Monday, March 26, 2007

Planning Dept: "Creating a place more desirable" for highrise developers

On whose behalf exactly is the Planning Dept. pushing the Market and Octavia Neighborhood Plan? After reading the two articles below, we have reason to wonder. Real estate speculators are hovering over the area like vultures in anticipation that the Planning Commission is going to rubber-stamp that crudely pro-development Plan targeting a wide swath of property in the heart of San Francisco. Funny but the Planning Dept. didn't include anything about the plans of these speculators in the Market/Octavia Plan, even though the Planning Department's John Billovits is quoted in the first article:

San Francisco Business Times
December 15, 2006
by J.K. Dineen

A group backed by California Mortgage and Realty is assembling a development site on a key corner at Van Ness Avenue and Market Street, a parcel that the pending Market-Octavia plan has designated for a 400-foot residential tower.

The group, 1540 Market St. NV LLC, recently shelled out $7.8 million on 1510-1520 Market St., a wedge-shaped parking lot running along the intersection of Market and Oak streets.

In June, the same group purchased the abutting 1540 Market St. for $6.5 million. CMR President David Choo and Vice President Henry Park signed a $9 million loan with the First East National Bank on the parking lot purchase, according to Old Republic Title Co. and public documents.

With the deal, CMR and David Choo become key players in two of the city's most important redevelopment areas.

In addition to the purchases in the Market-Octavia area, CMR has also been quietly assembling parcels for a proposed tower across from the Transbay Terminal that may be designed by star architect Renzo Piano.

Headed by Choo, 42, CMR bought 62 First St. in 2004 for $10 million, and this year the company has shelled out another $50 million for three other buildings on the block: 76-80 First St., 88 First St., and 50 First St., an acquisition which closed in late May.

Ron Heckman, a spokesman for CMR, declined to comment.

John Billovits, a city planner who is working on the Market-Octavia rezoning, which is expected to be approved by the Planning Commission in January, said the plan calls for four thin towers "punctuating" the vast and chaotic intersection where Market, Van Ness, and South Van Ness converge.

Billovits said the idea is to create a vibrant mixed-use 24-hour district at what will eventually be the terminus of the rapid bus transit planned for Van Ness. A variety of street improvements are also planned to allow better pedestrian access at one of the most dangerous pedestrian intersections in the city.

"It's an area we recognize needs a lot of help," he said.

He said increasing density and providing groundfloor retail on the four corners, would be "a way of closing the intersection up and creating a place that becomes more livable and desirable."

San Francisco Business Times
April 21, 2006
by J.K. Dineen

Developers will be flocking to the San Francisco Honda at 10 South Van Ness Ave. in the coming weeks, but they won't be car shopping.

The property is about to go on the block and is expected to fetch north of $50 million, according to brokers. Colliers International's Tony Crossley has the listing.

The Boas family has hired Brand + Allen architects to study the parcel, which has an interesting place in San Francisco history. It was the site of the old Fillmore West where The Band's last concert was played and captured by director Martin Scorcese in the classic film "The Last Waltz."

The site could accommodate a 400-foot tower and up to 600 housing units, according to architect Koonshing Wong.

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At 12:43 PM, Anonymous Ulloa Sam said...

I generally agree with you about the problems of too many high rises. However, the intersection of Van NEss and Market is by far the most under-rated in the city and if there's anywhere besides the transbay area that deserves consideration for medium to high-rise Buildings, this is the place!

Right now that is a disgraceful place anchored by vacant lots, a car dealer, and that horrible "all star cafe" at one of the city's most high profile intersections, and to top it off, it's ON TOP of an underground stop - making it ideal for development.

I agree that the current high rises thers are terrible - especially that awful white thing with no windows, but a few 10-15 story buildings, if properly designed would be absolutely wonderful. I'd tolerate one higher building to anchor the others. (such as the one described here)

This is hardly a residential neighborhood with character at the momment, so I say do something differnt, you're certainly not losing anything, you're only gaining. In 5 year, who knows, with the vagrants driven away this intersection might actually live up to its potential!

At 2:11 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

What we're really talking about here is the Market/Octavia Plan, not the abstract issue of highrises in general. And the M/O Plan isn't calling for 10-15-story buildings at that intersection but 40-story buildings. I republished those two articles to show people what's really being planned for that area, since those two projects are not discussed in the M/O Plan's final EIR, though obviously the Planning Dept. knows about them. The M/O Plan will rezone more than 2000 properties in the heart of the city, loosening normal restrictions on density, height, and parking in an already densely populated area. I used to think that this was just another instance of the city's Planning Dept. being just plain stupid. But I'm beginning to smell a much bigger rat here. The fix seems to be in to help major landowners and developers to do their thing unencumbered by sensible zoning regulations.


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