City planning commissioners approved an ambitious proposal Thursday for new high-rise buildings and neighborhood improvements intended to revitalize the South of Market area surrounding the planned Transbay Terminal.
The Transit Center District Plan outlines developments in the neighborhood, as well as ways to raise revenue to help pay for the new $4 billion terminal at First and Mission streets, such as a special property tax on new construction in the district.
The Transbay Terminal project would include a new bus terminal with public park space, an extension of Caltrain that could also accommodate high-speed rail, and a gleaming 1,070-foot Transit Tower office building that would become the tallest skyscraper on the West Coast and perhaps one of The City’s most notable landmarks.
In approving the plan Thursday, the commission did not approve any specific projects, including the Transit Tower, one of about a half-dozen large developments planned for the area bounded by Market Street, The Embarcadero, Folsom Street and Hawthorne Street.
The commission did approve the plan’s environmental impact report and made various zoning changes, including increasing height limits for the planned development parcels.
But some commissioners and members of the public raised questions about the scope of the plan, including shadows the massive development projects will cast on parks in Chinatown and other downtown open spaces. Shadows on Recreation and Parks land are forbidden by the voter-approved Proposition K unless the Planning Commission deems the shadows to be “insignificant” or have no “adverse” impact.
The plan makes $12.5 million of revenue available for downtown open spaces.
Although reviews were generally positive, one commissioner expressed concern that low-income residents could eventually be priced out of the neighborhood.
Others worried that allowing construction height levels to be raised now on planned development areas would make it more difficult for them to reject flawed projects down the road.