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  #2061  
Old Posted Feb 16, 2009, 6:32 PM
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Top planner picks favorite buildings
John King, Chronicle Urban Design Writer
Monday, February 16, 2009

John Rahaim values texture in a building, the tactile qualities that reward close inspection and make a structure come alive.

And he's been studying San Francisco buildings intensely in the 13 months since leaving a high-level post in Seattle to become this city's planning director.

Prior directors have used the post to shape the skyline and protect residential neighborhoods in ways that still are debated. Rahaim so far has kept a low profile - steering several long-delayed plans to final approval and now wrestling with the budget realities of a department where income from fees has fallen 25 percent in the past year.

But a low profile doesn't mean a lack of attention. As Rahaim settles into his job, he's showing an increased confidence in mapping out where the department's resources should be aimed: toward plans focused on individual streets or small districts rather than sprawling swaths of the map, for instance.

Rahaim also has doubts about the recent spate of all-glass towers, and the planning notion that tall, thin towers automatically are preferable to midsize blocks.

This doesn't mean he's opposed to extra height in the Transbay area (he favors it) or growth in general. The question is how to evolve while enhancing the city that exists.

"We're entering an interesting phase in San Francisco's history," Rahaim says. "The challenge in the next round of growth is, how can we allow the city to grow with grace and texture?"

To illustrate how new buildings can enrich the civic landscape, Rahaim took a Chronicle writer on a tour last week of recent changes that, in his eyes, offer examples that others might follow.

Millennium tower handel partners, 2009 --



Though wary of the current vogue for glass towers, Rahaim makes an exception for the skyline presence of Millennium Tower at Fremont and Mission streets. Architect Glenn Rescalvo of Handel Partners strove for a crystalline presence, narrowing the shaft at two corners and adding thin metal fins that form diagonal stripes from certain angles.

"The treatment of the skin creates a complexity you wouldn't get from glass alone," Rahaim says. "The proportions keep shifting, and the skin keeps changing in the light."

He's also taken by the crown of the 645-foot tower, which slopes up and in with origami-like folds: "I'm a big fan of tops on buildings, and here, asymmetrical works."

555 mission st. plaza, hargreaves associates, 2008 --



When it comes to meeting the city's requirement that office buildings provide public open space, Rahaim likes the plaza included with the new tower at 555 Mission St.

For starters, he appreciates the variety of "rooms" that include a raised area along a landscaped wall and a clearing where ginkgo trees rise from decomposed granite: "Within a small area you've got different things going on, different possibilities of occupation."

The icing on the cake? Ugo Rondinone's trio of abstract aluminum heads and Jonathan Borofsky's "Human Structures," a colorful pyramid of metal figures perched on each other's shoulders.

"What gives this life is the artwork. It doesn't feel corporate, and it doesn't feel 'safe,' " Rahaim says. "It's assertive and bold."

185 post st. brand + allen architects, 2008 --



The oddest "restoration" in town is this six-story jewel box one block from Union Square: A much-altered brick structure from 1908 was gutted, painted white and then wrapped in a taut skin of glass, clear at the windows and fritted against the brick. Set amid regal neighbors of ornate stone, 185 Post is enigmatic and sleek - and to Rahaim, irresistible. "It's an appropriate building for the retail district - a shiny cube," he says. "The fascination with glass works at that scale. You can break the rules when you're small."

Fulton grove daniel solomon, 1992 --



Rahaim came upon this collection of 22 wood-shingled, three-story townhouses by chance: He almost signed a lease for one. And while he didn't close the deal, he left with an appreciation for the compact allure of the complex and, in particular, the narrow through-block "alley" with its cobbled pavement and tall eucalyptus trees that manage to make a terrain lined with garage doors feel urbane.

"The auto court is more than just a driveway because of the paving and the trees ... it's a semipublic space" offering a visual landmark and a pedestrian path, Rahaim explains. "This is a great model for South of Market."

Broderick place levy design partners, 2006 --



Rahaim is the first to admit there's no glamour to this big-boned, four-story homage to rustic bungalows that fills half a block near the Golden Gate Park Panhandle: "Look at it in strict architectural terms, and the details are odd."

What wins the planner over is something else: The success of the storefronts along Fell and Broderick streets, with their inviting windows that fold back and the festive jostle from one shop to the next. "It's not overly controlled and precious. Falletti Foods is brightly painted, the awnings all are different colors. ... I like that it's messy."

1532 cole st. fougeron architecture 2005 --



It's easy to miss this subdued two-story home on the slopes of Parnassus Heights, but to Rahaim it's one of the city's best buildings - setting a tone of balanced poise with such elegant touches as a single steel-framed square window projecting from a screened wall of wooden slats.

"It's simple, but it works on the street really well. The lattice on the upper floor has a great texture; wood can be an excellent way to provide warmth without a lot of detail."

As for the subdued contrast of solids and voids, Rahaim would love to see this sort of imaginative care from other architects: "You need to understand the scale of abstract expressionism to compose something good in the city."

201 guerrero st. kennerly strong architecture, 2004 --



One of the city's most provocative residential buildings is a three-unit complex at 14th and Guerrero streets in the Mission - in particular, the unit along Valencia that looks like a ribbed copper wedge that fell from the heavens and landed on a glass storefront. Jarring? Not to Rahaim, who lives nearby.

"There's a very interesting sophistication about this building," he says, pointing out such elements as the contrast between long thin horizontal windows and one broad vertical one. He also likes the contrast of materials, copper above aluminum, and how the units along 14th are delicate, while the side facing Guerrero has an almost iconic force: "In my mind, the composition works."

E-mail John King at jking@sfchronicle.com.
http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cg...MNQK15SVD8.DTL
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  #2062  
Old Posted Feb 17, 2009, 9:38 PM
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Construction Watch: Homing the Chronically Homeless
Friday, January 30, 2009, by Andy J. Wang



Glittering high-rises: it's been fun, but we're seeing someone else now. Yep, affordable housing is the new luxury condo. The expensive projects have all been kicked in the face and left behind, which leaves buildings meant for seniors, families down on their luck, and the chronic homeless dominating the construction scene. See: 66 9th, 1390 Mission, and subject of today's Construction Watch, 149 Mason, a Glide project featuring 56 studios for the chronic homeless. Each will go for about $300 rent, with the rest being subsidized by the city. When last we checked in November, the site was just a hole in the ground. Looks like they're making pretty solid progress. Completion's targeted for the end of the year, according to Glide's website.
Source: http://sf.curbed.com/archives/2009/0...y_homeless.php

Quote:
Affordable Housing du Jour: Diversifying in NoPa
Tuesday, February 17, 2009, by Andy J. Wang



The SF Business Times takes a look at one of the Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corp's latest projects: the Zygmunt Arendt House, 47 studio apartments for formerly homeless seniors. Location: a mildly surprising spot in North of Panhandle, at 850 Broderick St. The affordable housing nonprofit normally builds in the Tenderloin, but this is what they call "de-concentration of poverty," which sounds something like the opposite of "spreading the wealth." As we've noted before, the TNDC's on a bit of a tear with their affordable housing projects; according to the story, work begins this year on 1400 Mission St., 210 studio apartments across from the finned building at 1390 Mission. The money's got to dry up sometime, though— as money from an affordable housing bond runs out, four (!!) other TNDC projects will have to go on the backburner.
Source: http://sf.curbed.com/archives/2009/0...eader_comments

The "finned building" is the Mercy Housing project at 10th & Mission--and I'm hoping/assuming 1400 Mission would be the "other half" of the 10th & Market project. Could that mean the whole thing--including the market rate half actually on Market St--could get going?
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  #2063  
Old Posted Feb 20, 2009, 4:10 PM
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Friday, February 20, 2009
S.F. planners may put entitlements on hold
San Francisco Business Times - by J.K. Dineen San Francisco Business Times

With residential and commercial construction stuck in a deep freeze, the San Francisco Planning Department wants to allow developers of some high-profile projects to hold off on building until the economic climate warms up — without losing their coveted city entitlements.

The extensions would apply to downtown office tower developers, who are now legally required to begin construction within 18 months of winning approvals. It would also cover Rincon Hill condo developers, who are normally given 24 months to start building. Finally, the proposed extension covers a more general group of projects across the city, including residential projects of 20 or more dwellings, 100 percent affordable projects and sustainable buildings designed to meet standards set by the U.S. Green Building Council.

The proposed extension would offer some relief to developers like Lincoln Property Co., which has fully entitled office projects ready to go at 350 Bush St. and 500 Pine St. On the residential side, the law would extend approved condo developments ranging from Crescent Heights’ two-tower, 720-unit project at 10th and Market streets to Turnberry Associates’ 227-unit deluxe skyscraper planned for 45 Lansing St. Altogether, developers of more than 12,000 units of approved housing would get a grace period under the proposal.

Planning Department Zoning Administrator Larry Badiner said preserving approvals through a protracted recession benefits the city because it gives developers the ability to rapidly start construction at the first sign of an economic upswing. If stripped of entitlements, builders could spend years winning new approvals. He said a similar policy was successfully put in place during the downturn of 2001 and 2002.

“I don’t think it’s rocket science,” said Badiner. “We are trying to set the city up to be in a good place for the recovery.”

The proposed extension faces criticism from slow-growth advocates like attorney Sue Hestor, who say the city does a poor job of forcing developers to start building within the required time frame, even during good times.

Hestor objected to the fact that the policy basically covers any substantial development in the city. She said that one of the projects on hold, a 200,000-square-foot office tower at 524 Howard St., was first approved 20 years ago.

“These are entitlements based on an environmental report that is two decades old,” said Hester. “It would make sense that something approved in 1989 would have environmental conditions that are grossly out of date.”


Email J.K. Dineen at jkdineen@bizjournals.com / (415) 288-4971
Source: http://sanfrancisco.bizjournals.com/...ml?t=printable
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  #2064  
Old Posted Feb 20, 2009, 6:11 PM
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While 20 years may be a bit "out of date" for approved environment impact reports, I still think the entitlement extensions are a good idea. It would be foolish to loose out on the development opportunities, if in such case the economy begins recovering much sooner than 10 or even 20 years.
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  #2065  
Old Posted Feb 20, 2009, 6:52 PM
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It's a very sensible approach. 524 Howard is a bit wacky, but the rest of those make perfect sense. For 350 Bush, I think this will come just in time. IIRC, their entitlements for that are just about expired.

Back up to 149 Mason - it isn't exactly zipping along. I always see workers onsite, but it is rising very slowly.
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  #2066  
Old Posted Feb 21, 2009, 12:49 AM
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BTinSF, thanks for posting that interesting article about John Rahaim's favorite buildings
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  #2067  
Old Posted Feb 25, 2009, 4:42 AM
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BOS president David Chiu wants to shake things loose on the waterfront. I hope he's successful. From Curbed SF:

Quote:


David Chiu Wants to Know What's Up With the Waterfront
Tuesday, February 24, 2009, by Andy J. Wang

Board of Supes president David Chiu is asking for some clarity on just what kind of development we should have on the Embarcadero north of Market Street. Height, design, amount of open space, that kind of thing. The area's been home to a number of proposed developments recently, all of which have either withered under the opposition or are currently under dispute. That includes the Port's Piers 27-31, which in another lifetime were slated to be turned into a ginormous mall and water recreation area, and then more recently an office and recreation area— both projects are now dead in the water. And there's also 8 Washington, located on Seawall Lot 351, a condo development on a parking lot that's been treading water for a while now (see what we did there?!). But there's a light at the end of the tunnel. Says an aide to Chiu: the six to eight month study would clarify our goals for the waterfront, which means the project might even get green-lighted sooner rather than later. Huzzah.
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  #2068  
Old Posted Feb 25, 2009, 6:16 PM
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Construction Watch: Awaiting Sales Pitch in Lower Nob Hill



One of the few relatively big residential buildings on the construction scene these days, 1299 Bush does have a couple things going for it: 1) proximity to Polk Gulch, the favorite neighborhood of a number of our readers, and 2) no strip-mall-style asshat. The architect is Forum Design, the same folks who brought us The Artani on Van Ness and Eddy and the decidedly more conservative 77 Van Ness on Van Ness and Fell. Would there be any point in betting the 26 units go rental?
Source: http://sf.curbed.com/archives/2009/0...eader_comments
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  #2069  
Old Posted Feb 27, 2009, 5:49 AM
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942 Mission (between 5th and 6th). As proposed, a 13 (or 15 depending upon the source) story hotel with 7,840 (or 3,240) square feet of ground floor retail and 165 (or 172) rooms.


Source: http://www.socketsite.com/archives/2....html#comments
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  #2070  
Old Posted Feb 27, 2009, 5:58 AM
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I can't imagine that being built for some time. Would be nice to have a hotel there to help out Mint Plaza.
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  #2071  
Old Posted Feb 27, 2009, 6:34 AM
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that is a block that could be really nice but is far from it right now, given its proximity to westfield and mint plaza. hope it happens sooner rather than later.
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  #2072  
Old Posted Feb 27, 2009, 11:45 PM
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It's a shame it's not proposed for the surface lot across the street, or any of the other empty lots around there, instead.
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  #2073  
Old Posted Feb 27, 2009, 11:48 PM
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Originally Posted by peanut gallery View Post
It's a shame it's not proposed for the surface lot across the street, or any of the other empty lots around there, instead.
Isn't that lot part of the Chronicle's little real estate empire that will be up for grabs if they stop publishing and abandon SF?
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  #2074  
Old Posted Feb 28, 2009, 12:00 AM
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You might be right. I know there are one or two along 5th that are theirs.
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  #2075  
Old Posted Mar 4, 2009, 10:57 PM
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Update on the proposal at Fox Plaza ("1390 Market Street"):

120 ft., 11 stories, 19,000 sq. ft. retail on the ground floor, and homes above that: 80 studios, 120 1-beds, 50 2-beds.
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  #2076  
Old Posted Mar 4, 2009, 11:05 PM
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You're talking about the old SF Mart? Is it a tear down and replace, or remodel?
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  #2077  
Old Posted Mar 5, 2009, 12:10 AM
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I think he's talking about the tear down and rebuild of the small building in front of Fox Plaza that currently houses a Post Office, Starbucks, and a Patrick & Co. Good to hear that project is still moving ahead in some way.
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  #2078  
Old Posted Mar 5, 2009, 12:17 AM
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Originally Posted by Gordo View Post
I think he's talking about the tear down and rebuild of the small building in front of Fox Plaza that currently houses a Post Office, Starbucks, and a Patrick & Co. Good to hear that project is still moving ahead in some way.
I think that is correct.

The SF Mart project across Market St. is a remodel including, I believe, some sort of enclosure of the street between the two buildings (??Jessie St??).
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  #2079  
Old Posted Mar 5, 2009, 12:17 AM
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Originally Posted by Gordo View Post
I think he's talking about the tear down and rebuild of the small building in front of Fox Plaza that currently houses a Post Office, Starbucks, and a Patrick & Co. Good to hear that project is still moving ahead in some way.
Yes, it's the small commercial building at Hayes and Market (the main tower at Fox Plaza will be unaffected). It is fair to say the proposal, at least, is "moving ahead in some way."
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  #2080  
Old Posted Mar 5, 2009, 12:25 AM
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Originally Posted by fflint View Post
Update on the proposal at Fox Plaza ("1390 Market Street"):

120 ft., 11 stories, 19,000 sq. ft. retail on the ground floor, and homes above that: 80 studios, 120 1-beds, 50 2-beds.
This piece is almost 2 years old but things don't seem to have changed too much. I'd love to see a rendering:

Quote:
Fox Plaza (1390 Market): 250 New Condos In The Works



According to J.K. Dineen, “Archstone-Smith is pushing forward with plans to raze the corner retail element [of Fox Plaza] and replace it with a 250-unit flatiron-style condo building.” (Note 80 + 120 + 50 = 250)

The planned wedge-shaped terra-cotta and glass 120-foot structure, with retail, would replace the low-slung building that houses Starbucks and a stationery shop, according to Presidio Development Partners President Mark Conroe, who was retained by Archstone-Smith to obtain city approvals for the residential development and sell off the office part. The new building would cost about $150 million based on current construction costs.
HellerManus has been tapped for the design (which will "speak to the energy level of the Civic Center area”) and the current 446 renal apartments (and 550-car garage) will remain in place.
Source: http://www.socketsite.com/archives/2...the_works.html
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