Posts tagged with "San Francisco":

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Seattle, San Francisco, and Los Angeles vie for tallest tower west of the Mississippi

The West Coast’s largest cities are reaching for the record books as a succession of towers vying for the mantle of the “tallest west of the Mississippi” go up across the region.

Los Angeles’s 1,018-foot-tall U.S. Bank Tower, a prismatic 1989 blue and white skyscraper designed by Pei Cobb Freed and Partners, currently holds that title. However, developers in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Seattle are seeking to depose the U.S. Bank Tower—all three cities currently have high-rises in the works set to surpass the record. These projects, ranging from in design review to nearing completion, are unified by their record-breaking potential and densely urban locales. Each is sited in transit-oriented districts poised for radical redevelopment. Merely inching above the current record, the towers speak to West Coast cities’ cautious approach to reshaping their skylines, as contemporary considerations regarding the nature of density, regulation, preservation, and affordability begin to play out over these post-recession metropolises.

In Seattle, local firm LMN Architects has had to take its 1,111-foot-tall proposal for the 4/C Tower from Miami developer Crescent Heights back to the drawing board several times, trimming the tower’s height with each iteration. A boxy, mixed-use monolith containing groups of mixed income “vertical neighborhoods” with neighborhood-specific common areas above office space, parking, and commercial zones, 4/C is unique among the group in its inclusion of an affordable housing component.

4/C has had to straddle a delicate line in terms of massing and geometry—it’s located across the street from Chester L. Lindsey Architects’ 76-story Columbia Center, currently Seattle’s tallest at 967 feet, and nearby Minoru Yamasaki’s iconic Rainier Tower. It was 4/C’s height, however that came under scrutiny earlier this year when the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued a report citing possible interference with medical helicopter flight paths and the navigable air space of the nearby King County International Airport. Although the FAA has mandated a 965-foot maximum height for the structure—a limit that would keep it just feet below the record—plans submitted early April, call for a 100-story, 1,029-foot tall structure containing up to 1,020 residential units and 100 hotel rooms above 20,000 square feet of street-level retail, 85,000 square feet of office, and 750 parking spaces.

700 miles to the south, Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects’ (PCP) 1,070-foot-tall Salesforce Tower is slowly rising out of San Francisco’s Transbay Center. The currently under-construction $4.5 billion transit center, touted by the managing Transbay Joint Powers Authority (TJPA) as the “Grand Central Station of the West,” is topped by a PWP Landscape Architecture–designed 5.4-acre park. The six-track, multimodal hub will bring together the region’s tangled web of transit agencies and California’s future intercity high speed rail line. Its construction follows the demolition of the seismically deficient Embarcadero elevated highway that once ran along San Francisco’s waterfront. With the Embarcadero’s massive, swooping on- and off-ramps south of Market Street now gone, the city has been free to develop an area that was previously roughshod and derelict. Salesforce Tower is touted as the crown jewel of this new high-rise neighborhood.

PCP’s curved and tapering design, built in concert with the firm’s transit center, will contain 1.4 million square feet of Class-A office space and be topped by a 100-foot-tall “crown.” Billed to rise 1,070 feet upon completion in 2018, it will soar 217 feet above William Pereira’s 1972 Transamerica Pyramid, currently San Francisco’s tallest.

Meanwhile, Los Angeles’s Wilshire Grand Tower, a 1,099-foot-tall spire, topped out in March and is nearing completion. Aside from Gensler’s L.A. Live Ritz-Carlton Hotel built in 2010, the Wilshire Grand is to be the only other tower above 40 floors built in Downtown L.A. since Arthur Erickson Architects completed their 750-foot-tall Two California Plaza in 1992. A partnership between Korean Air, Turner Construction, and architects AC Martin, the tower will boast 400,000 square feet of Class-A office space and a 900-suite hotel, as well as a 400,000-square-foot retail podium with ballrooms, meeting halls, and a 1,250-spot parking garage. The 1,100-foot-tall Wilshire Grand is due to finish construction in late 2017, when it will become the tallest tower west of the Mississippi River.

While the jury is still out as to whether Seattle’s 4/C Tower’s Crescent Heights will prevail, a trend is becoming clear: Developers are testing the waters and envisioning tall, mixed use, transit-oriented futures for the West’s downtowns.

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Gensler to design the interiors of the new Golden State Warriors arena

Architecture firm Gensler has won the commission to design the interior of the Chase Center, which will be located in the firm's native city of San Francisco. The arena, which will be constructed in the Mission Bay area, will host the home matches of the Golden State Warriors in time for the 2019-20 NBA season. Collaborating with Kansas City-based firm MANICA Architecture, who produced proposals for the arena's exterior, Gensler will fit out the 18,000-capacity stadium's concourses, clubs, suites, administrative offices, home and visiting locker rooms, as well as other visitor facilities such as concession areas, sponsor zones, a team store, and retail spaces. The Chase Center aims to create a new 11-acre district that will offer other amenities including restaurants, cafes, offices, and public plazas that aren't otherwise easy to find in the area. A new five-and-a half-acre public waterfront park will be built nearby; the Chase Center itself will have connections to a major Muni Metro rail line and the BART system. Once built, the arena is set to be the "only privately-financed facility of its kind built on private property in the modern era." "Gensler is a perfect fit for Chase Center, bringing both incredible local experience and extensive global expertise to our project—and, of course, a track record of architectural excellence," said Stephen Collins, Chief Operating Officer of Chase Center in a press release. "We want an arena that is a reflection of the Bay Area, but also a stand-out in the world of sports and entertainment. Gensler will help us achieve that mission." "Gensler is excited to join the current design team on such a significant project as Chase Center," said Gensler Sports Principal-in-Charge, Ron Turner, FAIA. "When complete, this will be a showpiece for the NBA, the Warriors, and the Bay Area, so helping to achieve this will be a distinct pleasure for our group."
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Battle unfolds over large development project in San Francisco’s Mission District

Dubbed countless times as the "Beast of Byrant," 2000-2070 Mission Street in San Francisco has been surrounded by unmissable negative sentiment from locals. The scheme, which aims to hold 335 apartments across two buildings, experienced a turbulent planning process. Last year, locals of Mission Street took issue when Nick Podell, the developer behind the project, attempted to the push the scheme through via the Streamlining Act whereby the commission had to act within 60 days. “I think [the developers] knew that the Commission would not have approved the plan in the first place,” said Commissioner Dennis Richards. Opponents of the development, mainly comprising artists, local residents, and building trades representatives, argue that more affordable and not market-rate housing is needed. The proposal would also see the demolition of six buildings that mostly house artist studios. Totaling more than 200,000 square feet, the project hasn't won locals over with its aesthetic, something which its scale probably doesn't aid. However, advocate of the project and executive director of the Housing Action Coalition, Tim Colen, said in 2015 that resistance against the scheme reflected the difficulties of addressing the "housing affordability crisis" while building in San Francisco. "It’s not possible to improve affordability if we don’t build a lot more housing,” he added. Now the "Beast" has finally stumbled through an eleven-hour hearing at San Francisco's Planning Commission. That said, the development hasn't come through unscathed: the Commission voted 5-2 in favor of a proposal that includes 92 additional affordable housing units and 33 fewer market-rate dwellings. Meanwhile, 40 percent of "PDR" space (Production, Distribution, Repair and Arts uses) will be replaced on the site—none was set to be originally replaced. While the project has been given the go-ahead, opponents are planning to appeal the Planning Commission's decision to the Board of Supervisors. “This is going to be one of the most built-out sections of the city outside of downtown, in what is now a neighborhood of single-story warehouses,” said Peter Papadopoulos of the Mission Cultural Action Network. “Right now the projects are being studied one at a time with no consideration of the cumulative impact on a given block, neighborhood, or the city at large.”
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Foster + Partners-designed flagship Apple store opens in San Francisco

British architect Norman Foster has seen his firm's new flagship Apple store open in San Francisco. Located at Union Square, the new store features 42-foot high sliding glass doors that open out onto the 2.6 acre plaza "creating unprecedented urban permeability." Built to set a precedent for all following Apple stores, Foster's building replaces the old outlet which opened in the city twelve years ago. The design was realized working alongside Apple’s Chief Design Officer Jonathan Ive and Senior Vice President of Retail and Online Stores, Angela Ahrendts. “This is an incredible site on Union Square and a chance to create a new public plaza. We have created the most inspiring and stimulating space imaginable, blurring the inside and outside,” said Stefan Behling of  Foster + Partners. “It is possible to experience Apple's extraordinary products and services while taking in the buzzing Union Square on one side and relaxing in the contemplative quiet of the new plaza on the other.” The flagship store is one of three Apple stores designed by Foster + Partners; the two others are in Turkey and China. The Union Square store is also close to Apple's headquarters at Cupertino, which are also being designed by the firm. This latest store however, represents a shift in approach to the retail typology that Apple is adopting. A new learning zone called the "Forum" will become a space for entertainment and teaching. The new space was awarded a prime location on a mezzanine, open to most of the store and against a video wall. At the back of the Forum is the "Genius Grove," a space filled with trees where Apple Genius employees will be on hand.
Glass sliding doors are used on both sides of the store. To the rear, an open public space has been filled with art and offers Wi-Fi. Seating and vegetation form a gathering space outside the store. Meanwhile, the Ruth Asawa fountain, a well-established piece of historical San Franciscan heritage, has been relocated to the steps that lead down to Stockton Street. In 2013, Foster + Partners' design had to be revised after their original plan hadn't catered for the fountain. This space is also flanked by a standing of trees and a 65-foot-by-50-foot green wall planted with Ficus Repens plants. This is split by a waterfall on the west side which also forms a backdrop to the  fountain. Behind this, and well hidden away, is the "Boardroom" which will be used for meetings and business purposes.
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San Francisco Planning Commission approves Foster + Partners’ Oceanwide Center

Last week, the San Francisco Planning Commission approved the Foster + Partners-designed Oceanwide Center slated for the Transbay district in South of Market (SOMA). The project will bring over 2.3 million square feet of mixed-use space to the area. The design features two towers of varying heights with large floor plates. The taller tower on First Street tops out at 850 feet and will include residences and offices. The 605-foot shorter tower on Mission Street will host residences with a hotel. Renderings show landscaped street-level public spaces—22,000 square feet total—that connect the two towers. The development also includes restoring two historic buildings on the site. “At ground level, the buildings are open, accessible and transparent–and have been ‘lifted up’ by almost five stories to provide a new ‘urban room’ for the region,” describes Foster + Partners in a press release. “This space is crisscrossed by pedestrian routes that are an extension of the historic streets and alleyways in the area, knitting the new scheme with the urban grain of the city”. The San Francisco Planning Department’s Transit Center District Plan (approved in 2012) and the Transbay Redevelopment Plan are upzoning the Transbay neighborhood through higher-density development and higher height limits for residences, offices, hotels, retail, and more. City officials see the project supporting walkability and increasing public transit usage in the Transbay area. The Planning Commission recommendation for the Oceanwide Center states, “the Project will generate substantial revenues that will contribute to the development of transportation infrastructure, including the Transit Center and the Downtown Rail Extension, and other improvements envisioned by the Transit Center Plan.” Foster + Partners received the commission in 2014 from the original developers TMG Partners and Northwood Investors. In early 2015, the Chinese financial services company, Oceanwide Holdings Group, bought the site for $300 million. San Francisco-based firm Heller Mannus Architects is collaborating on the project, while Seattle firm Gustafson Guthrie Nichols is working on the landscapes. Groundbreaking is expected November 2016.
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Three ballot initiatives that could reshape California’s cities in 2016

This year, aside from deciding who will become the 45th President of the United States, voters across the West will consider several important statewide ballot races that will directly impact the region’s urban landscapes, ecological future, and transportation infrastructure. In California particularly, the philosophy of direct democracy via ballot proposals promises to bring many contentious issues to election day.

Charter Amendment C

San Francisco’s municipal lawmakers are taking their debate over affordable housing directly to the people. Consensus in the Bay Area is to raise the minimum inclusionary housing requirement from its current 12% level. Partisans, however, can’t seem to agree on whether to raise the minimum to 25%, as proposed by Supervisors Jane Kim and Aaron Peskin. Their ballot measure will be up for a vote in this June’s California primary. With details of the plan still to be hammered out and as a development boom rumbles through the city’s South of Market district, the city government must act soon if the area is to contain a better-than-average affordable housing stock.

Measure R 2

Voters in L.A. are potentially looking to cement their growing rail legacy with a 40-year capital improvement campaign funded by a round of tax increases. Thanks to the passage of 2008’s Measure R, two light rail extensions are opening in L.A. this year. In March, Los Angeles Metro put forth a wish list of projects to be funded by Measure R 2, the transit agency’s plan to raise L.A. County’s sale tax by an additional $.50. The increase, coupled with an extension of 2008’s hike, is expected to raise $120 billion for transportation related projects over 40 years. Metro is looking to avoid a repeat of 2012’s slim defeat of the similar Measure J, which garnered 64.72% of the vote, just shy of the 66.6% supermajority needed to pass. When asked about how Metro plans to broaden support within the electorate, Pauletta Tonilas, Chief Communications Officer, told AN, “Our goal is to plan for future growth and provide ways to better the way we get around the county. The draft plan we’ve released shows we are delivering projects in every area of the county and that has been a big part of our support.”

Anticipated projects include fast tracking the long-delayed westside Purple Line subway and South L.A.’s LAX “people mover” extension of the Green Line, as well as a third extension to the northern arm of the Gold Line to Azusa in the eastern reaches of the San Gabriel Valley.

Neighborhood Integrity Initiative and Build a Better L.A. Initiative

The NIMBY-driven Neighborhood Integrity Initiative (NII) is battling the Union-supported Build a Better L.A. (BBLA) measure for a say in the city’s growth. The NII takes aim at booming-Los Angeles’s outdated city plan, by forcing the city to update all supplementary community plans while changes to the General Plan can be agreed upon. Simultaneously, the bill puts a moratorium on all spot-zoned projects for two years. Because many of the city’s most ambitious construction projects require these spot-zoning measures—due to the outdated nature of the code—the NII effectively halts development city-wide. The BBLA initiative is fighting to instead fast track projects requiring spot-zoning variances if those projects employ union labor and include construction of affordable housing units.

In perhaps a sign of things to come this November, two large, density-oriented projects recently won approval in very different parts of L.A. County. Koning Eizenberg Architecture’s 249-unit, 32-foot tall mixed use complex at 500 Broadway won enthusiastic approval from Santa Monica’s City Council. The scheme’s approval centered on its addition of 64 off-site affordable housing units as well as its proximity to the soon-to-be-opened Expo Line extension. In Hollywood, the Stanley Saitowitz / Natoma Architects-designed Palladium Residences, two 30-story towers with 731 units, won approval from L.A. City Council. Although the project is comprised solely of market rate units, council members praised its location near public transit, in this case, the Red Line subway a few blocks north.

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John Waters shares his perspective on remodeling with exhibition titled Home Improvements

Baltimore filmmaker and writer John Waters lives in an architect-designed house that’s approaching 100 years old, so it’s not surprising that he knows a thing or two about home improvement and remodeling. Now he’s sharing his perspective on the subject with an art exhibition entitled Home Improvements, which he curated for a new gallery in San Francisco called FraenkelLAB. Home Improvements features the work of 13 artists, including Waters. All contributed pieces that in some way make a comment about remodeling or home repair, with an off-kilter sensibility. There’s a wall mounted toilet paper holder that substitutes silk chiffon for three ply sheets of Charmin. A floor mat that’s chained to the wall. A triptyph of orange sponges with surfaces that look like the craters of the moon. A collage of shopping bags saved from trips to home improvement stores. According to the gallery, the works are intended to transform the mundane and pay tribute to ordinary domestic materials, such as shopping bags, a wall mirror, bath towels and staples. Some reveal unexpected aesthetic pleasure in overlooked fixtures of the home, such as a light switch or a breaker box. Waters’ contribution is an S & M-themed baby stroller called Bill’s Stroller, 2014. It looks like an ordinary stroller from a distance and has ordinary baby stroller wheels. But it features logos from old New York sex clubs on the seat and sunshade portions and uses part of a black leather harness to strap baby in for the ride. Waters rails against the ‘adult baby’ community in his stand-up shows and interviews, so this appears to be his revenge. The other artists, working in a wide range of media, include Martin Creed, Moyra Davey, Vincent Fecteau, Paul Gabrielli, gelitin, Paul Lee, Tony Matelli, Doug Padgett, Karin Sander, Gedi Sibony, Lily van der Stokker, and George Stoll. Waters, who turned 70 in April, describes the exhibition as “a celebration of the low-tech concept of ‘remodeling.’ These twelve artists’ humble but surprisingly imperious paintings, sculptures, photographs and drawings will hopefully make any serious property owner want to throw caution to the wind, pack up their living space, and start over.” Home Improvements is the inaugural exhibit for the new gallery at 1632 Market Street, a satellite of Fraenkel Gallery at 49 Geary Street in San Francisco. It’s on view until May 28.
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The San Francisco BART system’s brutally honest social media responses

San Francisco’s BART recently received nationwide attention from the likes of New York Magazine and Gawker for its new and improved Twitter account. No, it’s not because the transit system finally figured out how to correctly use Twitter (slow clap), but because BART has made the radical decision to be honest and upfront with its riders (er, another slow clap). In response to particularly terrible service with multiple hour-long delays, @SFBART tweeted: “BART was built to transport far fewer people, and much of our system has reached the end of its useful life. This is our reality.”

Perhaps the gesture would mean more if the majority of the tweets weren’t apologies for bad service, or if, as SF Weekly reported, that BART is engaging in campaign tactics to convince San Franciscans to pass a $3.5 billion bond for funding this November.

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In San Francisco, new research suggests that density, not solar panels, is the surest path to a green city

Brad Plumer at Vox anaylzes the data to show that if, for example, the city of San Francisco built housing to accommodate 10,000 current Bay Area residents (i.e. those living in more wasteful, suburban environments), the city could save 79,000 metric tons of CO2 per year, three times the amount of CO2 that the solar panel legislation could save.
If this was applied to the U.S., Plumer reasons, the effect could be tremendous, although decreasing housing costs, along with increasing supply, would be the only way to ensure that green (or green-er) city living is available to a broad range of individuals.
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Inside Snøhetta’s addition to Mario Botta’s iconic SFMOMA

San Franciscans have already marked their calendars for the May 14 opening of in downtown San Francisco. The 1995 striated-brick building is being greatly expanded and reorganized in a scheme that triples the museum’s exhibition space while adding a new main entry along Howard Street. The project was developed as a public-private partnership with the Doris and Donald Fisher Collection, which agreed to display works from its private collection at SFMOMA for the next 100 years. 

The 10-story, 235,000-square-foot expansion by the Norwegian firm is set back from the Botta structure, adding a funny hat to an already funnily hatted building. Craig Dykers, co-founding partner of Snøhetta, said in a statement that he wanted the new addition to “rise like a continuation of the [original building’s] terraces, even while offering a new image that reflects the Bay Area’s natural setting.” New and old meet at a two-foot-wide seismic joint separating the two structures so that in the event of California’s next “Big One,” each building will be able to jostle independently, minimizing damage.

The new, rectangular structure meets the narrower Botta building along an entire facade, running across the block’s full width, from Minna Street to Howard. The latter entrance is flanked by a two-story grow wall containing 16,000 plants that runs along an interior courtyard resulting from the main building’s stepped facade. Maple-surface amphitheater seating and Richard Serra’s monumental Sequence sculpture are located on the ground floor and adjacent to this courtyard. These features help pull the public into the museum’s first two floors, which will be free to all.

The addition’s facade is clad in 700 custom fiberglass reinforced polymer (FRP) panels that project from the curtain wall. These panels are rumpled horizontally, creating an articulated facade that folds in and out of the ascending mass. Panels incorporate silicate crystals taken from nearby Monterey Bay in order to dapple light along this east-facing exposure.

The remaining entrance along Third Street leads to the original building’s giant, oculus-topped atrium. Here, Botta’s grand staircase, no longer up to code, has been completely removed, allowing the oculus to fill the massive hall with light. This begs the question: with the impending opening of what will be the country’s biggest modern art museum, is it morning in San Francisco?

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Lake and Bake

Having built over 10,000 units in the San Francisco Bay Area—6,000 of which have been affordable housing—David Baker Architects is a leader in navigating the complex public-private partnerships necessary to build affordable housing today. The San Francisco firm, founded in 1982, recently completed work on Lakeside Senior Apartments, a compact, 91-unit, .66-acre complex located on the edge of Oakland’s Chinatown neighborhood. The project adds an additional 91 domiciles to the nearly 757 affordable units built in the region in 2014, as reported by San Francisco’s Planning Department. Designed to maintain neighbors’ vistas of the surrounding landscapes, Lakeside was constructed to house very-low-income and special-needs seniors and includes 32 units set aside to house formerly homeless seniors. Residents must be at least 55 years of age to live in the apartments and have a household annual income no higher than 50 percent of the area median income. The housing complex, located at the corner of East 15th Street and 2nd Avenue, is organized as a grouping of two parallel masses that frame a central courtyard. The street-facing courtyard opens toward the west and is bisected by a slender perpendicular bridge that cuts across the L-shaped site, connecting the two apartment blocks. The courtyard spaces are organized as a rectilinear tapestry of grasses, Cor-ten steel, and concrete flooring, where residents can exercise and socialize. Ground-level community programs take place within a mostly unadorned board-formed concrete plinth, with overhanging housing above. The buildings’ articulated facades are clad in perforated metal panels and stucco, as well as vertical and horizontal louvers along east and west exposures. Deeply recessed balconies overlook both street-side and interior spaces, while ground-level residences along 2nd Avenue open directly onto the street with porches. The building’s ample lobbies feature spare, exposed concrete walls and light-colored wood paneling, and the buildings’ extra-wide corridors are equipped with handrails. Laundry rooms are located on each floor, surrounded by seating areas that open into the public spaces, while the aforementioned courtyard bridge features sunny lounges where residents can rest, gather, and socialize outside of their units. With sweeping vistas of nearby Lake Merritt, each volume’s fifth floor includes a gamut of wellness-focused rooftop community spaces, including a shared garden and a community room with kitchen. “The community garden is beautiful and actually very productive. The complex has really great breakout spaces—the courtyards and community rooms—where people can pause. That’s especially important for seniors,” principal David Baker said.
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San Francisco Mission Park construction underway

After multiple delays, March 17 marked the beginning of construction for a new park in San Francisco, Mission Park, at Folsom and 17th Streets. The $5.2 million project is currently mostly surface parking. The park plan—32,000 square feet—boasts a variety of community, teaching, and learning amenities. There’s a large lawn, a water feature, performance and classroom space, and community and demonstration gardens. There are other cool features: a fence with espaliered fruit trees, a children’s playground, and adult fitness equipment. The target opening date is the end of this year or early next year. Eventually, a housing project to the north will fill the other half of the parking lot. The San Francisco Recreation & Parks Department has been busy with over 100 San Francisco projects in progress. There were updates to the 14-acre Dolores Park in the Mission. The south side of the park reopened this January, following updates to the north side completed last June. The $20.5 million renovations were funded by the 2008 Clean and Safe Neighborhood Parks Bond, bringing the first improvements to the park since it was created a century ago. The updates brought improved paths, tennis court renovations, and expanded trash facilities. There are more San Francisco parks under development, including a future park site at the Francisco Reservoir in Russian Hill. Here is a list of San Francisco parks open to the public. and another list with more info on future park sites and how the city acquires new land.