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Opposition Organizes Against Jeanne Gang, SOM Towers in South Beach

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The latest battle in the war over San Francisco's waterfront is about to kick off, targeting a twisty Jeanne Gang tower at 160 Folsom and already embattled 75 Howard. Usual suspect and former mayor Art Agnos is rallying neighbors of the two planned high-rises to fight against their development, primarily based on the shadows they would throw on little Rincon Park nearby. A website to Save Rincon Park has been launched and, according to an email invite that went out to Rincon neighbors, the first meeting will be held tomorrow at the Infinity—which is, yes, also a luxury high-rise tower right across the street from 160 Folsom. The Sierra Club, Rincon Point Neighbors Association, San Francisco Tomorrow, and Coalition for San Francisco Neighborhoods are all on board, and they are already invoking comparisons to the 8 Washington battle that was fought a few years ago.

As you may recall, 160 Folsom is backed by developer Tishman Speyer and is set to be designed by starchitect Jeanne Gang, who devised a twisty condo tower that would snake its way 400 feet into the sky. The site, Transbay Block 1, is zoned for a height of 300 feet under the Redevelopment Plan for the Transbay Project Area, passed by the Board of Supervisors in 2005. The full, 400-foot version of the tower calls for 399 condos, 141 of them below market rate, but would require an amendment to the Redevelopment Plan to move forward at its proposed height.

Tishman Speyer's proposal, which currently sits with the Office of Community Investment and Infrastructure (the successor to the Redevelopment Agency), also lays out a version of the project that would stay within the 300-foot limit. That version would include 318 units, 112 of them below market rate. Both versions of the proposal devote roughly 35 percent of the tower and its two podiums to below-market-rate condos, at levels ranging from 90 percent to 100 percent of area median income.

Opponents of the tower have been quick to call it a "wall on the waterfront," although it would sit a block and a half away from the Embarcadero. Comparisons to the "old double-decker Embarcadero Freeway" are also being drawn on the official Save Rincon Park website.

This is the first time that vocal opposition has formed against 160 Folsom, but 75 Howard has long been in the spotlight. Developer Paramount Group hoped to build a 25-story tower in return for funding Tenderloin below-market-rate housing, but abandoned both the height limit increases and the affordable housing plans a few weeks ago when community groups failed to get on board. The Skidmore, Owings & Merrill-designed building is now set to have 20 stories and 133 condos, but those same community groups are still not in favor. Plans now call for a 220-foot tower, although the Save Rincon Park website refers to 75 Howard as a 240-foot luxury tower.

Although Save Rincon Park references "out-of-state developers" who have spent "hundreds of thousands of dollars on powerful lobbying firms" in its website copy, its main stated opposition is to the shadows that would fall on little Rincon Park if the towers were to be built. Rincon Park is the stretch of grass that sits right next to the Bay Bridge and is home to the controversial Cupid's Span sculpture. It is dog friendly and often hosts downtown workers eating lunch and groups of people working out. Now, it is at the center of this latest waterfront battle, and it seems like San Francisco's antidevelopment crusaders are gearing up for a fight.

Top: Rendering of the Jeanne Gang-designed tower at 160 Folsom via Tishman Speyer/Studio Gang

· Save Rincon Park [Official Site]
· Coverage of 8 Washington [Curbed SF]
· Starchitect Jeanne Gang Drafts Twisty Tower for South Beach [Curbed SF]
· Under Pressure, 75 Howard Cuts Heights, And Affordable Units Too [Curbed SF]