San Francisco Downtown Zone

Having emerged from “growing public awareness during the 1970’s that development threatened the essential character of downtown San Francisco,” San Francisco’s adopted Downtown Plan states that, “without sufficient and appropriate housing to serve new commercial development, local housing costs would increase, thereby compromising the vitality of downtown.”

The Plan’s vision is to create a vibrant district known the world over as a center of ideas, services, and trade, and as a place rich in human experience – characteristics that are true of all great cities. The essential components of such places are a compact mix of activities, historical values, distinctive architecture, and urban form that engenders the special excitement of a world city. To achieve this vision, the Plan’s objectives and policies guide land use decisions to create the physical form and pattern of a livable, compact, and pedestrian-oriented downtown.

And when San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors approved the Downtown Plan in 1985, the Board also required that the Planning Department prepare periodical monitoring reports to track the plan’s performance and make adjustments if required.

According to the Planning Department’s latest monitoring report, of the 50,000 units of housing in San Francisco’s development pipeline, nearly 9,000 (17 percent) are slated to be built within San Francisco’s Greater Downtown with 29% of those units under construction and 27% having already been approved or issued a building permit.

And while the vitality of downtown doesn’t seem to have been compromised, but local housing costs have increased, we’ll let you decide if the number of units in the pipeline is “sufficient and appropriate” and if the plan’s vision is being realized.

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Comments from “Plugged-In” Readers

  1. Posted by BTinSF

    LMAO!! What other comment could be appropriate?

  2. Posted by Bay Guy

    Hello again BTinSF… I miss you on another web site… Once again, I agree with you. If the nimbys’ don’t like it, then the “electorate” must be ready to accept high-rise towers for housing.

  3. Posted by daniel

    Is the city better or worse than 40 years ago? Overall I’d say worse …for those of you that were around, alive and aware 40 years ago…

    • Posted by Sierrajeff

      I can’t speak to 40 years ago, but I can speak to 25+ when SoMa was full of parking lots and abandoned warehouses (locating SFMOMA south of Howard was a gutsy decision to many), a double-decker freeway cut off the (empty) Ferry Building and waterfront from residents, and neighborhoods like Hayes Valley, Potrero, Noe and even Castro were full of rundown buildings. Today the City generally, and downtown specifically, is a sparkling gem light-years ahead of where it was just a generation ago.

      • Posted by Mark

        Sparkling gem? LOL

        • Posted by Thomas

          That’s okay, you probably wouldn’t understand anyway if you’ve lived your whole life in your luxury gated community and drove in your brand new SUV on all the highways everyday. No one back then would think about what went on in the city because everyone lived in the heavenly suburbs.

          It’s not that way anymore, though, and I’m glad people (for the most part) understand that cities are better off now than they were decades ago.

  4. Posted by Zugamenzi Farnsworth

    The interpretation of the Downtown Plan has created a new layer of corporate dwellings/wealth/idle wealth: the likes of which the town has never seen. Some of the new structures are very attractive, and the Trans-bay Tower/Center promise a certain sexy grandiosity (presuming the rooftop park gets funded), but when push comes to shove, the downtown is really not utopian. Rather inner-city vertical suburbs have been overlaid on an essentially infrastructure-free grid.

    • Posted by woods_kw

      SFMOMA isn’t south of Howard…its south of Mission…just saying.

  5. Posted by Joseph A

    I think that the biggest challenge to the downtown is the stance to preserve low income, and retirement housing within its core.
    The restrictions placed on development, and the absurd levels of subsidized housing are the key factors preventing parts of San Francisco from flourishing ,
    If San Francisco really wanted to shine it should allow the phasing out of SRO’s , and reduce its affordable housing mandate to 10%.

  6. Posted by Conifer

    The problem is that the supervisors have committed the city, especially the Tenderloin, to the role of place of last resort for the homeless, mentally ill, and substance abusers. This brings prostitution, drug dealing and other crime, including violent crime.

    People who should be patients in hospitals instead come here from literally all over the country, knowing that the services here are abundant, in one area, in easy walking distance. We also have very good weather.

    The gentrification of the Tenderloin will only happen when the City, especially its so-called “progressive” faction, recognizes that the current system is irrational. It is truly tragic.

    No one reading socketsite today is going to live long enough to witness it.

  7. Posted by Zugamenzia Farnsworth

    Urban designers around the time of the downtown plan looked to places like Paulo Soleri’s Arcosanti and Italian hill towns, where vertical zoning had created, or promised to create, rich, vital neighborhoods, with retail on the street, offices atop that, and housing on top of that (that is the urban model in vogue at the time of the downtown plan). Many had studied people in urban settings and determined this sort of mixed use led to the greatest degree of desirable social interaction and urban contentedness. And, it held the promise of less dependence on transportation systems and cars. If one can walk a few blocks to work a lot of problems are solved in advance. But for whatever reasons, the interpretation of the downtown plan created monoliths with a Quizino here, a Starbucks there. The back of AMC 1000 is a perfect example. The developers didn’t even want to include anything like a token sandwich shop along Polk. The only reason it’s there is because then supervisor Sue Bierman went to bat with the developers and insisted AMC somehow acknowledge Polks Street with their giant peach-toned box of an edifice. Now they’re filling in Van Ness and Market with the same kind of crap. I say the planning department needs to go back to the drawing board.

  8. Posted by Cliff

    Amen to that!

  9. Posted by Sammy

    I moved here 35 years ago and the City was physically dirtier and more depressed than it is now, not to mention that its mood was ravaged by the AIDS epidemic. The glitter of the 80’s seemed to have sidestepped SF. Downtown and SOMA, where I live, are definitely livelier and a bit cleaner now. I agree that the heavy low income housing requirements will continue to depress the City and particularly drive out what little is left of the middle class. Bring on the techies and let them do their thing.

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