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A Guide to Success: The Embarcadero's Self-Help PowerPoint

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With a bunch of projects in the works for the Embarcadero, the Board of Supes initiated a study earlier this year to figure out a "sense of place" guideline for the northeast waterfront. The result of several months of study and community input will be presented tomorrow to the Planning Commission, but a preshow looksee reveals some of the thinking behind the study:

Great waterfronts from around the world all share an emphasis on gracious linear promenades, strong architecture that frames the open space, and a rhythmic progression of intimate open spaces that heighten the experience of both the built edge and the water beyond. It's probably safe to say that San Francisco, with its loosey goosey combination of disused ports and parking lots, wants in on that waterfront sex appeal. Keeping in mind that a number of developments are already in the works for the northeast Embarcadero, including:
· The cruise terminal at piers 27 and 29
· The Exploratorium at piers 15 and 17
· Condos at 8 Washington, also known as Seawall Lot 351

... the goal of the study is to formulate the urban design of area developments, including the ones above already in the works. Looking at what other waterfront cities have done, San Francisco's own planners and designers decided that one of the things that makes us us is our unique topography. In order to preserve and enhance the city's hilliness through the city's buildings, certain height limits would need a little tweaking.

Namely, from Broadway to Washington, the currently zoned height limit of 84 feet is recommended for a downsizing to 65 feet between Washington and Jackson, and 35 feet between Jackson and Pacific, to facilitate views from Coit Tower. To keep the Embarcadero the "grand civic street" that it is, or perhaps to make it even more so, planners recommend the west side of the street be "softer and greener" to complement the hard promenade feeling of the east side.

In addition, to create more continuity between the waterfront and adjacent neighborhoods, streets should be opened up for both pedestrian access and views of the bay. That means another biggie: opening up Clay, Jackson, Pacific, Vallejo, and Union streets.

Nothing surprising in this one, but development's one of the keys to this as yet unfinished guide: the "fundamental character of the city connected to the Bay through a continuous or nearly continuous urban edge at the western edge of The Embarcadero must be maintained and strengthened by encouraging new development on now?open parcels." And in perhaps a sidelong reference to the traditionally, vocal shall we say, disapproval of groups such as the Telegraph Hill Dwellers, the Planning Department recommends keeping in mind the "larger public context" vs. "demands of financial expediency or preferences of the local community" when laying down urban design and development decisions. Yeah, they totally went there.

Presentation's tomorrow, with a community workshop on Dec. 16.
· Northeast Embarcadero Study [Sfgov]
· David Chiu Wants to Know What's Up With the Waterfront [Curbed SF]