Density Uber Alles

Is density a goal unto itself? John Parman argues that a 38-story building proposed for San Francisco has little to do with walkable urbanism, and continues "a sorry tradition of case-by-case rezoning."

While SPUR (the San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association) has approved the building and it comes loaded at ground level with retail space, Parman is concerned about the precedent the proposed building would set for the historic, low-density neighborhoods to the north.

Parman writes, "The question 555 Washington raises is not whether it's inappropriate for its site, but what happens next. As UC Berkeley's Peter Bosselmann, a professor of urban design, once pointed out to me, adding density at the edge puts pressure on the lower-density neighborhoods that adjoin it. He was talking about the Rincon area, but the comment is even more applicable to the north end of the central business district, where recent and proposed projects along Kearny Street are also testing the higher-density waters. A generation ago, KPF's building at 600 California had to step down to blend in with lower buildings to the north. Today, a developer doing the same project would be likely to use the occasion for mixed-use, assuming the planning code holds. If enough exceptions to the code get approved, the current edge is unlikely to hold."

Full Story: Urbanity, Not Just Density


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