New office buildings approved in South of Market

The Planning Commission on Thursday unanimously approved two seven-story office buildings on one block in South of Market.

The Planning Commission on Thursday unanimously approved two seven-story office buildings on one block in South of Market.

Two vacant buildings at 482 Bryant and 77 Stillman streets will be demolished and rebuilt to bring them up to 50,000 square feet of office space each. The new mixed-use buildings, on separate parcels located on the same block near the San Francisco Giants stadium at Oracle Park, will allow for warehouse space for industrial use like manufacturing and have a basement garage.

The project fits in with the 2018 Central SoMa development plan, which is projected to bring 33,000 new jobs and 8,300 new homes to the area. It faced criticism at the time of its approval for its overemphasis on office space, of which The City currently has an overabundance.

“The project before us today is the exact culmination of the Central SoMa process,” said John Kevlin, a partner of the firm Reuben, Junius & Rose, LLP representing the project sponsor, to the commission. “The project is 100 percent within the Central SoMa plan rezoning.” 

Kevlin said the developer has been working with the community group SoMa Pilipinas and is near finalizing a memorandum of understanding to direct all culture impact fees to an art project at Russ and Folsom streets. The developer will also contribute impact fees around transportation, child care, infrastructure, and community facilities.

Both buildings will cast small shadows on the adjacent South Park for an average of nine minutes during the summer, an impact that is considered insignificant by department staff. The Planning Commission also unanimously approved the shadow findings.

Commissioner Theresa Imperial, a SoMa community activist, praised the project developer for its outreach with the group, which was not available by press time. Commissioners roundly praised the project.

“I’m thrilled to see a building of this quality and I’m in full support,” said Commissioner Kathrin Moore. “I’m so excited about the project.”

The project’s approval comes as uncertainties remain about aspects of San Francisco’s recovery, including the degree to which continuing interest in remote work could suppress the market for office space.

The City’s office vacancy rate spiked from 3.7 percent at the end of 2019 to 19.7 percent in the beginning of 2021, according to a hearing this week on the matter. There are 8.4 million square feet of office space up for sublease, a record that surpasses that set during the dot-com bust.

However city officials are hopeful that as rents are projected to fall 15 percent in 2021 from larger companies scaling back in-person work, smaller tenants may be able to afford downtown office space that was previously out of their price range.

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