Showplace Square/Potrero Area Plan


Showplace Square is an important furniture and interior design center that serves a national market. It was originally developed as a warehouse and industrial district serving nearby port facilities, once one of the City’s important industries. A system of rail spur lines was developed along public rights-of-way to transfer materials from warehouses and manufacturing facilities to and from the piers. However, after World War II and as port facilities changed worldwide, the Port of San Francisco became less competitive and maritime activity declined substantially. Since the renovation of the warehouses to provide furniture showroom space, Showplace Square has provided space for a well-defined cluster of furniture makers, designers and contractors. The current land use in the area remains predominantly PDR.

Until the 1970s, Jackson Square, a historic district just north of the downtown, was the primary location for the City’s furniture showrooms. Many of these businesses were housed in historic structures with small footprints and limited net floor area. As the Jackson Square commercial vacancy rates dropped and rents increased, the area began to attract high-end firms such as antique dealers and interior decorators. Many furniture showrooms and other design businesses were subsequently priced out of the market.

Henry Adams, a real estate developer and promoter, looked for another area in the city which shared Jackson Square’s architectural character and could accommodate a new center for furniture showrooms and related businesses. The Showplace Square area was a good choice because of the large attractive brick structures with open floor plans. This type of building is ideal for PDR uses, such as furniture showrooms that typically need large interior spaces. Large floor plates also accommodate frequent change and subdivision of interior areas to create various showroom sizes. Showplace Square has become one of the nation’s most successful centers for home and office furnishings, interior designers and furniture makers.

Office and home furniture showrooms, re-upholstery shops, retail stores and small shops occupy the Showplace Square area. There are well over one hundred furniture businesses and showrooms in Showplace Square, many of which are located in the San Francisco Design Center that carries products by over 2,000 manufacturers.

Recently residential and office projects, have been approved and are being constructed in and near Showplace Square. Office and residential development may change the design-PDR character of the area and threaten the integrity of the furniture design cluster. As parcels are broken up and smaller buildings are constructed, PDR uses can no longer easily return to use the space. Moreover, residential and office projects require intensive infrastructure improvements.

Recently, Potrero Hill has also felt some of the development pressure that is extending from SoMa and Showplace Square. Potrero Hill is even less transit-accessible than SoMa, where the concern about lack of transit coupled with the increasing office development is acute.

Showplace Square/Potrero Hill Goals/Vision

1. Land Use

This section presents the vision for the use of land in Showplace/Potrero Hill. It identifies activities that are important to protect or encourage and establishes their pattern in the neighborhood. This pattern is based on the need to increase opportunities for new housing development, particularly affordable housing, retain space for production, distribution and repair (PDR) activities, protect established residential areas, maintain vibrant neighborhood commercial areas on Potrero Hill such as those around 18th, and 20th Streets, and allow for new neighborhood serving retail and business at the base of Potrero Hill near Jackson Playground, particularly along 17th Street. Where and how these activities occur is critical to ensuring that future neighborhood change contributes positively to the city as well as the area’s vitality, fostering Showplace/Potrero Hill as a place to live and work.


Portions of Showplace / Potrero have been transitioning from PDR to a more mixed use character. These areas center around 8th and Brannan, east of the freeway and along 16th and 17th Streets. Over time, portions of these areas, on formerly industrial land, have evolved and now contain some office, housing, retail and other uses. This mix of uses contributes to the vitality of Showplace/Potrero and should be maintained and promoted, while the core design and showroom portion of Showplace Square is protected.

This Plan’s approach to land use controls in the Showplace Square / Potrero Hill neighborhood consists of the following key elements:

The policies to address the objective outlined above are as follows:

POLICY 1.1.1
Revise land use controls in the core design and showroom area to protect and promote PDR activities, as well as the arts, by prohibiting construction of new housing and limiting the amount of office and retail uses that can be introduced.

Because of the emphasis on promoting design activities in this area, and the difficulty sometimes in distinguishing retail from wholesale activities, it makes sense to allow somewhat larger retail spaces here in order to facilitate sales of design-oriented products.

POLICY 1.1.2
In the northern part of Showplace Square (around 8th and Brannan, east of the freeway and along 16th and 17th Streets) revise land use controls to create new mixed use areas, allowing mixed-income housing as a principal use, as well as limited amounts of retail, office, and research and development uses, while protecting against the wholesale displacement of PDR uses.

POLICY 1.1.3
Allow for active ground floor uses and a more neighborhood commercial character in newly designated mixed use areas within Showplace Square.

POLICY 1.1.4
Permit and encourage greater retail use on the ground floor on parcels that front 16th Street to take advantage of transit service and encourage more mixed uses, while protecting against the wholesale displacement of PDR uses.

These areas are too large too support an absolute requirement of ground floor retail in all new development, but neighborhood serving retail should be permitted and encouraged where there is market support for it. Retail use sizes should generally be kept small to foster a neighborhood scale.

POLICY 1.1.5
While continuing to protect traditional PDR functions that need large, inexpensive spaces to operate, also recognize that the nature of PDR businesses is evolving gradually so that their production and distribution activities are becoming more integrated physically with their research, design and administrative functions.


It is important that new housing is developed in appropriate areas, that it is compatible with its surroundings, and that it satisfies community housing needs. Permitting some housing in formerly industrial areas along with improved transit service allows new development to capitalize on existing infrastructure. Mixed use controls will allow for compatible housing development along 16th and 17th Streets, mixed with PDR, retail, and other uses. Such a mixed use district will add to the vibrancy of the area, preserve its special character, and buffer adjacent residential areas from more intensive uses to the north, including the freeway and train tracks. By increasing development potential on some parcels, reducing parking requirements, and replacing existing unit density controls with “bedroom mix” controls that require a portion of new units to be larger and more family-friendly, more housing of the appropriate type can be encouraged.

Strong building design controls, discussed further in the Built Form chapter of this Plan, should ensure that these new buildings are designed to be compatible with their surroundings. Building facades should be broken up, development above a certain height should be set back on small residential alleys to allow light and air, and active ground floors should be required.

The policies to address the objective outlined above are as follows:

POLICY 1.2.1
Ensure that in-fill housing development is compatible with its surroundings.

POLICY 1.2.2
In general, where residential development is permitted, control residential density through building height and bulk guidelines and bedroom mix requirements.

POLICY 1.2.3
Identify parts of Showplace Square where it would be appropriate to increase maximum heights for residential development.


Showplace / Potrero already contains a mix of offices, retail, housing and other uses, in addition to PDR businesses. The intent of the Plan is to create successful mixed areas where PDR uses can compete well with other uses in the future.

To ensure that this mix remains in place, existing office and retail establishments in the mixed use and PDR districts of Showplace / Potrero should be allowed to stay legally, as long as they were legally established in the first place. Property owners whose office and retail tenants leave should be allowed to replace them with similar tenants.

Existing legal non conforming use rules already provide substantial protections to certain types of establishments that pre-date the proposed rezoning. For example, in areas where limitations will be imposed under new zoning on retail and office uses, existing office and retail uses that do not comply with this limitation would be able to remain, provided they were legally established in the first place.

However, existing rules do not contemplate districts where housing units are prohibited outright. Because new zoning will create such districts, the nonconforming use provisions in the Planning Code should be modified in order to allow for the continuance of existing housing in areas where housing will no longer be permitted under the new zoning.

The policies to address the objective outlined above are as follows:

POLICY 1.3.1
Continue existing legal nonconforming rules, which permit pre-existing establishments to remain legally even if they no longer conform to new zoning provisions, as long as the use was legally established in the first place.

POLICY 1.3.2
Provide flexibility for legal housing units to continue in districts where housing is no longer permitted.

POLICY 1.3.3
Recognize desirable existing uses in the former industrial areas which would no longer be permitted by the new zoning, and afford them appropriate opportunities to establish a continuing legal presence.


The “Knowledge Sector” consists of businesses that create economic value through the knowledge they generate and provide for their customers. These include businesses involved in financial services, professional services, information technology, publishing, digital media, multimedia, life sciences (including biotechnology), and environmental products and technologies. The Knowledge Sector contributes to the city’s economy through the high wages these industries generally pay, creating multiplier effects for local-serving businesses in San Francisco, and generating payroll taxes for the city. Although these industries generally require greater levels of training and education than PDR workers typically possess, they may in the future be able to provide a greater number of quality jobs for some San Franciscans without a four-year college degree, provided appropriate workforce development programs are put in place.

From a land use perspective, the Knowledge Sector utilizes a variety of types of space. Depending on the particular needs of a company, this may include buildings for offices, research and development (R&D), and manufacturing. Mixed use and industrial land in Showplace Square and Potrero Hill benefits from lower rents and less-intensive development than other parts of the city. These characteristics may allow for the location of manufacturing and R&D components of the Knowledge Sector, as well as provide some “Class B” office space suitable for Knowledge Sector companies who cannot afford or would prefer not to be located Downtown. These uses could be supported in the following manner.

The policies to address the objective outlined above are as follows:

POLICY 1.4.1
Continue to permit manufacturing uses that support the Knowledge Sector in the Mixed Use and PDR districts of Showplace Square/Potrero Hill.

POLICY 1.4.2
Allow Knowledge Sector office-type uses in portions of Showplace Square/Potrero Hill where it is appropriate.

POLICY 1.4.3
Identify portions of Showplace Square/Potrero Hill where it would be appropriate to allow research and development uses that support the Knowledge Sector.

POLICY 1.4.4
Restrict the development of life science (or “biotech”)-related establishments in Showplace-Potrero. However, if warranted in the future by space needs for these types of businesses, reconsider permitting these uses in some portions of the neighborhood, as long as they are buffered from existing residential areas of Potrero Hill.


Noise, or unwanted sound, is an inherent component of urban living. While environmental noise can pose a threat to mental and physical health, potential health impacts can be avoided or reduced through sound land use planning. The careful analysis and siting of new land uses can help to ensure land use compatibility, particularly in zones which allow a diverse range of land uses. Traffic is the most important source of environmental noise in San Francisco. Commercial land uses also generate noise from mechanical ventilation and cooling systems, and though freight movement. Sound control technologies are available to both insulate sensitive uses and prevent unwanted sound from leaving noisy uses. The use of good urban design can help to ensure that noise does not impede access and enjoyment of public space.

The policies to address the objective outlined above are as follows:

POLICY 1.5.1
Reduce potential land use conflicts by providing accurate background noise-level data for planning.

POLICY 1.5.2
Reduce potential land use conflicts by carefully considering the location and design of both noise generating uses and sensitive uses in Showplace Square/Potrero Hill.


Exposure to air pollutants can pose serious health problems, particularly for children, seniors and those with heart and lung diseases. Sound land use planning aims to reduce air pollution emissions by co-locating complementary land uses, which helps to decrease automobile traffic and encourage walkability and by avoiding land use-air quality conflicts that can result in exposure to air pollutants. While there are numerous social, environmental and economic benefits associated with integrating land use and transportation, there is also a potential risk of exposing residents to poor indoor air quality when infill residential developments are located in close proximity to air pollution sources, including traffic sources such as freeways or major streets. Epidemiologic studies have consistently demonstrated that children and adults living in proximity to busy roadways have poorer health outcomes, including higher rates of asthma disease and morbidity and impaired lung development. Given increasing demands for housing, particularly affordable housing, and the limited amount of available and suitable land for housing in San Francisco, it is important that the review process for proposed development projects incorporate analysis and mitigation of air quality conflicts, particularly with respect to sensitive land uses such as housing, schools, daycare and medical facilities.

The policy to address the objective outlined above is as follows:

POLICY 1.6.1
Minimize exposure to air pollutants from existing traffic sources for new residential developments, schools, daycare and medical facilities.


It is important for the health and diversity of the city’s economy and population that space in San Francisco be preserved for Production, Distribution, and Repair (PDR) activities. PDR jobs constitute the majority of all jobs in Showplace Square. These jobs tend to pay above average wages, provide jobs for residents of all education levels, particularly immigrants, and offer good opportunities for advancement.

PDR is also a valuable export industry. PDR businesses that design or manufacture products in San Francisco often do so because of advantages unique to being located in the city. These export industries present an opportunity to grow particular PDR sectors, strengthening and diversifying our local economy. PDR also supports the competitiveness of knowledge industries by providing critical business services that need to be close, timely and often times are highly specialized.

Showplace Square remains a creative center for one of the most significant design clusters in the nation. Once found throughout SoMa, over time design businesses were displaced from SoMa and eventually relocated to the available and attractive spaces in Showplace Square where they found cheaper rents. It is important to ensure space remains for the design industry as this function is important to San Francisco’s economy and its regional and national role as a place for creativity and innovation. Showplace Square is also the home to some of the most notable PDR businesses in San Francisco including Anchor Steam Brewery, the San Francisco Bay Guardian newspaper, Norcal Recycling, which supplies most of the city’s garbage and recycling needs, Economy Restaurant Fixtures, which supplies equipment to the city’s restaurant industry, and many other businesses that provide thousands of jobs. These PDR businesses help to diversify and strengthen San Francisco’s economy and space should remain available for their use.

Many of these businesses form clusters, including arts activities, that are unique to San Francisco and provide services and employment for local residents. Establishing space for PDR activities that is protected from encroachment by other uses responds to existing policy set forth in the city’s General Plan, particularly the Commerce and Industry Element (C&I), that includes the following pertinent policies:

Generally, establishing areas for PDR businesses achieves the following:

  1. Stabilizes activities that are susceptible to displacement including arts activities.

  2. Stabilizes areas that contain concentrations of blue collar, unskilled and semi-skilled jobs.

  3. Helps to ensure the availability of jobs across all economic sectors, providing a wide range of employment opportunities for San Francisco’s diverse population.

  4. Ensures that there is space for activities important to meeting the city’s everyday needs.

  5. Ensures that there is space for businesses that support the city’s wider economy and health.

  6. Ensures that there is space for new business sectors to emerge, which helps San Francisco to maintain its role as a regional center.

  7. Fosters a diverse economy, which helps to ensure the city’s long-term economic vibrancy.

POLICY 1.7.1
In areas designated for PDR, protect the stock of existing buildings used by, or appropriate for, PDR businesses by restricting conversions of industrial buildings to other building types and discouraging the demolition of sound PDR buildings.

POLICY 1.7.2
Ensure that any future rezoning of areas within PDR districts is proposed within the context of periodic evaluation of the city’s needs for PDR space or in the context of the redevelopment of nearby public housing in conjunction with the HopeSF program.

PDR districts proposed in this Plan were established to acknowledge and protect existing clusters of PDR activity and to provide an appropriate land supply to accommodate the city’s need for PDR businesses into the foreseeable future. Land use needs change over time, but case-by-case rezoning of individual parcels or groups of parcels within larger PDR districts would disrupt the integrity of the districts. Proposed rezoning should only be considered in the context of an evaluation and monitoring report of the Eastern Neighborhoods Plans, to be conducted by the Planning Department at five-year intervals, or within the context of the redevelopment of public housing in the immediate vicinity under the HopeSF program.

POLICY 1.7.3
Require development of flexible buildings with generous floor-to-ceiling heights, large floor plates, and other features that will allow the structure to support various businesses.

Flexibly designed buildings with high floor to ceiling heights best accommodate the PDR businesses of today and tomorrow. Such spaces, equipped with roll-up doors or other large apertures for example, facilitate the movement of goods and supplies.

2. Housing

The Showplace Square/Potrero Hill plan area is home to 11,000 people and 5,000 households, the vast majority of which are concentrated on Potrero Hill. Because Potrero Hill is an established residential area that generally functions well, it is not proposed to be rezoned. Instead, future development activity is expected to occur in Showplace Square.

As an industrial area, Showplace Square never had a significant residential concentration, and although some housing has been introduced in recent years, the area continues to function as a vital employment center containing various business activities that provide thousands of jobs. Historically, Showplace Square’s location on the edge of both the Potrero Hill residential and Central Waterfront core industrial areas made it a natural center for lighter industrial uses. This history is evidenced by the eclectic mix of early twentieth century commercial and industrial buildings brick buildings that remain in the area today and that house the vibrant cluster of design-related PDR businesses in the area.

However in recent years, portions of Showplace Square have been transitioning from PDR to a greater mix of uses that includes newly built residential that, although serving a regional need for more housing, is not affordable to the majority of San Francisco residents. These areas center around 8th and Brannan, east of the freeway and along 16th and 17th Streets. Although this emerging mix of uses contributes to the vitality of the Showplace Square area, a substantial portion of new housing built should be affordable and not disrupt the core design-PDR and showroom activities in the area.

The production of affordable housing is one of the main goals of the Showplace Square/Potrero Hill Area Plan, in order to provide housing for residents who are overburdened by their housing costs. “Affordable housing” refers simply to apartments or condominiums that are priced so as not to financially burden a household – housing costs that do not prevent individuals or families of any income level from affording other necessities of life, such as food, clothing, transportation and medical care.

What constitutes an affordable rent or mortgage is more specifically defined locally as a proportion of annual income for individuals and families. Households are categorized by income as very low, low, and moderate income households based on their relation to the median income. (Median income is the level at which exactly half of the City’s households are above and half are below.) According to the Mayor’s Office of Housing, the median income for 2007 for a household with four members in San Francisco was $80,319. Yet the substantial majority of market rate homes for sale in San Francisco are priced out of the reach of low and moderate income households - less than 10% of households in the City can afford a median-priced home.

The City’s Inclusionary Affordable Housing Program is one existing method by which the City produces several Below-Market Rate (BMR) units to families and individuals’ earning below what is required to afford market prices. Under the amended 2006 Ordinance, market rate developments of five units or more are required to include a mandatory fifteen percent of the project’s total units as BMR’s, which are affordable to low and moderate-income buyers (for rentals, people earning below 60% of median; for ownership units, people earning between 80 and 120% of median). Alternatively, developments may select an equivalent option of off-site development or payment of in-lieu fee.

However, this program only covers those earning up to 120% of median income, which in 2007 was $96,400 for a household of four. Yet even families earning more than this have difficulty affording housing in San Francisco. Almost 30% of its households fall in the bracket of moderate and middle incomes. Housing for working households remains one of the City’s greatest needs.

The Showplace Square/Potrero Hill Plan strives to meet six key objectives surrounding housing production and retention:

  1. The Plan strives to construct new housing affordable to people with a wide range of incomes via the rezoning of some of the City’s industrial lands. It assists households at low and very low incomes through inclusionary and land dedication strategies. It aims to help people making above the 120% of median income threshold for inclusionary housing but below the amount required to afford market rate units, through “middle income” development options.

  2. The Plan strives to retain and improve existing housing, in recognition of the fact that sound existing housing is one of the most valuable sources of housing the City has.

  3. The Plan ensures that residential development meets not only the affordability needs, but the other needs- unit size, number of bedrooms, community services and neighborhood amenities – to create a high quality of life for all individuals and families in the Eastern Neighborhoods.

  4. The Plan aims to lower the costs of housing production to translate into lower-priced units, by increasing development capacity, enabling cost-effective construction and by recognizing that “time is money”, in reducing unnecessary processes.

  5. The Plan aims to promote health and well-being for residents, through well-designed, environmentally friendly neighborhoods and units.

  6. The Plan aims to continue the City’s ongoing efforts to increase affordable housing and production, through increased funding available for affordable housing through City, state, federal and other sources.


The City of San Francisco has produced a significant number of market rate units in the last five years, yet still has many units to produce at low, moderate and middle incomes if it is to meet the spectrum of need identified in the Housing Element of the General Plan. San Francisco’s Housing Element establishes the plan area, as well as the entirety of the Eastern Neighborhoods, as a target area in which to develop new housing to meet San Francisco’s identified housing targets in the category of low, moderate and middle income units. A portion of the industrial lands of the Eastern Neighborhoods – areas formerly zoned for C-M, M-1, M-2, but not required to meet current PDR needs - offer an opportunity to zone areas to meet these identified categories of need.

In order to facilitate the housing production percentage targets identified in the Housing Element, this plan sets forth new zoning districts on formerly industrial lands that enable the production of the type of housing San Francisco needs. In these new zoning districts, affordable housing would be permitted as of right. However, not all sites will be appropriate for the development of 100% affordable housing projects, or are available for development.

In portions of the Showplace Square area housing is permitted by conditional use according to the underlying industrial zoning. In recent years housing development has been restricted here by a series of interim policies from the Planning Commission. Under the “mixed income” housing requirements, in the formerly industrial zones, where market-rate housing was previously restricted, would be modified to allow developers a range of options to meet affordability needs. Those wishing to develop market rate housing would be able to do so only under the following requirements.

  1. Provide a high percentage of units affordable to very low, low, or moderate income households on-site (through superinclusionary requirements, above and beyond the City’s Inclusionary Program) in a mixed income project.

  2. Dedicate land for the development of 100% affordable housing, available to very low and low income households.

  3. Provide moderately affordable units on-site, as housing available to middle income households - those making below 150% of the median income.

Site developability in these areas will be increased by removal of density controls and in some cases through increased heights, to address the City’s most pressing housing needs.

The policies as well as implementing actions to address the objective outlined above are as follows:

POLICY 2.1.1
Require developers in some formally industrial areas to contribute towards the City’s very low, low, moderate and middle income needs as identified in the Housing Element of the General Plan.

POLICY 2.1.2
Provide land and funding for the construction of new housing affordable to very low and low income households.

POLICY 2.1.3
Provide units that are affordable to households at moderate and ”middle incomes” – working households earning above traditional below-market rate thresholds but still well below what is needed to buy a market priced home, with restrictions to ensure affordability continues.

POLICY 2.1.4
Allow single-resident occupancy hotels (SROs) and “efficiency” units to continue to be an affordable type of dwelling option, and recognize their role as an appropriate source of housing for small households.


The existing housing stock is the City’s major source of relatively affordable housing. The Eastern Neighborhoods’ older and rent-controlled housing has been a long-standing resource for the City’s lower and middle income families.. Priority should be given to the retention of existing units as a primary means to provide affordable housing. Demolition of sound existing housing should be limited, as residential demolitions and conversions can result in the loss of affordable housing. The General Plan discourages residential demolitions, except where they would result in replacement housing equal to or exceeding that which is to be demolished. The Planning Code and Commission already maintain policies that generally require conditional use authorization or discretionary review wherever demolition is proposed. In the Eastern Neighborhoods, policies should continue requirements for review of demolition of multi-unit buildings. A permit to demolish a residence cannot be issued until the replacement structure is approved. When approving such a demolition permit and the subsequent replacement structure, the Commission should review levels of affordability and tenure type (e.g. rental or for-sale) of the units being lost, and seek replacement projects whose units replaced meet a parallel need within the City. The goal of any change in existing housing stock should be to ensure that the net addition of new housing to the area offsets the loss of affordable housing by requiring the replacement of existing housing units at equivalent prices.

The rehabilitation and maintenance of the housing stock is also a cost-effective and efficient means of insuring a safe, decent housing stock. A number of cities have addressed this issue through housing rehabilitation programs that restore and stabilize already occupied by low income households. While the City does have programs to finance housing rehabilitation costs for low-income homeowners, it could expand this program to reach large scale multi-unit buildings. Throughout the project area, the City could work to acquire and renovate existing low-cost housing, to ensure its long-term affordability.

The policies as well as implementing actions to address the objective outlined above are as follows:

POLICY 2.2.1
Adopt Citywide demolition policies that discourage demolition of sound housing, and encourage replacement of affordable units.

POLICY 2.2.2
Preserve viability of existing rental units.

POLICY 2.2.3
Consider acquisition of existing housing for rehabilitation and dedication as permanently affordable housing.

POLICY 2.2.4
Ensure that at-risk tenants, including low-income families, seniors, and people with disabilities, are not evicted without adequate protection.

POLICY 2.2.5:
Facilitate the redevelopment of the Potrero View Public Housing through the HopeSF program.


The need for housing in Showplace Square/Potrero Hill covers the full range of tenure type (ownership versus rental) and unit mix (small versus large units). While there is a market for housing at a range of unit types, recent housing construction has focused on the production of smaller, ownership units. Yet 90% of residents in Showplace Square/Potrero Hill are renters. The Housing Element of the City’s General Plan recognizes that rental housing is more immediately accessible, and often more affordable than for-sale housing, and existing city policies regulate the demolition and conversion of rental housing to other forms of occupancy. New development in the Showplace Square/Potrero Hill area should provide rental opportunities for new residents as well.

To try to achieve more family friendly housing, the Plan makes several recommendations. New development will be required to include a significant percentage of units with two or more bedrooms (SROs and senior housing will be exempted from this requirement). Family friendly design should incorporate design elements such as housing with private entrances, on-site open space at grade and accessible from the unit, inclusion of other play spaces such as wide, safe sidewalks, on-site amenities such as children’s recreation rooms or day-care. The Planning Department can also encourage family units by drafting family-friendly guidelines to guide its construction, and by promoting projects which include multi-bedroom housing located in close proximity to schools, day-care centers, parks and neighborhood retail. Projects which met such guidelines could be provided faster processing time, including streamlined processing.

One of the key priorities of the Mayor’s Office of Housing is expanding the stock of family rental housing, with particular emphasis on very low and extremely low income families. The Plan encourages the Mayor’s Office to maintain this priority in funding 100% affordable housing developments that provide safe, secure housing with multiple bedrooms and family-oriented amenities such as play areas and low-cost child care.

In addition to the type of housing constructed, it is important to consider the services and amenities available to residents – transit, parks, child care, library services, and other community facilities. Many parts of the Eastern Neighborhoods are already underserved in many of these categories; and the lower income, family-oriented households of these neighborhoods, more than any other demographic, have a need for these services. The Plan aims to improve the neighborhoods, and to meet the needs that new residential units in the Eastern Neighborhoods will create, including increased demands on the area’s street network, limited open spaces, community facilities and services . New development will be required to contribute towards improvements that mitigate their impacts. The resulting community infrastructure, constructed through these funds and through other public funding, will benefit all residents in the area.

The public benefits funds generated will support improvements to community infrastructure, including parks, transit, child care, libraries, and other community facilities needed by all new residents, but particularly needed by lower-income residents and families. Often, affordable housing exists in areas with poor neighborhood quality of life, poor access to transit and unreliable neighborhood services; yet the lower income households, more than any other demographic, have a need for these services. The public benefit policies intended to mitigate new development’s impacts will, in cooperation with other public funding, ensure that not only new housing, but also existing affordable housing, receives the community infrastructure a good neighborhood needs.

The policies as well as implementing actions to address the objective outlined above are as follows:

POLICY 2.3.1
Target the provision of affordable units for families.

POLICY 2.3.2
Prioritize the development of affordable family housing, both rental and ownership, particularly along transit corridors and adjacent to community amenities.

POLICY 2.3.3
Require that a significant number of units in new developments have two or more bedrooms, except Senior Housing and SRO developments.

POLICY 2.3.4
Encourage the creation of family supportive services, such as childcare facilities, parks and recreation, or other facilities, in affordable housing or mixed use developments.

POLICY 2.3.5
Explore a range of revenue- generating tools including impact fees, public funds and grants, assessment districts, and other private funding sources, to fund community and neighborhood improvements.

POLICY 2.3.6
Establish an impact fee to be allocated towards an Eastern Neighborhoods Public Benefit Fund to mitigate the impacts of new development on transit, pedestrian, bicycle, and street improvements, park and recreational facilities, and community facilities such as libraries, child care and other neighborhood services in the area.


There is a demonstrated need to reduce the overall cost of housing development and therefore reduce rental rates and purchase prices. Revising some requirements associated with housing development and expediting processing can help lower costs. The city’s current minimum parking requirement, for example, is a significant barrier to the production of housing, especially affordable housing. In much of the housing built under current parking requirements, the cost of parking is included in the cost of owning or renting a home, requiring households to pay for parking whether or not they need it. As part of an overall effort to increase housing affordability in the plan area, costs for parking should be separated from the cost of housing and, if provided, offered optionally.

There are a number of design and construction techniques that can make housing “affordable by design” – efficiently designed, less costly to construct, and therefore less costly to rent or purchase. For example, forgoing structured parking can significantly reduce construction costs. Thus, as part of this Plan, parking requirements will be revised to allow, but not require parking. This provision will allow developers to build a reasonable amount of parking if desired, and if feasible while meeting the Plan’s built form guidelines. Small in-fill projects, senior housing projects or other projects that may desire to provide fewer parking spaces would have the flexibility to do so. Also, conventionally framed low-rise construction is less costly than high rise construction requiring steel and concrete. City actions including modifying zoning and building code requirements to enable less costly construction, as well as encouraging smaller room sizes and units that include fewer amenities or have low-cost finishes while not yielding on design and quality requirements can facilitate these techniques.

Finally the approval process for housing can be simplified, to reduce costs associated with long, protracted approval periods. Discretionary processes such as Conditional Use authorizations, and mandatory (i.e. non community initiated) Discretionary Review, should be limited as much as possible while still ensuring adequate community review. Provisions within CEQA should be used to enable exemptions or reduced review, including reduced traffic analysis requirements for urban infill residential projects.

The policies as well as implementing actions to address the objective outlined above are as follows:

POLICY 2.4.1
Require developers to separate the cost of parking from the cost of housing in both for sale and rental developments.

POLICY 2.4.2
Revise residential parking requirements so that structured or off-street parking is permitted up to specified maximum amounts in certain districts, but is not required.

POLICY 2.4.3
Encourage construction of units that are “affordable by design.”

POLICY 2.4.4
Facilitate housing production by simplifying the approval process wherever possible.


Well-planned neighborhoods - those with adequate and good quality housing; access to public transit, schools, and parks; safe routes for pedestrians and bicyclists; employment for residents; and unpolluted air, soil, and water - are healthy neighborhoods. Quality living environments in such neighborhoods have been demonstrated to have an impact on respiratory and cardiovascular health, reduce incidents of injuries, improve physical fitness, and improve social capital, by creating healthy social networks and support systems.

Housing in the plan area should be designed to meet the physical, social and psychological needs of all and in particular, of families with children. Housing should also be designed to meet high standards for health and the environment. Green structures which use natural systems have better lighting, temperature control, improved ventilation and indoor air-quality which contribute to reduced asthma, colds, flu and absenteeism. Also, health-based building guidelines can help with health and safety issues such as injury & fall prevention; pest prevention; and general sanitation.

To promote health at the neighborhood level, the San Francisco Department of Public Health (DPH) has facilitated the multi-stakeholder Eastern Neighborhood Community Health Impact Assessment (ENCHIA) to produce a vision for a healthy San Francisco as well as health objectives, measures, and indicators. The Department of Public Health has worked with the Planning Department and other city agencies to assess the impacts, both positive and negative, of new development, and many aspects of this plan reflect those efforts.

The policies are as follows:

POLICY 2.5.1
Consider how the production of new housing can improve the conditions required for health of San Francisco residents.

POLICY 2.5.2
Develop affordable family housing in areas where families can safely walk to schools, parks, retail, and other services.

POLICY 2.5.3
Require new development to meet minimum levels of “green” construction.

POLICY 2.5.4
Provide design guidance for the construction of healthy neighborhoods and buildings.


The city already has programs in place to increase access and production of affordable housing, primarily though the Mayor’s Office of Housing. These existing programs, such as the inclusionary housing program, should be promoted and strengthened where economically feasible. Current city programs such as the second mortgage loans, first-time homebuyer, and down payment assistance programs should be promoted and expanded. To encourage private renovation of existing housing by low-income homeowners, programs that provide low-cost credit and subsidies to homeowners for the repair of code violations and target such subsidies to low-income households, especially families and seniors, should be initiated. And new models that reduce housing costs, such as limited equity models, location efficient mortgages and community land trusts, should be explored. Finally, programs, incentives and funding to increase housing production outside of the Mayor’s Office of Housing should be pursued, such as developer-supported housing initiatives, for-profit and non-profit developer partnerships as well as employer subsidies for workforce housing.

In addition, there are a number of Citywide policies that can be modified to recognize population needs and growth. Units that are nonconforming or illegal, such as accessory units or housing in nonresidential structures, are often sources of affordable housing, and the City should continue to explore ways of legalizing such units. One prime example is live-work units, which as nonconforming units are limited in expansion. The City could enable live/work units to conforming status as a residential unit, provided they meet planning and building code requirements for residential space and pay retroactive residential development fees, e.g. school fees, as well as new impact fees that are proposed as part of the Plan. Finally, the City should work outside of the planning process to support affordable housing through Citywide initiatives, such as housing redevelopment programs, and employer subsidies for workforce housing.

The City should continue to work for increased funding towards its programs, utilizing outside sources such as state and regional grant funding as well as new localized sources. Property transfer taxes, tax increment, and City prioritization all offer potential dedicated funding streams that can provide needed revenue to the continued need for affordable housing.

POLICY 2.6.1
Continue and strengthen innovative programs that help to make both rental and ownership housing more affordable and available.

POLICY 2.6.2
Explore housing policy changes at the Citywide level that preserve and augment the stock of existing rental and ownership housing.

POLICY 2.6.3
Research and pursue innovative revenue sources for the construction of affordable housing, such as tax increment financing, or other dedicated City funds.

3. Built Form

Together, Showplace Square and Potrero Hill form a unique and dynamic neighborhood on the City’s east side, with historic brick buildings, a diverse building fabric, tree-lined streets, dramatic views, and vibrant PDR businesses. The increasingly design-oriented character of Showplace Square transitions to modern mixed-use housing and retail at the base of the hill, which itself slowly transitions to the predominantly residential character of Potrero Hill itself. It is this diversity in land-use and physical design that imparts a true sense of place to residents and visitors alike. While the area is bounded on three sides by elevated freeways, it also lies directly between the vibrant Mission district, the rapidly developing residential and educational neighborhood of Mission Bay, and the emerging South of Market.

Similar to the South of Market, Showplace’s industrial past is evident in the design of the area’s built form and of its streets. While the concentration of multi-story historic brick warehouses in Showplace Square impart a fascinating and engaging addition to the pedestrian experience, the more contemporary single story buildings and vacant lots on wide streets north of Division Street and along 7th Street discourage walking.

While the urban design character of Potrero Hill is not envisioned to change much from its current state, the areas around historic Showplace Square will likely experience increased development. For this reason, it is essential that a strong and cohesive vision of what this neighborhood is to become be developed and adhered to as proposals move forward. This Area Plan provides this vision along with clear design guidelines to ensure that this vision is attained.

Building off the area’s historic character, the urban design vision for Showplace envisions a vibrant mixed-use neighborhood, where PDR, design, retail, and residential uses intermix to create a truly engaging and dynamic and unique neighborhood for San Francisco. Building heights relate to the streets onto which they front; tall, roomy, and permeable ground floors activate the sidewalk while well-designed housing enlivens the neighborhood with activity. Pedestrian use is favored over private vehicular use, and therefore parking infrastructure is minimized both functionally and visually. New buildings are expected to add to the pedestrian experience and mitigate their ecological impact. A greener, more engaging, more people friendly neighborhood shall be the standard against which all new proposals are weighed.

The main purpose of this Built Form chapter is to strengthen the current character of the neighborhood, while allowing new development to positively contribute in an original way to the quality of life of residents, visitors and workers. The three main elements addressed here are height, architectural design and the role of new development in supporting a more ecologically sustainable urban environment. Where it is appropriate to good urban form and city building, heights are increased in those areas that are expected to see significant new development or that ought to support more strongly the city’s public transit infrastructure. The design of streets and sidewalks, an equally critical element in creating sustainable and enjoyable neighborhoods, is addressed in the Streets and Open Space chapter of this Plan.


Enhancing qualities of place, by promoting high-quality buildings that relate to historic and surrounding structures and to the street, is an important element in promoting a neighborhood’s character, ultimate viability, and rational relationship with the rest of the city.

Specific policies and design guidelines to address the objective outlined above are as follows:

POLICY 3.1.1
Adopt heights that are appropriate for Showplace Square’s location in the city, the prevailing street width and block pattern, and the anticipated land uses, while respecting the residential character of Potrero Hill.

POLICY 3.1.2
Development should respect the natural topography of Potrero Hill.

Consistent with the Urban Design element of the General Plan, building height and form should accentuate the natural topography of the landscape. Lowering heights from the north to the south side of 16th street would help accentuate Potrero Hill.

POLICY 3.1.3
Relate the prevailing heights of buildings to street and alley width throughout the plan area.

Generally, the height of buildings is set to relate to street and alley widths throughout the plan area. An important urban design tool in specific applications is to frame streets with buildings or cornice lines that roughly reflect the street’s width. A core goal of the height districts is to create an urban form that will be intimate for the pedestrian, while improving opportunities for cost-effective housing and allowing for pedestrian-supportive ground floors.

New development should harmonize with existing buildings.

POLICY 3.1.4
Heights should reflect the importance of key streets in the city’s overall urban pattern, while respecting the lower scale development on Potrero Hill.

New height districts take their cues from the historic development patterns in Showplace Square and acknowledge the wider streets north of 16th Street. A primary intent of the height districts is to provide greater variety in scale and character while maximizing efficient and graceful building forms and enabling dynamic ground floors.

The scale of development and the relationship between street width and building height offer an important orientation cue for users by indicating a street’s relative importance in the hierarchy of streets, as well as its degree of formality. Taller buildings with more formal architecture should line streets that play an important role in the City’s urban pattern.

POLICY 3.1.5
Respect public view corridors. Of particular interest are the east-west views to the bay or hills, and several north-south views towards downtown and Potrero Hill.

San Francisco’s natural topography provides important wayfinding cues for residents and visitors alike, and views towards the hills or the bay enable all users to orient themselves vis-à-vis natural landmarks. Further, the city’s striking location between the ocean and the bay, and on either side of the ridgeline running down the peninsula, remains one of its defining characteristics and should be celebrated by the city’s built form.

POLICY 3.1.6
New buildings should epitomize the best in contemporary architecture, but should do so with full awareness of, and respect for, the height, mass, articulation and materials of the best of the older buildings that surrounds them.

Infill development should always strive to be the best design of the times, but should do so by acknowledging and respecting the positive attributes of the older buildings around it. Therefore, the new should provide positive additions to the best of the old, and not merely replicate the older architecture styles.

POLICY 3.1.7
Attractively screen rooftop HVAC systems and other building utilities from view.

Because of the proximity of large-footprint mixed-use parcels at the base of the primarily low-scale residential developments of Potrero Hill, reasonable efforts should be made to screen rooftop utilities from view.

POLICY 3.1.8
New development should respect existing patterns of rear yard open space. Where an existing pattern of rear yard open space does not exist, new development on mixed-use-zoned parcels should have greater flexibility as to where open space can be located.

POLICY 3.1.9
Preserve notable landmarks and areas of historic, architectural or aesthetic value, and promote the preservation of other buildings and features that provide continuity with past development.

Important historic buildings cannot be replaced if destroyed. Their rich palette of materials and architectural styles imparts a unique identity to a neighborhood and provides valuable additions to the public realm. Showplace Square demonstrates how adaptive reuse of historic buildings can provide a unique, identifiable, and highly enjoyed public place. Historic or otherwise notable buildings and districts should be celebrated, preserved in place, and not degraded in quality. See the Historic Preservation section of this plan for specific preservation policies.

POLICY 3.1.10
After results are obtained from the historic resources surveys, make necessary adjustments to these built form guidelines to ensure that new structures, particularly in historic districts, will be compatible with the surrounding historic context.


Achieving an engaging public realm for Showplace Square is essential. While visual interest is key to a pedestrian friendly environment, current development practice does not always contribute positively to the pedestrian experience, and many contemporary developments detract from it. Seeing through windows to the activities within – be they retail, commercial, or PDR – imparts a sense of conviviality that blank walls or garage doors are unable to provide. Visually permeable street frontages offer an effective and engaging nexus between the public and private domains, enlivening the street, offering a sense of security and encouraging people to walk. Where there are residential uses, seeing the activities of living is key, represented by stoops, porches, entryways, planted areas, and windows that provide “eyes on the street.”

POLICY 3.2.1
Require high quality design of street-facing building exteriors.

Buildings should have a clear bottom, middle and top. The building exterior of floors with retail or PDR uses should be differentiated visually from residential floors.

A. Provide strong, repeating vertical articulation on new buildings, especially those with large street frontages, to achieve the visual interest necessary to sustain pedestrian interest and activity. Avoid undifferentiated massing longer than 25 feet on residential streets or alleys, and 40 feet on all other streets. Such vertical articulation as this cannot be satisfactorily achieved by minor changes such as change of color alone.

B. For vertically mixed-use buildings, changes in use should be visually differentiated through changes in material, scale, setback or other means, and not solely by color.

C. Building openings and fenestration should represent the uses behind them, minimize visual clutter, harmonize with prevailing conditions, and provide architectural interest. Windows should have a minimum recess of 3 inches, generally should be oriented, and open, vertically, and the frames should not be made of vinyl.

D. Use authentic, materials with a substantial appearance, including wood, masonry, ceramic tile, pre-cast concrete or integrated stucco. Avoid using inauthentic materials, in particular those that have the appearance of thin veneer or attachment, such as EIFS or tilt-up panels. If used, inauthentic materials should not be the dominant façade material, and should not be used for detailing or ornamentation.

E. Brick, stone, tile, veneers or applied materials should terminate logically and strongly, such as by wrapping corners and terminating at architectural modulations, articulations, frames or other features, so that they don’t appear superficially affixed to the façade.

F. Blank or blind frontages at the ground floor are highly discouraged and should be minimized wherever possible. Where necessary, frontages used for utilities, storage, refuse collection and other activities should be integrated into the overall articulation and fenestration of the façade, or be masked by landscaping or other design features where active uses are not possible.

G. Extended blank or blind frontages are not permitted along Transit Preferential Streets, as defined in the General Plan, or along 7th and 16th streets.

POLICY 3.2.2
Make ground floor retail and PDR uses as tall, roomy and permeable as possible.

A. Maximize interior clear ceiling heights for ground floor retail or PDR uses. Where height districts end in five-feet, such as 45’, 55’, 65’, and 85’, interior ground floor clear ceiling heights should maximize a fifteen foot envelope. This additional height will increase the flexibility of the space and improve its long-term viability.

B. Ground-level facades should be 75% transparent to permit a clear view inwards from the street and should not be tinted. Post construction alterations, such as retail displays, should not obscure the clear view.

POLICY 3.2.3
Minimize the visual impact of parking.

A. Where off-street parking is provided, placing it underground should be encouraged wherever site conditions allow, and especially for development on lots exceeding 5,000 square feet. Underground parking should be consolidated for multiple properties, where opportunities arise, thereby reducing the average cost of construction and minimizing the number of curb cuts and garage entrances.

B. At grade parking is strongly discouraged. Where at-grade parking is necessary, it should be wrapped with a minimum of 15 feet of active use, such as residential, retail, or PDR on both the primary and secondary street frontages, except for the minimum frontage required for fire doors and parking access.

C. For development with no more than 20 units, parking access should be provided by a single door not exceeding 8 feet. Where lot dimensions require separate ingress and egress, individual doors and driveways should not exceed a width of eight feet and should be separated by one foot.

D. For developments with more than 20 residential units but less than 100 residential units, individual doors and driveways should not exceed a width of 8 feet for ingress and 8 feet for egress, separated by one foot, and should not be widened to allow for off-street loading. Combined ingress and egress should not exceed 16 feet. More than one ingress and one egress or one combined ingress/egress access point should be discouraged.

E. For developments with 100 residential units or more, individual doors and driveways should not exceed a width of 8 feet for ingress and 8 feet for egress for auto parking, separated by one foot, and 10 feet for ingress and 10 feet for egress for joint parking and loading. Based on the conditions above, a combined ingress and egress should not exceed 20 feet. More than one ingress and one egress or one combined ingress/egress access point should be discouraged.

F. The number of curb cuts should be kept to an absolute minimum, with no more than one lane for ingress and one lane for egress, regardless of the total amount of parking proposed. Parking and loading should share access lanes, wherever possible, rather than requiring separate doors and driveways.

G. Curb cuts are prohibited on Transit Priority Streets, as defined in the General Plan.

H. Where a building has two frontages, parking entrances, loading docks, bays, and auxiliary service entrances should be accessed from secondary streets, and their visual impact on the neighborhood should be minimized.

POLICY 3.2.4
Strengthen the relationship between a building and its fronting sidewalk.

A. Blank and blind walls at the ground floor are highly discouraged and should be minimized. Building frontage should not be used for utilities, storage, and refuse collection wherever possible; where this function must be on the street, landscaping and other well-integrated design features shall be used to enhance the street frontage.

B. Ground-floor units should be primarily accessed directly from the public way, and not through common corridors or lobbies. Upper story units should connect to a lobby entry that opens directly onto the public way. Where possible, units should not be accessed only from an interior courtyard.

C. The individual entrances to ground-floor units should be set back 3-5 feet but no more than 10 feet from the street-fronting property line, and should be at least 18 inches, and ideally 3 feet, above sidewalk level.

D. All setback areas should maximize landscaping opportunities.

E. Utility vaults and access panels shall be placed in driveway curb cuts so as to prevent blank building frontages and to ensure that sidewalk planting opportunities for street trees and landscaping are not limited.

F. Physically intimidating security measures such as window grills or spiked gates should be avoided; security concerns should be addressed by creating well-lit, well-used streets and active residential frontages that encourage “eyes on the street.”

The design of corner buildings should relate to the civic significance of intersections.

POLICY 3.2.5
Building form should celebrate corner locations.

A. In use, design and entry, orient buildings towards corners.

B. Retail entrances should be located at corners, but primary residential entrances can be located away from the corner to prevent congestion.

C. Promote architectural features and detailing including towers, bays, and copulas at the corner.

POLICY 3.2.6
Sidewalks abutting new developments should be constructed in accordance with locally appropriate guidelines based on established best practices in streetscape design.

In dense neighborhoods such as Showplace Square, streets can provide important and valued additions to the open space network, offering pleasurable and enjoyable connections for people between larger open spaces.

San Francisco’s Better Streets Plan will provide guidance on how to improve the overall urban design quality, aesthetic character, and ecological function of the city’s streets while maintaining the safe and efficient use for all modes of transportation.

POLICY 3.2.7
Strengthen the pedestrian network by extending alleyways to adjacent streets or alleyways wherever possible, or by providing new publicly accessible mid-block rights of way.

A. Developments on properties with 300 or more feet of street frontage on a block face longer than 400’ should provide a minimum 20-foot-wide publicly accessible mid-block right of way and access easement for the entire depth of the property, connecting to existing streets or alleys.

B. Developments on properties with 200 feet or more, but less than 300 feet of street frontage should be encouraged to provide a minimum 20-foot wide publicly accessible easement where doing so would reconnect an alley with an adjacent street or another alley.

C. Developments on properties with 100 feet or more, but less than 200 feet of street frontage in the middle one-third of a block face longer than 400’ where the adjacent property has the potential to do likewise, should be encouraged to provide a minimum 10-foot-wide publicly accessible mid-block right of way and access easement for the entire depth of the property, connecting to existing streets or alleys.


Given the reality of global climate change, it is essential that cities, and development within those cities, limit their individual and collective ecological footprints. Using sustainable building materials, minimizing energy consumption, decreasing storm water runoff, filtering air pollution and providing natural habitat are ways in which cities and buildings can better integrate themselves with the natural systems of the landscape. These efforts have the immediate accessory benefits of improving the overall aesthetic character of neighborhoods by encouraging greening and usable public spaces and reducing exposure to environmental pollutants.

Specific policies and design guidelines to address the objective outlined above are as follows:

POLICY 3.3.1
Require new development to adhere to a new performance-based evaluation tool to improve the amount and quality of green landscaping.

The San Francisco Planning Department, in consultation with the Public Utilities Commission, is in the process of developing a green factor. The green factor will be a performance-based planning tool that requires all new development to meet a defined standard for on-site water infiltration, and offers developers substantial flexibility in meeting the standard. A similar green has been implemented in Seattle, WA, as well as in numerous European cities, and has proven to be a cost-effective tool, both to strengthen the environmental sustainability of each site, and to improve the aesthetic quality of the neighborhood. The Planning Department will provide a worksheet to calculate a proposed development’s green factor score.

POLICY 3.3.2
Discourage new surface parking lots and explore ways to encourage retrofitting existing surface parking lots and off-street loading areas to minimize negative effects on microclimate and stormwater infiltration. The city’s Stormwater Master Plan, upon completion, will provide guidance on how best to adhere to these guidelines.

The City’s Stormwater Master Plan, upon completion, will provide guidance on how best to adhere to these guidelines.

POLICY 3.3.3
Enhance the connection between building form and ecological sustainability by promoting use of renewable energy, energy-efficient building envelopes, passive heating and cooling, and sustainable materials.

POLICY 3.3.4
Compliance with strict environmental efficiency standards for new buildings is strongly encouraged.

The positive relationship between building sustainability, urban form, and the public realm has become increasingly understood as these buildings become more commonplace in cities around the world. Instead of turning inwards and creating a distinct and disconnected internal environment, sustainable buildings look outward at their surroundings as they allow in natural light and air. In so doing, they relate to the public domain through architectural creativity and visual interest, as open, visible windows provide a communicative interchange between those inside and outside the building. In an area where creative solutions to open space, public amenity, and visual interest are of special need, sustainable building strategies that enhance the public realm and enhance ecological sustainability are to be encouraged.

4. Transportation


Transportation in Showplace Square/Potrero Hill reflects the evolving industrial, residential and mixed use nature of the area. Design and high-tech employees walk streets with parked trucks and loading docks. Buses snake their way up and down the steep topography of Potrero Hill past homes and small commercial areas. The 101 and 280 freeways bring deliveries and commuters into and out of city and the neighborhood. Bike racks outside new residential buildings signal multimodal needs. Transportation improvements are needed to support the changing land use and new residential development planned for this area and to better connect Showplace Square/Potrero Hill to surrounding neighborhoods, transit connections and open spaces.


With a new residential neighborhood and other mixed-use development planned for Showplace Square, significant improvements to existing public transit service are needed to meet the growing demand in what has traditionally been a lower-intensity industrial district. Transit service in Potrero Hill is primarily provided for crosstown travel while direct connections to downtown are lacking. Showplace Square and Potrero Hill will need better linkages to key destinations within the city, including downtown, Market Street, and regional transit (e.g., Civic Center and 16th Street BART Stations, the Caltrain stations at 4th & King Street and at 22nd & Pennsylvania Streets, and the Transbay Terminal).

Key transit corridors and improvements to consider include: 1) the 16th Street corridor 2) north-south connections along 7th, 8th and 11th Streets 3) the rerouting of the #30 or #45 bus routes through Mission Bay and into Showplace Square and Potrero Hill.

To facilitate some of these improvements consideration should be given to the creation of new streets, realignment of existing streets and/or on street lane reconfiguration.

In addition to these north-south linkages, the role of 16th Street as a key east-west transit corridor continues to grow as new development in the Eastern Neighborhoods and Mission Bay takes shape. 16th Street is the only street that provides a continuous uninterrupted connection between the Mission, Showplace Square, Mission Bay and the eastern waterfront. It also provides a critical link between local (Muni Third Street Light Rail) and regional transit (16th Street BART, Civic Center BART, Caltrain and the Transbay Terminal). The planned rerouting of the #22 bus down the full length of 16th Street to Mission Bay will help establish a major cross-town route in this developing area. Transit improvements for the 16th Street corridor are needed to accommodate increased transit service and to ensure transit vehicles are not crippled by congestion. Collaborative planning between city agencies, businesses and large land holders such as UCSF is necessary to design a transit corridor that prioritizes transit while serving the diverse land uses along the corridor. Transit improvements on 16th Street will also benefit the existing PDR businesses and employees found in the area that are expected to stay and grow.

As Showplace Square and Mission Bay mature as neighborhoods, eliminating the at-grade crossing of the Caltrain tracks with 16th Street will become increasingly desirable. Doing so would improve transit function and increase accessibility for all modes including pedestrians and bicyclists. However, this would be a very expensive project and best be implemented as part of plans for future California High Speed Rail.

Beginning in 2008, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA), Planning Department and the San Francisco County Transportation Authority (SFCTA) will commence a comprehensive Eastern Neighborhoods Transportation Implementation Planning Study (EN TRIPS) to further explore the feasibility of the options described above, determine which projects are needed, how they should be designed and how they can be funded. A key input to this will be SFMTA’s “Transit Effectiveness Project” (TEP), the first comprehensive study of the Muni system since the late 1970s. The TEP aims to promote overall performance and long-term financial stability through faster, more reliable transportation choices and cost-effective operating practices. The TEP recommendations focus on improving transit service, speed and reliability and should be implemented as soon as possible within the Showplace Square / Potrero Hill and throughout the city.

The policies to address the objective outlined above are as follows:

POLICY 4.1.1
Commit resources to an analysis of the street grid, the transportation impacts of new zoning, and mobility needs in Showplace Square Potrero /Eastern Neighborhoods to develop a plan that prioritizes transit while addressing needs of all modes (auto circulation, freeway traffic, bicyclists, pedestrians).

This policy refers to the Eastern Neighborhoods Transportation Implementation Planning Study (EN TRIPS) described above.

POLICY 4.1.2
Decrease transit travel time and improve reliability through a variety of means, such as transit-only lanes, transit signal priority, transit “queue jumps,” lengthening of spacing between stops, and establishment of limited or express service.

POLICY 4.1.3
Implement the service recommendations of the Transit Effectiveness Project (TEP).

POLICY 4.1.4
Reduce existing curb cuts where possible and restrict new curb cuts to prevent vehicular conflicts with transit on important transit and commercial streets.

Curb cuts should be reduced on key neighborhood commercial, pedestrian, and transit streets, where it is important to maintain continuous active ground floor activity, and protect pedestrian movement and retail viability, and reduce transit delay and variability. This is a critical measure to reduce congestion and conflicts with pedestrians and transit movement along Transit Preferential Streets, particularly where transit vehicles do not run in protected dedicated rights-of-way and are vulnerable to disruption and delay. In Showplace / Potrero 16th Street is the key street where this policy should be implemented. New curb cuts should be prohibited along this street and loading for both PDR and other uses should be conducted on the wide side streets.

POLICY 4.1.5
Ensure Muni’s storage and maintenance facility needs are met to serve increased transit demand and provide enhanced service.

Additional transit vehicles will be needed to serve new development in the Eastern Neighborhoods. The capacity of existing storage and maintenance facilities should be expanded and new facilities constructed to support growth in the Eastern Neighborhoods.

POLICY 4.1.6
Improve public transit service linking Showplace / Potrero to the downtown core and regional transit hubs including Market Street, 4th and King Caltrain station, Civic Center BART station, 16th Street BART station, and the Transbay Terminal.

POLICY 4.1.7
Improve direct transit connectivity from downtown and Mission Bay to Potrero Hill.

Since most transit service in Potrero Hill provides crosstown service, better connections from downtown and Mission Bay from Potrero Hill. The #30 or #45 bus which travel through the heart of downtown should be rerouted per SFMTA’s existing service plans for one of these routes.

POLICY 4.1.8
To the extent possible, balance competing land use and transportation-related priorities for 16th Street in Showplace Square to improve transit speed and reliability.

As a core PDR area served by a major transit route (Muni’s #22 bus), 16th Street and neighboring parcels illustrate the conflicts between the competing policy goals of improving transit and preserving PDR businesses. PDR land uses in the Mission and Showplace Square should be preserved to support the critical business activity they provide. However, PDR-related truck traffic, loading and circulation needs can slow transit vehicles. Further planning and design work is needed to make 16th Street a better transit street by mitigating the impacts of surrounding land uses. For example, off street truck loading requirements and transit-signal priority can improve 16th Street for transit while continuing to support the neighboring PDR land uses.

POLICY 4.1.9
Study the possibility of creating a “premium” transit service such as Bus Rapid Transit or implementing high-level transit preferential treatments for segments of Mission Street,16th Street and Potrero Avenue.

POLICY 4.1.10
Consider grade separation of the Caltrain tracks at 16th Street as part of a future high speed rail project.


A transit rider’s experience is largely impacted by the quality of environment in and around the stops and stations where they start or end their transit trips. Transit stops can be made more attractive and comfortable for riders through installation of bus bulbs, shelters, increased seating, lighting, and landscaping. Pedestrian safety should also be prioritized near transit through installation and maintenance of signs, crosswalks, pedestrian signals and other appropriate measures. Quality passenger information such as maps directing riders to major destinations, and accurate real-time transit information should be provided. Key transit stops with high passenger volumes or high transfer volumes should be prioritized for enhanced amenities.

The policies as well as implementing actions to address the objective outlined above are as follows:

POLICY 4.2.1
Improve the safety and quality of streets, stops and stations used by transit passengers.

POLICY 4.2.2
Provide comprehensive and real-time passenger information, both on vehicles and at stops and stations.


Demand for parking varies throughout Showplace Square and Potrero Hill. Parking in the residential areas is frequently managed through residential permits, with many homes having private garages and driveways. New residential development and growing retail clusters on Townsend, 16th and 17th Streets will add to the existing demand for parking from the San Francisco Design Center and California College of the Arts (CCA). Determining how available and new parking is managed in the Showplace Square Potrero Hill is essential to achieving a range of goals including reduced congestion and private vehicle trips, improved transit, vibrant neighborhood commercial districts, housing production and affordability, and good urban design.

Elimination of minimum off-street parking requirements in new residential and commercial developments, while continuing to permit reasonable amounts of parking if desired, allows developers more flexibility in how they choose to use scarce developable space. In developments where space permits or where expected residents would particularly desire to own cars, parking can be provided, while in transit intensive areas, or where expected residents would not need cars (senior developments for example) parking would not be required. Space previously dedicated to parking in residential developments can be made available for additional housing units. With no parking minimums and therefore no need for individual drive-in parking spaces, new residential and commercial developments can explore more efficient methods of providing parking such as mechanical parking lifts, tandem or valet parking.

“Unbundling” parking from housing costs can reduce the cost of housing and make it more affordable to people without automobiles. The cost of parking is often aggregated in rents and purchase prices. This forces people to pay for parking without choice and without consideration of need or the many alternatives to driving available. This could be avoided by requiring that parking be separated from residential or commercial rents, allowing people to make conscious decisions about parking and auto ownership.

Proper management of public parking, both on-street and in garages is critical. Currently, on-street parking is difficult to find in many parts of the city. Loose regulation and relatively inexpensive rates increase demand and decrease turnover of parking spaces. This shifts demand away from public transit and other modes, increases congestion and encourages long term on-street parking by employees and commuters. To support the needs of businesses and create successful commercial areas, on-street parking spaces should be managed to favor short-term shoppers, visitors, and loading. In residential areas, curbside parking should be managed to favor residents, while allocating any additional spaces for short-term visitors to the area. Recent research has proposed a number of ways to use market-based pricing and other innovative management techniques to improve availability of on-street parking while also increasing the revenue stream to the city. These methods are currently under study and should be applied in this area.

In accordance with Section 8A.113 of Proposition E (2000), new public parking facilities can only be constructed if the revenue earned from a new parking garage will be sufficient to cover construction and operating costs without the need for a subsidy. New development built with reduced parking could accommodate parking needs of drivers through innovative shared parking arrangements like a “community parking garage.” Located outside of neighborhood commercial and small scale residential areas, such a facility would consolidate parking amongst a range of users (commercial and residential) while providing an active ground floor featuring neighborhood services and retail.

The policies to address the objective outlined above are as follows:

POLICY 4.3.1
For new residential development, provide flexibility by eliminating minimum off-street parking requirements and establishing reasonable parking caps.

POLICY 4.3.2
For new non-residential development, provide flexibility by eliminating minimum off-street parking requirements and establishing caps generally equal to the previous minimum requirements. For office uses, parking should be limited relative to transit accessibility.

POLICY 4.3.3
Make the cost of parking visible to users, by requiring parking to be rented, leased or sold separately from residential and commercial space for all new major development

POLICY 4.3.4
Encourage, or require where appropriate, innovative parking arrangements that make efficient use of space, particularly where cars will not be used on a daily basis.

POLICY 4.3.5
Permit construction of new parking garages only if they are part of shared parking arrangements that efficiently use space, are appropriately designed, and reduce the overall need for off-street parking in the area.

POLICY 4.3.6
Reconsider and revise the way that on-street parking is managed in both commercial and residential districts in order to more efficiently use street parking space and increase turnover and parking availability.

The San Francisco County Transportation Authority is conducting the On-Street Parking Management and Pricing Study to evaluate a variety of improved management techniques for on-street parking and recommend which should be put into effect in San Francisco.


Many deliveries to Showplace Square / Potrero businesses are performed within the street space. Where curbside freight loading space is not available, delivery vehicles double-park, blocking major thoroughfares and creating potential hazards for pedestrians, cyclists and automobiles. The City should evaluate the existing on-street curb-designation for delivery vehicles and improve daytime enforcement to increase turnover. Where necessary, curbside freight loading spaces should be increased. During evenings and weekends, curbside freight loading spaces should be made available for visitor and customer parking. In new non-residential developments, adequate loading spaces internal to the development should be required to minimize conflicts with other street users.

The policies to address the objective outlined above are as follows:

POLICY 4.4.1
Provide an adequate amount of short-term, on-street curbside freight loading spaces throughout Showplace Square.

POLICY 4.4.2
Continue to require off-street facilities for freight loading and service vehicles in new large non-residential developments.

POLICY 4.4.3
In areas with a significant number of PDR establishments, design streets and sidewalks to serve the needs and access requirements of trucks while maintaining a safe pedestrian environment.


Not only are streets essential for movement but they are an essential component of the city’s public realm and open space network. The streets and sidewalks in Showplace Square Potrero Hill move people and goods as well as provide places to sit, talk and stroll. Past sale of streets or rights-of-way to accommodate private development has impeded connectivity and mobility in some parts of San Francisco. The City should not vacate or sell this public space to private interests unless it is determined that removing excess roadway or reconfiguration of specific intersection geometries will achieve significant public benefits such as increased pedestrian safety, traffic safety, more reliable transit service or public open space. New developments on large lots should also be required to provide alleys to break up the scale of the building and allow greater street connectivity.

Several streets in Showplace Square, including Irwin, Hubbell, Daggett and portions of Carolina, Wisconsin and Arkansas Streets near Jackson Playground are only one or two blocks long and do not serve as major traffic throughways because of their isolation and discontinuity with major streets in the grid. Consistent with rezoning this area for new housing and creation of a new neighborhood, the city should explore the transformation of portions of these rights-of-way into “Living Streets” with wide landscaped pedestrian zones that feature usable open space features. As part of the Mission Bay development, Muni will re-route a bus line through Showplace Square, possibly on Hooper and/or Irwin Streets. The City should examine whether new street design proposals could accommodate bus service.

Additionally, there are multiple locations in Showplace Square and Potrero Hill where street grids collide at angles that create excessively-wide intersections and asphalt expanses unnecessary for traffic. Such locations include the intersection of Irwin, 8th, 16th, and Wisconsin Streets, as well as the intersection of Townsend, Division, and 8th Streets (the “Townsend Circle”). These locations should be studied for creation of new or expanded public open space.

(For more on physical street design concepts and policies, see the Streets and Open Space chapter of the Plan.)

The policies to address the objective outlined above are as follows:

POLICY 4.5.1
Maintain a strong presumption against the vacation or sale of streets or alleys except in cases where significant public benefits can be achieved.

POLICY 4.5.2
As part of a development project’s open space requirement, require publicly-accessible alleys that break up the scale of large developments and allow additional access to buildings in the project.

(See also the Built Form chapter in this Plan, where there is more in-depth discussion on alleyways and publicly accessible mid-block rights of way.

POLICY 4.5.3
Redesign underutilized streets in the Showplace Square area for creation of Living Streets and other usable public space or to facilitate transit movement.


While steep grades in some areas of Potrero Hill can make walking a challenge, vibrant neighborhood commercial areas, such as 18th Street and increasing activity in the Showplace Square area will continue to generate higher and higher levels of pedestrian activity.

At least three categories of pedestrian improvements are critical for this area: 1) Connections between Potrero Hill and Showplace Square directly to the north, including intersections of north-south streets with 16th Street; 2) connections with Mission Bay and Caltrain to make the two neighborhoods more accessible on foot; and 3) improved pedestrian connections within Showplace Square, as activity and mixed-use development increases in that area. Missing segments of the sidewalk network on a number of blocks within Showplace Square (Utah Street between 15th and Division Streets, Henry Adams and Rhode Island Streets between Alameda and Division Streets, De Haro Street between 15th and 16th Streets, and Berry Street between De Haro Street and 7th Street) should be filled in as new development occurs.

The Planning Department is currently working with the SFMTA to develop the Better Streets Plan to ensure that streets are designed to promote pedestrian comfort and safety. This joint effort will be background for all future pedestrian improvements on the city’s streets. Wherever possible, the city should implement high-visibility crosswalks, pedestrian signal heads with countdown timers, corner bulbouts, median refuge islands, or other pedestrian improvements at these intersections. In specific areas with known higher rates of pedestrian-collisions, developers should be encouraged to carry out context specific planning and design on building projects to improve pedestrian safety.

(See also the Streets and Open Space chapter in this Plan, where there is more in-depth discussion on the physical design of streets.)

The policies to address the objective outlined above are as follows:

POLICY 4.6.1
Use established street design standards and guidelines to make the pedestrian environment safer and more comfortable for walk trips.

POLICY 4.6.2
Prioritize pedestrian safety improvements at intersections and in areas with historically high frequencies of pedestrian injury collisions.

POLICY 4.6.3
Improve pedestrian connections between Showplace Square / Potrero Hill and Mission Bay.

POLICY 4.6.4
Facilitate improved pedestrian crossings at several locations along 16th Street to better connect Potrero Hill to the Showplace Square area.

POLICY 4.6.5
Facilitate completion of the sidewalk network in Showplace Square / Potrero Hill, especially where new development is planned to occur.


The bicycle network in Showplace Square Potrero Hill is concentrated in the flatter areas on the perimeter of Potrero Hill and within Showplace Square. Upgrades to the network in the area are needed to improve east-west connections to the Castro, Mission district and Mission Bay. The SFMTA has planned bicycle improvements in Showplace Square along 17th Street, which will strengthen connections to the Mission District and to Mission Bay and the eastern waterfront along the existing bicycle lanes on 16th Street east of Kansas. Extension of the Potrero Avenue bicycle lanes to Division Street and a new bicycle lane along small segments of Kansas Street and 23rd Streets are also planned and awaiting environmental clearance. The proposed Mission Creek Bikeway presents the opportunity for a future landscaped bicycle path through Showplace Square to Mission Bay. Bikeway plans should be further examined, especially issues surrounding cost and implementation.

The policies as well as implementing actions to address the objective outlined above are as follows:

POLICY 4.7.1
Provide a continuous network of safe, convenient and attractive bicycle facilities connecting Showplace Square / Potrero Hill to the citywide bicycle network and conforming to the San Francisco Bicycle Plan.

POLICY 4.7.2
Provide secure, accessible and abundant bicycle parking, particularly at transit stations, within shopping areas and at concentrations of employment.

POLICY 4.7.3
Explore feasibility of the Mission Creek Bikeway project.


In addition to investments in our transportation infrastructure, there are a variety of programmatic ways in which the City can encourage people to use alternative modes of travel. Car sharing and transportation demand management programs (TDM) are important tools to reduce congestion and limit parking demand.

Car sharing offers an affordable alternative to car ownership by allowing individuals the use of a car without the cost of ownership (gas, insurance, maintenance). Carsharing companies provide privately owned and maintained vehicles for short-term use by their members. Cars share members pay a flat hourly rate or monthly fee to use cars only when they need them (i.e. to run errands or make short trips).

Showplace Square and Potrero Hill have significantly fewer car share vehicles available than neighborhoods like the Mission or SoMa. Recent zoning code changes require carshare spaces in new residential developments Car sharing should continue to be encouraged as part of new residential and commercial developments to support residents without vehicles and new developments built with decreased parking.

Transportation Demand Management (TDM) combines marketing and incentive programs to reduce dependence on automobiles and encourage use of a range of transportation options, including public transit, bicycling, walking and ridesharing. These programs should be explored further for implementation in Showplace Square / Potrero Hill and throughout the Eastern Neighborhoods. Cash-out policies (where employers provide cash instead of a free parking space), Commuter Checks and Emergency Ride Home programs are some of the methods institutions and employers can utilize. Businesses and institutions with large numbers of employees or students, such as the California College of the Arts should be required to develop on-site programs or join a larger area wide program. An Eastern Neighborhoods Transportation Management Association (TMA) similar to the one operating downtown could be established. Major residential developments (50+ units) should be required to provide transit passes to all residents as part of rent or homeowner association fees.

The policies to address the objective outlined above are as follows:

POLICY 4.8.1
Continue to require car-sharing arrangements in new residential and commercial developments, as well as any new parking garages.

POLICY 4.8.2
Require large retail establishments, particularly supermarkets, to provide shuttle and delivery services to customers.

POLICY 4.8.3
Develop a Transportation Demand Management (TDM) program for the Eastern Neighborhoods that provides information and incentives for employees, visitors and residents to use alternative transportation modes and travel times.


New development in Showplace Square / Potrero will generate additional travel in and through the area. Many new trips in the area are expected to occur by public transit, walking, and biking. Efforts should be made to accommodate new vehicle traffic while reducing conflicts with pedestrians or transit. Traffic calming projects such as those underway in Potrero Hill should be implemented and expanded to reduce speeding and improve neighborhood livability without introducing delay or reliability problems for transit.

New technologies such as those being developed by the Department of Parking and Traffic’s “SFGO” program should be pursued to reduce congestion, respond to current traffic conditions and move autos safely and efficiently.

The policies to address the objective outlined above are as follows:

POLICY 4.9.1
Introduce traffic calming measures where warranted to improve pedestrian safety and comfort, reduce speeding and traffic spillover from arterial streets onto residential streets and alleyways.

POLICY 4.9.2
Decrease auto congestion through implementation of Intelligent Traffic Management Systems (ITMS) strategies such as smart parking technology, progressive metering of traffic signals and the SFMTA “SFGO” program.


New development in Showplace Square/Potrero Hill and throughout the Eastern Neighborhoods will exert significant strain on the area’s existing transportation infrastructure. The City must develop new funding sources and a funding plan to ensure needed improvements are made.

Transportation improvements are costly. While federal, state, regional and local grant sources are available to partially defray the cost of transportation capital projects, they are not sufficient to meet transportation needs identified by the community. Streets and transportation improvements (pedestrian, bicycle, and transit) will require a significant portion of the funding generated through the Eastern Neighborhoods Public Benefits Program. Because funds from this program will also be needed to support a number of other community improvements besides transportation, it will be important to identify additional sources of funding.

The policies to address the objective outlined above are as follows:

POLICY 4.10.1
As part of the Eastern Neighborhoods Public Benefits Program, support funding for transit, pedestrian, bicycle and auto improvements through developer impact fees, in-kind contributions, community facilities districts, dedication of tax revenues, and state or federal grant sources.

5. Streets & Open Space

Showplace Square’s history as an almost exclusively industrial area has meant that this area has comparatively little access to open space as compared with the rest of the city. The conversion of portions of this area for residential and mixed use development and consequent addition of new residents makes it imperative to provide more open space to serve both existing and new residents, workers and visitors. Analysis reveals that a total of about 4.0 acres of new space should be provided in this area to accommodate expected growth. Thus, this Plan proposes providing at least one new open space in the area, in addition to widened sidewalks with pocket parks and green streets, and an increased private open space requirement.


In a built-out neighborhood such as this, finding sites for sizeable new parks is difficult. However, it is critical that at least one new substantial open space be provided as part of this Plan. The Planning Department will continue working with the Recreation and Parks Department to identify a site in Showplace / Potrero for a public park and will continue to work to acquire additional open spaces.

The areas surrounding Townsend Circle and the intersection of 16th, Wisconsin and Irwin Streets (next to Wolf’s Café) offer significant opportunities to improve the neighborhood’s open space network through the creation of two new urban plazas. Both of these locations are adjacent to potential new residential populations as well as existing and new employee concentrations and would become important links in the larger public open space network.

In order to provide these new open spaces, significant funding will need to be identified to acquire, develop, and maintain this new park. One source of funds is to require that new residential development contribute to the acquisition of a new park. New residential development directly impacts the existing park sites with its influx of new residents; therefore new residential development will be required to either pay directly into a fund to acquire new open space.

Commercial development also directly impacts existing park sites, with workers, shoppers and others needing places to eat lunch and take a break outside. This Plan also proposes to charge an impact fee for commercial development to cover the impact of proposed commercial development.

The policies to address the objective outlined above are as follows:

POLICY 5.1.1
Identify opportunities to create new public parks and open spaces and provide at least one new public park or open space serving the Showplace / Potrero.

POLICY 5.1.2
Require new residential development and commercial development to provide, or contribute to the creation of publicly accessible open space.


In addition to the publicly accessible open space requirements, another tool for making Showplace Square / Potrero greener is to require additional private open space. Currently, residential developments are required to provide open space accessible to residents. Because of its industrial past, this requirement is much lower in Showplace Square than other neighborhoods where residential uses are allowed in the city. This plan increases the open space required as part of new developments to be similar to what is currently required in other neighborhoods.

Additionally, commercial development is currently required to provide open space in SoMa. These existing requirements establish a minimum amount of open space to be provided on-site, or project sponsors may elect to pay an in-lieu fee. Because these fees are low, project sponsors often elect to pay the fee. This plan proposes to reexamine the current requirements for commercial development in SoMa to provide adequate, usable open space, and it proposes to expand them and apply them to projects in Showplace Square/Potrero.

The existing pattern of private open space is quite varied in Showplace Square/Potrero. Many of the area’s recent developments take advantage of their unique site configurations to provide their private open space in ways that best meet the needs of the residents. However, the established pattern in residential neighborhoods, including Potrero Hill is to provide the open space in the form of rear yards. Taken together these rear yards provide a sense of visual relief and access to open space in this part of the city. In areas where the existing pattern is one of rear yards, this pattern should be maintained. However, in areas where rear yards do not predominate, new residential developments should continue to provide open space in a manner that best fits the characteristics of the particular site, while still ensuring high quality open space design.

The policies to address the objective outlined above are as follows:

POLICY 5.2.1
Require new residential and mixed-use residential development to provide on-site private open space designed to meet the needs of residents.

POLICY 5.2.2
Establish requirements for commercial development to provide on-site open space.

POLICY 5.2.3
Encourage private open space to be provided as common spaces for residents and workers of the building wherever possible.

POLICY 5.2.4
Encourage publicly accessible open space as part of new residential and commercial development.

POLICY 5.2.5
New development should respect existing patterns of rear yard open space. Where an existing pattern of rear yard open space does not exist, new development on mixed-use-zoned parcels should have flexibility as to where open space can be located.

POLICY 5.2.6
Ensure quality open space is provided in flexible and creative ways, adding a well used, well-cared for amenity for residents of a highly urbanized neighborhood. Private open space should meet the following design guidelines:

A. Designed to allow for a diversity of uses, including elements for children, as appropriate.
B. Maximize sunlight exposure and protection from wind
C. Adhere to the performance-based evaluation tool.

In new mixed use developments, common, unenclosed residential open space areas can be provided as a rear yard, rooftop garden, central courtyard, balcony, or elsewhere on the lot or within the development so long as it is clearly accessible and usable by residents. Landscaping visible from the street is encouraged. Common spaces are encouraged over private spaces


Established patterns of rear-yard open spaces are to be protected.

In a built out neighborhood such as Showplace / Potrero, acquiring sites for new large parks can be difficult. For this reason, in addition to the acquisition of at least one new open space site in the neighborhood, the Showplace Square / Potrero Area Plan proposes an open space network of “Green Connector streets,” with wider sidewalks, places to sit and enjoy, significant landscaping and gracious street trees that would provide linkages between larger open spaces and diffuse the recreational and aesthetic benefits of these spaces into the neighborhood. Green Connector streets that would link the open Spaces of Mission Bay, Showplace Square, and the Mission District are envisioned along 16th or 17th Streets. (See Map 5 - Eastern Neighborhoods Streets and Open Space Concept Map). In combination with the pedestrian and bicycle improvements being considered as part of the transportation policies of this Plan, these streets could be transformed into heavily landscaped corridors with a strong design aesthetic, with pocket parks, wide sidewalks and a distinctive lighting pattern. Reconfiguring many of Showplace’s wide, heavily trafficked streets that currently satisfy the needs of private vehicles over the needs of pedestrians and cyclists would go far towards creating a more livable neighborhood for residents, workers, and visitors.

The Showplace Square / Potrero Area Plan calls for a fundamental rethinking of how the city designs and uses its streets. In addition to Green Connector streets, small streets can provide a welcomed respite from the busy activities along major streets. These small streets are proposed to be converted into “living streets,” where through-traffic is calmed and paving and landscaping are designed to reflect what is envisioned as the pedestrian primacy of these streets. These living streets -- which could be implemented on some or all of Arkansas, Wisconsin, Carolina, and Hooper Streets, – would provide visual and functional connections between important elements of the open space network, linking Mission Bay open spaces, 16th Street, the proposed open space at 16th Wisconsin and Irwin, and Jackson Playground.

Extensions to Jackson playground along Carolina and Arkansas (or both) could include landscaping and special paving that would extend the park and allow for a pedestrian oriented landscaped open space. (See Map 5 - Eastern Neighborhoods Streets and Open Space Concept Map.

In dense neighborhoods such as Showplace Square, it is increasingly clear that streets can and should provide important and valued additions to the open space network and aesthetic quality of the area. The design and maintenance of all other streets throughout the plan area should be guided by the forthcoming Better Streets Plan, a policy document that will provide direction on how to improve the overall urban design quality, aesthetic character, and ecological function of the city’s streets while maintaining safe and efficient use for all modes of transportation. The Better Streets Plan will provide guidance for both public and private improvements to the streetscape. The Showplace Square / Potrero Area Plan, in addition to the Better Streets Plan, will generate amendments to the Planning Code to make more explicit the requirements of private developers to construct and maintain a more enjoyable, more beautiful pedestrian environment.

In addition to these general streetscape improvements along streets, specific design interventions should also be considered for major intersections. As evidenced throughout the plan area, where major intersections are often streets of speeding through-traffic framed on four corners by single-story buildings, these places are unfriendly to the walker and cyclist. To better foster a sense of place and to improve the pedestrian experience, significant public space improvements - such as bulb-outs and landscaping treatments - should be focused at these intersections. Additionally, as described in the Built Form chapter of this Plan, specific effort should be paid to improving the quality, design, massing, and scale of corner buildings to better reflect the civic importance of major street intersections.

Finally, an important consideration for Showplace Square / Potrero is the visual and functional dominance of the elevated freeways and at-grade railway infrastructure. To soften this dominance and to improve connections under the freeway, The city is working with Caltrans and Caltrain to provide landscaping along the freeways and railway, as well as architectural lighting for pedestrians. This lighting should be both energy efficient and designed to minimize light spill into abutting neighborhoods.

The policies to address the objective outlined above are as follows:

POLICY 5.3.1
Redesign underutilized portions of streets as public open spaces, including widened sidewalks or medians, curb bulb-outs, “living streets” or green connector streets.

POLICY 5.3.2
Maximize sidewalk landscaping, street trees and pedestrian scale street furnishing to the greatest extent feasible.

POLICY 5.3.3
Design the intersections of major streets to reflect their prominence as public spaces.

POLICY 5.3.4
Enhance the pedestrian environment by requiring new development to plant street trees along abutting sidewalks. When this is not feasible, plant trees on development sites or elsewhere in the plan area.

POLICY 5.3.5
Significant above grade infrastructure, such as freeways, should be retrofitted with architectural lighting to foster pedestrian connections beneath.

POLICY 5.3.6
Where possible, transform unused freeway and rail rights-of-way into landscaped features that provide a pleasant and comforting route for pedestrians.

POLICY 5.3.7
Develop a comprehensive public realm plan for Showplace Square that reflects the differing needs of streets based upon their predominant land use, role in the transportation network, and building scale.


Open space not only provides places to recreate and relax, but also provides a means to strengthen the environmental quality of the neighborhood. As discussed in the Built Form chapter of this plan, one tool for greening private open spaces is the performance-based evaluation tool. This tool requires all new development to meet a defined standard for on-site water infiltration, and offers developers a large number of strategies to meet the standard.

Ecological sustainability is also a key goal in the development of public spaces. Some new public spaces will be created through the reclamation of the excess street rights-of-way throughout Showplace Square/Potrero. Turning these concrete and impermeable surfaces into pocket parks and plantings will not only beautify the street, it will also provide greater on-site water filtration. Additionally, new public parks that are being acquired will consider incorporating ecological sustainability elements, such as bioswales and natural areas. These new public parks should also incorporate native plant species that are drought-resistant and conserve water use.

In addition to the on-site menu of options available to project sponsors as part of the performance-based evaluation tool, there are many additional measures that can create a better environment. Built out, urban areas such as San Francisco can improve existing water quality of our bays and oceans by encouraging more on-site infiltration. Pervious surfaces, such as parking lots, are one of the main causes of pollution flowing directly into these water resources and one of the easiest sources to make more permeable. Permeability allows the water to be filtered through the soil before reaching the bay or the ocean. An ongoing master planning process being conducted by the San Francisco’s Public Utility Commission (PUC) will provide guidance on how best to mitigate stormwater flow into the city’s sewers, for example, by designing surface parking and loading areas to infiltrate rainwater onsite, rather than sending it into the drain.

Public art can be a component of existing and proposed open spaces that enhance the spaces and relate them to the existing neighborhoods. For example, a rotating art public art exhibit such as the one at Victoria Manolo Draves Park adds a locally relevant cultural element to the new park.

The policies to address the objective outlined above are as follows:

POLICY 5.4.1
Increase the environmental sustainability of Showplace Square/Potrero Hill system of public and private open spaces by improving the ecological functioning of all open space.

POLICY 5.4.2
Explore ways to retrofit existing parking and paved areas to minimize negative impacts on microclimate and allow for storm water infiltration.

POLICY 5.4.3
Encourage public art in existing and proposed open spaces.


Throughout the community planning process participants have given a high priority to maintaining and renovating existing park facilities. Maintenance needs will only become more apparent with the acquisition of a new park and as more open spaces such as green connector streets, living streets, and pocket parks are constructed. These types of spaces are often more complex and therefore generally more difficult to maintain on a per square foot basis then an open field, so the city should work to find space for maintenance equipment in the Showplace Square/Potrero area and to assure that maintenance funding and funding to renovate existing parks is provided with the development of these spaces.

This Plan proposes to renovate at least one existing park or recreational facility by securing the funding through impact fees and other sources. Specifically in the Showplace Square/Potrero area, all of the existing parks are in need of renovation and should be prioritized for funding. (The existing parks in the Showplace Square/Potrero Hill area include: Utah/18th Mini Park, Potrero Hill Recreation Center, Potrero Hill Mini Park, Potrero del Sol, Jackson Playground, McKinley Square.) Jackson Playground could, for example, be renovated into a more multi-use park, with benches and landscaping be extended onto the adjacent streets to create a more pedestrian-oriented environment and draws more people to the park. The Recreation and Parks Department is now using, safe, durable and long lasting materials and are designing facilities appropriately for the intended uses and these efforts will result in fewer repairs, longer and expanded usage periods and more reliable facilities. New public parks and re-designs of existing public parks should maximize drought tolerant landscaping and minimize features that require regular irrigation. Native species are encouraged, where appropriate.

There are also opportunities to more efficiently and creatively use existing facilities such as school playgrounds in Showplace Square/Potrero. The Mayor’s Office and the San Francisco Unified School District have recently begun a pilot program to open one school playground in each supervisorial district for use on weekends and select holidays. This program better utilizes our existing resources and the City should continue to work with the School District to expand this program and to allow additional recreational resources for the neighborhood.

The policies to address the objective outlined above are as follows:

POLICY 5.5.1
Prioritize funds and staffing to better maintain existing parks and obtain additional funding for a new park and open space facilities.

POLICY 5.5.2
Renovate run-down or outmoded park facilities to provide high quality, safe and long-lasting facilities. Identify at least one existing park or recreation facility in Showplace Square/Potrero Hill area for renovation.

POLICY 5.5.3
Explore opportunities to use existing recreation facilities, such as school yards, more efficiently.

6. Economic Development

Economic development should create sustainable prosperity for the residents, workers, and businesses of San Francisco. As described in the San Francisco Economic Strategy, such sustainable prosperity includes increasing job growth, wages and tax revenue, and small business development; while decreasing economic inequality and out-migration of businesses.

Attaining these goals involves determining the relationships that link government policy, industry competitiveness, and economic outcomes. From a government policy standpoint, these relationships are manifested in three ways.

  1. by focusing on the land, through the City’s land use strategy and zoning

  2. by focusing on our businesses, through the City’s business assistance programs

  3. by focusing on our workers, through the City’s workforce development programs and other mechanisms to promote economic self-sufficiency for workers.

This chapter will focus on objectives for supporting businesses and workers, while the land use-related economic development objectives are reflected in the Land Use chapter of this Plan.


Business assistance forms a vital part of an overall strategy to help San Francisco’s business sectors grow, compete and succeed. Business assistance is provided by a city or a non-profit organization and often broadly includes start-up assistance, ongoing technical assistance, assistance navigating city government processes, financial assistance, real estate and site selection assistance, assistance accessing workforce and incentive programs and assistance forming sector specific industry associations or organizations. In the Eastern Neighborhoods, there are three broadly defined industries: Physical Infrastructure; the Knowledge Sector, and the Small Business Sector.

The physical infrastructure sector includes production, distribution and repair (PDR) businesses that share key characteristics, such as the need for flexible, industrial space and their role in providing goods and services that support other primary industries in San Francisco (such as tourism, retail, high technology, and office-based industries). Providing business assistance to businesses in the physical infrastructure sector is important because these businesses are critical to the city’s economy. Specifically:

While protecting physical infrastructure businesses and other vulnerable uses, space should be provided in the Eastern Neighborhoods for “Knowledge Sector” businesses. (See Land Use chapter.) Broadly speaking, the Knowledge Sector describes businesses that create economic value because of the knowledge they possess and generate for their customers. Knowledge Sector business assistance is important because most Knowledge Sector industries have the highest fiscal impacts of any industry in the local economy. Specifically:

Small businesses are generally defined as businesses with a total workforce of 100 or fewer employees and include sole-proprietors who have no employees. Small business assistance is important because small businesses represent a significant and growing portion of the city economy. Specifically:

Providing business assistance to PDR businesses, Knowledge Sector businesses and small businesses is important in achieving the broader economic and workforce objectives of the city as defined in the city’s Economic Strategy. The high cost of doing business in San Francisco, and perceptions of an unfriendly business climate, are cited as barriers to business growth and economic development in the city. If the city is to retain PDR, Knowledge Sector and small businesses as they grow—and benefit from the greater range of jobs that large firms offer—then it must work to offer a competitive business climate. Business assistance services are a vital part of an overall strategy to strengthen the overall business climate and help these business sectors grow.

The policies to address the needs highlighted above are as follows:

POLICY 6.1.1
Provide business assistance for new and existing PDR businesses in the Eastern Neighborhoods.

POLICY 6.1.2
Provide business assistance for new and existing Knowledge Sector businesses in the Eastern Neighborhoods.

POLICY 6.1.3
Provide business assistance for new and existing small businesses in the Eastern Neighborhoods.

This strategic plan will focus on creating a system to manage small business interaction with the City, providing outreach to local businesses, exploring financial incentive programs, designating the roles and responsibilities of relevant city agencies and non-profit partners, and streamlining the permit and licensing process for new and existing small businesses.


Workforce development efforts - including job preparation, occupational skills training, and other strategies - are designed to provide individuals with the skills and knowledge necessary to access and retain quality jobs in a competitive economy. Skills development is key to helping workers move toward economic self-sufficiency through jobs that are in demand in our local and regional economies. Supporting the development of job skills benefits individual workers and their families, and also benefits companies that do business in San Francisco.

Because of the complex and changing nature of our economy, it is important that our workforce development strategies are aligned with the needs of industry - matching job training with the skills needed by employers. This is the match that will ensure that all San Francisco residents - particularly those that are low-income and/or may experience barriers to employment - are prepared for jobs as a result of their training. The workforce success of all San Francisco residents is essential to sustainable economic development and reducing inequality in San Francisco.

Workforce development strategies will target a range of established and growing industries. These industries reflect the breadth of San Francisco’s economy, and include Physical Infrastructure jobs and Knowledge Sector jobs (as discussed above), as well as those that are more involved in the “Experience Sector” (i.e., tourism and hospitality) and human services. These sectors are specifically targeted because of their ability to pay above-average wages to well-trained workers, even if those workers do not have a four-year degree. Employers range from small neighborhood serving businesses to large and mature companies.

The policies as well as implementing actions to address the needs highlighted above are as follows:

POLICY 6.2.1
Provide workforce development training for those who work in and live in the Eastern Neighborhoods, particularly those who do not have a college degree.

MOEWD is focused on seven industries for employment and training services and business service development. These industries were identified because they currently require a significant number of jobs, or are expected to in the near future. The seven industries are: Health Care and Social Assistance, Biotechnology, Information Technology, Hospitality, Retail, Construction, and Transportation.

7. Community Facilities

Community facilities are key elements that can help to create a strong sense of community and identity. They are an integral element of socially and sustainable communities and they include community anchors like schools and libraries, child care facilities, community centers (where youth, after school, and other activities can occur), cultural and arts centers, clinics and a range of other amenities. Community facilities can include any type of service needed to meet the day-to-day needs of the community. In the Eastern Neighborhoods these facilities can include language/communication curricula, programs to address education gaps, job skills and training, tutoring and youth development, cultural resource centers, and the support networks often so critical for lower income communities. Specific needs might include multicultural programs, legal aid, information referrals, various parenting groups, immigration adaptation and settlement, etc.

Some community facilities critical to neighborhood development, such as streets, open space, housing and transportation, are addressed specifically in other sections of this Area Plan. This Community Facilities chapter includes the remaining needs and attempts to address how they will be met either through traditional land use regulations or through other methods to fund, encourage and maintain them. In the Eastern Neighborhoods, the expected level of need for these community facilities is based on existing needs as well as future ones, derived from projected population growth and new development demand. Recommendations towards expansion or improvements to community facilities are based on this assessment, as well as on conversations with the community and with typical providers of these community services. The policies that follow will be accompanied by a separate implementation document, which will outline funding strategies and public benefit funds available for such facilities, and provide direction for their execution. The Plan will also include a monitoring strategy to assess changes in needs so that the pool of funds for public benefits can be allocated efficiently and based on community priorities.


Potrero Hill is an established residential community whose residents are economically and demographically diverse. Showplace Square currently contains a modest amount of housing that is expected to increase with the implementation of new zoning controls. While the provision of new community resources is a priority for the neighborhood, the community also recognizes the strength of the existing facilities and that these facilities are already proving inadequate and thus need to be maintained and strengthened. New residents will increase the need to add new facilities and to maintain and expand existing ones.

Community facilities are necessary for many kinds of households, but particularly for families - improved schooling, upgraded libraries, improved and expanded parks, and increased child care facilities, including subsidies, are critical to maintaining an acceptable quality of life for San Francisco’s families. Schools provide an anchor for families even beyond education: providing a safe local environment, facilitating social connections, and facilitating child growth and development. While Bessie Carmichael Elementary School recently expanded from a pre-K-5 to a pre-K-8 school in East SoMa, increasing the educational options in this nearby neighborhood, if families prefer to attend school near their homes, there may be a need for additional elementary and additional middle school spaces in the Potrero Hill area based on projected growth in this area and in the dense new neighborhoods surrounding Showplace Square/Potrero Hill.

Alternatively, additional elementary and middle schools spaces could be located in the Central Waterfront or in the eastern portion of the East SoMa neighborhoods. This potential need for more elementary and middle school spaces could be accommodated by co-locating programs in an existing site, such as the Enola Maxwell Campus, which now houses the International Studies Academy or by considering the New Mission Bay site for a school, if appropriate. Future school closure, relocation and merger decisions by the San Francisco Unified School District as well as future attendance trends in the Eastern Neighborhoods and the rest of the district will impact the way in which this need evolves. Additionally, changes to schools in this neighborhood will be a part of a District-wide approach to projected changes in enrollment citywide.

Public libraries too, play a critical role in community life. Library branches can contribute to the social fabric of their communities by serving as a distribution point for community information, by promoting social networks, and by providing access to the internet and digital networking. The community libraries at the Mission, Potrero, and Mission Bay Branch provide reasonable access to the residents of the Eastern Neighborhoods, but the projected increase in population could add to the need for existing libraries to provide additional materials. Therefore, maintenance as well as planning for additional materials is another important consideration in the allocation of community benefits.

Child care facilities, like schools, can be strong neighborhood and community anchors. Locating child care near residential areas, on-site in new residential complexes, near transit facilities, or near employment centers, supports families by reducing the time spent by parents going to and from daycare. This may also contribute to other plan goals such as traffic reduction, and increased transit ridership. Sufficient care facilities for the neighborhood’s working families are critical if the Eastern Neighborhoods are to not only continue, but grow their role as a place for families.

Therefore, the city should facilitate the careful location and expansion of essential neighborhood services, while limiting the concentration of such activities within any one neighborhood. New development can also help fund such additional new services and amenities in proportion to the need generated by new development. Additionally, maintenance is an important, though often neglected, aspect of community facilities. Proper maintenance of existing (and new) facilities is equally important to the creation of new facilities. The influx of residents will further increase the usage of existing facilities, potentially increasing their staffing and maintenance costs. Even if no new facilities are built in Showplace Square/Potrero Hill, existing facilities need to be adequately staffed and maintained and methods for meeting the increased costs must be considered.

The policies to provide essential community facilities and services are as follows:

POLICY 7.1.1
Support the siting of new facilities to meet the needs of a growing community and to provide opportunities for residents of all age levels.

POLICY 7.1.2
Recognize the value of existing facilities, including recreational and cultural facilities, and support their expansion and continued use.

POLICY 7.1.3
Ensure childcare services are located where they will best serve neighborhood workers and residents.

POLICY 7.1.4
Seek the San Francisco Unified School District’s consideration of new middle school options in this neighborhood, or in the Central Waterfront or East SoMa neighborhoods, or the expansion of existing schools to accommodate middle school demand from projected population growth in the Eastern Neighborhoods.

POLICY 7.1.5
Ensure public libraries that serve the plan area have sufficient materials to meet projected growth to continue quality services and access for residents of the area.


San Francisco’s population is known for its ethnic diversity, and many of its diverse cultural and ethnic traditions are rooted in areas of the Eastern Neighborhoods. The Mission holds more than 25 percent of the city’s Latino population, SoMa retains a significant number of the city’s Asian, and specifically its Filipino, population. The neighborhoods have long been a home for much of the city’s ethnic, cultural, linguistic and social diversity, and as a result, the neighborhoods’ populations have demonstrated a greater need for community facilities, human and social services to support this diversity.

Most human and social service needs are met through a partnership of public and nonprofit organizations. Nonprofit providers often serve under contract with City agencies, leverage substantial additional funding from state, federal, corporate, foundation and private sources. In a 2001 survey, nonprofit human service providers laid claim to exactly how important it was to be located close to their clients, in their own neighborhoods: the majority stated that it was “essential” that their activities were located in a specific neighborhood; the neighborhoods most often cited were the Mission, Potrero Hill, and SoMa . This information demonstrates just how important the existing facilities are to the local communities of the Eastern Neighborhoods, and how critical it is that services continue.

Health Care is another critical component for the Eastern Neighborhoods, where many residents fall between the cracks of managed health care. The neighborhoods do have a good number of care centers and nonprofit health providers - the Department of Public Health recommends a one-mile access to health care centers, and all except for the easternmost edges of the Eastern SoMa are within a one mile radius of a public health center. On a per capita basis, the Eastern Neighborhoods have more facilities than exist citywide - this need for these facilities will continue if the Eastern Neighborhoods continues to house a substantial number of low-income residents.

As the Plan aims to improve the neighborhoods, and to meet the needs that new residential units in the Eastern Neighborhoods will create, it must provide support for continuance of the area’s existing community facility network. Studies have shown that even in the midst of growth, the need for community and human services stays high or grows, and the rise in costs in San Francisco – high land costs, rents, facilities, employment costs – has already led to a host of pressures for service providers. New growth must mitigate this pressure with support for facilities, through facility provision, financing and other methods of assistance. Impact fees will support improvements to community infrastructure: existing impact fees already are dedicated to funding schools; new impact fees will provide revenue for others such as child care and libraries.

POLICY 7.2.1
Promote the continued operation of existing human and health services that serve low-income and immigrant communities in the Eastern Neighborhoods, and prevent their displacement.

POLICY 7.2.2
Encourage new facilities and spaces for providers of services such as English as a Second Language, employment training services, art, education and youth programming.

POLICY 7.2.3
Explore a range of revenue-generating tools to support the ongoing operations and maintenance of community facilities, including public funds and grants as well as private funding sources.

POLICY 7.2.4
Support efforts to preserve and enhance social and cultural institutions.

POLICY 7.2.5
Encourage the creation of new social and cultural facilities in the Showplace Square/Potrero Hill area.

8. Historic Preservation

The heritage of San Francisco is preserved in its historically significant buildings, sites, districts, and other resources. These historic resources are important to quality of life in the city, and they help to make it attractive to residents, visitors, and businesses. They provide continuity to the events, places, people, and architectural styles of the city’s storied past. Plan policies should promote the identification, protection and rehabilitation of known and unknown historic resources to assure that they accommodate for current populations as well as future generations.

The Showplace Square survey area lies south of downtown, where the pasture lands of Potrero Nuevo formerly gave way to the large marsh lands and open water of Mission Bay. Today, Showplace Square sits at the juncture of two street grids – the diagonal streets of South of Market (SoMa) to the northeast and the north-south blocks of the Potrero Hill neighborhood to the south. Showplace Square is surrounded by more well-known districts, including SoMa to the north, the Mission District to the west, the Central Waterfront to the east, and Potrero Hill to the south. While the history of Showplace Square is definitely connected to the histories of these adjacent areas, it remains somewhat distinct from them.

Unlike SoMa, Potrero or the Mission, the Showplace Square survey area never had a significant long-standing residential concentration, nor was it ever as heavily industrial as the Central Waterfront. Instead, Showplace’s location on the edge of both residential and industrial areas made it a natural center for lighter industrial uses and commercial warehouses. This history is evidenced by the eclectic mix of early twentieth century commercial and industrial buildings that remain in the area today.

Initial commercial development in the Showplace Square survey area was located near Mission Creek. As early as 1853, factory owners ran slaughterhouses in the northeast corner of the survey area, on Brannan Streets between Sixth and Ninth Streets. “Butchers’ Reserve,” as it came to be called by city ordinance, was named for the many butchers who chose to establish their businesses in this area because of the tidal movement from Mission Bay that would wash the area twice a day and remove the waste being discarded out of the buildings. Butcher’s Reserve later moved south near Islais Creek, where it was rechristened “Butchertown.”

Buildings appeared near Showplace Square as early as the late 1870s along Sixth Street north of Mission Creek Channel. South of the Channel, business were established along Sixth Street as the land was reclaimed from Mission Bay in the 1880s and 1890s. By the end of the nineteenth century, Sixth Street was lined with lumber yards and planing mills interspersed with saloons, vacant land and dump-related activities, including portions of “Dumpville.” According to Sanborn maps, the outlying areas of Showplace Square housed lumber-related industries as late as 1929. Dwellings were restricted to a few boarding houses. No remaining building resources within the survey area of Showplace Square date from the nineteenth century. Jackson Playground, however, appears on an 1873 map of the area as “Jackson Park.”

The Showplace Square survey area includes a preponderance of large commercial and industrial buildings from the first few decades of the twentieth century. Many of these buildings are of reinforced concrete masonry construction, a building technology that was particularly popular in the wake of the 1906 earthquake and fire. Because concrete had proven fire-resistant on the East Coast, San Francisco engineers turned to concrete as the fireproof building material of choice, and to reinforced concrete for its additional resistance to earthquake damage.

The historic preservation objectives and policies of the Showplace Square/Potrero Hill Plan provide for identification, retention, reuse, and sustainability of the area’s historic properties. As the area changes and develops, historic features and properties that define it should not be lost or diminished. New construction should respect and relate to the Showplace Square/Potrero Hill’s historical contexts. The Plan regulates sound treatment of historic resources according to established standards, it encourages rehabilitation of resources for new compatible uses, and it allows for incentives for qualifying historic projects. As greater understanding of Showplace Square/Potrero Hill’s important historic resources is gained through ongoing survey and property evaluations, the preservation policies of the Plan may be revised or augmented to incorporate the new information.


Individually significant historic resources or historic districts are often identified by a historic resource survey or a historical context statement. While a number of historic resource surveys have been completed in the Showplace Square plan area, it is expected that additional historic resource surveys in the Showplace Square plan area will document a substantial number of previously unidentified historic resources.

Historic resource surveys and historical context statements help the Planning Department determine eligibility of resources for designation at the local, state, and/or national level. Official designation in turn, fosters civic pride in historic preservation for the benefit of the Showplace Square plan area and the city as a whole.

Materials, styles, and property types from the nineteenth- and early twentieth-centuries are more widely appreciated and studied than those associated with the recent past. However, there are some structures that have developed exceptional cultural or historic significance as part of our recent past. These resources - buildings, objects or landscapes - deserve consideration in the preservation process. The Planning Department will continue to develop historical context statements and to conduct historic resource surveys in the Showplace Square to identify historic and cultural resources from the distant past as well as from the recent past.

POLICY 8.1.1
Conduct context-based historic resource surveys within the Showplace Square Area Plan.

POLICY 8.1.2
Pursue formal designation of the Showplace Square historic and cultural resources, as appropriate.

POLICY 8.1.3
Recognize and evaluate historic and cultural resources that are less than fifty years old and may display exceptional significance to the recent past.


Significant historic and cultural resources located in the Showplace Square plan area include individual properties and districts that are listed on or eligible for the National or California Register, or that are designated as Landmarks or Districts under Article 10 of the Planning Code. These historic and cultural resources cannot be replaced if lost to demolition or altered in such manner their historic significance is diminished. To retain this significance, there are a number of ways to protect, preserve and reuse historic resources within the Showplace Square plan area.

The established Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties provide guidelines for managing any change to a historic resource and for appropriately addressing historical materials, features, and character. In other instances, because many historic and cultural resources no longer retain their historic use, it is desirable to adapt historic resources to accommodate compatible new uses while preserving character-defining features. The Planning Department will support rehabilitation and the adaptive reuse of historic buildings within the Showplace Square Area Plan pursuant to the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation.

POLICY 8.2.1
Protect individually significant historic and cultural resources and historic districts in the Showplace Square Area Plan from demolition or adverse alteration.

POLICY 8.2.2
Apply the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties in conjunction with the Showplace Square Area Plan objectives and policies for all projects involving historic or cultural resources.

POLICY 8.2.3
Promote and offer incentives for the rehabilitation and adaptive reuse of historic buildings in the Showplace Square plan area.


New information regarding historic and cultural resources is discovered on a regular basis. As new information is compiled, it should be utilized to update and revise the policies set forth in the Showplace Square Plan. It is also important that throughout the planning process, the Planning department work with various city agencies to ensure the protection and preservation of historic resources.

Historic resources are particularly vulnerable to deterioration due to their age and lack of maintenance. Neglect can result in effective demolition of a historic resource and alterations executed without the benefit of the appropriate city permits have the potential to diminish the significance of a historic resource. Owners of all properties have a responsibility to maintain their investment in good condition and to obtain City approval for alterations.

Valuing the historic character of older buildings can help to protect these structures in the event of a natural disaster. Older buildings are among those most vulnerable to destruction or heavy damage from events such as earthquake or fire, resulting in potential danger to life safety as well as an irreplaceable loss of the historic fabric of San Francisco.

Valuing the historic character of neighborhoods can preserve economic diversity. In some cases, older buildings that are responsibly rehabilitated may be more affordable than new construction. These buildings may be opportunities for low and moderate income households to find affordable housing.

POLICY 8.3.1
Pursue and encourage opportunities, consistent with the objectives of historic preservation, to increase the supply of affordable housing within the Showplace Square plan area.

POLICY 8.3.2
Ensure a more efficient and transparent evaluation of project proposals which involve historic resources and minimize impacts to historic resources per CEQA guidelines.

POLICY 8.3.3
Prevent destruction of historic and cultural resources resulting from owner neglect or inappropriate actions.

POLICY 8.3.4
Consider the Showplace Square Area Plan’s historic and cultural resources in emergency preparedness and response efforts.

POLICY 8.3.5
Protect and retrofit local, state, or nationally designated UMB (Unreinforced Masonry Buildings) found in the Plan Area.

POLICY 8.3.6
Adopt and revise land use, design and other relevant policies, guidelines, and standards, as needed to further preservation objectives.


A commitment to retaining and preserving historic resources saves, preserves, recycles and reuses valuable materials that contain embodied energy. For this reason, the preservation, protection and reuse of historic and cultural resources are “green” strategies that can be applied to the built environment and help the City to achieve broader goals of sustainability.

POLICY 8.4.1
Encourage the retention and rehabilitation of historic and cultural resources as an option for increased sustainability and consistency with the goals and objectives of the Sustainability Plan for the City and County of San Francisco.


Preservation incentives are intended to offset the cost of preservation and encourage property owners to maintain, repair, restore, or rehabilitate historic and cultural resources. A number of financial incentives are available to owners of historic and cultural resources to assist in preservation.

On a local level, San Francisco offers preservation incentive programs, and other incentives are offered through California Office of Historic Preservation. These include federal tax credits for rehabilitation of qualified historical resources, property tax abatement programs (the Mills Act), and tax reductions for preservation easements. Grants, loans, and other funding sources are also available from public and private organizations. Preservation incentives can result in tangible benefits to property owners.

On a State level, the California Historic Building Code (CHBC) permits alternate design approaches to the regular Building Code that can minimize adverse impacts while still providing for health and safety. The CHBC can be used to find creative solutions to protect materials and methods of construction that might not otherwise be permitted under the standard Code. Property owners seeking to rehabilitate historic buildings may also be able to realize cost savings when rehabilitating an historic structure by using the CHBC. The CHBC protects California’s heritage by recognizing the unique construction problems inherent in historic buildings and providing an alternative to the regular Building Code.

Another good resource for incentive programs and education is the Planning Department staff. The Planning Department retains a core staff of Historic Preservation Technical Specialists who are available to share expertise with the public and other government agencies. Because the City and County of San Francisco is the largest owner of officially designated landmarks in the City, the planning staff will work to share their expertise with other agencies to identify, maintain and rehabilitate the publicly owned historic and cultural resources in the Showplace Square plan area. With the guidance of the Landmarks Preservation Advisory Board, the City will also lead by example and demonstrate good stewardship of its resources by maintaining, rehabilitating, and restoring its publicly owned historic resources within the Showplace Square plan area.

POLICY 8.5.1
Disseminate information about the availability of financial incentives for qualifying historic preservation projects.

POLICY 8.5.2
Encourage use of the California Historic Building Code for qualifying historic preservation projects.

POLICY 8.5.3
Demonstrate preservation leadership and good stewardship of publicly owned historic and cultural resources.


San Francisco residents, merchants, and local historians may possess and have access to valuable historic information not widely known about buildings or other resources that would be useful in the evaluation process. The public can play an important role in identifying historic resources by participating in City surveys and context statement development or by submitting Potential San Francisco Landmark Evaluation forms to begin a formal designation process. Such participation can help to promote greater civic pride and awareness of the historic and cultural landscape of the Showplace Square plan area which is also helpful for the planning and environmental decision-making process.

POLICY 8.6.1
Encourage public participation in the identification of historic and cultural resources within the Showplace Square plan area.

POLICY 8.6.2
Foster education and appreciation of historic and cultural resources within the Showplace Square plan area among business leaders, neighborhood groups, and the general public through outreach efforts.



Plan adopted by Planning Commission Motion No. 17585 on 4/17/2008 and the Board of Supervisors Ordinance No. 297-08 on 12/19/08.