Saturday, April 28, 2012

Mid-Market boom vs. mid-Market wind tunnel

It gets really windy on Market Street in San Francisco west of 8th, especially from that block where the Twitter building is over to Van Ness. Wind, there, is kind of an externality that gets dropped by the highrises onto the public. Now they're talking about another highrise.

Once, around 1990, I saw a heavy gust yank down two stories of plywood shielding from some scaffolding around 11th Street. I was working in the Fox Plaza building at the time -- the long brown highrise south of City Hall, opposite the Furniture Mart building that's now Twitter. Fox Plaza, which replaced the grand, lamented Fox Theater, is a big ugly 1960s highrise with an unusually broad, flat front to it. The view from the upper office floors of Fox Plaza is fantastic -- I specially remember sunset reflected off the front of the Jukebox Marriott -- but people don't always like working there because the windows don't open. (Anyway, didn't use to. I haven't been up there in a terribly long time.)

Some people blame Fox Plaza for the wind tunnel effect in that part of town. That, and the older Federal Building up on Golden Gate, which presents a full block of unbroken surface to the prevailing winds from the ocean. I'm sure it's in fact more complicated but can't imagine those big hard-sided mid-century buildings are helping matters.

Now they're talking about another highrise in the same part of Market. It would go on the funny wedge of land with the doughnut shop at Market, Oak and Van Ness. A tall smooth-fronted thing, described by the SF Chron's John King as "a lithe figure in a slit gown of sheer glass." This morning's letters to the editor quite reasonably lead off with a screech about the possible wind effects. King's article says the architects are looking at those. Just hope they're looking hard enough.

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