There’s a community meeting scheduled for this Saturday, April 30 to discuss the proposal to build a 9-story tower at 1296 Shotwell Street (near Cesar Chavez). The meeting will take place from 10 am to noon in Room 100 of Leonard Flynn School (2125 Chavez) adjacent to Precita Park.
As Bernalwood has previously reported, 1296 Shotwell may become an 85′ building that will provide 96 units of subsidized-affordable housing for senior citizens. Sounds great in theory, but there’s a big problem: Under existing zoning regulations, 1296 Shotwell is 20 feet too tall.
As the urbanist website SocketSite explains:
As noted in the City’s preliminary review of the project plans, which were drafted by Herman Coliver Locus Architecture, [1296 Shotwell] is currently only zoned for development up to 65 feet in height.
As such, the 1296 Shotwell Street parcel will either have to be legislatively upzoned or the City’s proposed Affordable Housing Bonus Program (AHBP) will need to be passed in order for the development to proceed. Once approved and permitted, it will take another two years to build.
So the current design for 1296 Shotwell is illegal under existing codes.
Yesterday, Bernalwood was contacted by the Mission Economic Development Agency (MEDA), one of the developers leading the effort to build 1296 Shotwell. MEDA invited Bernal neighbors to attend Saturday’s community meeting. But when Bernalwood asked MEDA for updated renderings of the proposed tower, our request was declined. “The renderings can be requested the day of the meeting,” we were told.
Oh well. Since MEDA didn’t want to provide advance guidance on the proposal they want our community to discuss, let’s review what we know about 1296 Shotwell, based on previous disclosures.
Here is a rendering of 1296 Shotwell released earlier this year. The building sits near the corner of Shotwell and Cesar Chavez. Labels have been added to clarify the building’s orientation:
A few observations:
• To date, all the renderings of 1296 Shotwell released to the media have shown views of the building from the air, as you might see it from a drone. However, that’s not how it will look to neighbors, because people don’t have wings. Aerial views of this nine-story tower camouflage the building’s bulk. To look down on 1296 Shotwell is to see it against a matching backdrop of surrounding streets and structures. In the real world, however, neighbors will look up at 1296 Shotwell, and it will be dramatically taller than any nearby buildings, with no peers or urban backdrop whatsoever. From the street, or from Bernal Heights, 1296 Shotwell will tower alone, above high above its surroundings, with only the sky as a backdrop (More on that below).
• As shown in the aerial rendering, 1296 Shotwell’s southern, Bernal-facing facade will not include any windows. Windows and balconies for residents will be on the eastern and western facades, but the north and south sides of the building will be 85′ concrete slabs. In its basic design, 1296 Shotwell will be very similar to 2601 Mission Street, the US Bank building on the corner of 22nd Street, built in 1963. The similarity is that 2601 Mission is also 9 stories, and it also has no windows on its short sides, with all the windows arrayed on the long ones. Which is to say, from street-level, as a pedestrian or Bernal neighbor, the massing of 1296 Shotwell will feel like this:
• MEDA’s illustrations of 1296 Shotwell have attempted to soften the bulk of the building’s slab-sides by including a mural on the windowless, Bernal-facing wall. A mural will add color, to be sure, but a mural isn’t architecture; It doesn’t change the basic form of the building, or mask its height. This is easy to understand for most Bernalese, because when we look east from atop Bernal Hill today, we see another tall slab decorated with a mural: The abandoned 197-foot grain silo on the waterfront that’s now decorated with painted balloons. The silo looks more colorful now than it did before the mural was painted, but it hasn’t gotten any less imposing, either.
Anyway, all that leads us to the rendering shown at the top of this post. Since MEDA declined to share any new renderings with the Bernal Heights community, we collaborated with a local architect to create our own, to provide Bernal neighbors with a photo-realistic representation of what 1296 Shotwell will look like in the context of the existing urban fabric. Bernalwood’s rendering shows 1296 Shotwell as seen from Precita Avenue. The building is shown to scale, as a 85-foot tower, as it would look if constructed according to MEDA’s last publicly released set of drawings, absent only a mural. Barring a dramatic change to the proposal, this is pretty much what the form of the nine-story building at 1296 Shotwell will look like if you live in northwest Bernal Heights. Hello, “Great Wall on Shotwell.”
MEDA says the community meeting this weekend is to “review and provide community input on design and streetscape” for 1296 Shotwell. If you’d like to do that, you can share your thoughts with them this Saturday, April 30, from 10 am to noon in Room 100 of Leonard Flynn School.
IMAGES: Top, street-level rendering of 1296 Shotwell via Bernalwood. Aerial rendering of rendering of 1296 Shotwell via MEDA. 2601 Mission Street by Telstar Logistics.