January 23, 2013

Conflicting Plans For The Corner Of Brannan And Fifth

610 Brannan

The draft Western SoMa Community Plan which was approved by the Planning Commission this past December and will be before the Board of Supervisors in early 2013 would rezone the corner of Brannan and Fifth Streets to a newly-created Service, Arts and Light Industrial zoning district and change the maximum height for the corner from 50 to 55 feet.

At the same time, the corner also falls within the ongoing Central Corridor Plan study area, the draft plan for which is in the works and an early version of which suggested height limits of 85 to 130 feet would actually be more appropriate for the site:

In recognition of the desire to accommodate more growth in the area, the draft Central Corridor Plan concepts recommend changing the height limit of the subject property to 85 feet. Additionally, the draft concepts include a Higher Height Alternative, which would allow additional height, up to a maximum of 130 feet, on a portion of the subject property. In this alternative scenario, any portion of the building exceeding 85 feet in height would be subject to additional setback requirements and bulk restrictions. At minimum, 15-foot stepbacks will be required above a height of 85 feet along all property lines.

All that being said, the owners of the land are actually proposing to demolish the existing single-story buildings and surface parking lot on the corner and construct a 160-foot-tall and 11-story office building with 20,000 square feet of street-fronting retail space and 547,000 square feet of office space in their place, a proposal which would require the Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors to approve yet another set of zoning controls for the site in order for the project to proceed.

A Short-Sighted Plan For Western SoMa? [SocketSite]
Planning's Vision And Development Plan For Western SoMa [SocketSite]

First Published: January 23, 2013 12:00 PM

Comments from "Plugged In" Readers

There are too many height limits in this city. Western SOMA is a perfect area for highrises. A 130 foot building sounds nice...or how about a 200 or 300 foot building? That would be even better. It's honestly ridiculous that the western SOMA plan would limit heights in this area to just 55 feet. SF is not a quaint little village, it's a major city that has no room to expand outwards, only upwards and through infill...and It's not like western SOMA is some wonderland of historic architecture that would have it's character be ruined if some highrises were built there.

Posted by: cbf at January 23, 2013 12:34 PM

@ cbf-- Depends upon what part(s) of western soma you have in mind. Ever put shoes to the sidewalk and walked the alleys and residential enclaves of west soma? I happen to have lived in one for the last decade. Very fine grain with mix of residential and commercial land use with 45 foot heights. Yet the city in its wisdom plopped 400 foot towers a mere 35 feet from these enclaves without so much of a peep in the M and O EIR.

Posted by: west soma at January 23, 2013 12:56 PM

CBF, not everyone wants your vision of San Francisco with tall high rises.

San Francisco is our quaint little village, with a small town neighborhood feeling. I do not want it to become Manhattan West.

As West SOMA attests, their are residential communities in the area.

Seattle, Boston, Paris, and London have managed nicely without height requirements.

Posted by: Jackson at January 23, 2013 1:12 PM

San Francisco is not your quaint little village... Your personal opinions of what this city represents or limitations should be, can very easily poisoning the small amount of growing infrastructural progress this city has worked so hard to retain.

Don't get me wrong... I have no quarrel with SF being smaller and "shorter" nor do I care for the entire downtown to be littered with high rises just for the sake of doing so... but if the city and developers (as well as residents :\) find it sensible to add height to the urban core, I think it should be allowed without subjective opinions and imagined nostalgia getting in the way.

Posted by: Rob at January 23, 2013 3:15 PM

Some of us actually live in San Francisco and really don't mind "Manhattanization." I love the idea that I can live in urban SoMa and walk to places like Hayes Valley. Or enjoy the tall structures of Rincon Hill. It's not an either/or proposition.

Posted by: frog at January 23, 2013 11:40 PM

"CBF, not everyone wants your vision of San Francisco with tall high rises.

San Francisco is our quaint little village, with a small town neighborhood feeling. I do not want it to become Manhattan West.

As West SOMA attests, their are residential communities in the area.

Seattle, Boston, Paris, and London have managed nicely without height requirements." -Jackson

Plenty of people do share my vision though. And I don't want highrises everywhere, in case you were wondering, but SOMA is one place where they would fit in nicely and could be built without destroying historic buildings or existing homes.

As for SF being a "quaint little village" with a "small town neighborhood feeling", I could not disagree more. I have lived in SF my entire life, and it has always felt like a major city to me. Because that's what it is. SF is NOT a village or small town, and I've never felt like I was in a village or small town. SF is the second densest large US city after NYC, has over 800k residents (and a daytime population of over 1 million due to commuters/tourists), a metro region of over 7 million, and hundreds of highrises already (over 400 in fact). If that's not a big city, than I don't know what it is.

As for Paris, London, Boston, Seattle, etc....you do realize they have tons of highrises too and are building more as we speak, right?

And when it comes to the residential areas of western SOMA, it's not like building a few highrises over there is going to destroy them. There are plenty of empty lots and old warehouses and such that could be demolished to make way for some highrises (and much needed housing, which is the real issue here), without really impacting existing residential areas at all. I'm not saying we should tear down existing housing, but we should add to it.

Posted by: cbf at January 24, 2013 9:30 AM

hopefully this will be no less than 8 floors

Posted by: spencer at January 24, 2013 5:23 PM

A city is a living thing. If you don't let it grow it will die. Think of old-growth trees - they have been known to reach 400 feet growing over the centuries. The tallest redwood is 379 feet.

Anyhow, there's nothing wrong or character-destroying with allowing tall buildings. They are a sign of human ingenuity and creativity and would fit perfectly in any part of SOMA. My heart will be happy the more I see of them in that part of town.

Posted by: Anton at January 27, 2013 10:49 PM

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