Posted: May 6, 2008, 5:18 PM
Only Mostly Dead
Join Date: Apr 2007
John King wrote about One Hawthorne
and the much broader neighborhood (out to Transbay) in today's Chronicle:
Place: History resurfaces on an old wall
Tuesday, May 6, 2008
It won't be this way for long, but you can glimpse the past, present and future of San Francisco's South of Market neighborhood from the corner of Hawthorne and Howard streets.
Until last month, the southeast corner of the intersection was filled with a drab five-story building. Now the drab is defunct, razed to make way for a condo tower that begins, as all towers do, with a hole in the ground.
What's on display now: the two-story brick wall of 639 Howard St., the building next door. It starts our history lesson of the century that was and the century to come, from a terrain of sturdy warehouses to a sky-scraping agglomeration of towers.
On that wall is a painted billboard of sorts that probably dates from soon after the building was erected in 1910. Two companies have three-line all-cap declarations stating their business purpose: Sherwood Packing Products ("jobbers and distributors") and Decker's Iowana Brand Hams & Bacon, which tempts us with "quality brand hams bacon lard/perfect products."
Even if the wall hadn't been hidden since the early 1920s, there's no doubt these messages come from long ago. What the heck is a "jobber"? As for the Decker's boast, "perfect" is passe in the age of artisanal this and grass-fed that. And imagine trying to lure a Bay Area foodie with the word "Iowan." Locally sourced or not at all, Mr. D!
Now lift your eyes to see how the story has developed since the decades when this part of town serviced the port to the east and the Financial District to the north.
First up, across Howard Street but looming tight, is 199 New Montgomery, an attractive 16-story condo tower from 2004. It's part of a historic district, and the design by Heller-Manus Architects pays homage to the masonry look and orderly rhythms of its pre-World War II neighbors.
Even without the architectural controls dictated by the location, 199 New Montgomery reflects the post-1980 effort to make new construction in San Francisco look as rooted in tradition as can be. The other lesson on display: a district where lard was hawked now is a desirable place to live.
But wait, there's more.
Above the wall the blue sky is nudged by two glass high-rises where construction crews are still on the job. On the left is 555 Mission, a 458-foot office tower; to the right, the 645-foot Millennium Towerwill hold 419 condominiums with prices as high as the crystalline peak.
These buildings symbolize the neighborhood to come: glistening and modern, coolly affluent. And that empty air between them? It's where the San Francisco Planning Department's zoning proposals last week would allow a 1,000-foot tower.
We've come a long way from jobbers and lard.
While we're in the neighborhood, a bit more on the idea of lifting heights to allow new towers in the blocks around First and Mission streets.
In unveiling their ideas to a full house at Golden Gate University, planners didn't emphasize just aesthetics. Project manager Joshua Switzky spent the first 20 minutes of his presentation building a case for vertical growth based on regional job projections and ... carbon emissions.
Switzky drew on statistics that show 77 percent of workers in downtown San Francisco get to work via public transportation. By comparison, just 5 percent of workers outside San Francisco and Oakland commute on transit.
Then comes the extrapolation, based on various energy studies of late. In a typical year, an estimated 8,800 metric tons of carbon emissions would be generated for every 10,000 workers heading into downtown San Francisco. It's 26,000 metric tons for the same number of mostly car-bound suburban commuters. Which is bad news if you understand the connection between energy consumption and - sorry, skeptics - climate change.
"Where we locate jobs in this region has a major impact on sustainability," Switzky said.
Whether or not you agree, mark my words: It's the sort of argument for dense development you're likely to hear more of in the years to come. And not just in San Francisco.
Finally, tips of the hat to two prominent local designers.
The first is Jim Jennings, one of San Francisco's most exquisite architects (check out Steel Arc, a small loft building of honed metallic grace at 85 Natoma St.). He's the 2008 recipient of the American Academy of Arts and Letters' Academy Award for Architecture - an entertainingly named honor that in the past has gone to such talents as Daniel Libeskind and rising Chicago star Jeanne Gang.
Also taking a bow is Boris Dramov, whose firm ROMA has been the creative force in such efforts as the redesign of the Embarcadero. He's this year's distinguished alumnus at the school of architecture at the University of Southern California. Dramov is the first Northern California designer to receive the award, putting him among such past recipients as Frank Gehry and Thom Mayne.