February 8, 2016 Housing Action Coalition

More Height, More Affordable Housing at 160 Folsom

18.FromBayBridge_Future_400ft (1)When the Office of Community Investment and Infrastructure (OCII) Commission voted on January 19th whether or not to approve the 100 foot height bump for Tishman Speyer’s 160 Folsom Street, they had two choices: 

  1. Approve raising the height from 300 – 400 feet and provide 73 more homes, including 44 below-market-rate (BMR) units or;
    2. Keep the building at 300 feet and risk more San Franciscans being left without housing.


OCII voted unanimously for the extra height in exchange for more affordable housing as the better option. We agree!

About a dozen residents who live near the project had a different perspective and are fighting the height bump because they believe it will negatively impact their views and add too much additional shadow to Rincon Park. One opponent asked, “Is it really worth compromising everybody’s quality of life for a handful of additional affordable housing units?” OCII’s answer was plainly “yes”.

Here’s the difference between the 300 and 400 foot versions of 160 Folsom:

300 foot building:

  • 318 total condos;
  • 35 percent on-site affordability;
  • 112 BMRs.

400 foot building:

  • 391 total condos;
  • 40 percent on-site affordability;
  • 156 BMRs (44 additional);
  • 60% of the additional 73 homes would be permanently affordable.

The BMRs would be priced for residents earning between 80 and 120 percent of the Area Median Income (AMI) – or a single person making between $54,000 to $82,000/yr. They would provide housing for a broad range of professionals, from teachers to social workers, non-profit employees and medical technicians. Click here to see how those AMIs break down. What’s also relevant about this project is that BMR condos are far less common than rental BMRs. Providing an ownership opportunity for moderate income earners is a truly life-changing opportunity for many.

While the opposition has stated the height bump would have negative impacts on the City by adding more shadow onto Rincon Park and just being too tall, the building at 160 Folsom would actually be very small in scale compared to the future developments in the pipeline, including the nearby Salesforce Tower. In addition, the height increase would only add 0.33 percent additional annual shadow to Rincon Park, a negligible amount. This park is not owned by the SF Recreating and Parks Department. We’ve shared a video of the shadow impact that compares the 300 and 400 foot scenarios, as well as a video and several renderings that show how a 400 foot building would fit into the city’s future skyline.

Getting approval at OCII was only the first hurdle. 160 Folsom goes for votes to the Planning Commission on February 25th, then onto Land Use Committee and full Board of Supervisors. The opposition hasn’t died at OCII, they’re organized and loud, continuing to insist that their views and the harm from shadows outweighs the City’s need for affordable housing. That’s why it’s SO important your pro-housing voice is heard!

If you believe more permanently affordable housing justifies an extra 100 feet of height, then we encourage you to take action now! Send an email to the Planning Commissioners using our editable petition below, telling them you want a taller and more inclusive tower at 160 Folsom Street. Please also attend the hearing on Thursday, February 25th to share your thoughts. RSVP here.

Let’s say yes to more housing for all income levels at 160 Folsom Street!

Housing Action Coalition

The Housing Action Coalition is a member-supported non-profit that advocates for the creation of well designed, well-located housing at all levels of affordability. We believe more housing means more choices and better solutions.

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