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San Francisco’s Planning Department authorized the theoretical conversion of the gas station parcel on northeast corner of Howard and 9th Street to “other uses” seventeen years ago, despite the lack of a proposed alternate use at the time.

Currently zoned for development up to 55 feet in height, a real proposal to raze the Chevron, Burger King and Starbucks on the corner parcel and construct of a mixed-use development with around 120 condo-mapped residential units and 13,000 square feet of commercial space on the site has been submitted to the Planning Department for review.

As part of the proposed project, a mid-block pedestrian alley connecting Howard and Natoma Streets would be constructed. And in terms of timing, keep in mind that Chevron’s current lease runs for another five years.

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Comments from “Plugged-In” Readers

  1. Posted by d-b

    While the most profitable use of this property is something other than a gas station we are running out of high volume reasonably priced stations in SOMA. There is another large Chevron outlet at 6th & Harrison. Both of these stations are very busy.

  2. Posted by The Milkshake of Despair

    Every time a gas station is converted to other uses, someone bemoans the increasing scarcity of places to refuel. I don’t quite understand why that’s such a big issue in a city so small you could criss cross it 40 times on a single tank of gas. Refueling should be a rare event unless you’re commuting outside of the city every day.

  3. Posted by lol

    We do need enough gas stations in the city, otherwise we’re just going to add to unnecessary traffic and pollution.
    If you have to drive 7 or 8 miles to a cheaper gas station, the math is a wash: the 5% you might save are eaten up by the 15 miles you just drove. But if there’s no real other choice this will become more a staple of living in SF: drive to Colma or Daly to fill up and hop by the big boxes for groceries, clothing, hardware.
    Oddly enough it is one of those cases where less (gas stations) is more (traffic). You just can’t force people out of their cars.
    Maybe at some point in the future the city will have to mandate a 1-to-1 replacement either offsite or onsite.

  4. Posted by Invented

    In as dense a city as SF, gas refueling should be incorporated into other developments –parking lots. See Europe; think Target parking lot, Stonestown, Mission Bay parking lots and on and on. Gas stations don’t need to be freestanding single-use buildings occupying prime real estate all over town.
    LOVE the Howard to Natoma alley. SOMA’s future livability is increasingly all about its amazing network of small streets. Think Linden alley but 100 times over. Need Planning’s direction and vision. As development opportunities arise, connecting the alleys to the main SOMA streets is a good beginning.

  5. Posted by gribble

    I have at least four gas stations between where I work and where I live in San Francisco – about 2.5 miles. That is without going more than one block in any direction out of my way.
    I also have the Potrero Shopping center/Costco/Trader Joe’s/Whole Foods within that same corridor.
    With the increased number of gas efficient cars, hybrids, electric vehicles on the street I don’t really see a problem with losing gas stations in the city. I rarely have to wait for one car ahead of me when gassing up. I also fill up my car about every six weeks despite it being over ten years old at this point. Driving to save maybe a dollar r two on a tank isn’t worth my time or stress so I have no problem paying at even the most expensive gas station.
    Let’s lose some more gas stations and put up nice big condos along transportation corridors and closer to where people work downtown.

  6. Posted by West SOMA Alley Plan

    Alleys of Western SOMA are already part of the approved plan for the area. I live on a inter block alley and the neighbors have tried to plant trees, shrubs, keep the place halfway clean. Nice asset to the area and great for taking walking and biking short cuts. However, as the residential highrises flood Mission and south van ness these alleys will tend to serve auto seeking the same short cuts to avoid traffic.

  7. Posted by hmmm

    d-b wrote: “we are running out of high volume reasonably priced stations in SOMA”
    If we actually paid a reasonable price for gas, it might actually be profitable to run a gas station and they wouldn’t be replaced. As it is, we pay extremely little for gas and the station owners (who are often independent franchisees of the name brand)really only make money on the concessions in the mini-mart and other mark-up items, like car washes and repairs.
    I fill up so little because I don’t use my car that much, that frankly, I don’t really even look at the price I’m paying. It’s so absurdly low that 10 cents extra per gallon once a month is not worth the time to search around the nooks and crannies of the city for cheaper gas. In fact, most people who obsess over the price of gas routinely do not calculate the cost in gas and time it takes to get them to whatever far flung cheaper gas station they find, especially their time. I get a chuckle every time I see someone sitting in $30K car in a long queue for 15 minutes (say, at the Fell St Arco) just to save at most $1.50 in gas. That person’s time is worth $6/hour? To value your time at least at the minimum wage ($10.25/hr), if you had to wait 15 minutes in line to pump 12 gallons of gas you’d have to save at least 22 cents/gallon in order to earn at least the minimum wage on your time. The possibility of finding a gas station that is $0.22/gallon cheaper than the next closest station is next to nil, and that assumes these wildly divergently-priced gas stations are next door neighbors and there is no cost in time or gas to choosing one over the other. If you actually had to go out of your way (likely) the cost per gallon you’d have to save would skyrocket. Plus it also assumes you innately knew where the cheaper gas was and you didn’t have to research it (plausible). And if you value your time at more than minimum wage (likely), it would also skyrocket.
    The formula is this: 60/(minutes you wait in line + minutes you went out of your way to get there + minutes you spent researching where to find cheaper gas) * (gallons you pump*$ per gallon saved) – ($ per gallon saved * distance you drove out of your way to get there/mpg of your car) = the value of your time.
    So, to be very generous and conservative and take someone who doesn’t make a ton, if you valued your time at $25/hr (ie $50K/yr, well below median income) and your car gets a respectable 30 mpg and you had to spend 5 minutes and 1 mile going out of your way (no traffic – ha!) to a place you already knew had cheaper gas to wait for 5 minutes in line to fill up 12 gallons, you would need to save $.35/gallon to be worth your time. Good luck with that.
    It’s true that people can’t just monetize their time because their jobs have limited hours or fixed salaries that they can’t earn more by spending more time doing it, so saving $1.50 when all they have to expend is their time is meaningful to them. So for people truly living hand to mouth, it may make sense. But for anybody else, it doesn’t say much about your life that you’re willing to spend any your limited hours on earth and your leisure time you could spend with family, friends or hobbies, sitting in line at a gas station and hunting the land for cheaper gas when all you’d have to do to recoup that money is bring your lunch to work one day a week instead of buying a sandwich at a cafe or even McDonald’s.
    People are free to value their time and make the tradeoffs in life that make them happy, but it’s absurd to influence any sort of public policy by this irrationality.

  8. Posted by Jim

    Ever been to Manhattan? Many gas stations are on the ground floor/parking garage level of taller buildings. Since the ground level parking level is concrete in any case, there shouldn’t be any fire hazard issues. Free standing gas stations are a terrible waste of space, as well as a visual blight, in a city.

  9. Posted by lol

    Interesting math, hmmm
    1 – Check out GasBuddy.com. They have been around a while online and they have a very practical APP with connections to Maps/GPS directions. That will save you the “search” part and optimize your distance.
    2 – Time is more precious than anything else. I totally agree. There’s also the reality that we live in a consumer society where we need to be active players in the supply vs demand game. If you keep rewarding the most expensive options things start getting really expensive. Thankfully for us, not caring about what we pay is not the norm but the exception and there are heaps of people who are keeping prices on check.

  10. Posted by Sierrajeff

    Agree with the idea of integrating gas stations with other uses – I remember seeing a petrol station in London that was essentially the first floor of a residential complex. In fact in lieu of a canopy, the pumps were under a bump-out of the building (like a pedestrian plaza might be). But does our code allow that here?

  11. Posted by Build

    Doesn’t anyone else think that this space could go a lot higher than 55 feet? This is 9th and Howard we are talking about, there arent even any residential buildings on this corner. This should be zoned for at least 100′, which is a good 8 stories.

  12. Posted by anon

    ^Yes, definitely. This proposal is a criminal level of underbuilding.

  13. Posted by woolie

    Sure, build it taller, but even a standard sixer midrise would be better than a gas station. If we need stations, integrate them with other uses. SF doesn’t need to constantly reinvent the wheel. Surprise, it isn’t the only dense city in the world.

  14. Posted by Gary Keim

    Yes, there is residential, in the alley directly behind the station.

  15. Posted by Brad

    They should have built on the empty lot across the street. That Chevron is very useful.

  16. Posted by WH

    Great to see something getting built here. It will be great for the local businesses and overall neighborhood to see some night time activity here. And while I would welcome additional density with open arms, we all know what happened to 8 Washington when they went for a height exception…

  17. Posted by Sierrajeff

    Getting a little tired of the reflexive “it should be higher” response. Yes, there are areas that should be high, or higher – from Rincon Hill to and including the FiDi come to mind.
    But there’s something to be said for building to scale and neighborhood – a 6-story plopped among 2- and 3- stories is a lot less jarring (and, frankly, more welcoming) than a gargantua tower that overwhelms its surroundings.
    And more generally, while there’s a place for high-and-mighty (see above), IMHO most of the great, vibrant neighborhoods of the world – from Piccadilly and Kensington to the Marais, to Greenwich Village or Georgetown, all are neighborhoods generally built on a scale of 4 to 7 stories. This provides more than adequate density for vibrant sidewalks and streetscapes, while not overwhelming the individual.

  18. Posted by lol

    7 floors / 83 feet is the standard in central Paris and even higher in some area. Yet try and sell that to San Francisco and they’ll yell “Manhattanization!”
    By the way, is anyone else gasping in disbelief at the “Shard” in London?

  19. Posted by Invented

    7-10 floors in the least. We need to stop reconstructing a SF that was the same height 100 years ago. Or, stop talking about a housing crunch. Punctuating select neighborhoods with more commanding buildings is a good thing — just look at the beautiful 7-15 story buildings which grace our nicest parks — Alamo Sq, Buena Vista, GGP, Lafayette and on and on. We need the additional accommodation and critical mass. It’s the one-sizeness which is numbing here– even the Transbay area — a bunch of 40 residential stories will soon cancel each other out when done. Variety.
    Anyone home in Planning?

  20. Posted by Joseph A

    I normally advocate building of housing , BUT , I like have the gas station and car wash at this location , its not the end of my world but will be sad when this goes

  21. Posted by anon

    Why the hyperbole, Sierrajeff? 80′ is not a “gargantuan tower that overwhelms the surroundings”. 100′ isn’t either. 65′ isn’t either. But…all of those are MUCH, MUCH, MUCH more appropriate than 55′.

  22. Posted by the wolf

    should be at least 8 floors and have a gas station in the bottom.
    Where are all the homeless window washers going to go if this gas station goes away?

  23. Posted by Alai

    IMHO most of the great, vibrant neighborhoods of the world – from Piccadilly and Kensington to the Marais, to Greenwich Village or Georgetown, all are neighborhoods generally built on a scale of 4 to 7 stories. This provides more than adequate density for vibrant sidewalks and streetscapes, while not overwhelming the individual.
    While I totally agree with this, there is another aspect: these neighborhoods have an average street width that is much smaller than that in SOMA. The typical street in Greenwich Village has a single lane of traffic. Picadilly Street is one of the widest in London, and is still significantly narrower than most SOMA streets– while the other streets in the neighborhood are much narrower still. Same with Kensington– a single main street, still narrower than most SOMA streets– and the a whole lot of streets which are smaller still. Don’t even talk about the Marais.
    We are not about to embark on a massive street-narrowing project, so the idea that we can replicate these neighborhoods– great as they are– is a non-starter.

  24. Posted by Futurist

    No, I’m not “gasping” at The Shard in London. It’s a pretty cool building.
    Why are you gasping lol?

  25. Posted by lol

    The shard is breathtaking, but in a bad way.
    Maybe I should have worded it differently. Gag, probably. Or belch. No wonder Dr Who has used it as the headquarters of The Great Intelligence.
    An ugly building only a mother (or architect) would love.

  26. Posted by anon94123

    The Shard is an expensive piece of vulgarity now commonly known around London as “Satan’s c#ck”.
    I am in agreement with Alai, most of my favorite neighborhoods have structures between 4 and 7 stories. As a friend of mine said regarding a visit to the observation deck at the top of The Shard, “the best thing about the view from the top of the shard is you do not have to look at it.”

  27. Posted by Ben Judah

    But London has changed. And the Shard — the Qatari-owned, 72-floor skyscraper above the grotty Southwark riverside — is a symbol of that change.
    The Shard encapsulates the new hierarchy of the city. On the top floors, “ultra high net worth individuals” entertain escorts in luxury apartments. By day, on floors below, investment bankers trade incomprehensible derivatives.
    Come nightfall, the elevators are full of African cleaners, paid next to nothing and treated as nonexistent. The acres of glass windows are scrubbed by Polish laborers, who sleep four to a room in bedsit slums. And near the Shard are the immigrants from Lithuania and Romania, who broke their backs on construction sites, but are now destitute and whiling away their hours along the banks of the Thames.
    The Shard is London, a symbol of a city where oligarchs are celebrated and migrants are exploited but that pretends to be a multicultural utopia. Here, in their capital city, the English are no longer the ones calling the shots. They are hirelings.

  28. Posted by Jimmy The House Flipper

    I looked up the Shard and it is an awesome piece of architecture, standing there in stark contrast to everything around it, with those spires on top that remind me of Barad-dûr.

  29. Posted by person x

    This gas station is a danger zone. The Burger King and spacious layout attract all sorts of undesirables. Cracked out zombies laying under the pay window, crazy angry people demanding to clean your windshield. It should be avoided at all times of day or night. There’s a far superior Shell Station at 8th and Harrison with clean station, EXCELLENT service staff and a much better stocked quick mart.

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