Cloud clears in Transbay Transit Center shadow spat

Getty Images File PhotoUnion Square is one of the nine open spaces that will be affected by shadows from planned new buildings in the Transit Center District.

Buildings planned in the area around the future Transbay Transit Center in South of Market will be able to cast shadows that will sweep across several open spaces.

If a development would cast a shadow over parks or open space in The City, it has to receive approval from the Planning and Recreation and Park commissions under a voter-approved proposition from the 1980s and subsequent planning codes.

At and around the transit center, some of the tallest buildings in San Francisco are proposed to be built in the next two decades. The first major building could be the Transit Center Tower, a 1,070-foot skyscraper at First and Mission streets whose shadows could reach parks as far away as Union Square and Chinatown.

At a joint meeting of the Rec and Park and Planning commissions on Thursday, officials approved slight increases in the allowable shadows at nine parks that would be affected by the development. The approval was for the entire Transit Center District, a development area that stretches from Steuart Street near the waterfront to Third Street and from Market Street east to Folsom Street.

Supervisor Scott Wiener, who’s long advocated for the transit center, told the commissions the slight shadow increase at the parks was worth the trade-off for the development, which will help provide The City with money to build Caltrain and high-speed rail extensions to the transit center.

Others said the development would fund low-income housing and other open spaces — more public benefits that would outweigh the shadows, they said.

Opponents of the approval mostly said they supported the development, but disagreed with approval of the shadow increases for all buildings in the development area at one time.

“This is a critical step in the development of the Transbay project,” Transbay Joint Powers Authority spokesman Adam Alberti said of the approval.

The buildings in the development will still go to the Planning Commission for approval, which could include further discussion about shadows.

mbillings@sfexaminer.com

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