The second floor of the 32,000-square-foot ABC Imaging building at 679 Bryant Street, which is also known as 168 Welsh Street, has been recently remodeled to look more upscale and tech office-y, including new windows and a laminate floor.

But as the former printing plant space remains zoned for Service, Arts and Light Industrial (SALI) uses, a designation which was specifically “designed to protect and facilitate the expansion of existing general commercial, manufacturing, home and business service, and light industrial activities, with an emphasis on preserving and expanding arts activities,” the remodeled space can’t legally be used for any general office activity (nor for residences or a hotel).

That being said, if San Francisco’s Central SOMA Plan is adopted as proposed and expected, the 679 Bryant Street parcel will be re-zoned to not only allow but actively encourage office uses. And the height limit for the parcel would be raised from a current maximum of 55 to 130 feet.

With that in mind, the 679 Bryant Street building is now on the market without a set price but seeking bids for the opportunity. And yes, the corner parcel upon which the St. Vincent de Paul building and shelter sits is slated to be upzoned for 130 feet in height (and office uses) as well.

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Comments from “Plugged-In” Readers

  1. Posted by Hunter

    Still confused why the city isn’t encouraging more residential to meet the growth in jobs we’ve already experienced. Upzoning is great, but we need to keep a closer 1:1 jobs and housing ratio.

  2. Posted by Dave

    This is what is wrong with the Central SOMA plan as envisioned. The city needs more housing, not more office space. If the city is going to up-zone these parcels to 10 stories or so make it for residential use. Not office use. The 7:1 office housing ratio in the current plan is unacceptable which is why there is growing pushback on the proposed plan.

    • Posted by Hunter

      Agreed, do you know how best to register our opposition to the imbalance as proposed?

      • Posted by donjuan

        Email supervisor Jane Kim. Go to the Planning Commission hearing on Thursday.

        My biggest gripe with this plan (other than the 7:1 jobs to housing ratio) is that it’s focussed on building mid-rises. Either go low or high. Mid-rises breed the worst architecture with all the impacts you get from a high-rise (shadows, uglifying the skyline, draping the SF skyline).

        Either make an skyline or stay out of the way.

        Don’t go half way and build a downtown san jose in the heart of SoMa.

        • Posted by Futurist

          NO!. Cities are NOT just made of “skylines”, but rather neighborhoods of various scales and character.

        • Posted by Dave

          Interesting options. While I agree about the undesirability of turning the area into block after block of mid-rise housing blocks (see 6th Street proposals), a new high-rise wall would just as bad. Just imagine how worse things would look from Twin Peaks and Diamond Heights compared to now if the foreground was filled in with a table-top of 25 story buildings.

        • Posted by Hmmm

          This 7:1 claim is total misinformation and is far from the truth.

          As measured in square footage, there would be close to equal amounts of residential and non-residential, about 8m square feet each. In terms of new residents to new workers it would be about 2:1 workers to residents, with about 18K residents (7,800 units) and 35K jobs. Note that only about 20k of those jobs are in office space, in about 5m sf. The rest is misc retail, hotel, and industrial jobs that are mostly allowed under existing zoning.

          And as another commenter below said well, this is one micro-hood of a few blocks, you can’t and shouldn’t expect any sort of “balance” at this scale of geography, anymore than you should expect a small segment of any other neighborhood to have equal amounts of jobs and housing. Should we build a bunch of office towers in the Richmond or Sunset because it’s all housing? How unbalanced!

          • Posted by Jon Schwark

            Look, not every person living in the new units will be a worker. The fact remains that unmet housing need of Central SoMa as opposed to the current zoning is about 30k workers. That is about 10 years of housing production at current top-of-market rates. Planning is touting otherEastern Neighborhoods areas as absorbing the housing need, but the truth is, in total, the other Eastern Waterfront areas have their own giant housing deficit. That, combined with Transbay coming online, will compound the issue further. If Central SoMa passes in this form, it will lock us into an escalating housing shortage for decades. It seems bad now, but its about to get a LOT worse.

          • Posted by Dave

            To quote from SS: “While the area defined as “Central SoMa” has shrunk from 260 to 230 acres, with the majority of the area’s northern boundary having been shifted to the south of Howard versus Market Street, the City’s revised Central SoMa Plan now includes the potential for an additional 7,800 units of housing and office space for an additional 45,000 jobs…”

          • Posted by Hunter

            See Dave’s comment – “7,800 units of housing and office space for an additional 45,000 jobs” are numbers the city was touting.

            Obviously housing units average more than one person, but I still think we should be closer to a 1:1 ratio just to maintain the current crisis and prevent it from escalating. SF as a whole needs housing much more than we need office space, and since this is one of the few upzoned neighborhoods, the plan should contribute more space for residents than commuters. (Per your example, the Richmond/Sunset won’t be contributing very much of anything because they are so dead-set against upzoning, ditto this for all of our suburbs that supposedly will house these commuters).

            Lastly, Central SoMa has thousands of residents who deserve to live in a thriving neighborhood, not one that shuts down when the last Caltrain leaves, which is currently the case for many of our blocks of empty warehouses / offices / parking lots. We should and can demand a better neighborhood.

      • Posted by Dave

        Contact your Supervisor. Attend the Planning Commission hearings. Contact the planning commissioners. Get involved with you neighborhood association – there is a lot of grass roots opposition across the city to this.

        If the city refuses to address residents’ concerns, the next step would be initiatives. There is talk of that bubbling already. Some ideas that are being considered are mandating a housing:jobs balance much closer to 1:1, limit heights throughout the area to a maximum of 100 feet or so, restrict the buildable envelope of any new project in the area.

        • Posted by Hunter

          Was this opposition not apparent before they released the plan? I only moved to SoMa in March, so wasn’t up to date with the meetings, drafts, etc. I am involved with some local groups and have emailed my comments to planning commissioners and Jane Kim. I’d like to hear someone explain why the 7:1 ratio was ever approved.

          • Posted by Hmmm

            Hunter – you’re being fed misinformation. There is no 7:1. See my post above.

          • Posted by Dave

            Not sure about the early process. It’s likely many residents were unaware of what was happening. The jobs/housing imbalance, as residents become aware of it, has triggered a growing opposition. Also, the realization of plans to expand the high-rise zone into Central SOMA may be another factor.

            The residents around Market/Van Ness very reluctantly agreed to support the raising of height limits in Hub 1.0. Then the city turns around and is proposing to raise them even further with Hub 2.0. I’d imagine that has increased awareness of what is going on among some Western and Central SOMA folks.

            The 7:1 ratio? IMO a giveaway to developers. They can avoid building housing and focus on office space which does not come with the amount of mitigation factors (such as a BMR housing component) that residential construction does. It’s a more lucrative option for them. Remember Prop O – it allows Lennar to build the office component (up to 5 million square feet) in an expedited fashion rather than wait for the M allotment. That is where the larger profit lies.

          • Posted by hmmm

            Hunter – not true. Office development has large affordable housing payment requirements (in the order of tens of millions of dollars for projects like the Flower Mart), and Central SoMa is the first plan to actually allow/encourage office developers to dedicate land for affordable housing rather than just write a check and leave the city on the hook to find land. Land is harder to come by in a city like this than money to build. And importantly, there is absolutely no chance of meeting the 33% areawide BMR goal without a lot of office space, since office space pays lots of affordable housing fees but produces no market rate housing. Unfortunately in this town everyone is obsessed with the percentage of BMR to market rate as opposed to the actual numbers.

            A big thing that you’re not recognizing is that Prop M, the annual office limit, will keep the Central SoMa office space trickling in over many years, unless the voters change that. There’s no brake on the amount of housing that can be built at any one time.

          • Posted by Dave

            Actually there is a way around M – voters through Prop O exempted HP/CP from the cap. That is 5 million square feet that theoretically they could build out next year. So much for the cap.

  3. Posted by Jim

    Yes we have a severe shortage of housing…but to expect one neighborhood to have a 1:1 housing balance is ridiculous. And to expect SF as a whole to have 1:1 is just as ridiculous.

    SF is the central city of the region, and central cities are job centers. You and I might choose to live in SF, but far more people who work in SF choose to live in the burbs. True, some are forced out, but probably as much or more by perceived school quality than by housing prices, as well as by their lifestyle preferences.

    In any case, the answer is not to restrict job growth but to build more housing. There are something like 40,000 entitled and yet unbuilt housing units in the city, and the Planning Department has calculated there is capacity for something like 150,000 more units with existing zoning. Calm down.

    • Posted by Oaklandlover

      Great balanced points and perspective.

      My only comment on this property, which I am not familiar with, but which the article brings to light, is….(so it’s more of a comment on the SOma upzoning plan I guess)

      …the city needs more designation space for arts (SALI) type usage..reason being that this sorta in between zoning blends the worker bee and rich corporates with the creative and interesting. That is good.

      That or the interesting creative (and generally poorer, on paper $ anyways) all move to Oakland. Not that it isn’t already happening nor am I complaining about that, but I think it’s sad for SF and it’s history of fostering the outcasts, the artists, musicians, and free thinkers …..for the worker drones. $$ talks I guess. Ala saelsforce transit center naming rights barf kill me.

      I’ve been in some amazing SOma art studios and recording studios, small independent things. It’ll be sad if this turns into a monotonous worker bee / worker bee hive home over time. Already happening.

      Make Oakland the local cultural and art center then….maybe it already is? Sf is for tourists now?

    • Posted by Hunter

      Calm down yourself—do you see any evidence our suburban communities or western neighborhoods are stepping up to add an additional 45,000 units (for folks who will take those jobs)?

      I never suggested SF as a whole needs 1:1 housing: jobs, but we already know the boom in offices without a commensurate growth is housing is exacerbating this crisis. We need to streamline the development process and make housing *easier* to build in SF so those entitled units actually get built, and Central SoMa is a perfect place to encourage this residential infill. A plan that only allows for 7,800 units is extremely shortsighted. *FYI the 7:1 ratio comes from the city’s own numbers on residential units:jobs.

  4. Posted by wiger toods

    Everyone is missing the most important point here. Views of the Coca-Cola sign would be blocked if this building’s height was increased to 130′. That’s a historical resource and it’s view corridor should be preserved from here to eternity! NIMBY!!! /s Seriously, it would be shame to have it blocked.

  5. Posted by another anon

    That’s kind of a lousy location due to the homeless shelter on the corner and the encampments on 5th underneath the overpass.

  6. Posted by Richard

    I must admit, the Coca Cola lighted sign is a visual landmark. The Pepsi Cola sign across the East River (estuary) from Manhattan’s upper east side is a landmark.

  7. Posted by Rob Silver

    This should be totally rejected as views of the historic Coke Sign would be blocked. This is called a bad idea in the worst sort. Plus a 130 foot building would be out of place anywhere in this surrounding area. Any density should be going North of the freeway.

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