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Cranespotting: Urban Levittowns

Ben Christopher | October 16, 2013 | Story Real Estate

1. Hunters Point Shipyard (Hunters Point)
Envisioning a super-community
One of the largest developments in San Francisco history, the Hunters Point Shipyard project finally broke ground last July. Supporters have been waxing superlative, promising an eco-cleanup of the contaminated waterfront, revitalization of the Bayview, and 10,000 new high-paying jobs. But skeptics have been equally effusive, calling out all manner of sleaze ranging from graft to negligence to cutting corners on cleanup, local hiring, and affordable housing. No matter your political outlook, the next 20 years (until Phase 2 is complete) will give you plenty of time to make your point. Mixed use/2018 (Phase I)/55ft.

2. Parcel P (Hayes Valley)
Oak St. at Octavia St.
Up from the soil

From neighborhood-stunting freeway on-ramp to community-run urban farm to trendy apartment complex community, the recent history of this one plot tells the cultural story of its entire neighborhood. The design—four buildings and a central courtyard styled by three architecture firms—aims to be varied enough to be interesting, but not so varied that it won’t fit just right into primped Hayes Valley. Mixed use/Winter 2015/55 ft.

3. Equity Potrero (Potrero Hill)
1000 16th St.
Put a park on it
A project that’s been seeking approval for nearly a decade, this two-building development is now so festooned with community benefits (consider the one-acre park added in lieu of an impact fee) that it’s no longer quite accurate to call it a mere housing development. This is an attempt, spurred on by the city, to turn the no-man’s-land adjacent to Mission Bay into an actual neighborhood. Mixed use/2014/68 ft.

4. Hunters View (Hunters Point)
112 Middle Point Rd.
The long-overdue refresh

Despite the million-dollar views and the priceless Bayview weather, this hill overlooking India Basin used to host one of the most shamefully wretched, decrepit housing projects in the country. Now, Phase 1 of this public housing rethink has finally wrapped up, with 107 modern, energy-efficient apartments facing out onto open, tree-lined streets. It’s reserved for the tenants of the former complex, with market rentals following in phases 2 and 3. Residential/Completed/45 ft.

5. Summit 800 (Parkmerced)
800 Brotherhood Way
182 spanking new houses

Parkmerced Real estate development and its attendant controversies play out a little differently in the city’s suburban-style southwest. Take Summit 800, a feng shui–blessed planned community that broke ground after facing down neighbors who wanted to preserve the area’s Arcadian greenery and the church-lined boulevard’s ecclesiastic character. Arcadian greenery? Church-lined? Yes, we’re still talking about San Francisco. Residential/2016/40 ft.

6. 55 Laguna (Hayes Valley)
A sweet story for seniors
For a decade now, the UC Berkeley extension campus has sat mostly abandoned on Laguna Street, its weathered and graffiti-marred adobe facade an eyesore. At long last, 55 Laguna, a Proposition C–backed LGBT senior housing project, is set to take back the hill between Hayes Valley and the Castro. If this doesn’t speak to current touchstones in the city’s history—urban revitalization, gay mainstreaming—nothing does. Residential/2014/76 ft.

Castles in the Sky: Downtown Titans
Nabe Changers: Neighborhood Defining Apartment Buildings
Open for Business: Office Buildings, Malls, and Hotels
Cultural Beacons: The Arts Will Endure
Urban Levittowns: Planned Communities, Hold the Vanilla
Service by Design
: Modern Overhauls for Civic Stalwarts

Originally published in the November issue of San Francisco

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