reliance and reducing environmental impacts.

Preaching To The Choir With Respect To Architectural Innovation [SocketSite]
San Francisco’s Central Subway Corridor Project [SocketSite]
Central Corridor EcoDistrict And Public Realm Improvements Presentation [sf-planning.org]

First Published: March 21, 2012 10:15 AM

Comments from "Plugged In" Readers

As someone who lives in the studied area, I welcome the idea of creating a South Park like open area in the proposed block (Bryant and Brannan between 4th and 5th St.). I just hope the open area won't be occupied by the homeless in the area.

Posted by: Palms at March 21, 2012 10:45 AM

I think those eco-xyz and sustainable-xyz plan are just distraction with no real measurable metrics. "A shift to local and renewable power" sounds good on paper. Install more solar panels if you will. But this is an extension to the CBD. But there is not realistic to achieve "net zero energy" whatever in downtown area.

Instead just build a superb transit network. Hopefully T-third will suck less then and the area become more inviting to walk. Maximize the commercial development. Large share of job in the downtown means less driving to suburb sites. Thus reducing overall energy use. I think a recent SPUR report also suggest it is more fruitful to focus on commercial TOD in downtown than residential TOD.

Posted by: Wai Yip Tung at March 21, 2012 10:54 AM

The swarms of homeless in the area may comprise an important element of the new EcoDistrict as their defecations are certainly "Eco" and in a sense also sustainable and natural.

Posted by: unwarrantedinlaw at March 21, 2012 11:34 AM

Underground 80 -- As the area becomes, it's an increasingly obvious eyesore and misuse of precious land -- this double-decker rat's nest mars neighborhood after 'hood -- from 'hospital curve' to South Park. It's only a matter of time. Create a vast parkland and bicycle highway from Trans tower to Design District - Potrero/Dogpatch and on. Think different(ly).

Posted by: Invented at March 21, 2012 12:21 PM

Kind of funny that this eco district has a solid 15% of its area dedicated to a very non-eco mode of transport: I-80. There's even an entire city block consumed by just one freeway interchange. Well I guess there's plenty room for improvement and you have to start somewhere.

Posted by: The Milkshake of Despair at March 21, 2012 12:21 PM

"Underground 80"

That would be nice but from a highway engineering standpoint it is a non starter. I-80 must meet up with where the Bay Bridge touches down on Rincon Hill, a mere block away from the edge of this district. You can't go from underground to fifty feet in the air in such a short distance.

Posted by: The Milkshake of Despair at March 21, 2012 12:28 PM

"You can't go from underground to fifty feet in the air in such a short distance."

While not in Ecodistrict, begin the under-grounding at 5th and carry south to Potrero and west to Market removing the dark shadowy highway over Division St. Development rights to partially fund.

The double-decker highways that run though these 'hoods need to be rethought.

Posted by: Invented at March 21, 2012 12:36 PM

Elevated highway, perhaps not really double decker. Confusing 280 double decker portion with 80.

Posted by: Invented at March 21, 2012 12:43 PM

Eco schmeeko - give me the new height limits.

Posted by: Joe at March 21, 2012 1:49 PM

If they were interested in being "green" they would include enough housing units to house the number of office workers they expect to attract...

Posted by: BobN at March 21, 2012 3:39 PM

No need to underground I-80. Truly innovative zoning would allow infill building in the space below it. There's room for solid 3-4 story commercial & offices there, making the freeway effectively the roof. Smog is no worse below a freeway than elsewhere, and if it's structurally sound & freestanding, why not build under it?

Posted by: James at March 21, 2012 3:53 PM

Instead of a reflexive "let's be 'green' and bury the freeway", what would truly benefit the neighborhood and the City?

What are the most important problems and opportunities in the neighborhood?

* Housing
* Traffic
* Public transit
* Homeless issues
* Many others

An I-80 project would surely cost in the (multi)-billion(s). So what is most needed, and where do we get the greatest bang for the buck?

Posted by: Joshua at March 21, 2012 4:09 PM

An underground freeway frees up valuable space that can be used for housing or offices. Say you can use 4 blocks (3000ft) over 200ft freeway width, we're talking about 600,000 sf of surface to use. Say one sf of surface leads to 5 sf or more of building, this is at least 3M sf of construction. The higher you build, the more you can absorb the undergrounding cost. But this is not cheap.

Posted by: lol at March 21, 2012 4:25 PM

Start by planting some friggin' trees.

Posted by: sf at March 21, 2012 4:37 PM

Quick math: 1 acre = 43,560 sq ft

lol assumes an underground I-80 would free-up 600,000 sq ft, or 13.8 acres.

We just learned that 401 Harrison is worth $30MM for 0.29 acres (and the ability to build a TALL building).

So burying I-80 break-even at $1.4B. And that assumes you could build 300 unit towers on all of the reclaimed space, and that you'd actually get 13.8 entire reclaimed acres.

Doubt a freeway bury could be done for $1.4B. And then what? You have simply ridded the neighborhood of the freeway and opened up a bunch of land for building new offices or housing. You still haven't solved traffic, public transit, homeless issues, etc.

Or planted trees.

Posted by: Joshua at March 21, 2012 5:35 PM

I just got off of my lazy patookie and read through the report. While some of the ideas seem to be overly utopian, there are a lot of practical recommendations that would benefit this 'hood:

- breaking up large blocks into smaller to improve pedestrian porosity.
- increasing density to allow more growth (2X residential and commercial capacity from what is currently zoned)
- improving 4th to reduce pedestrian injuries
- restoring removed crosswalks
- widening sidewalks where ped traffic is dense
- employing existing alleys as "greenways"
- reallocating excess street width to the pedestrian realm
- adding more bike lanes

all of this can be done with much less dramatic investment compared to modifying I-80. It seems as if this plan contains a lot of practical, feasible, good stuff.

As for I-80, leave that ugly structure as-is but wall it off from the rest of the neighborhood with taller commercial buildings. (that's my idea, not sfplanning's)

Posted by: The Milkshake of Despair at March 21, 2012 6:04 PM

Also --and mainly --the adjacent properties to a submerged 80 would also be opened up and rezoned for higher density as part of the funding for such a project. Probably 100 one-story buildings line the stretch we're looking at. Consider what's going on with NY's highline boom. A formerly defunct stretch of NY is booming.

Posted by: Invented at March 21, 2012 9:32 PM

This is just a smokescreen to build additional 200 foot tall building in the SoMa. Eco...smeakco...The mayors office of economic workforce development has it's eyes set on increasing density along the third street light rail extension, i. e. 4th street Muni extension to china town.

The billion dollar boondoggle 4th street extension has caused consternation with the likes of Spur and they want to see their social engineering of high density housing along transit brought to fruition. They see a opportunity to push their agenda.

Eco-district my A__

Posted by: Smokescreen at March 22, 2012 8:40 AM

"This is just a smokescreen to build additional 200 foot tall building in the SoMa..."

No smokescreen, the upzone is explicit in the proposal. Increased density is generally "green".

I kind of like the idea of tall buildings creating an artificial canyon around I-80.

Posted by: The Milkshake of Despair at March 22, 2012 9:27 AM

I have a hard time understanding who is going to be building these tall buildings along the 4th St corridor. There's already plenty of space via a large surface parking lot next to the Palms building (surrounding the independently standing Starbucks building).

Do they really think that maybe someone will raze the Hublein building in order to build high rise there? Or the condo conversions above the Walgreens?

Posted by: RobBob at March 22, 2012 9:27 AM

There are plenty of spots along here which could go higher. What about that Well's Fargo with its huge parking lot? I love K&L, but that building could go higher as well. That whole half block is mostly a parking lot. Across the street from there and Walgreens is more parking lots and one story buildings.

Check out the corridor in Google Maps, there are plenty of long stretches of one and two story unexceptional buildings which could be knocked down.

I think this is a great idea: we need more housing near transit and jobs to handle the growth the Bay Area will experience in the next 20-50 years. It is either going to be here, or out in the exurbs, which will put more stress on our already overloaded freeway system.

Posted by: NoeValleyJim at March 22, 2012 9:36 AM

I've also read the PDF. Between the greenstripping of bluxome and putting 4 large bulbouts on every 2nd and 4th street intersection, that's a hell of a lot of street parking gone bye-bye. Where's sfmuni going to issue its parking tickets?

Noevalleyjim and others who want to willy-nilly whack long-time local businesses to create apartment blocks with depressed cafes tucked under their overhang, please don't do my neighborhood any favors. For instance, just one block of 4th street has coco 500, bamboo reef, zuppa, and the hotel utah. This proposal avoids those errors, if you look at the locations of the new tall construction lots.

Now, for the pious prattle about density while building 1000 sq ft one-bedrooms, that's an only-in-SF kind of thing.

Posted by: Oasis at March 22, 2012 11:14 AM

Glad to see the zone extend to 6th Street where the only thing green there now is sticky and pungent and sold in tiny plastic bags on the corners.

Anyone know the status of when the city will demo
http://www.defenestration.org ? I heard (maybe read here on SS) after the eminent domain 'purchase' it would be dismantled, imploded (I wish) and that the new height of the new building for city housing would be significantly higher than it is currently. An SRO with peek-a-boo bay views, imagine that..

Posted by: bossmillion at March 22, 2012 2:23 PM

I have no idea if anyone is interested in building towers here but I fail to see after the investment in infrastructure how keeping zoning heights lower is any less "social engineering" than letting people build up.


"The billion dollar boondoggle 4th street extension has caused consternation with the likes of Spur and they want to see their social engineering of high density housing along transit brought to fruition."

Posted by: Zig at March 22, 2012 5:18 PM

Oasis wrote:Now, for the pious prattle about density while building 1000 sq ft one-bedrooms, that's an only-in-SF kind of thing.

Cubix, at 766 Harrison and < 350 ft.² per unit (ninety-eight of 'em), falls squarely within this proposed district. Just sayin'.

Posted by: Brahma (incensed renter) at March 22, 2012 6:57 PM

Zig, take a deep breath and repeat after me:

CHANGE IS EVIL!!!
CHANGE IS EVIL!!!
CHANGE IS EVIL!!!

Now, don't you feel like a Real San Franciscan?

Posted by: NoeValleyJim at March 22, 2012 10:13 PM

San Francisco started going downhill and losing its charm when they introduced that newfangled electricity and indoor plumbing. I say we pass an ordinance requiring that we rip that all out to get back to the SF we all knew and loved.

Posted by: anon at March 23, 2012 8:53 AM

Oasis and Zig -- how dare you question the green, higher density, less car, more transit, no plastic bag mantra of those who know so much better than you as to what is desireable and acceptable.

Don't bother to comment here, just keep reading the blog and shaking your head

cHANGE cHANGE -- YEA

Posted by: guest at March 23, 2012 11:15 AM

Hi Guest

You are misreading my comment

Signed,

Zig

Posted by: Zig at March 23, 2012 3:13 PM

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