1699 Market Street: Preliminary Design Concept

Plans to raze the iconic Flax Art & Design store at 1699 Market Street and construct a nine-story building with 160 units of housing, 123 parking spaces, and 4,500 square feet of commercial space along Market Street have taken two steps forward.

An application to commence the environmental evaluation for the development has been submitted to Planning, and the paperwork to secure a building permit for the project has been filed.

In the process of being designed and refined by Solomon Cordwell Buenz, the preliminary design concept for the development calls for the project to finished in stucco with painted metal balcony guardrails, as rendered above, and with two internal courtyards, as drafted below.

1699 Market Street Plans

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Comments from “Plugged-In” Readers

  1. Posted by Serge

    We need more housing, but Flax will definitely be missed.

  2. Posted by steve

    Maybe this needs to happen, but I wish the Travelodge had gone first.

    • Posted by Faceword

      Agreed – I used to live in that McCoppin St. condo building squeezed btw Flax and the Travelodge. The Travelodge guests would throw unpleasant presents (crack vials, feminine hygiene products, etc.) out the hotel room windows onto my unit’s patio. That corner of Market & Valencia should be such a prime location – would be nice if the owners of the Travelodge property put it to better use.

  3. Posted by Luke

    What do we have to do to get a proposal on the ballot to ban stucco?

    • Posted by James

      Start collecting signatures and/or pony up some cash.

  4. Posted by R

    Stucco…is terrible looking. 1600 Market might just have an equally unrefined cousin just down the street.

    It’s sort of unbelievable that planning would allow such a low quality material to be used in this way, on our most central “boulevard”…

    • Posted by Sierrajeff

      Strongly agree – at the risk of invoking Futurist’s fury (I say that in good fun), this would be a particularly bland and boring buidling in any neighborhood, and it’s particularly inappropriate for Market Street. The finishes and quality along Market should be the equivalent of the Wilshire Corridor in Westwood – high end, stylish, gleaming. Not suburban Holiday Inn boring.

      • Posted by Futurist

        Oh! well, you won’t invoke any fury here. I’m all for more expensive and “high end” materials too. would love to see SS panels or Trespa panels instead of stucco. BUT! reality sets in when it comes to budget, and affordability. Developers and owners will expect to make a profit, and they should. In large part that helps determine early on what the basic materials, structural system and amenities will be in the Schematic design phase.

        BTW: there are also buildings along the Wilshire corridor that utilize a painted, structural concrete frame exposed. Not all buildings there are “glam”. And let’s be real: The Wilshire corridor is high end sales and rentals. This part of Market st. is not.

  5. Posted by Joseph A

    I agree the Travel Lode at 1707 Market Street would be a great place to build some 200 + units of housing. can only hope there is interest out there to develop that site.

  6. Posted by Futurist

    Flax isn’t necessarily going away. The owners are supporting this project and are actively looking for a new site for the store.

    As for stucco: stop complaining. It’s a fairly low cost material. You want more housing. Projects have to meet budget criteria to get built, and to keep the sales/rental as reasonable as possible. Stucco is not the end of the world. If I recall, it’s been used in Italy for centuries. What’s the problem?

    • Posted by R

      The problem is it looks like sh!t. It doesn’t hold up well in comparison to other standard use, lower-cost materials. Taste, quality and are not at all factors in building needed housing — it’s why we have a planning department and zoning in the first place.

      • Posted by Jill

        Nothing can look worse than 8 octavia

      • Posted by Futurist

        Ok, name some other materials that are as cost effective or less costly than stucco: keep in mind the need for applying a basic, weather-resistant material to large surfaces on a basic substrate of exterior gypsum and metal stud infill.

        Planning and zoning do not dictate materials. They may make suggestions but they do not dictate.

  7. Posted by Pedestrianist

    Soooo much parking!

  8. Posted by Mike Friedman

    Bland, bland, bland. It won’t offend anyone, but can’t they do better than another apartment building that looks like this? Oh and that blue and orange combo has been used before (to better effect) over in China Basin.

  9. Posted by unlivable city

    I drove across town yesterday at 5 PM for the 1st time in a long time. It was wild. Total chaos. Way too crowded. When are the voters in this town going to (once again) put the kibosh on ruinous development frenzy? I mean whoa, srsly.

    • Posted by Chris

      What kabosh would that be? If you mean Proposition M in 1986, it ended up having little effect because the real estate market crashed shortly afterward, and several projects that were fully entitled to get built even after Proposition M went into effect never went up simply because the demand tanked and the developers could not get construction loans. So, the market put the kabosh on further downtown commercial development, not Proposition M. In fact, it didn’t even become an issue again until almost 14 years later during the first tech boom, and then just as developer’s were lamenting the potential for Prop. M to kick in, the tech market crashed. Again, the market kaboshed itself. Now, this time around Proposition M probably will limit some commercial development, which just makes commercial spaces more expensive, which is why you see not-for-profits and small businesses leaving SF and moving to the East Bay or elsewhere (until those places become too expensive as tech tenants follow and not-for-profits and small business just get pushed entirely out of the Bay Area), and as you tightening supply only the bigger companies with more money can afford to rent.

      So, what current kabosh would you propose? No more new housing? Fine, you will just rapidly speed up the already occuring gentrification, which is now even touching formerly undesirable places like the Bay View and Crocker-Amazon. Tighten supply, and these places will shoot up even higher in value (as property values rise) and evictions will increase (as it becomes more lucrative to either rent at market rate if possible or just Ellis act and turn units in TICs or single-family homes). Then, the people who current lament development will simply help price themselves out of the city and they can move to a small town somewhere and not have to worry about traffic.

    • Posted by seriously

      i drove across any town in the WORLD at 5 o’clock for the 1st time in a long time and IT TOO WAS WILD!! Can you believe that? It’s some strange phenomenon – no one knows what causes this “traffic” at five o’clock. It must be the fault of seals because I hate seals and am reaching for any shred of evidence to support my dislike of seals.

      That is your argument. Think before you type. I mean whoa, srsly.

    • Posted by BTinSF

      Much of the traffic chaos of today is the result of the city’s “transit first policy” and the removal of traffic lanes for everything from miniparks to transit-only and bike lanes combined with an utter failure to enforce laws about double parking and other traffic-obstruction behavior. Many main arteries are typically narrowed down to one lane. I noticed today that the new bus lanes on O’Farrell had created a condition where traffic heading downtown is now backed up from Polk all the way to Van Ness where there used to be only a couple of cars waiting for that light (one less lane).

      • Posted by Faceword

        BTinSF, imagine how much worse the traffic would be if all those people on buses and bicycles were instead using single occupancy cars. If you want traffic chaos to go down, we need more non-car infrastructure, not less – dedicated BRT bus lanes & protected bicycle lanes get people get out of their cars and into alternative transport.

        • Posted by R

          An important (and basic) point the car lovers don’t seem to understand for some reason. Maybe they just don’t want to understand?

          • Posted by zig

            Maybe they have a hard time with the visuospatial? Seems clear to me.

        • Posted by san FronziScheme (formerly known as lol)

          Yeah. A good chunk of drivers have no other choice to go from point A to point B tun by using their cars. But there’s still a number of drivers who will use their cars for personal preference rather than obligation. There’s nothing wrong with this aside from the fact that driving is a subsidized mode of transportation and taxpayers should not pay for someone’s misguided social statement. This is why we must encourage alternative means of transportation which are much cheaper and more responsible. when I pass 100 crawling cars during my bike commute I like to think there’s 1 or 2 in that bunch who doesn’t need to drive and will consider trying bike commuting for practical reasons.

          • Posted by zig

            There is a massive amount that would need to be done in this regard to make this viable. I have two kids now and pretty much drive everywhere and moved to the suburbs. And I am actually someone aware of these issues and would make different choices if they weren’t so difficult here but they are hugely difficult here unless you are single and live in SF

      • Posted by zig

        I’m skeptical of your claims

        The main issue is just way more cars both with residents and with people coming into SF now. All areas I am familiar with since the early 1980’s (Noe, Mission, Excelsior, Mission Terrace, Glen Park) just simply have so many more cars, more crowding of people and such worse parking than back in the day. Then you talk to my parents and they will tell you the 1980’s were way worse than the 1960’s.

  10. Posted by BTinSF

    PS: How do we know the facade of this building is stucco? I don’t see where the materials are mentioned. I’m not a fan of orange as a building color though and it seems totally in vogue.

    [Editor's Note: "...the preliminary design concept for the development calls for the project to finished in stucco with painted metal balcony guardrails, as rendered above..."]

  11. Posted by Easy

    Too much parking for a transit street like Market and biking street like Valencia.

    • Posted by JWS

      It is also a block away from the freeway entrance, meaning that this will also appeal to people who commute to other parts of the Bay Area….

  12. Posted by Joy J

    Please don’t waste space for buildings [that] aren’t remarkable! These buildings need to be built with the idea that the design will be marked in history as the old victorians have done. We are in the tech gold rush and have an opportunity to really create a top city. There is no reason that the best design in the world should not be used. Progressive! Don’t let cheaply built [buildings] in the city. Especially on Market Street.

    • Posted by san FronziScheme (formerly known as lol)

      I find it extremely disturbing that people who have never and will never get anything built in their entire lives think they have the right to restrain what other people can do. Get your own sandbox and build your own sandcastle. If you can’t, too bad.

      Also do not get me started with this “victorian” style. Very eclectic style cookie cutter woodboxes with ornate facades that were replicated by the 1000s. Yeah we like to have them today, but this was industrially built housing, sometimes from a catalogue, arriving by boxcars and assembled on shoddy foundations. We cut all the redwoods for that. I am certain nobody would accept to have them built today under these conditions.

  13. Posted by Joy J

    traffic will always be bad. Build taller!! bikes need their own lanes with sidewalk in between. Muni and bart must be used and improved. Car sharing is a great thing.

  14. Posted by Shmendrick

    Much of the recent traffic chaos in SF is due to the recent addition of thousands of so- called ‘ride share’ cars (Uber and Lyft) which are completely unregulated as to their numbers. Most of them take to the streets just when traffic is heaviest. Like to use them?
    Fine, but there’s a cost…get used to gridlock.

    • Posted by san FronziScheme (formerly known as lol)

      rideshare = less individual cars = better use of individual cars. If this means more gridlock, I am not sure how. If we had more car ownership we’d probably have way less street parking. People would go around the block longer to find parking. People who still do not want to own their cars would take a cab. Seriously I am not following how you would get to this conclusion aside from the connection of 2 pet peeves of yours.

  15. Posted by invented

    Hi Um, 3-5 of my neighbors regularly share my Getraround car. And many others use it. Fewer cars indeed in my one story. Soon the streets will be so empty that we’ll have edible landscaped greenways with safe bike lanes so our kids can ride to school (Which they can’t without dying today in our car-crazed city). As for the proposed design would need to see more pics in context. The one-by-one building approval process leaves areas a jumble without much cohesion or vision.

    • Posted by frog

      invented, I seriously can’t tell if this is a joke post or a real post. Genius.

  16. Posted by James

    A nice treatment on the balcony railings could go a long way in adding some fine-grained detail to the blockiness here. I hope they’re not solid slabs.

  17. Posted by Jlasf

    Boring, mediocre building. And before someone jumps in to reply that cost concerns dictate style,
    look at the Marlow at Van Ness and Clay. It has all of the same elements, but they are executed with
    style and originality. Cost control and imaginative design are not mutually exclusive.

    • Posted by anon2

      Exactly my point.
      Most everything is driven by costs, profits and the laws of economics.
      But yet some things get done very well and some poorly.
      i.e. an iPhone would certainly be cheaper to produce as an injection moulded plastic POC, but instead pushed the envelope for mass market industrial design.

      The real question is why things turn out the way they do.
      Are there demand factors, do people not really care? Tragedy of the commons issues? i.e. having a bland house/unit in a nice neighborhood might get you most of the benefits without bearing the costs? Supply factors? Higher price in SF relative to other areas? Labor substitution effects? i.e. People who have the combination of hard/soft skills to do good design have flowed towards technology and other highly paid fields rather than residential home design? Market inefficiencies? i.e. Planning/permitting so onerous that it’s prohibitive to push through non-standard innovative designs.

      I’ve seen anecdotes supporting all of the above, but it’s hard to see exactly what the dominant factor is.

      • Posted by anon2

        “Higher price in SF relative to other areas?”
        Should be “Higher price for mid-skilled labor relative to other areas”

    • Posted by Futurist

      Cost does not dictate style, but it can influence materials. At any given new building in SF there will be those who like it, and those who don’t. Style is completely subjective.

      But materials are cost driven, even how they are applied and assembled to a structure.

  18. Posted by Edward

    Sad to see Flax go, only to be replaced with this boring box.

    • Posted by jlasf

      With tech start-ups driving up rents, I bet Flax will remain in flux.

  19. Posted by Trevor

    Wow another uninspired ugly sterile condo building replacing an important SF cultural site. What an eyesore.

    • Posted by emanon

      Under what narrow definition is Flax an “important SF cultural site”? Please elaborate.

      • Posted by Brian M

        “I’ve bought chalk and colored pencils here for my ground breaking neo-impressionist sketches of homeless drug addicts. It is VITALLY important from a cultural standpoint”

  20. Posted by Bob

    LOL “important cultural site”
    SF produces the most awesome hyperbole per capita out of any large city. Someone who thinks cheap art supplies make a cultural site needs to get out in the world.

  21. Posted by Schlub

    Bob, if you knew anything about art supplies, you’d know that they aren’t, and never have been, cheap at Flax.

    But the fact that there are now only two remaining independent professional art supply stores in our lovely city is another dire matter, given that the other one (Arch) is also in the process of scrambling to find a new location after given eviction notice. Let’s hope that Flax can succeed in finding a new location without losing it’s personality and accessibility to the remaining professional creative people who are attempting to stay in this city.

  22. Posted by Joy J

    prime location such and ugly building that will not age well. Sad for city.

  23. Posted by Andrew Bates

    There is a lack of affordable housing in San Francisco. I think the ratio of apartments is too low for this project, a better mix would be 320 apartments, 320 parking spaces and the rest of the space could be commercial. Of course this will never happen in this city that cares more for big business and less for the middle class.

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