January 2, 2014

Short-Sited Plans For Mission Street Between Seventh And Tenth?

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The south side of Mission Street between 7th and 10th Streets was "orphaned" by recent planning efforts in the area, slipping between the cracks of the Mid-Market, Market and Octavia, and Western SoMa plans.

As proposed and sponsored by Supervisor Kim, the parcels on the south side of Mission Street between 7th and 9th Streets will be absorbed into the East SoMa Plan while those to west of 9th Street will be adopted by the Market and Octavia Plan.

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Despite the fact that San Francisco is currently facing a housing and office space crunch, for the most part the parcels will remained zoned for buildings of no more than 65 feet in height along one of San Francisco's busiest corridors with easy access to public transportation, flat streets for bicycling, and which is adjacent to the City's booming Mid-Market hub.

First Published: January 2, 2014 3:30 PM

Comments from "Plugged In" Readers

This proposal seems gerrymandered. Wouldn't it be more appropriate for these parcels to be absorbed by the Western SOMA plan? And funny that it still leaves one "tooth" missing in the face of Market just south of 9th.

Posted by: The Milkshake of Despair at January 2, 2014 4:13 PM

These low height limits should be a crime. Literally right on top of the Civic Center station. These parcels should be zoned for heights 20x this high!

This reminds me of the article this week in the Examiner about the Sierra Club's proposed legislation for the waterfront. The life of a city involves continual growth and progress. Absurdly low zoning limits for existing developed sites don't reduce displacement, they don't combat sprawl, they don't help the environment--they cause all of these things--but they do help the NIMBY agenda.

Posted by: extra at January 2, 2014 4:48 PM

65 feet? What is this, downtown San Jose? San Francisco is meant to be a city, not a picturesque fishing village.

Posted by: Gary at January 2, 2014 4:56 PM

^^^ Even downtown SJ has higher limits. 150' I think. SJ would go even higher if it weren't that flights approaching SJC fly right over downtown.

Posted by: The Milkshake of Despair at January 2, 2014 5:13 PM

Completely ridiculous. This is one of the few parts of the city where highrises make perfect sense, and where by building them we can make the biggest dent possible in meeting the demand for housing supply, and without ruining neighborhood character, or demolishing tons of historic buildings...and they want to cap height limits at 65 feet? This is the middle of downtown SF, on one of the most transit-rich corridors in the nation, not some small town.

Posted by: cfb at January 2, 2014 5:26 PM

There needs to be a serious effort to amend these limits on transit-rich, central downtown blocks. Does anyone know how to get the ball rolling to raise the heigh limits here? There must be a way.

Posted by: OMN at January 2, 2014 5:31 PM

This is beyond ridiculous, and tremendously short-sighted. I would even venture to say embarrassing. Even boosting it to accommodate 10-15 story buildings, like what is taking place in Mid-Market, would be better than the height limits here. Only SF would be given the goldmine of such a transit rich, convenient, flat mostly untouched expanse of space and get it wrong.

What is happening in Mid-Market, Transbay, and Rincon Hill is surprisingly good, from the architecture to the vision to the height zoning. I guess it's too much to expect that all developing areas of SF would be going well...

Posted by: JWS at January 2, 2014 5:37 PM

@MoD 4:13p: I agree that I don't understand why the south side of Mission wasn't just absorbed into the Western SOMA plan, but I think I can explain the two 'missing teeth' (there is another one on the SW corner of 10th): I believe both parcels are already under construction, and their height fate sealed.

Posted by: timbad at January 2, 2014 9:43 PM

Chill out people. This is just a minor zoning clean-up, and was never intended to deal with height limits. You'll need to find a half million $ and sitin your hands for a couple years for environmental review if that is to be undertaken. Nothing says these can't have their heights increased at a later date. And some if these parcels are zoned for 130', so its not all 65. The good thing is that this rezoning removes the restrictions from the old zoning for high density housing and jobs.

Posted by: intheknow at January 2, 2014 10:49 PM

And what of the parcels on the north side of Mission St? Does it EVER make sense to have a planning district end in the middle of a street? Why would you want different controls in effect on one side of the street than the other?

It seems to me that the additions to the Market Octavia and Western SOMA plan areas should encompass both sides of Mission Street.

Posted by: Dubocian at January 2, 2014 11:34 PM

Ugh. Jane Kim. Say no more.

Posted by: OP at January 3, 2014 8:10 AM

Not even ridiculous. It's an abomination. It shows that leadership, political, business, and otherwise, has zero understanding of the need to build about 5K units per year indefinitely (see SPUR).

Whatever shred of hope I had for SF to build even a decent fraction of that over the next 10 years, **after** the current backlog is cleared, is gone.

Posted by: Frank C. at January 3, 2014 8:34 AM

There are aready towers across the street over 250'. Is this like the 555 and 8 Washington where we are supposed to pretend there aren't soaring towers right next door in order to preserve "neighborhood charm?"

Posted by: sf at January 3, 2014 8:49 AM

what can we do to impact the "under-zoning" along market and western SOMA and other transit-rich corridors? How can we get involved and enact positive change?

Posted by: previousSFresident at January 3, 2014 9:06 AM

I agree with intheknow. I'm all in favor of raising the 65' height limit, but this proposed ordinance is just some minor cleanup legislation that the Planning Department proposed to deal with, among other things, some parcels left out of other recent nearby planning efforts. The proposed ordinance mostly does not change current height limits. In the handful of instances where it changes the height limits, it actually raises them. Jane Kim is the sponsor simply because this is in her district, not because of some malevolent plot to keep density low.

Posted by: cp at January 3, 2014 9:54 AM

All the people on Socketsite who are clamoring for bigger, taller buildings should remember that those buildings need to be financed. The larger the project, the greater the financing need, whether it is a bank loan or private equity. I suggest that perhaps one of the reasons that buildings aren't being built taller is because the financing isn't there.

Back in the lead-up to the financial crisis of 2008, commercial real estate loans were the crack cocaine that fueled the downfall of many a community bank. Understandably, banks reduced the CRE loans on their books to placate bank regulators. Only now are we beginning to see an uptick in CRE lending.

Posted by: Patrick at January 3, 2014 10:31 AM

"I suggest that perhaps one of the reasons that buildings aren't being built taller is because the financing isn't there."

I don't understand your point as we are talking about proposed zoning not proposed buildings that are smaller than allowed by zoning.

Posted by: Zig at January 3, 2014 11:13 AM

@Patrick, then there's no reason whatsoever to oppose taller zoning. If the financing isn't there, developers will just build shorter than the allowed height.

I haven't seen a whole lot of buildings being proposed shorter than allowed heights, so I don't really buy your premise anyway.

Posted by: anon at January 3, 2014 11:32 AM

@Patrick, as a professional in the construction industry, I completely disagree that "the financing isn't there" for larger projects. And I agree with anon's point that even if financing wasn't available, developers would just build smaller buildings. What you are saying, besides not being true, is certainly not an argument against rezoning to increase allowable building heights.

Posted by: apropos at January 3, 2014 12:16 PM

Zoning has nothing to do with financing. If the zoning is for, say, 150 feet, and developers can only build 60 feet because of financing, cool. But as you can see from many proposals in the area (some literally across the street on Mission), 10-15 stories seems fairly commonplace. Regardless, zoning is for what is smart for the city's health, growth, and vitality. If it makes sense to build taller (and here, I'm sorry, but it really does) then you plan for that. If builders/developers cannot get the finances to meet the height maximums, easy, they just build lower. A loss, but understandable. But we need the density, this area is woefully underbuilt, there are no Victorians or heralded commercial corridors to worry about "ruining", the transit is there, buildings a block away of 10-15 stories pencil out easily, this should be a no brainer.

Posted by: JWS at January 3, 2014 12:16 PM

I understand that this article was about a particular zoning issue on Mission Street, however my comment was not so much directed at this article per se, but at the usual barrage of Socketsite commenters who always seem to want a forest of supertalls on every block. My apologies if that was confusing, since my comment wasn't really apropos the topic.

It was more of a musing on what extent the availabilty of financing affects the height of buildings that get built. I'm all for density, but if a project doesn't pencil out, it's not going to happen.

Posted by: Patrick at January 3, 2014 2:56 PM

^Sure, and we understand that. I just don't want zoning to be the reason that we're not seeing density - and that has OVERWHELMINGLY been the case for the past 50+ years.

I can only think of maybe 10 major projects that have been built smaller than the allowed envelope in the past 15 years that I've lived here, so I don't really buy the argument that financing is the real reason for any lack of height. Nearly all buildings built over the past five decades have had their height determined by the city, not by lack of financing. Now...perhaps if height limits were much higher or non-existent we would see financing become the limiting factor, but wow is that not the case now.

Posted by: anon at January 3, 2014 3:15 PM

Wow is "transit rich" overused these days or what? Especially in a town like ours that has such POOR EFFING TRANSIT.

Happy New Year everybody.

Posted by: Stucco_Sux at January 3, 2014 3:55 PM

Best to consider "transit rich" a relative term since there's only one city in the USA that is truly competes internationally as a model for good transit (and that city isn't SF :-)

Posted by: The Milkshake of Despair at January 3, 2014 4:02 PM

Boston or New York or DC?

Posted by: Moto mayhem at January 4, 2014 9:30 AM

^Seriously?

Boston and DC have atrocious transit compared to the rest of the developed world. Better than SF, sure, but still terrible.

Only New York has transit that would be considered decent in Europe or Asia.

Posted by: anon at January 4, 2014 10:16 AM

I still miss the express "L" subway trains I would take home from Northwestern University to my condo in downtown Chicago when I was a grad student. Instead of 32 stops, the train only made three stops before arriving at the downtown area. My problem with BART is there are no additional tracks available to accommodate express trains like NYC and Chicago have. As for Caltrain, sigh, the METRA I would sometimes use usually had trains arrive every 3 to 5 minutes during rush hours. I do not miss the weather, but I do miss the "transit rich" infrastructure of Chicago.

Posted by: anonTOO at January 4, 2014 10:27 AM

"Does anyone know how to get the ball rolling to raise the height limits here?"

Sure. Contact your supervisor and the Mayor's office. If they don't get back to you, vote them out.

Posted by: SFRealist at January 4, 2014 12:54 PM

thanks for the facts, intheknow, per above.

as usual, neither SS nor its gaggle of commenters bother to check technical constraints first before ranting.

Posted by: AlfieJr at January 4, 2014 3:24 PM

Taller, taller, taller.
More 3 BR units to house families.
My mantra, I know.
Can you hear me, Mr. Lee?

Posted by: james jr at January 6, 2014 9:35 AM

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