Sizing Up Stevenson Street - November 29, 2017 - SF Weekly
SF Weekly

Sizing Up Stevenson Street

(Courtesy of Mark Cavagnero Associates)

The large rectangular parking lot on Stevenson Street — just a block off Market, between Sixth and Fifth streets — has always seemed odd. It’s surrounded by office buildings, apartments, hotels, and marijuana dispensaries, and its real estate value numbers in the millions. As with any surface-level parking lot downtown, it’s inevitable that something will rise in its place — and now, that day has come. Plans have been submitted for a massive 16-story mixed-use development, complete with 454 residential units, ground-floor restaurant and retail space, and a 168-car parking garage.

Nordstrom owns this parking lot, but it’s selling it to a developer that’s thinking big. BUILD — best known for One Oak and Avalon in Hayes Valley — is in charge of the project and is securing permission for the enormous building with the California Density Bonus law. Under the law, larger-than-normal projects are permitted in exchange for providing 18 percent of units as “affordable.” In this case, 11 percent of the units (50 apartments) would be provided on site for very low-income residents, and 7 percent will be off-site — qualifying the project for a 35 percent density bonus, the maximum allowed.

The site is just one of dozens of large-scale developments taking place in SoMa, but there is one key aspect that sets this one apart: the design. While most renderings of big multi-use developments feature boxy glass-or-concrete architecture finished with garish ochers and creams, early designs of 469 Stevenson show a modern, sparkling white, multi-level building, with three expansive rooftop gardens.

The unique style is the work of Mark Cavagnero Associates, which has an impressive track record: The firm is responsible for designing SFJAZZ, restoring of the Legion of Honor, and the beloved Sava Pool in the Sunset.

[Editor’s note, 11/29 3 p.m.: Socketsite now reports that the project has been increased to 35 stories, and is now being designed by Solomon Cordwell Buenz, We can only hope that rendering is a placeholder because we’ve never seen one with less personality than this “new” design.)

The project is still in very early stages and it will not escape some opposition — 29 percent of units are studios, for example, in a city where families are struggling to find multi-bedroom places to live.

And while there are already 176 parking spaces on the site, the development may contain up to 227 — a controversial move in an area well-served by BART, four Muni bus lines, and within walking distance of downtown.

It’s also likely a development of this scale will evolve before it’s built — 650 Divisadero St. has gone through at least four iterations and still hasn’t been permitted, and One Oak has taken years to win over the Planning Commission, nearby residents, and a supervisor.

But in an area as central as Sixth and Stevenson, we can all agree that hundreds of housing units trump a trash-filled surface parking lot surrounded by a chain-link fence.