New Design Unveiled for Nine-Story Housing at 1296 Shotwell

Rendering of new design for 1296 Shotwell, with revised southern facade, facing Bernal Hill. Source: MEDA

As you may recall, there was a meeting on Tuesday night during which the Mission Economic Development Agency  (MEDA) did the Big Reveal of their updated design for 1296 Shotwell, the nine-story housing development proposed for a site on Shotwell just north of Cesar Chavez. There’s a focus group happening in North Bernal on Monday, Aug. 29 to collect feedback on the new design (but more about that in a moment).

As you no doubt also recall, 1296 Shotwell is slated to become 90+ units of subsidized-affordable housing for senior citizens. The building will stand 85′ tall, or 20′ taller than current zoning allows.  Given the visual prominence of the site, the proposal for 1296 Shotwell been the object of intense scrutiny, with some Bernal neighbors saying that the development just too tall, and others suggesting the height would be  less of an issue if the Bernal-facing side of the building had a less austere design.

Both concerns were front and center during Tuesday’s meeting. The crowd at Tuesday’s meeting was small, with only about a dozen people attending, including several activists and project affiliates who were there to perform their roles as activists and project affiliates.

Most of the presentation was delivered by Susie Coliver of Herman Coliver Locus, the architectural firm leading the design for 1296 Shotwell. In response to community feedback, Coliver said her firm considered several alternate designs for 1296 Shotwell, including some that eliminated one or two stories from the building to mollify concerns about its exceptional height. The result, she said, was that while yes, the building did get a bit shorter, reducing a few floors didn’t really to much to make it feel much smaller from street level or North Bernal. Meanwhile, the height reductions significantly reduced the total number of housing units the building could potentially contain.  In practical terms, here’s what those trade-offs would look like:

Height design exercise for 1296 Shotwell, showing number of residential units each design could accommodate. Source: MEDA

Height design exercise for 1296 Shotwell, showing number of residential units each design could accommodate. Source: MEDA

Thus, in the revised design,1296 Shotwell remains the same height: Nine stories, rising 85-feet from street level.

Instead, the new design focuses on rethinking the building’s southern, Bernal-facing facade, which is the side that may become a new landmark for the 9000 people who will gaze upon it daily from their homes on the north slope of Bernal Hill.

The new design reduces the number of units from 96 to 94 and attempts to add more color and texture to the south side of 1296 Shotwell, without relying upon superficial decoration such as murals, mosaics, or graphics. Highlights of the new design for the south side include:

  • stepped roofline to provide locations for several new roof gardens. This is intended to avoid the monolithic, rectangular massing of the old design. A roof garden running along the south side of the building would reduce the apparent height of the building by one story, when viewed from street-level
  • There’s now a vertical column of windows in the center of the south facade, hidden behind laser-cut, enameled screen panels.
  • The concrete panels flanking the windows on the left and right may also include alternating coloration, to provide additional texture.

When we zoom and enhance the rendering of the new design to focus on how all these elements come together, the Bernal-facing side of1296 Shotwell maybe possibly perhaps would look something like this (if the roof gardens were well maintained):



Compare and contrast, old design vs. new design:

And here’s another view of the new design, showing how 1296 Shotwell might look if you were a pigeon flying over the intersection of Cesar Chavez and South Van Ness. The proposed terracing of the roof decks is more clear from this angle:

New rendering of proposed 1296 Shotwell design. Source: MEDA

New rendering of proposed 1296 Shotwell design. Source: MEDA

During Tuesday’s meeting, additional concerns were raised about parking, shadows, and wind-tunnel effects caused by the building’s nine-story height. Responses were more or less as follows:

Parking: 1296 Shotwell has no onsite parking, and is not required to include any. MEDA suggested that the 150 or so senior citizens who will qualify to live in the building can’t really afford cars anyway.

Wind and Shadows: Basic wind and shadow studies for this site were conducted during a preliminary environmental impact review (EIR) 10 years ago. MEDA says a revised EIR is not required.

UPDATE: After publication, MEDA shared this clarification: “We have implemented an initial wind study and the report indicated that there would not be an adverse impact of generating wind tunnels; therefore, a further wind tunnel report is not necessary. As for shadow studies, Auto Zone, which is next door to the building, plans on putting solar panels on their roof and had requested plans from the team, and deemed that there are no adverse impacts to their installation. The Planning Department would determine if a full EIR would be needed — not the development team.”

Height: The current proposal for 1296 Shotwell is 20 feet taller than the 65′ maximum height that current zoning specifies for this site. MEDA says they plan to use the new Affordable Housing Bonus Program (AHBP) to secure the necessary variance.

Project Timing: MEDA says they hope to complete the permitting for 1296 Shotwell in mid-2017 so construction can begin in late 2017. If that happens, occupancy would start in late 2019 or early 2020.

So that’s the latest plan.

Now that the new design has been revealed, MEDA will hold a “focus group” for Bernal residents to discuss the current proposal this Monday, and you are encouraged to attend:

1296 Shotwell Design Focus Group: Monday, August 29, 6pm to 7:30pm, Precita Eyes Mural Studio, 348 Precita Avenue

33 thoughts on “New Design Unveiled for Nine-Story Housing at 1296 Shotwell

  1. The architect says reducing the building by 20 feet won’t make it “feel” smaller. Nope. 85 feet is too tall, and sets a worrying precedent for the entire corridor.

    • I’m worried this might set a precedent of responding to outcries for more affordable senior living. 85 feet too tall, sheesh.

      • I think you didn’t get the tone Buck. SFYIMBY is clearly engaging in sarcasm. Heaven forbid we build more affordable housing for seniors! Imagine what would happen: seniors would have affordable places to live! The horror. The horror.

  2. wow, so much better! they took the request for beautification very seriously.

    the result is so good, you might say the design went from “politburo brutalism” to “permaculture party”

  3. Okay, yesterday I thought it was ugly, but now, yes, okay, okay, I’ve changed my mind. Love it! I hope it gets built.

    • Seniors don’t usually drive. My grandma lives in a senior building in Jersey City that’s probably 3 xs as dense, neither she nor most of her neighbors drive.

      I would say housing a vulnerable population is more important than the inconvenience of a few more cars on the streets, no?

  4. I will see this from the back of my home every day. I don’t love the height but I’m okay with it. We need housing. (Of course, I fall just outside the shadow plan and might feel differently if it were taking away my sunlight) That said, zero parking is a horrible idea. The City should NEVER waive the parking requirement for new construction. Claiming residents will be too poor to have cars is a ridiculous and insulting justification. Some people actually NEED cars – and many of those people are elderly. If it turns out the residents don’t actually use the parking the building could rent parking space to other neighborhood residents. Either way, more parking gets cars off the streets. Pretending cars don’t exist is just stupid.

    • Yes. What Stephanie said.

      “Seniors who qualify for this housing really can’t afford cars…” Ewwwww.

      • Because you say so?

        Reminder: our individual experiences are not universal or predictive, although we are wired to believe they are.And statistics are reliably predictive only under very strict conditions (which are rarely met in public policy discussions).

      • People around these parts aren’t capable of scientifically valid analysis, especially when it comes to cars. SFMTA has often misused and misinterpreted data to promote a favored conclusion. The social sciences and most types of psychology are SOFT sciences. Outside of controlled experimental settings, they aren’t predictive.

    • Aren’t the cars , regardless of # per resident , just being relocated from other parts of the city? Not sure if the areas impacted will be permit areas but you are looking at visitors, relatives, caregivers, shuttles , all that which comes with 90 units in one housing building.

      We have apartments on our block and they have parking spots but there are more than the one resident parking, thus the overflow onto street.

      Does this mean public spots will be converted to handicapped spaces?

      There is a lot to consider with apartment buildings and I am sure SFMTA in on top of density and parking concerns.

  5. Per Ms. Colvier: “reducing a few floors didn’t really do much to make it feel much smaller from street level or North Bernal”
    Height limitations isn’t about the subjective feel a building. It’s about actual height and the various impacts that will impose on the area.
    Nines stories exceeds the zone’s limits. If allowed, all future construction plans will assume nine stories–or perhaps ask for an exemption for more stories above that.

  6. I like the updated design, and I’m very happy that it all the units will be affordable housing for seniors. Taller buildings are in our future here in SF, and I think this is a nice example of how it can be accomplished.

  7. Holly crap! This thing is HUGE but not bad looking. The concern is that it will not be well maintained and it will be an eye sore.

    • Don’t confuse community-based non-profit built affordable housing with public housing. Do you think that the BHNC housing at the corner of Chavez and Mission, or above Big Lots, is well maintained?

  8. I think the building is ugly and boring in all of its incarnations. What is it with that drab, institutional peachy color that so many developers include on their buildings these days? It’s a shame that there is so little design innovation in this city.

    And the renderings Todd included of the buildings with fewer units really do FEEL smaller, as well as actually being smaller. I don’t know why the MEDA spokeswoman thinks that removing a couple stories wouldn’t really feel any different. It would FEEL two stories shorter!

    I think it’s great that there will be more affordable housing for seniors. Just wish we could give them something special to live in, and something special for us in North Bernal to look at.

    • Your concerns are valid. One reason there’s so little design innovation is that the general public has so much influence over the process. More people = more opinions = beige bland boring timid lowest common denominator. I pity architects here… To have every spark of creativity crushed out of you must really suck.

      I’d rather hate a building than be bored to death by it. Both of the designs for this building are big concrete cures for insomnia. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

  9. Too tall and as previously mentioned, exceeds zoning for the Mission. Thanks Lennar! I can’t wait for downtown to reach Chavez. Build baby build.

  10. Build baby build! Let’s have this MEDA development and the Lennar one too. I hope this sets a precedent for Chavez to see some serious density.

  11. The Lennar project has been delayed again. They will likely give up soon. 6 stories tall is enough. This thing as drawn is an albatross that will block the sun from the low income housing. It will also block the views of a hundred families. Once we agree to let 9 stories in then Lennar or someone else will ask for 11 then 14 stories. If we need 9 levels build down where the parking garage should be anyway. Let’s ask the city to hold at the Zoning review on December 1, and hope that we can join the Lennar owned property to the city low income property and put one 6 story project in here with common courtyard. We get twice the housing and only 6 stories as promised. If Meda wants 9 or 12 stories just grab an old empty building downtown and build where all the tall buildings are located.

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