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San Francisco's Plans for Market and Van Ness Reach a Crossroads

San Francisco Chronicle urban design critic John King reveals more than one layer of planning significance from a project proposed near one of the city's most prominent, but underutilized, intersections.
March 14, 2017, 9am PDT | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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John King tells the story of changes coming to the intersection of Market Street and Van Ness Avenue in San Francisco—a conspicuous location on a map, but one that’s less so in reality.

The city is hoping to change that with a district plan called the Hub, which would include "a cluster of towers on the skyline, a variety of public spaces below and as many as 7,280 housing units in between," writes King. The first project that fits that new vision for the area, 1500 Mission St, by developer Related California, could be approved next week. Planning for the Hub, meanwhile, could enter environmental review this summer.

1500 Mission St. will build a 39-story apartment tower on the 2.5-acre site, along with a 16-story office complex for city employees. In between the two buildings, "there would be walkways lined with retail space in the base of the residential tower and meeting rooms, and an art gallery in the office building."

King examines the project as a case study of a project built at several crossroads, both literal and metaphorical. Here, old planning mandates, like a prohibition on construction that worsens wind on the sidewalks on Van Ness, combine with a higher density vision for the future of the area. King adds a final thought to summarize the broader stakes involved with the 1500 Mission St. proposal, as an incremental step in a taller, more dense future: "as the city revises plans for this small district and other parts of San Francisco, it isn’t enough to say that density is good as long as we get measurable benefits in return."

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Published on Monday, March 13, 2017 in The San Francisco Chronicle
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