75 Howard at 220 Feet

While the opposition to an up-zoning for either the proposed twisty tower to rise at the corner of Folsom and Spear or the development at 75 Howard is organizing, the latest proposal from the 75 Howard team wouldn’t actually require any increase in the parcel’s zoned height, a point which the development team would like to make abundantly clear.

From Alex Clemens, 75 Howard’s official spokesperson:

“While earlier drafts of the 75 Howard proposal requested heights of 350 feet and 292 feet, the project sponsor is now proposing a 220 foot proposal – exactly what existing city zoning allows at this site. We would appreciate you notifying your readers that our proposal falls within the City’s current zoning – and in addition, because of confusion that may be raised by [Save Rincon Park’s letter], that our code-compliant proposal for 75 Howard is not built on public land.”

Or as we reported three weeks ago (and roughly rendered above):

“Facing an uphill battle with neighborhood groups and a potential conflict with San Francisco’s Downtown Area Plan which calls for building heights to taper down to the shoreline of the Bay, “to avoid visual disruption along the water while preserving topography and views,” the proposed height of the residential tower to rise at 75 Howard Street has been further reduced from 290 to 220 feet, the maximum height for which the parcel is currently zoned.”

And as a plugged-in reader noted last week, it’s not simply run-of-the-mill NIMBYs which are organizing to oppose any upzoning for the proposed projects, but the Bay Area chapter of the Sierra Club has adopted “a resolution opposing height-limit increases for the 75 Howard and 160 Folsom luxury tower projects and encouraging the Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors to reject them” as well, based on concerns about the potential shadowing of Rincon Park.

Of course, that doesn’t mean an increase in height won’t still be requested for 75 Howard as an alternative to the code-compliant design, but the writing is on the…wall.

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Comments from “Plugged-In” Readers

  1. Posted by jamesjr

    The Sierra Club should stick to trees.
    I’m canceling my membership.
    I love the twisting building which would be across the street from Infinity, which is itself would qualify, under the new Agnos rule, as a “wall on the water”. I suspect this is more about the Infinity folk losing their views than any concern about shadows.

    • Posted by anon

      I agree. The Sierra Club would probably prefer if this building was to be constructed out in the pristine wilderness of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, because their sanctimonious sensibilities only care about environmentalism to the extent they can see it from their car window as they drive to work.

      • Posted by Brian M

        Nah. They simply want all of the housing to be built in the auto-reliant suburbs. Because stifling construction in SF and pushing development to the burbs is so “green”.

  2. Posted by Sierrajeff

    The developer should issue a new rendering that *isn’t* from the perspective of a kayaker on the bay… issue one from the Bay Bridge view, for instance, and you’d see that this building (*and* Folsom & Spear) both fade into the existing skyline, paling in comparison to existing buildings (such as Millenium) or buildings already under construction (such as Salesforce Tower).

  3. Posted by jsimms3

    In the rendering above, one can see a loosely based Jean Gang rendering behind Gap’s hulking Robert A.M. Stern designed headquarters building. I should say, one can *hardly* see the Jean Gang building from the waterfront. Also, the squat Gap building is *way* more wall-ing than the relatively slender condo tower that’s proposed for 75 Howard. Not to mention there is presently a disgusting garage on-site that attracts homeless campers and encourages driving – which is obviously not the best for the environment that the Sierra Club purports to want to protect.

    Like, since when did the Sierra Club become more of (or entirely) an anti-development organization, and why are they opposed to high density developments in transit rich urban environments where the carbon footprint would be miniscule compared to dispersing all of these potential buyers into single family homes out in the burbs?

    There is something wrong with this entire picture and the Sierra Club should be ashamed of itself. Its members should be ashamed of themselves. Hypocrisy and a bad-for-the-environment agenda under the guise of environmentalism?!? How pathetic. Anyone with a bachelor’s degree (most of San Francisco) should be able to see right through this and choose their side based purely on political agendas that have nothing to do with the environment. Sierra Club, what a crock.

    • Posted by Jon Schwark

      It is specifically the SF chapter. The national org is pro smart growth.

  4. Posted by Anon

    Kudos to the developer of 75 Howard for following the existing zoning heights. Now lets hope 160 Folsom’s developer does the same.

    We don’t want another Wall on the Waterfront repeat of Miami or Fontana Towers.. need to keep SF’s waterfront looking beautiful and reduce shadows as much as possible on our parks. We also don’t want to set a precedent where any developer can just pay for height increases at the expense of everything else. Yes affordable housing is important but there’s a point when you have to draw the line to make SF a world class city.

    • Posted by Orland

      Miami is totally irrelevant to this discussion… besides, it’s the greatest place on Earth… if you’re young, rich and ridiculously good-looking.

    • Posted by Bob Newlin

      @ anon The best thing we can do to “make SF a world class city” is to encourage people like you to move.
      Move on or stop whingeing about something that happened decades ago.

    • Posted by BobN

      If anyone had suggested at the time that locating a park(ette) on the waterfront would lead to ridiculous claims about shadows in a DOWNTOWN park, it would never have been developed as a park.

    • Posted by Brian M

      Better to have parking lots and rotting pier buildings. Heaven forbid that SF should follow the example of almost every CITY with a waterfront in the world.

  5. Posted by Bill Bostitch

    I agree that it is good that the developers are sticking to the set height limits for this project. I hope the same will happen with 160 Folsom.

    Because the waterfront is newer than other parts of the city it doesn’t get the same protections put in place 30 years ago and as a result developers feel they have free reign to do what they want in this area and it is not right!

    People think “oh what’s another high rise?” and don’t realize the lasting effect that these buildings will have on the city and especially on Rincon Park. It is wrong to ignore carefully planned height limits.

    • Posted by Orland

      Actually, just the opposite is the case. The current height limitations were put in place before the City implemented either of the Rincon Hill or Transbay District plans and should be adjusted accordingly.

      • Posted by Bill Bostitch

        I was referring to Proposition K from 1984. The parks on the waterfront did not exist then and as such they do not receive protection from Prop K.

        • Posted by Orland

          They’re also on Port land not within the jurisdiction of SF Rec & Park and, therefore, not subject to K. However, my point was to the height limitations generally which were arrived at before the City made some truly momentous decisions as to its future (Rincon Hill/Transbay) which developments should judged on their merits and fashioned anew without regard to previous, outmoded decisions.

  6. Posted by Gil

    I would like to see Gangs tower at the 750′ site near the Transbay Terminal. It deserves a much more substantial height. I love her Aqua tower.

    • Posted by Orland

      That’s a thought though I’m fine with it at the 160 address but would prefer it at 600′. Even at 400′ it looks like the start of something good which was not allowed to be finished.

    • Posted by Dave

      Good point. I noted in another thread that many of the towers away from the Bay are not using the full height allowed. Yet Gang’s tower closer to the Bay is asking to exceed the allowed height. Makes no sense.

      Gang’s tower would look better at 550 feet. Its a shame as the project is set to be killed and likely the developer will move on.

    • Posted by Orland

      “I love her Aqua tower.”

      Also reminiscent of Gehry’s tower “on the waterfront” in NYC at the foot of the Brooklyn Bridge.

  7. Posted by anon

    The Wall on the Waterfront people are so disingenuous in just about every way possible.

    First, ever since the freeway viaduct came down, no one has ever proposed building anything even remotely resembling the literal “wall” that these people keep yelling about.

    Second, there are dozens of cities all over the world that have somehow manage to have both vibrant beautiful waterfront attractions, and also **gasp** tall buildings right there by the water as well. The two things are not mutually exclusive. Look at Vancouver, Hong Kong, New York, Chicago, and even here in San Francisco, and you will see that large buildings can enhance the experience at least as much as they might detract from it. It’s like saying the Golden Gate Bridge detracts from our enjoyment of the Golden Gate straight because it’s too big and blocks the view.

    Third, if people want to have the waterfront feel without the tall buildings, why not go to Jack London Square, Tiburon, Sausalito, Ocean Beach, or just about any other piece of coast line along the entire Pacific Ocean that isn’t already directly adjacent to an existing downtown?

    So you just don’t like Miami? Go tell it to Armando Christian Pérez…

    • Posted by Dave

      This is SF zoning and its strongly supported by the voters hence the Washington Street situation.

      The Giants were running scarred as internal polls showed their project just 50/50 w/voters. Even with the new accommodation it will be a close vote on Mission Rock. .

      • Posted by Orland

        Expect 60% “ayes” at a minimum. Where’s there any opposition?

      • Posted by anon

        It’s strongly supported by the voters because the voters are easily influenced by deceitful and emotionally manipulative political campaigning.

        Most of the voters who said “No wall on the waterfront” didn’t even know where 8 Washington was located, let alone any specifics of the building proposed.

        They were simply told that greedy rich people had paid off the Planning Department to let them seal off the entire Embarcadero into a solid and impenetrable 4-mile-long by 300-foot-tall gated community, where they would sit in penthouses atop skyscrapers and laugh at the commoners on the street below.

        • Posted by Orland

          That vote was a sad, embarrassing, even shameful day for SF.

        • Posted by Brian M

          Versus the plastic covered chain link fence and private tennis club that is there now. Talk about walled off from the public.

    • Posted by sf

      Amen. Why don’t they petition the vacant boarded up buildings along the waterfront, the crumbling piers, the numerous paved parking lots, the homelessness abound. It’s transparent that their concern has nothing to do with waterfront, beauty, historic preservation, quality of life, shadows, blablabla.. It’s about entitled left coast liberal hypocrites who move in to the city than block any new housing for new people to come in.

  8. Posted by jsimms3

    Can we just clear the air here?

    Miami’s waterfront is NOT equivalent, even if we were to increase the height of our towers by 25-33%. Miami builds 60+ story gated condo towers directly ON a waterfront with limited public access to begin with and no public focus on the waterfront.

    San Francisco’s wall is already set back anywhere from a half block to a full block or more from the waterfront – and it is lined already with buildings in the 150-350′ range, predominantly, with some garish examples like Embarcadero Center, which goes to a whopping 580′ (still far shorter than the stuff going up in Miami along the waterfront).

    So whether this gets to 350′, 292′, or 220′, it will be 1/2 to 1/3 the height of the buildings going up along the waterfront in Miami.

    Where currently there is a garage that houses cars and homeless people, there would be a far more attractive condominium tower housing permanent residents who then become stakeholders in the success, safety, and vitality of the area. What the hell is wrong with that?!?

    Leave Miami out of this discussion – I swear all these whack jobs who keep referring to it have NEVER been, and if they were to visit, they would certainly NOT be as disappointed in what they see as they might think.

    Somehow, putting buildings up in city centers doesn’t usually work out to be a bad thing, anywhere.

    • Posted by Sierrajeff

      I think he was pointing to Miami as a *good* example – or at least some people here are doing so. Miami, Chicago, NYC – classic waterfront skylines widely seen as beautiful (privileged access to some of the buildings, a la Miami, being a separate issue).

      And in defense of Embarcadero Center – I think it provides a nice grounding of the City skyline, and is a nice counterpoint to the dart of the Transamerica Pyramid. Certainly in the holiday season, when it’s lit up, it’s clearly a favored bit of the skyline over the jumble of much of the Financial District.

      • Posted by Orland

        I wouldn’t necessarily cite NYC as a good example. At least, not unqualifiedly so. What was done to the Battery and lower Manhattan should be criminal.

        And, the Embarcadero Center lit for the holidays is just so “faux.”

    • Posted by SFRealist

      First off, it’s ridiculous to even bring up Actual Miami. Please limit your discussion to Rhetorical Miami.

    • Posted by BobN

      The Embarcadero Center is “garish”?

    • Posted by sf

      Don’t knock EC, one of the most thoughtful developments in the city. Love the masonry tile work, you don’t get that type of craftsmanship much anywhere, especially something from the 70s.

  9. Posted by Orland

    I actually made a point of going to Rincon Park yesterday afternoon, a beautiful sunny day.

    The objections to these building is a ridiculous extreme. They are so removed (to the WEST it must be emphasized) and so in keeping with what is already there that any lost sunshine will be almost imperceptible as to be meaningless. Especially when you consider the times of day and season when it even comes into play.

    The other extreme is what they are allowing to happen in NYC. There is a veritable picket fence of ultratall (1000’+) residences being built on the very southern periphery of Central Park. Proponents argue that they are “thin,” but in the aggregate, they are going to considerably shadow an area probably 80% of visitor-hours are spent. A true example of sacrificing the public good for private gain and privilege.

    • Posted by Orland

      A little something of the considerable online back-and-forth relative the NYC Central Park towers. The “comments” section is not too dissimilar from here.

    • Posted by Sierrajeff

      Have to agree with you on that one; in fact far above (pun intended) the shadow effect of the ultratalls is their basic visual presence. We were in Central Park this past weekend; there are several places in the park where the only buildings you see are the ultratalls… i.e., until they were recently built, you really could be in places in Manhattan that still felt “removed” – but now the ultratalls have ruined even that.

  10. Posted by eflat

    This is exactly why I cancelled my membership to the Sierra Club/SF Chapter several years ago. Always on the wrong side of issues regarding development in SF. Briefly considered joining another chapter but instead joined the Save the Redwoods organization.

    Art Agnos and his friends the millionaire Stewarts who live in a high rise and created the “Wall on the Waterfront” meme to stop 8 Washington are the most cynical, hypocritical, misguided people in the city (well, maybe Pestkin and his Telegraph Hill Dwellers are).

    1) The 75 Howard building is set back from the Embarcadero on a 6 story podium and is now in compliance with the zoned height limit.
    2) 160 Folsom would be the the same height as the Infinity Towers (which, with a little bit of research would demonstrate that there was opposition to their height which the developers finally overcame)
    3) The name of the game for Art Agnos, The Infinity and the Stewarts: “I got mine, too bad for you”

    It is people like these that cause housing in SF to be so expensive, constant planning by ballot, lawsuits to protect views, false generalizations on shadows, traffic, whatever.

  11. Posted by Orland

    Note in the illustration above how the proposed “Block 5” tower (that to the right of and across Howard from No. 75) appears even more prominent than Gang’s proposed 400 footer (though from my observations yesterday, that placement seems misleading as it is actually even further removed from the Embarcadero on the other side of Beale).

    Still, I wonder if they won’t be going after it next even though at 550′, it is at the maximum allowed for that parcel.

    • Posted by Orland

      Actually, the Block 5 tower is set to rise at the NE corner of Beale & Howard.

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