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News + PoliticsThe Agenda, Aug. 31 to Sept. 7: Tech office...

The Agenda, Aug. 31 to Sept. 7: Tech office creep in the Mission …

… another Wall on the Waterfront, and how, exactly, is the city going to roust all the homeless  for the Super Bowl?

The 75 Howard building would be the tallest in its part of the waterfront. Image courtesy of Rincon Hill Neighbors Association
The 75 Howard building would be the tallest in its part of the waterfront. Image courtesy of Rincon Hill Neighbors Association

By Tim Redmond

AUGUST 31, 2015 — I am, like a lot of other people in this town, intrigued by Mayor Lee’s assertion that homeless people “will have to leave” to make room for the Super Bowl party in January.

Not only are we talking cruel and inhumane, but seriously: How’s that going to work?

The Super Bowl party will be on public space at the lower end of Market Street. You can’t kick people out of public space just because they don’t have a place to live. How will the police know which people are homeless and which are party-goers who have been drinking heavily for three days (and may very well be driven to piss on the street or fall asleep on a bench)?

The event will be free; anyone can go in. With there be a “homeless checkpoint?” Will we demand ID that shows a permanent place of abode?

And where will all the people who don’t fit in existing shelters and supportive housing go – to Airbnb? (Actually, the sidewalk in front of Airbnb’s office might be one place they wind up.)

I am with Tom Ammiano on this: If there’s a police roundup of homeless people, why don’t we all go down there and “Occupy the Super Bowl?” Would mass protests and mass arrests make the city look any better on national TV?


The Board of Supes isn’t back in session until next week, but the Planning in Commission meets Sept. 3, and there are two complicated – and possibly precedent-setting –projects on the agenda.

First comes 17th and Mission, where we are seeing among the first legal efforts at tech-office creep in the residential and neighborhood-commercial area.

For decades, general office use has been banned in most of the Mission. Doctors offices, dental offices, optometrists, and tax-preparers are allowed because they’re distinctly customer-service businesses. But other than a few sites (like the old BayView Bank Building), general office use – for example, tech offices, which don’t directly serve walk-in customers – are prohibited.

Of course, that hasn’t stopped a few landlords from renting to tech companies anyway, and so far, the Planning Department hasn’t done anything about it.

Now the owner of the 17th and Mission building that houses Thrift Town (and the endangered artist colony known as Studio 17) wants to convert some of the upstairs space to administrative offices. Read: Tech offices. For PlanGrid, CrowdFlower, and another company yet to be named. The Planning Department freely admits this is office use, and says it should count against the city’s annual limit on office space and pay the normal fees for office conversion.

But it’s fair to ask if we really want to see Mission Street become a new tech-office hub. I think the message of mid-Market is pretty clear: Tech offices drive up rents and drive out nonprofits, community-serving businesses, and non-rich renters.

You allow a few, and pretty soon landlords all along Mission will say: Who needs a Spanish-speaking, community-serving dentist or chiropractor when we can have high-paying tech offices instead?

Is that really a good idea?


Next up is 75 Howard, which is currently a parking garage and will, if the developer has its way, soon be a 200-plus-foot-tall condo complex. The project has been delayed a few times, and is going to face significant community opposition. There’s the shadow issue (the Sierra Club lays it out here).There’s the fact that it’s taller even that 8 Washington, which was called the Wall on the Waterfront.

Then, as the Rincon Point Neighbors Association points out, the building has no setbacks, defies the Urban Design Plan’s call for “low” buildings on the waterfront, and will contribute only the mandatory minimum to the city’s affordable housing fund.

Oh, and it would cause, according to City Planning Department studies, “…traffic increases that would cause levels of service to deteriorate to unacceptable levels at the intersection of Spear and Howard streets.” As if that area weren’t a mess already.

The commissioners will also hear an informational presentation about the mammoth project at Fifth and Mission, which will be one of the next fronts in the city’s development wars. (More on that project tomorrow.)



Tim Redmond
Tim Redmond has been a political and investigative reporter in San Francisco for more than 30 years. He spent much of that time as executive editor of the Bay Guardian. He is the founder of 48hills.
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  1. Tim, come on.

    75 Howard would increase the shadows on Rincon Park “from about 8.7 percent to about 10.9 percent” according to the EIR.

    The actual renderings of the building and the skyline are quite different from what Tim posted above. I’ve attached them to this comment, but in case they don’t make it through, go look them up on on socketsite. The image Tim reposted is incredibly misleading.

    Also, It’s disingenuous for Rincon Park Neighborhood Association to complain about insufficient contributions to the affordable housing fund, when they’re the ones holding the knife. When the proposed building height was 282 feet, developers of 75 Howard offered to fund construction of 100 BMR units and a grocery store in the Tenderloin, which would have brought the affordable housing ratio of the project to 33%.

    “As a result of a taller 75 Howard Street project falling through, Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corp (TNDC) downsized their Taylor and Eddy project that had been trying to reach economic feasibility for a decade. TNDC’s original plan proposed a 14-story residential building, consisting of 153 affordable apartments over a ground-floor grocery on what is currently a parking lot. With the loss of Redevelopment Agency money in 2011 and with the uncertainty surrounding the 75 Howard project’s in-lieu contribution, TNDC decided to move ahead on a smaller project with more reliable funding.”[SFHAC]

    The project is now 220 feet tall. It will fund 30 new BMR homes instead of 70. Rich people in Infinity Tower keep their nice views of the bay and pour gasoline more gasoline on the housing crisis. The opposition to this project is not progressive, and I really don’t know how people can see it as such.

  2. OK, you win. I often try to give the ‘benefit of the doubt’, and yes it is clearly unworthy here.

  3. “If”? “If”?!? Jesus fucking Christ man, are you serious? Whoever did it cropped off most of the Gap Building and it’s neighbors to the south.

  4. If the rendering is misleading, then shame on whoever did it. Regardless, no setbacks? WTF? What an ugly, bulky building proposed for our waterfront. Shame on everyone involved.

  5. The Progressive cause is always more important and relevant than the truth. A little photoshopping is a small price to pay if it helps advance the progressive cause.

  6. the picture is correctly labeled “waterfront facades.” It’s the various
    developers who are disingenuous by using telephoto shots (taken from
    way out in the bay) to make tall inland buildings look closer to their
    waterfront projects. They want their projects to look like they fit
    in. The buildings on the left have tall towers, but those are set way
    back, unlike 75 Howard, as much as 160-feet from the Embarcadero.
    That’s the point. This luxury condo developer wants to exempt himself
    and have no such setbacks. Nobody else has a 240 tower so close to the

  7. LOL that rendering is a joke. I can’t believe people are seriously peddling this crap with a straight face. The tops are chopped off of the Gap building and the Hills Brothers Plaza buildings, *and all of the towers immediately behind this stuff are removed*. This isn’t a rendering, it’s a lie.

  8. The “rendering” is incredibly misleading. The buildings to the right of the project are actually on the waterfront side of Stuart St while the project is on the other side of Stuart St. The buildings to the left have their towers (which are setback) just whited out.

  9. That rincon hill homeowner association image is hella disingenuous…shady photoshopping out the skyline behind the waterfront buildings makes you look dishonest. This form-based nimby shit is really reactionary and making an alliance with property owners is a dangerous game for the left.

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