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Mapping the Many Living Roofs of San Francisco

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Last week, San Francisco became the first city to mandate solar panels on the roof of new buildings (provided they're less than 10 stories), but also winding its way through the city's legal apparatus is a partner bill that would allow builders to opt for living roofs instead.

And since a foliage-bedecked rooftop is just so darn cool, we're taking a bird's eye view of some of the best living roofs in the city.

This list is by no means comprehensive (which is good since that means we are definitely ahead of the curve), but a choice sampling of what's to come.

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1. California Academy of Science

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55 Music Concourse Dr
San Francisco, CA 94118

Everybody knows this one, and it wouldn't be right to start anywhere else. Even the planters on the roof are made from coconut husks and tree sap. During the spring blooming season, it's the densest concentration of wildflowers in San Francisco.

2. One South Van Ness

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1 S Van Ness Ave
San Francisco, CA 94103

A city creation and part of a larger general roof renovation. There's a 6,500 gallon tank up there for capturing rainwater. Plants include native buckwheat, stonecrop, and tufted hair grass. It was designed as an ideal habitat for butterflies and honeybees, which, yes, the most adorable thing Public Works has ever done.

3. Bernal Tower

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66 Ellsworth St
San Francisco, CA 94110

Dubbed "Bernal Tower" by designers at Santa Monica-based Blue Truck, this remodel of a once rundown Bernal bungalow gained national recognition. Unfortunately, recent satellite photos reveal what happens to the living roof of a private home during a record drought. Well, mother nature is resilient, this one can always bounce back.

4. Public Safety Building

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1245 3rd St
San Francisco, CA 94158

Even the police stations in this town need a holistic touch, like the greenery up top on this Mission Bay HQ, a HOK design that the Chronicle dubbed worth of "respect, if not love."

5. Arterra

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300 Berry St
San Francisco, CA 94158

Not to be confused with the landscaping firm of the same name whose offices are only a few blocks away in the Design District, these Mission Bay condos sowed the roof with native grass for insulation, and LEED certification sprouted.

6. Bently Building

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301 Battery St
San Francisco, CA 94111

The Bently Reserve building dates to 1924. Presently home to SmithGroup architects, they decided it had been missing a little something all these years. The results verge on Edenic, and the effect is particularly startling from the air (or Google Earth).

7. Drew School

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2901 California St
San Francisco, CA 94115

Noted for its incredibly dramatic, overgrown-looking vertical garden on the eastern side (the work of Roma Design Group), few realize that there's also a 2,900 square foot swath of native grasses up top as well. The soil is composed largely of lava rock, and hummingbirds are said to be fond of the building.

8. EcoCenter

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Jennings St & Cargo Way
San Francisco, CA 94124

The first building in San Francisco to get a LEED Platinum Zero Net Energy rating (and owned by the Port, no less), the roof's absorbent qualities are meant to help reduce erosion along Heron's Head Park.

9. Richardson Apartments

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365 Fulton St
San Francisco, CA 94102

Designed by David Baker Architects and named for doctors Julian and Raye Richardson, founders of Marcus Books, the onetime parking lot is now 120 units of affordable housing. The green spaces in the courtyard and roof are meant to be therapeutic.

10. UN Plaza

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50 United Nations Plaza
San Francisco, CA 94102

The roof includes a "succulent carpet" (which sounds accidentally delicious) and creeping vines that help protect sensitive equipment on the roof. The "growing medium" is eight inches deep. This is a particularly heavy living roof, since the building was designed for an extra floor that was never built.

11. UCSF Medical Center

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1500 Owens St
San Francisco, CA 94158

One of only 15 hospitals in the world with a LEED certification, the tiered design by McDonough + Partners makes for one of the most striking rooftops in the city.

12. USF Center For Science and Innovation

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University Center, 2130 Fulton St
San Francisco, CA 94117

Here's a deep roof for you: between one and three feet. A cistern under the parking lot holds up to 50,000 gallons of water that can filter through its many layers.

13. Twitter HQ

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1355 Market St
San Francisco, CA 94103

The line between a living roof and a mere "rooftop garden" can be something of a judgment call. The green space atop the Twitter building runs the company $100,000 a month.

14. 38 Dolores

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38 Dolores St
San Francisco, CA 94103

This upscale condo complex on Market promotes itself as the greenest of green living. The green roof even includes a butterfly habitat full of local, endangered butterfly species, including the San Bruno elfin and bay checkerspot.

15. Matarozzi Pelsinger

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355 11th St
San Francisco, CA 94103

Matarozzi Pelsinger Builder's needed a few trial and error efforts on their roof. The first planting fell prey to San Francisco's powerful winds and never quite got enough water, necessitating a second try.

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1. California Academy of Science

55 Music Concourse Dr, San Francisco, CA 94118

Everybody knows this one, and it wouldn't be right to start anywhere else. Even the planters on the roof are made from coconut husks and tree sap. During the spring blooming season, it's the densest concentration of wildflowers in San Francisco.

55 Music Concourse Dr
San Francisco, CA 94118

2. One South Van Ness

1 S Van Ness Ave, San Francisco, CA 94103

A city creation and part of a larger general roof renovation. There's a 6,500 gallon tank up there for capturing rainwater. Plants include native buckwheat, stonecrop, and tufted hair grass. It was designed as an ideal habitat for butterflies and honeybees, which, yes, the most adorable thing Public Works has ever done.

1 S Van Ness Ave
San Francisco, CA 94103

3. Bernal Tower

66 Ellsworth St, San Francisco, CA 94110

Dubbed "Bernal Tower" by designers at Santa Monica-based Blue Truck, this remodel of a once rundown Bernal bungalow gained national recognition. Unfortunately, recent satellite photos reveal what happens to the living roof of a private home during a record drought. Well, mother nature is resilient, this one can always bounce back.

66 Ellsworth St
San Francisco, CA 94110

4. Public Safety Building

1245 3rd St, San Francisco, CA 94158

Even the police stations in this town need a holistic touch, like the greenery up top on this Mission Bay HQ, a HOK design that the Chronicle dubbed worth of "respect, if not love."

1245 3rd St
San Francisco, CA 94158

5. Arterra

300 Berry St, San Francisco, CA 94158

Not to be confused with the landscaping firm of the same name whose offices are only a few blocks away in the Design District, these Mission Bay condos sowed the roof with native grass for insulation, and LEED certification sprouted.

300 Berry St
San Francisco, CA 94158

6. Bently Building

301 Battery St, San Francisco, CA 94111

The Bently Reserve building dates to 1924. Presently home to SmithGroup architects, they decided it had been missing a little something all these years. The results verge on Edenic, and the effect is particularly startling from the air (or Google Earth).

301 Battery St
San Francisco, CA 94111

7. Drew School

2901 California St, San Francisco, CA 94115

Noted for its incredibly dramatic, overgrown-looking vertical garden on the eastern side (the work of Roma Design Group), few realize that there's also a 2,900 square foot swath of native grasses up top as well. The soil is composed largely of lava rock, and hummingbirds are said to be fond of the building.

2901 California St
San Francisco, CA 94115

8. EcoCenter

Jennings St & Cargo Way, San Francisco, CA 94124

The first building in San Francisco to get a LEED Platinum Zero Net Energy rating (and owned by the Port, no less), the roof's absorbent qualities are meant to help reduce erosion along Heron's Head Park.

Jennings St & Cargo Way
San Francisco, CA 94124

9. Richardson Apartments

365 Fulton St, San Francisco, CA 94102

Designed by David Baker Architects and named for doctors Julian and Raye Richardson, founders of Marcus Books, the onetime parking lot is now 120 units of affordable housing. The green spaces in the courtyard and roof are meant to be therapeutic.

365 Fulton St
San Francisco, CA 94102

10. UN Plaza

50 United Nations Plaza, San Francisco, CA 94102

The roof includes a "succulent carpet" (which sounds accidentally delicious) and creeping vines that help protect sensitive equipment on the roof. The "growing medium" is eight inches deep. This is a particularly heavy living roof, since the building was designed for an extra floor that was never built.

50 United Nations Plaza
San Francisco, CA 94102

11. UCSF Medical Center

1500 Owens St, San Francisco, CA 94158

One of only 15 hospitals in the world with a LEED certification, the tiered design by McDonough + Partners makes for one of the most striking rooftops in the city.

1500 Owens St
San Francisco, CA 94158

12. USF Center For Science and Innovation

University Center, 2130 Fulton St, San Francisco, CA 94117

Here's a deep roof for you: between one and three feet. A cistern under the parking lot holds up to 50,000 gallons of water that can filter through its many layers.

University Center, 2130 Fulton St
San Francisco, CA 94117

13. Twitter HQ

1355 Market St, San Francisco, CA 94103

The line between a living roof and a mere "rooftop garden" can be something of a judgment call. The green space atop the Twitter building runs the company $100,000 a month.

1355 Market St
San Francisco, CA 94103

14. 38 Dolores

38 Dolores St, San Francisco, CA 94103

This upscale condo complex on Market promotes itself as the greenest of green living. The green roof even includes a butterfly habitat full of local, endangered butterfly species, including the San Bruno elfin and bay checkerspot.

38 Dolores St
San Francisco, CA 94103

15. Matarozzi Pelsinger

355 11th St, San Francisco, CA 94103

Matarozzi Pelsinger Builder's needed a few trial and error efforts on their roof. The first planting fell prey to San Francisco's powerful winds and never quite got enough water, necessitating a second try.

355 11th St
San Francisco, CA 94103