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Long shadows create political hurdle for S.F. skyscraper project

April 29, 2016

By J.K. Dineen : sfchronicle – excerpt

Informational presentation at the Planning Planning Commission Meeting the Thursday, May 5, 12 PM – agenda Item 8 Oceanwide Center.

…Designed by British Pritzker Prize-winning architect Norman Foster, Oceanwide Center would include a 905-foot skyscraper with more than 1 million square feet of office space and 19 floors of condominiums. A second, shorter tower would contain 169 hotel rooms with an additional 154 condos. The taller of the two buildings would be the city’s second tallest, topped only by the Salesforce Tower, which is under construction at 101 First St. and will reach 970 feet…

1984 proposition in play

But critics argue that economic benefits don’t justify a violation of 1984’s Proposition K — the “Sunlight Ordinance” — which blocks construction of any building over 40 feet that casts an adverse shadow on Recreation and Park Department property unless the Planning Commission decides the shadow is insignificant.

The project would throw a shadow on Portsmouth Square between 8:05 and 9:10 a.m. from late October to early February. It would shadow St. Mary’s Square, also in Chinatown, in March and September. It would also shadow Justin Herman Plaza, at the foot of Market Street, from mid-October to late February, and Union Square from early May to early August.

“It really clobbers Portsmouth Square,” said Allan Low, an attorney and a member of the Recreation and Park Commission.

After six months of negotiating with the city, Oceanwide Holdings — a Chinese developer that also has projects in New York and Los Angeles — has agreed to mitigate the shadows with a $12 million endowment for recreation and parks programming in Chinatown, a fund that will help pay for amenities like sports, after-school programs and senior fitness programs, said Low, who helped hammer out the deal.

Needed funding

“I am loath to negotiate a cash-for-shadow deal, but to their credit, Oceanwide did recognize the significant impact their project will have on Portsmouth Square and the Chinatown parks,” he said… (more)

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