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San Francisco Approves Huge Eco-Makeover

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San Francisco is clearly embracing the 21st century trend of new urbanism. An inspiring proposal was approved last week to turn the heart of San Fran’s downtown area into a mecca of urban living. Along with the existing plans for a new transit hub, all together it will create a more walkable, sustainable, and dynamic center that promotes core environmental values to the area. The Planning Commission of S.F. approved the addition of six new 850-foot skyscrapers along with one that will be 1,070 feet, superseding the skyline summit of the Transamerica Pyramid building, making it the tallest building on the west coast. In addition, a comprehensive transit hub nicknamed the Grand Central Terminal of the West is already in the works.

“This is not about creating high-rises for the sake of high-rises,” said John Rahaim, the city’s planning director regarding the brand new building’s approval. “It’s about creating a high-density urban neighborhood.”

Financial District San Francisco

The office and residential building plan is partially affiliated with the currently under-construction Transbay transit center located off Mission Street.  This new transit hub may be the most ambitious transportation station ever to be built in the U.S. in the last 20 years. It will include an impressive multimodal transport station with a 5.4-acre rooftop park along with a 1,000-foot transit tower. The roof park will be fully equipped with playgrounds, cafes, amphitheatres, gardens, and a1,000-foot-long fountain with water jets. Presently, it is a 20 ft deep hole in the ground but by 2017, it will be open to the public.

Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects are the designers behind this vision saying, “The history of transit centers in the United States is not a happy one,” They are seldom neighborly buildings—the Port Authority in New York is a perfect example. [Transit centers] tend to be blights on neighborhoods rather than generators.”

The $4 billion transit project is set to grace Mission and First Street.  It will include a new bus terminal and an extension of Caltrain that could also accommodate high-speed rail. Not only will it serve up to 45 million passengers a year but it will also create 125,000 new jobs.

The San Francisco Municipal Railway Market St, S.F.

Thirty two percent of San Francisco residents already use public transport like muni, BART, cycling, or walking. Native San Franciscans will definitely appreciate new additions like widened sidewalks, extra bike lanes, and pedestrian crossings that will make navigating the culturally rich streetscapes even more breezy.

Some opponents of the high-rises worry about the shadowing that the giant structures will cause. St. Mary’s square is sandwiched between the Financial District and Chinatown and provides serenity for those looking to sit with a great book and a cup of chai tea. Surprisingly quiet, this gem is carved right out of a busy downtown area and is classic San Francisco. While Portsmouth Square offers a bit of a different scene with bustling passerby’s it is still a  great place to have a chat with a friend and people watch. The busy plazas at Kearney and Clay Street will see a noticeable difference in shading according to the San Francisco Chronicle. Designers claim it will only be for a few short morning hours in the fall and early winter.

A 1984 ballot measure was created to require explicit approval for any possible shadows that would cast over the nine downtown parks. This shadow ordinance could be a major hindrance for future developmental planning in the city and may cost the transit project an extra $200 million.

Collectively this project is the perfect vision of an eco-city and proves that urban sustainable design is making its way into mainstream architecture. All the positives include: easing congestion at BART terminals, promoting fossil fuel-free transportation, providing extra recreational spaces, and stimulating the local economy!San Francisco already beams with great spirit and eccentricity but with the new additions, it will be reinvented with a new heart and new skyline adding even more life to the wonderfully eclectic downtown area.

St. Mary's Square San Francisco

Downtown San Francisco

Photo Credit: AttributionNoncommercialShare Alike Some rights reserved by Jim Nix / Nomadic Pursuits, by Mr. Wright, by atmtx, & Wikimedia Commons

Angie Tarantino
About Angie Tarantino (153 Posts)

Angie Tarantino is a contributor and part founder of The Environmental Blog. She covers animal rights, green tips and general green news topics She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area in California. Follow @EcoChic314


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