tv [untitled] September 10, 2010 11:30pm-12:00am PST
you build buildings today for what is hoped to be commercial viability 10 years from now core onlying 10 years from now. you don't build it for 10 years ago. the new concept of the skin of the building, i keep hearing about this as a historic district. take a look at the block of -- we keep saying second street, because that's the address of the building. take a look at the block of howard street one block east. there is nothing particularly historic about that run-down walk. it's in pretty bad shape. and you can continue down that line for a while. so i understand and i would
have object fundamental the base of the building was higher than the historic building next to it. i think that gesture, if one wants to put it that way, is the correct way to go. i think the re veal separates the rest of the building to an extent. the tradeoff of putting the bulk into the middle tech shown -- i don't think if you reduced those floor plates the 500 square feet would make any difference to the actual building other than the viability, perhaps. but i don't think the objections that we've heard here today would be changed whatsoever. i actually like what the department recently did, even though it caused a redesign of the building. i think the tower works out
better than the pictures i've seen of the former design. i think it's a better building. i'm actually intrigued by the skin. and my first view of glass buildings of any size years ago was in texas, except that was blue glass and god awful architecture and i was turned off by them for years. glass technology has come a long way since those days, and i think this is a far better rendition of the concept. i like the openness of it and the height of the ground floor. i think it's going to be an interesting public space and as a public space i think it will serve the neighborhood quite well in the long run. commissioner moore.
commissioner moore: i have been sitting here thinking about commissioner sugaya's thoughts, and i do think that the building is too bulky. on the other hands i think we have a qualified architect who could really make this building shine, and he does already in a certain way. but when i asked him as to whether or not a smaller building would also be ok with him, i did not hear him clearly say. i'm wondering whether or not we can support the building with modifications to its silhouette, and that is the building is too large, it has too much girth around the middle, and i would like to see a smaller building. i think it's very interesting. i would agree with what president miguel just said. it's an interesting way of giving texture and difference to a building. i don't think we have anything accept phillip johnson's building on california street, but that's a different story. i'm not sure whether or not the commission is open to asking
for a slightly redesigned silhouette of the building, because in its current bulkyness i would have a hard time with this building. president miguel: commissioner antonini. commissioner antonini: well, i think, you know, i'm probably in favor of the building as it's now designed, but certainly we would work with project sponsor for design. but i think that we've been -- staff has been working with them for quite a while now, and i think this is the type of size that needs to be done for this building to make sense. the only thing i would mention -- and this is a small element -- is one of your renderings, mr. fifer, appears to be sort of a smoky black glass to the building and others look blue. i always think the darker is a richer-looking building, particularly in the context of so much brick. in fact, the c-net building is one of my favorite buildings across the street, and it has a darker green. but that's certainly a discussion for another day and
something that can be done as we move forward with that. and i do agree with commissioner lee that, you know, attracting companies from outside san francisco makes a lot of sense. and many of them -- most of them have moved their governmental departments to san francisco, because government is here. they utilize legal accounting and advertising firms here, and they're starting to realize that their executive staff should be here a lot of times because -- and ultimately we can get more and more of that. google, of course, has had the site at hills plazzza that's been mentioned and we have splidse between the floors mostly because of this issue of connectivity of floors and broader floor plates, because for this type of thing we need a little more bulk to make the building work at the middle. and there's a reason for the design, you know. form mirrors function, and i think that's what we're seeing here. so i would like to move to
approve, but i don't know if the commission feels we can do them together or if we should do them individually. >> as long as you include in your motion the ceqa findings. president miguel: right, the ceqa findings. and we have the office allocation requirements, which should be no problem at all. and then the reclassification of the height, i believe, the 309 compliance on the three areas where there are exceptions, and then the remapping. >> i'll second. president miguel: commissioner olague. commissioner olague: i was kinds of hoping -- it's clear to me that we all want to approve some project on that site. i do appreciate the work that the department has done. i think it's a huge improvement over what was at the table originally, quite frankly, even though it might have caused some inconvenience to a project sponsor. but i would like to support the
comments of commissioner moore. and i don't know if that would be to ask for a continuance so that maybe we could see some additional work on the silhouette of the building or what, but -- is that a motion? >> yeah, that's a motion to continue for a couple of weeks. >> i second that. >> how many? >> i don't know how long it would take to sort of provide some kind of alternative. design. i mean, i don't know. i can't -- >> we have no time until october. >> october? president miguel: that's the soonest we have any time on the calendar that i know of. >> ok. and then we'll have this and then some -- >> it's on a different matter.
>> oh, ok. >> so you're proposing a continuance to october 7? >> first available date in october. >> yeah. >> commissioners, there's a motion on the floor for continuance, which takes precedence over any other motion on the floor. on the motion for continuance, commissioner antonini. commissioner antonini: no. president miguel: motion to continue is not debatable. you have to call the question. the motion to continue is not available. >> motion to continue to october 7. commissioner antonini: no. commissioner borden: i'm going to say no for now. commissioner lee: no. commissioner moore: aye. commissioner sugaya: aye. vice president olague: aye. president miguel: no. >> motion fails on a -4 vote. -- 3-4 vote. the motion currently on the floor is for approval of all
components of the case including the adoption of the ceqa finding. commissioner sugaya: yes. if that is going to be the direction the commission is taking, i'll have to vote against the motion. if you separate it out, i can vote for some of them but not for another one. so, i'm just letting you know that. >> as maker of the motion it doesn't matter to me if we -- oh, all right. well, then i guess we should separate it. well then let's do each one individually. beginning with -- unless -- commissioner borden: i i think we want to talk first. >> you want to continue talking before you make a decision? commissioner antonini: the motion is the same. what we're going to do is continue. i guess you don't care about the order -- ok. so we'd go as the order is on
the -- on our calendar. commissioner borden: i just want to talk to staff about what -- prior to this point, what other building formats or form did you look at and was there an earlier or smaller version think? know we've changed the version. you can talk a little bit about that? >> yes. actually prior to my time at the department there was an alternative proposal that was of a more uniform massing. i understood that it was maybe a more slender floor play on average overall or rather that that sort of floor area was distributed evenly throughout the height of the tower. but my understanding is it was of the same proposed height. maybe the project sponsor can describe it in a little bit more detail. i know there was a feeling and the director can speak to this. maybe a building forum that's
more articulated with portions of the tower might be more suitable in that location. >> my understanding is that originally there was a building that was substantially taller. i forget how tall, about 500 feet, something like that, that was the initial proposal early on. >> i guess there's been enough change in the department that there aren't enough people when here who remember when we came in in 2006. >> we came to the department with two buildings in 2006. we came to the department with a 25-1 building with increased height and we were going to create a special use district and we were going to improve second street all the way from market to the freeway. there was an 18-1 building. they both had a similar irregular floor plan. it was a single shape that went all the way up. after lengthy discussion about the possibility of improvements, it was decided because of the transbay transit center upplanning, that they didn't want to do any higher
buildings on this site and we worked with dean and larry and craig for months on this simple shape that went up and this is the fall of 2006. the office economy in san francisco is hot. so not only have we paid dealer for the piece of land and bought all the t.d.r.'s, but we're actually in full-blown design development drawings. tom and i went to portland to look at this skin. we built this skin that's on the building in benson's yard in portland. and, you know, we were dish think it was a very different building, it was a very exceptional building, it would have been very unique and finally after a year and a half dean came back and said, look, you know, because of the way the downtown plan is written,
we need something that is much more compliant with the downtown plan. ok? so we stopped, we redesigned the building, we came to the department with a building where there were seven different masses. we had a whole series, rather than three masses we had seven. and that had -- so, with each one the skin ran the opposite direction. it was a much more rich, articulate form from my perspective. but again, after months of working with john, john comes to my office one day, kind of his head in his hands, he says, we can't do this. we can't support this. it has to be more compliant with the code. we have, within reason, designed this building as compliant with the code as we can possibly do and do a 350-foot-high building.
we conformed at the top, we -- the tweak of the mass at the base is simply to make the mass high end for the building next door. we've been at this for almost four years. with all due respect, and i understand the desire for it anance and the desire for, gosh, you know, if we just took six weeks, might we come back with a significantly better building? and we've been at it for four years. to make the building more compliant, aye and i think several people have -- and i think several people have said this, it's not going to improve the building. you're going to make the base of the building bigger. if you try and shove another floor in there, which helps make it more compliant, you're going to lose the ground floor open space which i think is one of the jewels of the building. we've been at this for years. we've spent a ton of time on
architecture, we spent a ton of time with the department. this is a c-3 site. it's an important corner in san francisco. the only approved office projects that are viable in the downtown are 350 bush, which has been on the books for decades, in large part because it's a midblock building north of market at the western edge of town, 535 mission, which beacon actually started construction on, and stopped. the problem with 535 mission, it's a great location, is that the floor plates are 11,000 square feet. if you build a building with 11,000-foot square plates, it's great for an 11,000-foot tenant. it might work for a 33,000-foot tenant but if it's other
they're not going to consider the building. so you've got a building at 535 mission that only makes sense when the market is white hot. because that's when you can drive those big ten ants and force them to go in there, even though they don't want to, because that's the only game in town. and then you have the site at the square which is 195,000 square-foot building. it's also been on the bookser to a long time -- books for a long time. the developers were lucky enough to win some microsystems and then paid them handsomely to cancel the lease but that's not a big building. those are the only viable office sites in san francisco. this is an important corner. it's an important opportunity to build a viable project. commissioner borden: i think you've said enough. ok, so i get that we're not -- your desire is not to work on
this building any further. i get that 1,000%. i will say that what is regrettable is that the planning director should not have been working with you on a building that wasn't more compliant with the first place. i mean, i think that that was the misdirection of the planning director in the beginning. and so i just think that the frustration, while i understand it, you know, to a certain extent, is not exactly our problem. it's our problem in the sense that we want to have a good project here. ultimately i am supportive because it's the c-3. i look down howard street and there are huge buildings and it's a problem when you have a district in transition from some low rises, some high rise. i would hope that you would continue to work with staff to figure out how we can make it feel more -- less bulky of a building, because i recognize that the challenges of this site, i recognize the floor plates, i work in a building
that's from the 1970's and they're renovating the lobby for the 100th time because they're trying to remain competitive with the environment. i don't get it, it's a huge inconvenience for the tenants in the building but it seems to be the nature of the beast and the -- in the commercial environment. so i get that, i work in the tech industry, i get it. you know, we have lots of buildings in san jose and we went into a lead gold building instead, brand new, because we wanted to be in lead gold. i get the realities of the market. what i hope, though, is that we can be responsive to the overall neighborhood and figure out how to make the way the building appears, ultimately, to be less of, you know, a monstrosity. i personally think the hawthorne lane building is quite unattractive. and, you know, there's nothing to be done about that. but i just -- that's my only concern here, ultimately is the c-3. there are other tall buildings.
if you're going to concentrate office, you're going to do it downtown in the core and your transbay where makes a lot of sense. my regret is that this building can't be more respectful and imagine that, you know, as we go through the process, it will happen that way. but it's not, you know, it's not our issue that the planning director originally led you down a path for a building that wasn't really appropriate. >> i would pledge our support to working extensively with staff. we've done that at 555 mission where the building went through significant redesign after being approved by the commission at the very top. we did it in infinity where we brought in a new design architect. we will work with staff. commissioner sugaya: i think a code-compliant building isn't going to make it anyway. my perspective, you know, there's just too much square footage and you're trying to squeeze it into this, you know, little space.
and i think part of what we've not talked about very much is what mrs. hoefter pointed out and in the plan, i mean, second street happens to be called out directly. it happens to be based on shadows. but, you know, the fact that it's really only one of two streets that got called out does say something. i mean, we can't totally ignore it. and granted the shadows may not be as much as, you know, whatever -- some people think it's too much, other people seem to think that it's a very small percentage. but -- and we don't have a real measure of what that exception should be based on. so it's kind of subjective at this point. but for me the fact it did get called out does still hold some weight and that should have been taken more into consideration, i think. without reducing the square footage, you know, spending another six weeks on the design, in my opinion isn't going to result in anything
spectacular. and that's the rub here. vice president olague: it sounds like -- it is a lot better than where it started but i guess the irony to me is i'm sitting here listening to someone saying, initially we came at a project that was 500 feet which is above and beyond what the code or what is allowed in that space. and then i guess there was some conversation and the height was brought down. then there was the comment that we brought a project in that wasn't even compatible -- that wasn't even conforming to the downtown plan and we were told by the director that in the downtown you have to have a project that conforms to the downtown plan. well, i mean, yeah, so, it's hard to, you know, for me to sympathize with what i'm
hearing. >> and dean's not here to defend himself. for months dean was supportive of the original design. vice president olague: it doesn't matter. it doesn't matter. i'm just saying, at some point, i guess, the direction i'd like to see the department go in the future is one that would encourage a project sponsor to come in with a project that conforms not so much -- well, to the code, obviously, at the minimum, and then also to whatever underlying plans are in that area. so if it's a downtown plan, then one that conforms to the downtown plan or whatever. that's it. commissioner antonini: i was called to question but i see commissioner moore has some comments. if you want to go ahead first. commissioner moore: is the bulkyness of the building is an issue, i was asking myself all along, why is the size of the
ground floor as large as it needs to be? there are a number of buildings in the vicinity and you might be talking about a market trend or expectation. i found this huge lobby is totally boring. they mostly do not accept people who wear less than a suit. i have found myself in that situation, just casually being in a sweater or blue genes and actually kind of -- jeans and actually kind of being looked at with a frown on the guy's face. in the majority of these buildings you can only get in with a building identification card, obviously as a normal person you don't have, and that is correct, down the street from you, that's exactly what happens. and these large lobbies are mostly empty. the design intent, i like the idea but i'm prepared to balance this benefit against the size of the building overall and i'm posing as a question, not a as a criticism, but i do think there is a tradeoff -- tradeoff on where the square footage is. the square footage in these
lobbies is mostly not for the majority of people who don't belong in this building because people who are in these buildings are territorial, there is a need for security which understand, and i have found myself on the opposite, kind of not really being welcomed, because i was looking a certain way. i was not really obviously going to work in those buildings but i was casually strolling by and it didn't fit the image. so i'd like to just pose that as an idea, not a criticism, but i'd like to get a balance into this discussion. commissioner borden: i did actually want to say that i know the intent is to put retail on the ground floor and i would like to see that if we could get a commitment from the project sponsor that the retail would be responsive to the neighborhood as opposed to being a monday through friday sort of retail use, but a retail use that would be open to people on the weekend, a big complaint that we get from a lot of people who live in the
downtown core is that most places are shut down other than the ferry building, and i guess i'd like to get, maybe we can put that in the conditions. because you want -- i remember when i met with the project sponsor, they said they were going to do indoor-outdoor space, but if they could do it so the retail is available for seven days a week, then that i think would help a lot in the usefulness that have ground floor being designed the way that it is. commissioner antonini: and this is exactly -- this never came up. but the project sponsor has mentioned that this public open space, which is quite large and will be open to the public, is the indoor-outdoor concept. we had a good discussion about that. and it's very, very useful because you could open it up on days that are pleasant, you can close the glass and close and you still enter it but it's not completely open to the outside environment. and a lot of that is done with
maybe -- did you have a comment on that? would you like to see that about the ground support treatment? commissioner moore: no. commissioner antonini: it's quite impressive. this is much larger than 101 second. that's a very welcoming space. anybody can go in there at any time. what this has is the ability to open the door, windows up on nice days so it's even more inviting. i think this is exactly what we've been looking for and that's a big part of the ground floor, if i'm not mistaken. so, maybe we can call the questions in order beginning with office allocation. >> on the motion for approval of item 12-a. commissioner antonini: aye. commissioner borden: aye.
commissioner lee: aye. commissioner moore: no. commissioner sugaya: aye. vice president olague: aye. president miguel: aye. >> the motion passes 6-1 with commissioner moore voting against. commissioners, on the motion for approval of 12-b, including the adoption of ceqa finding, commissioner antonini. commissioner antonini: aye. commissioner borden: aye. commissioner lee: aye commissioner moore: no. commissioner sugaya: aye. vice president olague: no. president miguel: aye. >> that motion passes 5-2, with commissioners moore and olague voting against. on item 12-c, commissioner. commissioner antonini: aye. commissioner borden: aye. commissioner lee: aye. commissioner moore: no.
commissioner sugaya: no. vice president olague: no. president miguel: aye. >> that motion passes, 4-3. on item 12-c. commissioner antonini: aye. commissioner borden: aye. commissioner lee: aye. commissioner moore: no. commissioner sugaya: aye. vice president olague: no. president miguel: aye. that motion passed 5-2. thank you, commissioners. >> if i might interrupt, it was brought to my attention by city attorney that regarding the ceqa findings, there was discussion at the beginning of us taking it collectively and adding the ceqa findings. i was advised that the vote on item a should have included the adoption of the ceqa findings.
>> the first action you take needs to include the ceqa findings. you cannot take any approval actions without the ceqa findings being adopted as part of that first motion. and your first motion was on item a and you did not include the ceqa findings in that. i would ask the commission if it would rescind its vote on item a and revote including the ceqa find sogs that it's clear that that was taken. you did adopt -- president miguel: we don't have to do all of them. >> you don't have to do all of them over again. if you would please rescind your vote on item a and indicate that you did take adopt the ceqa findings and by reference those are adopted with regard to all of the action you're taking. president miguel: move to rescind item a. >> on the motion to rescind. commissioner antonini: aye. commissioner antonini: aye. commissioner borden: aye.