29 March 2013

Forgotten Hills: La Portezuela

A 450-foot high hill would seem to draw some attention, especially when it rises 200 feet above a BART station, and 450 feet above Lake Merced. Alas, it only rises 50 feet above Mission Street in Daly City at Top of the Hill. A hill that straddles the boundary with Daly City doesn’t get much love. In the latest installment of Forgotten Hills, we look at La Portezuela in southwest San Francisco right on the border with Daly City.

La Portezuela's north side seen from Head Street in Ingleside Heights.
View of La Portezuela from the Daly City BART parking garage. Reservoir Hill is to the right.
Mission Street and Daly City's Top of the Hill district are between the hills
View looking north and east from La Portezuela. Merced Heights are near left, while Mount Davidson is the highpoint (center). Downtown Oakland can be seen in the distance (right).


The hill in question rises high above Lake Merced and the Brotherhood Way ravine, while looking across at Merced Heights to the north and Fort Funston to the west. The hill climbs to an elevation of 450 feet and lies at the top of Bepler Street, a modest residential street in Daly City. Despite its height, the hill may have no official name. There are many names for a historic hill once called La Portezuela in Daly City but the location of the historic hill is not specified precisely.

As shown in the map above, the hill is virtually the southernmost peak in San Francisco. Although the slopes of The Saddle (a hill in San Bruno Mountain State Park) rise nearly 50 feet higher than La Portezuela, The Saddle's peak lies south of the San Francisco city limit.

More maps, images and descriptions after the break.

19 March 2013

Shortening Towers: The Pyramid and The Obelisk

Supertall buildings seem to get a bad rap in most cities, apart from New York, Chicago and anywhere in China. Ok, so they aren't always appropriate. Placing something 2000 feet tall like the Burj Khalifa in San Francisco - I would oppose due to being so way out of scale with the rest of downtown.

That all said, seems like whenever the new tallest building is proposed in San Francisco, it's always shortened. When we look at the Transamerica Pyramid and the Transbay Tower they have experienced somewhat similar fates. (For simplicity, let's call these two brotherly "Trans" towers, Pyramid and Obelisk. America and Bay doesn't have quite the same ring.)

So what would the Pyramid have looked like if it were built to 1,150 feet. Images of the design are very scarce apart from one shown on SF Gate (see black and white image below). So using my crude Photoshop skills I made an image of what it might look like from Alamo Square. The second image shows what the pyramid's original design looked like.
Transamerica Pyramid if it were its proposed height. Image "adjusted" from SF Cityscape original.
Original Transamerica Pyramid design presented. Image: SFgate.com
Based on the view from Alamo Square it doesn't look so bad from what I see. Sure it would have been MUCH taller than anything else, and probably a bit out of context. However, the pyramid shape does indeed reduce the impact, and would have been more graceful with steeper pyramid sides due to the taller height.

Height of originally proposed Transamerica Pyramid as seen from bay (and with Embarcadero Freeway).
More on the Transbay Tower, Towering Inferno and images after the break.

09 March 2013

Uncrooking San Francisco's Crookedest Tunnel

How do we figure out the best way Caltrain and HSR get to the Transbay Center?
Tearing down a freeway?
Rerouting a planned train tunnel that's already EIR certified?
Build housing and offices on a relocated rail yard?

Crazy? Not really considering there's not enough money for the tunnel.

When the Mayor's Office suggested "Let's be San Francisco and Take Down the Freeway", the earth shifted a bit, but we're used to that in quake prone SF. The proposal calls for tearing down I-280 north of 16th Street and converting the 30 acre Caltrain railyard and (and some freeway land) into a mixed use neighborhood.  At an estimated worth of $228 million, some of that money could help fund the $2.5 billion construction of the downtown extension tunnel (DTX).

Additional Posts on the Caltrain Downtown Extension and the Railyard Redevelopment
Caltrain Railyard Hide and Seek - a look at where to relocate the railyard if the 4th & King yard is redeveloped
(Ped) Tunnel Vision - a look at the pedestrian tunnel options to link the Transbay Center with BART and Muni Metro on Market Street
Poll: Where should BART go in SoMa? - a look at possible alignments from a 2nd Transbay Tube through SoMa and on to Geary Street. Regarding Caltrain, how would a 2nd Transbay Tube best serve Caltrain to the East Bay, and how would two new tunnels with stations in SoMa best serve San Francisco and the region?

Another component of the "Let's be San Francisco" presentation, was considering rerouting the rail tunnel to the Transbay Center. The Caltrain Downtown Rail Extension (DTX) calls for tunneling from the current Caltrain Railyard up to the Transbay Terminal and taking three sharp turns that will dramatically slow trains, increasing travel times and reducing tunnel capacity. Rerouting the DTX tunnel could straighten out much of the tunnel, and improve travel times and capacity.  Might rerouting the DTX tunnel down Mission Street to parallel BART and Muni on Market Street with a new station connecting to Powell or Civic Center create a grand opportunity that makes for a better rail system and fosters more economic opportunity, all while improving the tunnel and coming at no greater cost?

Read on to learn more about the options and see larger versions.