[75 Howard Street]

75 Howard Street, San Francisco
Last updated March 24, 2014 | Bookmark this site | Contact us

www.RinconNeighbors.com > The New Embarcadero > 75 Howard St

[Larger version below] An undistinguished 31-story, 350-foot high luxury high-rise condo building facing the Embarcadero is being proposed for 75 Howard Street. It would tower over nearby buildings (right). A mixed-use variant would allow 82 hotel rooms and 109 market-rate residential units. The owners are the Paramount Group of New York.

Larger versions of the artwork are at the bottom of this page. Read Tim Redmond's article about 75 Howard and the lack of planning on the waterfront. The Coalition for San Francisco Neighborhoods (CSFN) voted overwhelmingly to oppose 75 Howard. A diverse coalition of renters, condo owners, and business owners are united in opposing this oversized project.


This proposed building would exceed the site’s established height limit by 75%. It would only be about 15-feet shorter than one of the towers at One Market Plaza. Although the New York developer stated they wanted to be “in line with the other buildings in the area ,” 75 Howard would actually tower over its neighbors. According to numbers provided by the Planning Dept, Rincon Center management, and 201 Spear's law firm, this building would be:

• 47% higher than its closest neighbor to the west, 201 Spear. (Only a narrow pedestrian alley separates the two.)
• 50% higher than Rincon Center across the street.
• 20% higher than the Gap Building to the south.

[Buildings showing # of floors] A survey of all nearby buildings (two blocks west and one block north and south) shows 75 Howard would exceed all of them in height (map at right). The Planning Department should explain why they establish height limits at all if developers are allowed to exceed them by great amounts without any justification.


This proposed building would be boxy with relatively small setbacks at the 7th floor. At the street level, this proposed building lines up with its neighbor to the north (Rincon Center) and it neighbors to the south (the Gap headquarters, and Hills Plaza). All three of the neighboring buildings have considerable east façade setbacks at the 7th floor level. We estimate the Gap tower sets back about 75-feet and the Hills tower sets back about 160-feet (see image below right). This proposal would only set back 23-feet from the east façade causing it to stick out a considerable distance towards the bay. Rincon Center is curved so its setbacks vary, and there is a row of buildings between it and the Embarcadero.

[Larger version below] These three neighboring buildings also have numerous setbacks higher up. They taper as they get higher. 75 Howard would not.

It seems nonsensical to have a setback on the south side facing open space, yet no setback on the north side which is directly across from another residential building (Rincon Center). 75 Howard should also have a greater setback on the west side where it is extremely close to the 18-story office building at 201 Spear Street. This lack of setbacks not only blocks existing views but also creates an awkward and undesirable lack of privacy at all the buildings.

In sum, 75 Howard needs greater setbacks than are currently planned on its north, west and east sides. If this is financially impractical for the developer, then their proposal is clearly too big for its location.


[Larger version below] This project is within the Transit Center District Plan (TCDP) which requires buildings to step-down as they get closer to the Bay. All independent planners seem to support this basic requirement. The developer claims (with a straight face) that 75 Howard would meet this requirement. In fact, this building, at 31-floors, is higher than all buildings one-block in every direction and two blocks to the west (see map above right). Its next door neighbor west on Howard Street (201 Spear) has 18 floors. The next building west on Howard is only five stories high. Across the street, Rincon Center has 23 floors. The next two buildings to the west (on the north side of Howard) have 12 and 13 floors respectively (see profiles right).

Obviously there are some far-flung buildings scattered around downtown that are taller than 75 Howard, but they do not – by any stretch of the imagination – indicate this project would meet the step-down requirement. (By using that logic, any downtown building shorter than the Transamerica Tower could claim to meet this requirement.) The TCDP clearly refers to the majority of buildings inland and in close proximity to the project. There is obviously no effort being made here for this building to step down towards the Bay as required. [Comparison with 1952 SOM design.]


• The building would demolish an existing garage with 550 public parking spaces.
• It would also create substantial shadows on public spaces including Rincon Park.
• Its close proximity to other buildings would create “fishbowl” views into and from neighboring homes and offices.
• It appears to be a copy of a building the firm designed 60 years ago (right).
• It would be just feet from the same high-force sewer main (under Steuart Street) that has become controversial at 8 Washington.


The developer has produced the obligatory aerial telephoto shot which makes tall buildings in the distance appear closer to this project. It also hides some shorter buildings behind (west of) 75 Howard. Below is an image of the project showing its relationship to its three closest neighbors:

[75 Howard Street]

[Buildings behind 75 Howard]

[Gap HQ & Hills Plaza tower setbacks]

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