101 First St. will someday be the site of the Transbay Tower. The Transbay Tower has faced numerous hurdles over the years, the most recent of which was the shadow study and findings required by Proposition K, a 1984 voter initiative that limited the creation of buildings that are higher than 40 feet and would cast shadows on city parks or playgrounds.
The eight parks or playgrounds with additional shadows or shading by the construction of the Transbay Tower are:
- Union Square
- St. Mary’s Square
- Portsmouth Square
- Justin Herman Plaza
- Wille “Woo Woo” Wong Playground
- Maritime Plaza
- Woh Hei Yuen Park
- Chinese Recreation Center
- Boeddeker Park
The SF Planning Commission and the SF Parks and Rec commission had a joint meeting yesterday where they changed the rules so that the Transbay Tower project could go forward. The significance of the approval is hard to understate. If the rules weren’t changed, the tower would have to be whacked by about 50 stories, which would have killed the economic feasibility of the entire Transit Center District. Why? Because the money the city will raise from the sale of the land for the Transbay Tower and surrounding new towers in the Transit Center District is earmarked for the construction fo the Transbay transit center, the mythical and long-dreamed of downtown extension for Caltrain as well as the hypothetical high-speed rail terminus.
Before you work yourself into a lather, I think it is important to note how minor the permitted shadow changes are.
At Union Square, for example, the current rules allowed for an increase of .098% additional shadow, while the Transbay plan would add a total of 0.19% shadow. At St. Mary’s Square, which already has an existing shadow coverage of 51.9%, the allowable increase was 0%, but the Transbay project would add 0.09%. The biggest addition of shadow will be at Portsmouth Square, which will go from having 39.00% shadow coverage to a total of 39.4% shadow coverage.
I’m all for sunny parks, but I honestly doubt that I could stand in Portsmouth Square and say hey, this place feels 0.4% darker! So I applaud the rule change and am glad to see the Transbay Tower project move forward. Onward, to the next hurdle!