San Francisco Flower Mart Site

Planning has just finished its preliminary review of the draft plans for the massive redevelopment of the San Francisco Flower Mart site, a project which could yield over two million square feet of office space; 89,000 square feet of retail/restaurant space; a new 125,000 square foot Flower Mart on the ground floor of the development; and an underground garage for nearly 600 cars.

San Francisco Flower Mart Alternative Site Plan

And while Planning’s revised Central SoMa plan does include a proposed rezoning of the site to allow for the development to rise up to 270 feet in height, Planning isn’t a fan of the proposed “Corporate Campus” feel as drafted. From a letter to the development team yesterday:

While the Planning Department generally supports the overall approach to the site design and massing, we request that the project sponsor and design team consider reshaping some of the massing to avoid the complex reading like a corporate campus.

While parts of the buildings ought to have a clear “Flower Mart” identity, it should be assumed that the site could and will be home to multiple tenants so there is no architectural basis for perfect coordination. Moreover, while this will be the largest single development site in Central SoMa, it needs to read like a series of smaller sites that are an organic part of the neighborhood and reflect its finer-grained fabric. To fulfill this, consider:

• Varying the level at which the podium tops off and the upper portion (be it mid-rise or tower) begins. This variation can occur at anywhere between 65 and 85 feet in height.

• Bridges between buildings should not read prominently. This is particularly the case with the building proposed to span the new Freelon Alley, whose mass is also substantially detrimental to the experience on the alley. SoMa has a tradition of building to building bridges and several are proposed in projects currently: they are minimal in dimension and legible as such.

Additionally, there needs to be more differentiation between the towers and the mid-rise buildings (i.e., buildings of 85–160 feet). Towers can and should be distinctive. By contrast, the upper portion of mid-rise buildings (i.e., the part above the streetwall) is intended to be subservient to the podium. To fulfill this, consider:

• Lowering the heights of the mid-rise buildings to 130 feet (this has potentially the advantage of eliminating a couple of cores).

• Shaping the mid-rise buildings to create more of a sense of openness along the new mid-block passageway (i.e., the extension of Freelon Street). While the requirements of “skyplane” are not specifically required in this new passageway, the intent is to create a sense of openness akin to other SoMa alleys. While this shaping should begin at 65′-85′, the 15′ setback at 85′ would not be required along these edges.

In addition, Planning “requests that parking be minimized to the extent possible as the current proposal seems higher than necessary for the uses proposed.”

We’ll keep you posted and plugged-in.

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Comments from “Plugged-In” Readers

  1. Posted by Sierrajeff

    AAAAaaaaargh! Dear planners: if you want to be an architect, then go to architecture school and get a job at an architectural firm.

    OTOH, if you want to stymie development in San Francisco and allow underutilized, inefficient land uses to continue to blight our city … then by all means carry on with your SFSSR centralized “government knows best” “planning”.

    • Posted by HousingWonk

      Lack of design skills, training or experience doesn’t stop the general public from showing up at PC meetings, whining endlessly and actually getting their woefully misinformed opinions accommodated.

      • Posted by sassySFboy

        So true, I always LOL when i read SF Plann design critiques. Perhaps in 50 years, once its cleared all overly complicated unnecessary city process hurdles that keep prices extra high, we will see it built.

      • Posted by Tim E

        Its a public process so you as citizen are free to put in your input…so I really don’t understand your point. I might be a tax paying resident but can’t make a statement at a planning meeting because I’m not an architect?

        The issue I have is the design review committees and yes, have to agree that their is so much overreach in California its amazing on how anything it gets built. The problem is not public comments. The problem is the endless reviews and the ability for anyone to sue anyone on environmental reviews that have to be done on everything

        • Posted by Sierrajeff

          Why is it a public process at all? If the building is within zoning, why should anyone, from the Planning Department to Joes on the street, have a right to criticize the design or insist that the (private land owning) developer make changes?

          • Posted by Orland

            Because they are seeking the privilege of use of the land they “own” within the interested community.

          • Posted by Hmmm

            Uh, since it’s not at all within the existing zoning. Are you asleep? The existing zoning for the site allows only industrial uses and max five stories.

    • Posted by Zig

      Planning is a reflection of the city at large. This is the sort of planning SF wants

    • Posted by Orland

      I think you are both giving way to much leeway to the developers and unjustifiably denigrating the role of Planning as well as falsely casting any likely effect from the critique here.

      There is much to be said for the criticisms of this initial proposal. Contrast this with “The Exchange” being built on 16th St. in Mission Bay.

      BTW is this a planners’ colloquial read of the word “read?”

      • Posted by Orland

        The ironic thing, as I realize now, is that both projects are by the same developer, Kilroy.

        Further, Kilroy purchased The Exchange fully entitled in a form very similar to what they are now proposing for the Flower Mart but brought in new architects who completely redid the design much as if following Planning’s comments here.

  2. Posted by donjuan

    This is my fear of the central soma plan in general. Lots of boxy mid-rises to plug up the skyline in the area. Why must the city insist on building horizontally? You could add the same amount of density with thin, tall buildings that are much more pleasing to the eye and have nice effects on the skyline. Instead we’ll get a dozen new lego blocks.

    • Posted by Elitist Pig

      Make sure each of those blocks is a different color, we can’t have projects looking like one development. It needs to look like 10 smaller developments or else it might offend the eye.

  3. Posted by Bobby Mucho

    Is this considered a moderate setback for the project, or is best case that design / massing revisions roll into a final approval phase?

  4. Posted by seriously

    i don’t think any other city has nearly as invasive of a “planning” department

    • Posted by Zig

      It’s almost like these planning types are tyrants and we the people are their subjects

  5. Posted by kicked in the sun

    i like the parking reduction but, man, planning, give us a break.

  6. Posted by stvr

    Why does Planning get to pick the shape/size of buildings? It all feels very Soviet.

    • Posted by SFRussell1963

      Ever think about the shadows tall buildings cause and where they fall? Would you want your home or business permanently in the shadow of some ugly high-rise?

  7. Posted by David

    Being that it is close to the freeway and ballpark I think there should be extra parking. People can park there and then use other transport while in the city. In this case parking would be beneficial

    • Posted by Jake

      yes, SF should encourage and aid Giants fans that want to drive to the ballpark.

  8. Posted by SFRussell1963

    Because left to their own devices, developers and their architect servants would cover every square inch of every block with ugly, imposing, pedestrian unfriendly, unpleasing, awful buildings. There would be no consideration of anything aesthetic because at the end of the day architects are subservient to those paying their fees. Sadly a large number of buildings in SF already conform to this ugly notion of developers wringing every inch out of a piece of property and the city suffers for them.

  9. Posted by SF Social-lite

    Development aside, I will miss the flower market experience. It was always a beautiful place to find yourself selecting the makings for a tabletop extravaganza in the wee hours of the morning.

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