June 6, 2013
The Brewing 8 Washington Street Ballot Measure Battle Simplified
Once again, the approved 8 Washington Street project would raze the existing Golden Gateway Tennis and Swim Club and adjacent Port of San Francisco owned parking lot and construct a 165-unit condo building rising up to 136 feet in height upon the site.
The development would also yield new retail, a fitness facility with outdoor pools, and 30,000 square feet of public open space, playground, and park (click images to enlarge).
While not labeled on "Open up the Waterfront's" schematic for the proposed 8 Washington Street project above, the new recreation center and pools would remain private as would the green space between the proposed condominium buildings ("Housing").
Originally zoned for buildings up to 84 feet in height, a portion of the 8 Washington Street parcel was upzoned to 136 feet to accommodate the development, the basis for the brewing 8 Washington Street ballot measure battle.
Simplified, the "No Wall on The Waterfront" ballot measure would overturn the upzoning for the parcel whiles the proposed "Open up The Waterfront" ballot measure would maintain the increase in height and allow the project to move forward as approved. And while a few people found our presentation of the two competing measures earlier this week a bit confusing, that was part of the point.
First Published: June 6, 2013 12:00 PM
Comments from "Plugged In" Readers
Can't wait for the TV commercials for those competing ballot measures. Wouldn't it be great if the couple who's bankrolling the "no wall" effort would mortgage their precious view condo to finance the campaign and then lose it all?
Posted by: formidable doer of the nasty at June 6, 2013 12:20 PM
The developers claim "open membership" to the pool and tennis courts. Does anyone know what exactly is meant by that?
Obviously worded to suggest that anyone can use them, but I'm wondering how it would differ from the existing space.
Posted by: wc1 at June 6, 2013 12:40 PM
It's spin. The current club is "open membership" to anybody who can afford it. The new club would be the same.
Posted by: Michael at June 6, 2013 12:50 PM
Who can be against this? Its a frikken tennis club and parking lot being turned into a public park, with retail space and housing. Plus, tennis will still be featured! The project is in a perfect location next to the Embarcadero. People are crazy if they prefer what exists to what can be.
Posted by: I <3 SF at June 6, 2013 12:58 PM
I've finally looked at the pictures. I'd go on the record to say I love it! It is a model project, those parks and amenities will be a great addition to this high profile location.
This completely put Hotel Vitale into shame. How do we end up this blocky building without even a identifiable front door?
Posted by: Wai Yip Tung at June 6, 2013 1:01 PM
"open membership" = $$$$$ --- to join you must meet certain non-discriminatory conditions..... but if you can't afford it you simply will not be allowed to join.
Posted by: matteo at June 6, 2013 1:03 PM
The "No Wall On The Waterfront" people always display photos without the monstrosity of The Gateway tower behind the 8 Washington project.
When included, the sponsor's project is in scale for the location.
The above photos show the project to be a great improvement over the current situation.
It's going to be an interesting battle at the ballot box.
Posted by: Jackson at June 6, 2013 1:42 PM
There's some bias built into the graphics (from dark gray tennis courts to a bright white "housing" building) but these plans do look good. Now they just need to render before & after shots of the view from Jackson to show how absurd the "no wall" argument is.
Posted by: James at June 6, 2013 2:10 PM
The issue isn't whether it's a good project or not. I think most people find it favorable. The real issue is whether the developer should be given special treatment to construct a building 52 feet higher than zoning allows. That's an increase of 62 percent. I think it sets a bad precedent.
It's interesting to note that the Golden Gateway condominiums are low rise. That parcel was developed about 20 years after the adjacent highrises. The reason was, the soil in that particular location could not support the concentrated load of another highrise. Much of that area is landfill. The property remained vacant until architects Fisher-Friedman came along and devised a way to get the desired density on the parcel without a highrise.
Posted by: inmycountry at June 6, 2013 3:41 PM
The developer designed and intended to build a compliant 84' project. The neighbors insisted that the Planning Department conduct a neighborhood planning study. The result of that study was that the City determined that the buildings step up to the rear and down in the front - precisely what this project now is.
Posted by: Jim at June 6, 2013 4:10 PM
InMyCountry: The real issue is whether the developer should be given special treatment to construct a building 52 feet higher than zoning allows. That's an increase of 62 percent. I think it sets a bad precedent.
You mean developer's "special treatment" like the proposed Warriors stadium in the Bay?
Or, the special legislation at Mayor Lee's request to overrule the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission?
Precedent is only used for those without the money for campaign donations.
Posted by: Jackson at June 6, 2013 4:19 PM
Funny that the park space is touted since it is in fact so tiny and I bet will be barely used - just look at Sue Bierman Park north of Embarcadero 4 or the park north of Embarcadero 3 for a usage proxy.
The park on the north end of the 8 Washington parcel is roughly the size of a single tennis court. There is another park that is inbetween the condo towers. That's it! The rest of the parcel will be a very expensive members-only sports club an uber-expensive condominiums.
Posted by: anon at June 6, 2013 4:33 PM
Who can be against this?…The project is in a perfect location next to the Embarcadero. People are crazy if they prefer what exists to what can be.
This is a great example of the fallacy of false dichotomy.
Just because a potential voter thinks that the surface-level sports facilities behind a chain link fence aren't the best use of the land doesn't mean that the only thing that should be allowed at the site in question is the project proposed by Simon Snellgrove and Pacific Waterfront Partners.
Put another way, just because a voter might be against the proposed condo project doesn't mean he or she has some attachment to what is there now or thinks that it should continue as the land use in perpetuity. That's a false dichotomy. That potential voter could be against the current land use as well as against the spot upzoning that the project as proposed incorporates and depends on, regardless of how that upzoning was introduced.
Should the the "No Wall on The Waterfront" ballot measure succeed and the "Open up The Waterfront" ballot measure fail, Snellgrove and Pacific Waterfront Partners would still have the option of coming back to the planning commission with a different proposal that conforms to the existing zoning-determined building height and bulk regulations, so it's not at all a fait accompli that the current fenced-in sports courts and pool will be there forever if the "Open up The Waterfront" ballot measure is voted down.
Similarly, not everyone who supports the "No Wall on The Waterfront" initiative is a member of an incumbent homeowners political pressure group or the couple who may have provided principal funding for the signature gatherers needed to enabled the measure to be put on the ballot.
Posted by: Brahma (incensed renter) at June 6, 2013 4:38 PM
Zoning at the ballot box is an awful idea. Pox on all our houses for this ridiculous situation.
Posted by: Michael E at June 6, 2013 5:35 PM
Rather than battle this out, would all parties agree on reducing the building by one story?
Plan indicates 6 cafes. I assume what that means is a Starbucks,
a Peets, a Boulange, and 2 or 3 restaurants to be named later.
And what does the "green roof" accomplish? Why not move the tennis courts up there? Or, perhaps, a putting green. Or croquet, anyone?
Posted by: jlasf at June 6, 2013 6:07 PM
For better or worse, "green roofs" are a trendy thing in architecture right now; practically every architect wants to have a project get built with one so they can claim sustainability cred.
I'm not an architect, so I'm sure an architect will give you a different opinion about why that (the trendy thing in architecture) is.
Here's my outsider's view. Just because they are trendy, doesn't mean that green roofs don't accomplish anything important, they do.
While I don't really have an opinion about whether or not a green roof is a good idea for this project and/or this location, in general there's a strong case for green roofs in The City, and that's because over and above all the other arguments you'll hear in favor of green roofs (aesthetics, potential for supporting urban farming, lowering "heat island" effects in urban environments that feature large contiguous areas of concrete and/or asphalt, etc.) anywhere, the chief benefit of green roofs here is the contribution to controlling storm water runoff during wet weather. I don't think that's arguable and you don't have to accept the androgenic climate change justification to see the benefit.
From everything I've read, green roofs are just amazingly good at retaining rainfall, and since San Francisco is unusual among large west coast cities because it has a combined sewage and storm water/street runoff system, anything that reduces or decelerates the amount of storm water runoff reaching the city's sewage treatment system is a huge benefit to the environment in general and the condition of beaches in particular. Less water flowing into the system means less water needing treatment and hence less potential for overflowing the city's treatment system.
IIRC about five years ago the San Francisco Building Code was amended to include a chapter on “Green Building Requirements” and encouraging green roofs in new construction was part of that.
The economic question is whether or not the marginal benefit of green roofs is greater than the marginal costs of building and maintaining them. I haven't read anything convincing that addresses that.
Posted by: Brahma (incensed renter) at June 6, 2013 10:34 PM
Thanks Brahma, I had no idea that SF had a unified stormwater and sewage system.
I'm really interested to see how green roofs age. Do they need to be replanted often? Do they leak? On the leakage issue I'm guessing that the main culprit will be incorrectly implemented retrofits where something (a pipe, wire, etc.) needs to be routed up through the roof. That's a common cause of leaks in conventional roofs too.
Posted by: The Milkshake of Despair at June 7, 2013 9:25 AM
@ Brahma. Thanks for the interesting response.
Posted by: jlasf at June 7, 2013 11:46 AM
I cant speak to commercial green roofs but we have one on the top of our house and nowadays you don't need anything special. We used an interlocking tray system which is great if load is a concern. You are limited to plants with a shallow root system, but unless you have a roof deck, the plant esthetics shouldn't matter too much.
I wont link or mention the company we used, but if you search for live roof trays you'll get a number of companies that use similar systems.
Posted by: wc1 at June 7, 2013 12:27 PM
It's funny that the initiative speaks of opening the waterfront, because instead of chain link fences fronting Embarcardero, they will have a building (the low green roofed building that looks taller than a fence). That won't be any more opened up than now.
The only public green space they're adding is perhaps a tennis court length at the pointy part of the parcel. There is already green space at the tip of the point. The illustration ingenuously enlarges the new project's greenspace by pretending the existing green pathway is new green space.
As has been pointed out, the tennis/swim club with its current "open membership" is now going to be replaced with a swim club with "open membership"
And finally, at the moment, if you're on Drumm facing the entrance to the current club, you see a whole bunch of sky above the fences. With the project, you'll be in the shade, looking up at 100+ feet of building.
What it comes down to is that one tennis court's worth of chain link fence will disappear to open up the waterfront. The rest of it will remain as blocked, or even more blocked than it currently is.
It may be a nice project in the abstract, but it certainly is not what they advertise it to be. Opening up the waterfront, my a**.
Posted by: stillawall at June 7, 2013 7:02 PM
One less parking lot. The only people against this are the THD Nimby's who believe that their views are sacred. I hope they get crushed in a landslide.
Posted by: NoeValleyJim at June 9, 2013 8:25 PM
"No new construction across the street from the 2-3 storey tall pier buildings already line the waterfront!!!"
That's the reality, it is shameful, people should lose jobs over this, the THD should be reprimanded, and procedural change needs to be implemented.
Posted by: Truth at June 10, 2013 12:54 AM
Nobody seems to have picked up on the comment that the golden gateway condos are "low rise"
Four towers of greater than 200' are NOT low rise.
Posted by: Joe at August 6, 2013 1:12 PM
Posted by: SocketSite at November 5, 2013 8:20 AM