November 7, 2012

Planning's Vision And Development Plan For Western SoMa

The sister project to San Francisco’s adopted Eastern Neighborhoods Plan, the Western SoMa Community Plan has been in the works since 2004 when East and West were split and the Western SoMa Citizens Planning Task Force was established.

As we noted when the Draft Plan was up for review in 2009 (click images to enlarge):

In general, the goal of the Draft Plan is to maintain the mixed-use character of the proposed Plan area and preserve existing housing, while encouraging new residential and resident-serving uses (including affordable housing) within the proposed Residential Enclave Districts north of Harrison Street and targeting larger parcels south of Harrison Street for local- and region-serving, primarily commercial uses (such as office and technology-based uses) and large-scale (over 25,000 square feet) commercial developments.

Western SoMa Plan Heights (click to enlarge)

The second component of the proposed project is the rezoning of approximately 47 parcels proximate to the proposed Plan boundary (generally bounded by Seventh Street, Ninth Street, Mission Street and Minna Street) in order to reconcile their use districts and height and bulk districts with those of the neighboring properties.
The third component of the proposed project is a privately funded mixed-use residential, commercial, and light industrial/artist development proposed at 350 8th Street, within the proposed Plan area.

350 8th Street Plan

The site is occupied by a large paved lot and three small, single-story administration and maintenance structures, which would be demolished to accommodate the proposed 634,000-square-foot mixed-use development.

Since refined, the final Plan which seeks to establish "a comprehensive vision for shaping growth in the western portion of the South of Market neighborhood" will be reviewed by San Francisco’s Historic Preservation Commission this afternoon.

Tomorrow, San Francisco's Planning Department will request the Planning Commission schedule a public hearing on December 6, 2012 to consider the adoption of the proposed Community Plan and related Code and Zoning Map amendments.

Western SoMA Community Plan Outlined And Up For Impact Review [SocketSite]
Western SoMa Community Plan [sfplanning.org] 

First Published: November 7, 2012 8:45 AM

Comments from "Plugged In" Readers

According to the plan:

"Discourage housing production that is not in scale with the existing neighborhood pattern."

This is disappointing. This is one of the only areas left in the city were development of highrises makes sense, and would be possible to build them in decent numbers without actually demolishing tons of existing residential buildings, yet the plan is for most new buildings to be around 50 feet tall, with almost nothing above 100 feet (and of course highrises are the best bet to increase the perpetually low housing supply in SF, and to maybe keep housing prices a little more sane than they would be otherwise).

This area is in downtown/downtown-adjacent. The best choice for the city would be for this area to be significantly more dense, and this an area of SF where large density increases would work out much better than most...so why build a bunch of half-assed lowrise/midrise infill? Save that stuff for further out from downtown.

We need to build up. We already started doing it in eastern SOMA, Civic Center/mid-market, and along Mission Street, so why hold back with increased density in the western part of SOMA?

Posted by: cbf at November 7, 2012 10:04 AM

Totally agree with cbf, I'd love to see the MINIMUM height be 100' in this area.

Posted by: lyqwyd at November 7, 2012 11:46 AM

Seems very nearsighted to me. Disappointing that the vision for SoMA is... well, SoMA. Big blocks and low-rises. Formula for growth... in stabbings and automobiles.

Posted by: taco taco at November 7, 2012 12:07 PM

I, too, am disappointed with the plan's lack of density and low height zoning.

Posted by: GL at November 7, 2012 1:11 PM

Many parcels are actually getting lower height limits.

Posted by: Jeremy at November 7, 2012 1:15 PM

I have a condo across the street from that vast parking lot at 8th and Harrison (350 8th St). The busses that park there all fire their engines in tandem at about 5am weekdays. It's lovely. One of drivers forgot to engage the parking break and got out of the bus one night in late 2011 and the bus rolled unattended across Harrison and crashed into our entryway. Goes without saying that I am tremendously excited to the see the site developed (and the buses gone). I am in agreement with higher density development in West SOMA generally, but would prefer the >100' height buildings to line Market / Mission, instead of Folsom / Harrison.

Posted by: PatBurns at November 7, 2012 1:22 PM

Despicable plan. Quintuple the heights and it might be sorta palatable, though I see no need for height limits at all in this area.

Posted by: anon at November 7, 2012 1:29 PM

Agreed about the height limit issue. When I lived in Arlington, VA I witnessed the growth along the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor that incorporated new highrises with existing scale in most areas. Toss in 5 Metro stations along the stretch and what you saw develop over 30 years was a vibrant, mixed-used corridor that attracts both businesses and residents.

What SF has in mind for western SOMA is nothing short of a suburban office park. Yet another missed opportunity for the great city of SF. You could have turned Folsom into a boulevard with MUNI or BART stations stretching from the Embarcadero to Division, create unique retail/dining spaces in several of the side streets and alleys (think Belden on a grander scale), commit to creating a series of vibrant neighborhoods connected by reliable mass transit. How sad.

Posted by: Mark at November 7, 2012 1:32 PM

"Discourage housing production that is not in scale with the existing neighborhood pattern."

Unlike any other city in the world... What a squandered opportunity.

Posted by: BobN at November 7, 2012 2:11 PM

"Where new zoning has conferred increased development potential; require developers to contribute towards community benefits programs that include open space, transit, community facilities/services, historic/social heritage preservation and affordable housing, above and beyond citywide inclusionary requirements."

"Provide through the permit entitlement process a range of revenue generating tools including impact fees, public funds and grants,assessment districts, and other private funding sources, to fund community and neighborhood improvements."

So build low density with a higher inclusionary and more fees, who wouldn't jump at the chance to do that?


"Prohibit housing outside of designated Residential Enclave Districts (RED) south of Harrison Street."

Why do that?

Bad Plan. I agree with Mark above, should have money going into public transit that connects to to downtown.

Posted by: sparky*b at November 7, 2012 3:26 PM

This is a NIMBY plan that succeeds in preserving a few people's views of downtown from Potrero Hill, at the expense of the rest of the city.

Posted by: Snark17 at November 7, 2012 3:48 PM

In my opinion, as a resident of SF, what's missing from a lot of recent development and revitalization projects is incentive or attractiveness for me to go there and spend my money (or actually want to live there). I'm not being pulled or swayed to say, "Hey, let's hang out in western SOMA and window shop." Or, "You wanna take in a show and restaurant in Mission Bay?" With assurance I can say this for North Beach, Chinatown, Russian Hill, the Loin, all unique neighborhoods and destinations encompassing about the same area as western SOMA. To me, there is no draw or vitality in these new "neighborhoods."

Posted by: Mark at November 7, 2012 4:21 PM

Guess there is no global warming after all.

In 5 years these plans will be revised with 500' towers.

Posted by: sf at November 7, 2012 4:22 PM

man, and I always assumed that it would just be a matter of time before SOMA got built out to high density. its not like it is a SFH area with lots of character to protect. Its pretty ugly right now. Who is possibly agitating for such development limitations in the area? Is it really all about protecting potrero hill views, as suggested Snark17?

Are there other agendas at play here?

Posted by: BigV at November 7, 2012 4:56 PM

Hey let's build a $1 billion subway and not put any housing near it!

Posted by: sf at November 7, 2012 5:31 PM

PS-- In the heart of the city, you put a drive-through block with little cutesy studios or townhouses dedicated to artists? Really?? This is an insane waste of space.

Posted by: Snark17 at November 7, 2012 5:32 PM

Yeah, I really hope that for the sake of the city, this plan is revised and given taller height limits. It's the perfect location for dozens of highrises to be built without disrupting the existing residential areas, and while preserving much of the current "feel" that the city apparently wants to keep intact(aside from some increased car and pedestrian traffic...but that's life in the core of a big city, deal with it). 200'-300'+ towers scattered along major thoroughfares would be nice, and 200'-400'+, or 500'+ would be even better. It will be a gigantic wasted opportunity if it gets built out as depicted here.

Posted by: cbf at November 7, 2012 6:40 PM

This whole process has been a disaster from day one. It has been jealously guarded by a small group of neighborhood residents who don't want anything to change. Naming names, Jim Meko has been a prime player. As far as I'm concerned they should abandon this and start over.

Googling, I just came upon this:

http://www.westernsoma.com/

nice to see there is a little organized opposition to the NIMBY plan.

Posted by: curmudgeon at November 7, 2012 8:13 PM

hmmm...I might have clicked too soon..I think the westernsoma.com group was organized about a year ago.

Posted by: curmudgeon at November 7, 2012 8:17 PM

Baron Georges-Eugène Haussmann... they are most definitively not.

Posted by: Stucco_Sux at November 7, 2012 8:51 PM

Hey, every other neighborhood in SF gets to protect its unique "charm", so it only makes sense that Western SoMa keeps its assortment of auto shops, box stores (and big box stores), and pot dealers.

And as long as the city is going to treat the traffic sewers as essential on/off-ramps for the freeway, taller buildings and more transit might conflict with moving so many cars though there.

Posted by: amused_in_SOMA at November 7, 2012 10:25 PM

90% of this is flexspace and art studios? We will soon no longer have to work - according to the city of SF, we will just meditate, sip lattes and watch Chinese container ships stream through the Golden Gate bringing us "stuff." How glamorous, how new age - we must just make sure we keep printing more money.

Where are these people living? Who is going to pay for this?

Posted by: wrath at November 9, 2012 11:16 AM

Posted by: SocketSite at November 13, 2012 11:36 AM

the contempuous ignorance and knee jerk stereotyping of many comments above are sadly emblematic of today's neo-Social Darwinism. oh yes, it's so hip.

go trash your own neighborhoods instead of ripping off ours.

you wouldn't know from anything you read here, but actually the Plan upzones most of the area and allows thousands more new housing units to be built than before. and dozens of new small businesses to locate here. along with new amenities.

real estate speculation - the soul of SocketSite - is easy. but real neighborhood building is hard.

Posted by: AlfieJr at November 21, 2012 11:52 AM

Just checked out on the Plan, they have better height laws in the burbs. The planned mixed use development seems kinda of boring. Go back the drawing table.

Posted by: Garrett at December 12, 2012 9:19 AM

Very discouraging but not surprising. Portland, Seattle, Atlanta and even some Texas cities are creating far more interesting and attractive downtowns.

As it is Mission Bay looks awful.

Total lack of creativity and imagination IMO.

Posted by: Tobias at March 4, 2013 11:06 AM

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