Working with local architect Kalman Varga, Save The Hill has unveiled an exciting, viable alternative development plan for the Corovan site. You can check out the architectural renderings here. Unlike the development proposed by the site's current developers, Save The Hill's plan delivers a comprehensive adaptive reuse project produced by a true community planning process. It remodels the existing buildings in a visionary plan that honors both our neighborhood's character and history while delivering an authentic mixed-use project for the community. Importantly, Save The Hill's plan would also allow for between 131 and 206 units of housing.
We Like Potrero Hill
It's the sunniest neighborhood in San Francisco. Really. In a city of microclimates Potrero Hill has the best weather by far. Fog may be covering everything else, but it has a hard time getting here.
It's mellow without being boring. South of downtown and east of the Mission, it's somehow close to everything while still having a small-town feel.
It's full of great shops, businesses, and clubs—like Christopher's Books, Pawtrero, Good Life Grocery, Daytona Motors, Deluxe Skateboards, and The Bottom of the Hill ("the best place to hear live music in San Francisco" says Rolling Stone).
It's got amazing food—like Chez Mama, Pera, Aperto, Connecticut Yankee, and Goat Hill Pizza, to name just a few. (The line for brunch at Plow is awe-inspiring.)
It's also a neighborhood with history. A hundred years ago, it was mostly a blue-collar industrial area dotted with warehouses, oil and iron works, small houses, saloons, a church or two, unpaved roads, and the occasional stray cow. Today the neighborhood is home to burgeoning start-ups and full-blown tech companies, a renowned art school, a cooking academy, design studios, and furniture showrooms. The list goes on, and we want to see it grow.
So Potrero Hill Is Great, But—
We're worried about its future. Eight years ago, an out-of-town developer bought a three acre lot at the base of the Hill, on a site where the pioneering steel-fabricator Pacific Rolling Mill Company set up shop in a complex of industrial buildings—the earliest of which was built by the company more than a century ago in 1905. The developers planned to demolish these historic buildings and put a gigantic, 84-foot-tall, 700,000-square-foot Kaiser medical and housing complex (along with a three story underground garage) in its place. After considerable push-back from the community, Kaiser abandoned this plan. Co-developers Walden Development and Prado Group are now proposing to build a massive project that houses nearly 400 residential units and more than 20,000 square feet of commercial use (including possible formula retail) and would destroy rather than adaptively reuse the historic Pacific Rolling Mill structures to make way for an unnecessarily tall, wide, and contextually inappropriate building.
Save the Hill is committed to a development that would adaptively reuse all of the historically significant structures at 1200-1210 17th Street in ways that would benefit the developers and the community.
An adaptive reuse project would honor and preserve Potrero Hill's heritage while enhancing the neighborhood's character and economy. The site at 16th and Mississippi streets is physically and symbolically a "gateway" to the community, one with the potential to link our architectural past to our present and become an iconic signature for Potrero Hill. The revitalized complex could contain a mix of uses that would truly serve our neighborhood: small offices, local retail shops, restaurants, light manufacturing, and possibly even a school. To find out more about why the proposed project is wrong for Potrero Hill, see "What's really so bad about this proposed project?" on our FAQ page.
The two-year-long Save The Hill campaign, on which nearly 2,000 petition signers worked diligently, was fueled by a vision of what could be better, inspiring, and unique for Potrero Hill and for San Francisco. We entreat the site's developers to respect the history of these buildings and work with residents to create an adaptive reuse "Potrero Hill Gateway" project a reality. This is do-able. It's a plan we believe both Hill residents and City officials can embrace, support, and take pride in.
Is It Really That Serious?
We're afraid it is. For one thing, the previous proposal demonstrated such a complete disregard for contextual appropriateness, the history of the buildings, and the concerns of a great many residents, there's reason to worry about the developers' motives and their commitment to profit over the best interests of the community. The original proposal was totally out of scale with the neighborhood (imagine an ocean liner parked in a marina full of sail boats) and it would have dramatically and detrimentally changed the character of the Hill. Many of the small businesses on surrounding blocks would likely have been pushed out. Traffic congestion would have been a serious headache and parking would be nearly impossible to find, keeping customers away. Plus the developer has indicated interest in bringing "formula retail" to the site. (More Starbucks, less Farley's.)
While Kaiser is no longer part of the proposed plan, it is worth noting that it was Kaiser, not the developers, who backed out. It appears that the developers were intent on imposing the plan despite well-founded community opposition. In some regards, much has changed since the Kaiser proposal was disbanded, but unfortunately nothing has improved the developers' ongoing disregard for community concerns.
Despite early signs of encouragement, newly released renderings and new project details reveal a project that fails to address our original concerns. The developers have simply "repackaged" their Kaiser plan and have checked off the proverbial community concern box, in part, through two small corners of the outsized structure: a giant mural facing 16th Street at Mississippi and a small fragment of building that imitates part of the Pacific Rolling Mill structure on 17th Street at Mississippi.
The developers propose to build a massive project that houses nearly 400 residential units and more than 20,000 square feet of commercial use (including possible formula retail) and would destroy rather than adaptively reuse the historic Pacific Rolling Mill structures to make way for an unnecessarily tall, wide, and contextually inappropriate building.
We Understand Change is Inevitable
—And we're not anti-development. But we do think neighborhoods are like ecosystems: new species (and giant developments) should be introduced with the utmost caution and care. And frankly, we think a giant development like the previously proposed Kaiser project and like what may replace it is akin to an invasive species. Once it gets into the neighborhood it will be impossible to control. It will also spawn.
Do You Want To Help?
We're your neighbors and we need your help. Save The Hill is dedicated to the health, culture, heritage, and scenic beauty of Potrero Hill. Our mission is to protect and promote the neighborhood's unique identity, to support its locally run businesses and to ensure that neighborhood growth promotes the highest standards of urban development and planning. But we can't do it alone.
To lend your voice to our collective cause and to stay abreast of meetings and updates email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.