Big Plans for Burned-Out North Beach Building (Site)
Big Plans for Burned Out North Beach Building Site

As we first reported last year, big plans to demolish the façade of the burned-out Verdi Building at 659 Union Street, between Columbus and Powell, and redevelop the site in the heart of North Beach have been drawn.

And as we revealed, the project team is positioning to secure the approval of a Special Use District for the site, extending to the adjacent parking garage parcel at 1636 Powell Street and enabling the development of a 98-unit residential building rising up to 85 feet in height, with a boutique 14-room hotel and rooftop terrace/restaurant atop the development and a row of new ground floor restaurant and retail space below.

San Francisco’s Planning Department has now completed its preliminary review of the proposed plans, balking at the compatibility of the project in terms of its design but supporting the additional hotel massing and height in general, provided the setback from Powell Street is increased and its visual impact is (further) reduced.

But then there’s the issue of shadows.

While the development as proposed was designed “to minimize [its] visual impact” and projected shadows on Washington Square, Washington Square has a designated zero tolerance (i.e., 0% Absolute Cumulative Limit) for new shadows to be cast upon the park by way of San Francisco’s Sunlight Ordinance (a.k.a. Prop K).

And as confirmed by the preliminary shadow fan prepared by Planning, the project is likely to cast new shadows on Washington Square Park as proposed.

As such, if the proposed project can’t be redesigned to eliminate any new shadowing of Washington Square Park, the project team will need to lobby for the cumulative shadow limit for the high profile park to be lifted (in addition to a rezoning and granting of a Special Use District for the site from San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors).

And with respect to the project team’s alternative plans for a bulkier Density Bonus project to be built on half the site should the requested Special Use District be denied, it’s back to the drawing board as the alternative project wouldn’t qualify for any waivers as threatened envisioned.

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