Decades ago, as downtown was expanding northward, gobbling up thriving, diverse communities and destroying dozens of historic buildings, community activists won a monumental zoning battle by drawing a bright line down Washington Street. On one side is the massive Downtown Business District, where the Transamerica Pyramid sits. On the other side are the human-scale neighborhoods of Chinatown, North Beach, and Jackson Square, San Francisco’s first historic district.
We have fought hard to maintain this barrier against the Manhattanization of our neighborhoods. In the late 1990s I joined with neighbors to successfully prevent the destruction of the landmark Colombo Building at the gateway from downtown into these historic neighborhoods.
Thanks to such retrogrades these neighborhoods have for decades lingered on as the embarrassingly cheesy tourist traps that they are rather than as integral parts of a world class city. Sad, very sad.
So when more than 200 neighbors showed up at a recent public meeting to protest the threat of yet another high-rise encroachment, I certainly took notice. Who was it this time? Not a private developer but our very own City College is now proposing a 17-story, 238-foot glass monstrosity at the corner of Kearny and Washington streets. And the college is arguing that, as a state agency, it can ignore San Francisco planning and zoning codes.
I have no opinion regarding the interplay of government entities here, but to call a mere 17 story building a monstrosity in the densest city in the U.S. outside New York is reveals a preference for Monterey by the (SF) Bay.
Hey, you been to Manhattan lately? Works for me!