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The Urban Design Element concerns the
physical character and order of the city, and the relationship between
people and their environment.
San Francisco's environment is magnificent,
and the city is a great city, but the unique relationships
of natural setting and man's past creations are extremely fragile. There
are constant pressures for change, some for growth, some for decay.
The Urban Design
Element is concerned both with development and with preservation. It is
a concerted effort to recognize the positive attributes of the
city, to enhance and conserve those attributes, and to improve the living
environment where it is less than satisfactory. The Plan is a definition
of quality, a definition based upon human needs.
This is a general plan, responding to
issues relating to City Pattern, Conservation, Major New Development,
and Neighborhood Environment. In the case of each of these four types
of issues, the Element contains:
- A review and definition of essential human needs;
- An overall objective toward which both public and
private efforts must be directed if the human needs are to be met and
San Francisco's special characteristics are to be recognized, enhanced
- Fundamental principles, with graphic illustrations,
reflecting the needs and characteristics with which the Plan is concerned,
and describing the measurable and critical design relationships among
parts of the environment such as open spaces, buildings, hills and streets;
- A series of policies necessary to achieve or approach
the overall objective, which acknowledge the needs and principles, and
which provide a continuing guide and directive for public and private
decisions pursuant to this Element.
agreeable pattern of San Francisco's appearance is, perhaps above all,
what makes this a city with feeling. The pattern is a visual framework
composed of the natural base upon which the city rests, together with
man's development. In some ways the pattern is seen in two dimensions
as though it were a map; in other ways it has a sculptural or three-dimensional
To describe the pattern is not to describe
a rigid order, for rigidity will not produce a city meant for human needs.
Rather than rigidity, the sense is one of balance and compatibility, with
diverse and even random features fitting together to form the whole. The
pattern is made up of:
WATER, the Bay and Ocean, which
are boundaries for the city and a part of its climate and way of life.
The water is open space, a focus of major views and a place of human activity.
HILLS AND RIDGES, which allow the
city to be seen, define districts, and more than any other feature produce
the variety that is characteristic of San Francisco. The central mass
of Twin Peaks separates the city into quadrants, for example, while Telegraph
Hill, Sunset Heights and Potrero Hill are neighborhoods. In the topographic
form of the city, the valleys and plains are as important as the hills,
for they define their own districts and give the hills their visual meaning.
OPEN SPACES AND LANDSCAPED AREAS,
whose dark green patterns enrich the color of the city and define and
identify hills, districts and places for recreation. These areas may be
large, as at the Presidio, Lake Merced and Golden Gate Park, smaller but
still prominent as at Bayview Hill and Alta Plaza, or mixed with buildings
as on the slopes of Russian Hill and Buena Vista.
STREETS AND ROADWAYS, which unify
the pattern, emphasize the hills and valleys, provide vistas and open
space and determine the character of development. Streets and roadways
are of many types, each with its own functions and characteristics, and
together they make up a system that accommodates man's movements and joins
the districts of the city.
BUILDINGS AND STRUCTURES and clusters
of them, which reflect the character of districts and centers for activity,
provide reference points for human orientation, and may add to (but can
detract from) topography and views. Some buildings and structures, such
as the Golden Gate and Bay Bridges, Coit Tower, the Palace of Fine Arts
and City College, stand out as single features of community importance,
while elsewhere the dominant pattern of man's development is a light-toned
texture of separate shapes blended and articulated over the landscape.
perceive this pattern from many places and during many activities; from
their homes and neighborhoods, from parks and the shoreline during recreation,
from places of work, from the streets while traveling, and from entranceways
and observation points while visiting the city.
The uses and benefits of the city pattern
are many and profound. This pattern is, first of all, bound up in the
image and character of the city. To weaken or destroy the pattern would
make San Francisco a vastly different place.
Second, the city pattern has important
psychological effects upon residents of the city. It provides organization
and measured relationships that give a sense of place and purpose and
reduce the degree of stress in urban life. Outlooks upon a pleasant and
varied pattern provide for an extension of individual consciousness and
personality, and give a comforting sense of living with the environment.
The pattern also helps people to identify
districts and neighborhoods, particularly those in which they themselves
live. Recognition of such areas by their prominent features, their edges
and their centers for activity breaks up a large and intense city into
units that are visually and psychologically manageable. Furthermore, awareness
of districts and neighborhoods increases the pride in one's area and in
one's own life.
People also have a need to understand
their city, its logic and its means of cohesion. They need to know where
to find activities, and how to reach their destinations in shopping areas,
downtown, at institutions and at places of entertainment and recreation.
The city pattern helps them find their way, without inconvenience or lost
time, letting them see the routes to be taken. Travel congestion is reduced
if the best routes are easily found, and safety is increased.
of the controllable elements that help strengthen the city pattern are
visually prominent landscaping and street lighting. Because these elements
can be so easily affected in a positive way by human actions, and especially
by programs of the City government, they are given important attention
in the policies of this Element. Opportunities for use of these elements
are by no means fully realized now, and systems for landscaping and lighting
are incomplete. As a consequence, parts of the city pattern that otherwise
would be easily read are unclear, and the functions of the street system
are apt to be confused both by day and at night. In addition, some areas
of the city are favored by the amenities produced by good landscaping
and lighting systems while others are not.
The human needs outlined above for the
city pattern are further addressed by the fundamental principles that
follow, and by the policies that conclude this section of The Urban Design
Element. In certain ways they are addressed, as well, in the other three
sections of the Element: by policies dealing with conservation of resources
that are part of the city pattern; policies for moderation of major new
development to enhance rather than detract from the city pattern; and
policies to make the pattern more perceptible in the neighborhood environment.
Such an interchange of needs and policies occurs throughout the sections
of the Element, for the Element is a unified document and its sections
are closely related.
EMPHASIS OF THE CHARACTERISTIC PATTERN WHICH GIVES TO THE CITY AND ITS
NEIGHBORHOODS AN IMAGE, A SENSE OF PURPOSE, AND A MEANS OF ORIENTATION.
San Francisco has an image and character
in its city pattern which depend especially upon views, topography,
building form and major landscaping. This pattern gives an organization
and sense of purpose to the city, denotes the extent and special nature
of districts, and identifies and makes prominent the centers of human
activity. The pattern also assists in orientation for travel on foot,
by automobile and by public transportation. The city pattern should be
recognized, protected and enhanced.
These fundamental principles and their
illustrations reflect the needs and characteristics with which this
plan is concerned, and describe measurable and critical urban design
relationships in the city pattern.
The city's overall visual structure can be strengthened and enhanced
by use of large-scale planting on certain streets and open spaces.
Street layouts and building forms which do not emphasize topography
reduce the clarity of the city form and image.
A: Tall, slender buildings at the tops of hills and low buildings
on the slopes and in valleys accentuate the form of the hills.
B: Contour streets on hills align buildings to create a pattern
of strong horizontal bands that conflict with the hill form.
|Clearly visible open spaces act
as orientation points, and convey information about the presence of
recreation space to motorists and pedestrians.COMMENT: Because Buena
Vista Park is visible from many parts of the city, it is often used
as a point of reference. The foliage, in contrast to the surrounding
developed areas, indicates the proximity of recreational means.
Where large parks occur at tops of hills, lowrise buildings surrounding
them will preserve views from the park and maintain visibility of
the park from other areas of the city.COMMENT: Areas around Mount
Davidson and Twin Peaks have a pattern of low development. The hilltops
are therefore citywide focal points of natural landscape, functioning
much as Telegraph Hill's summit does in the North Beach area.
||Street spaces impart a unifying
rhythm to the pattern and image of the city.
Landscaped pathways can visually and functionally link larger open
spaces to neighborhoods.
COMMENT: The roadside planting of Park Presidio and Sunset Boulevard,
and the landscape connections between Mount Sutro, Twin Peaks, Laguna
Honda and Glen Canyon are examples of a system that links parks
and other open spaces to one another. Such linkages, creating strong
defining features, can be extended to other parts of the city.
||The pattern of major streets can
be made more visible and apparent to users of the street system if
the landscaping and lighting of major streets is different from that
of local streets.
A: The consistent use of one type of tree, planted in regular intervals,
can impart a sense of order and continuity appropriate to major
B: Informal, diverse patterns of planting and varieties of plant
materials can act as an appropriate indication of local residential
|C: The difference between through
and local streets can be made clearer by varying the apparent brightness,
spread and color of light, as well as the height, spacing, and scale
of street fixtures.
|MAJOR THROUGH STREETS: Intense light,
sidewalk and walls well-illuminated, blue-white light, paired spacing
of high light standards.
|COLLECTOR STREETS: Well-lighted
streets and sidewalks, color-corrected (white) light, alternate spacing
of Intermediate height light standards.
|LOCAL STREETS: Low glare, warm color
light, alternate spacing of low height light standards.
|IMPORTANT INTERSECTIONS: More intense
light focussed upon intersections and crosswalks.
Large-scale or extensive planting on major roadways that define
areas of the city can enhance the importance of the roadways as
both thoroughfares and visual boundaries.
COMMENT: The extensive landscaping along the James Lick Freeway
at Potrero Hill is one example. Other "boundaries" such
as Nineteenth Avenue, Ocean Avenue and Monterey Boulevard could
be made clearer by such planting.
||Special lighting fixtures and quality
of light can enhance the identity of districts, distinctive areas,
and important shopping streets.
||Views from roadways that reveal
major destinations or that provide overlooks of important routes and
areas of the city assist the traveler in orientation.COMMENT: Traveling
north along San Jose Avenue, the driver's position and direction are
confirmed by the view of downtown across the Mission District.
||Arterial routes can be clarified
by screening unattractive or distracting elements with landscaping
when such elements cannot be removed. Natural foliage can soften and
modify the effect of extensive retaining walls, large bleak surfaces
or unattractive views. The terraced retaining wall along the east
side of Potrero Hill is an example of such landscaping.
Open spaces with direct views down streets have a greater sense
of spaciousness and can be seen more easily from a distance.
A: Hilltop open space larger than a block provides views down abutting
B: Hilltop open space occupying a single block and surrounded by
buildings provides views only from its edges, obliquely down streets.
|C: Smaller open space on a hill
occupying the street right-of-way provides direct views down the street.
||Hilltop roads and open spaces provide
panoramic views of adjacent buildings are far enough below the viewpoint.
||Highly visible open space presents
a refreshing contrast to extensive urban development.
Strong and organized development adjacent to parks creates an effective
contrast and makes the street space between the two a pleasing space
to be in.
Weak and disorganized development adjacent to parks neither complements
nor effectively contrasts with the park edge.
Certain streets, because of unusual width or direction, are important
form elements in themselves, giving identity to districts and order
to the city structure.
COMMENT: Columbus Avenue and Market Street are examples of such
streets. Any major interruptions of these streets would reduce their
value as form elements.
||Wide streets with low and/or scattered
buildings are poorly defined and do not contribute to an orderly city
pattern and image.
||Green space closing a street provides
an accent on an upper slope or top of hill.
Uninterrupted grid streets in flat areas often result in monotonous
Closure formed by planting contains the street space, creating
a more comfortable environment.
The width of intersecting streets, the information displayed on
street signs, and the type and location of traffic control elements
can indicate the function and relative importance of streets.
COMMENT: These diagrams illustrate how the relative importance
of streets can be expressed at intersections. For some intersection
conditions different arrangements of curb alignment, control devices
or information may be required.
||Transit routes, stops and transfer
points can be more easily understood and remembered if they are distinctively
identified by signs, landscaping and illumination.
|A: Attractive, easily seen symbols
at bus stops that indicate the type of service and the route can facilitate
use of the transit system.
|B: The importance of transfer points
can be expressed by the amount and type of landscaping, provision
of shelters for waiting passengers, and nighttime lighting.
Recognize and protect major views in the city, with particular attention
to those of open space and water.
Views contribute immeasurably to the quality
of the city and to the lives of its residents. Protection should be given
to major views whenever it is feasible, with special attention to the
characteristic views of open space and water that reflect the natural
setting of the city and give a colorful and refreshing contrast to man's
Overlooks and other viewpoints for appreciation
of the city and its environs should be protected and supplemented, by
limitation of buildings and other obstructions where necessary and by
establishment of new viewpoints at key locations.
Visibility of open spaces, especially
those on hilltops, should be maintained and improved, in order to enhance
the overall form of the city, contribute to the distinctiveness of districts
and permit easy identification of recreational resources. The landscaping
at such locations also provides a pleasant focus for views along streets.
Recognize, protect and reinforce the existing street pattern, especially
as it is related to topography.
Streets are a stable and unifying component
of the city pattern. Changes in the street system that would significantly
alter this pattern should be made only after due consideration for their
effects upon the environment. Such changes should not counteract the established
rhythm of the streets with respect to topography, or break the grid system
without compensating advantages.
The width of streets should be considered
in determining the type and size of building development, so as to provide
enclosing street facades and complement the nature of the street. Streets
and development bordering open spaces are especially important with respect
to the strength and order in their design. Where setbacks establish facade
lines that form an important component of a street's visual character,
new and remodeled buildings should maintain the existing facade lines.
Streets cutting across the normal grid
pattern produce unusual and often beneficial design relationships that
should not be weakened or interrupted in building development. Special
consideration should be given to the quality of buildings and other features
closing major vistas at the ends of these and other streets.
Recognize that buildings, when seen together, produce a total effect that
characterizes the city and its districts.
Buildings, which collectively contribute
to the characteristic pattern of the city, are the greatest variable because
they are most easily altered by man. Therefore, the relationships of building
forms to one another and to other elements of the city pattern should
be moderated so that the effects will be complementary and harmonious.
The general pattern of buildings should
emphasize the topographic form of the city and the importance of centers
of activity. It should also help to define street areas and other public
open spaces. Individual buildings and other structures should stand out
prominently in the city pattern only in exceptional circumstances, where
they signify the presence of important community facilities and occupy
visual focal points that benefit from buildings and structures of such
The form of buildings is covered in greater
detail in this Plan under the section on Major New Development.
Protect and promote large-scale landscaping and open space that define
districts and topography.
Open spaces provide a unifying and often
continuous framework across the city. These open spaces are most prominent
when they occur on hills and ridges and when they contain large trees
and other large-scale masses of landscaping. Future landscaping efforts,
both public and private, should be directed toward preservation of existing
trees and other planting that contribute to this framework, and toward
addition of large-scale landscaping that will add to and fill out the
Where open spaces of any kind can be made
more prominent by addition of new or large-scale landscaping, such additions
should be made in order to enhance the city pattern and make the open
spaces more visible in nearby neighborhoods. New building development
should respect existing landscaping and avoid displacing or obscuring
it. In the event that such landscaping must be displaced or obscured,
a strong effort should be made to replace it with new landscaping of equal
or greater prominence.
Emphasize the special nature of each district through distinctive landscaping
and other features.
- Plan to Strengthen City Pattern Through Visually Prominent Landscaping
The design of improvements for street
areas, and to some extent for private properties as well, should capitalize
on opportunities to emphasize the distinctive nature of districts and
Street landscaping, in particular, can
be selected and designed according to a special theme for each area, providing
a sense of place in addition to its other amenities. Planting for public
open spaces and on private properties can be carried out in the same way,
taking account of established themes and the differences in climate among
districts. Distinctiveness can also be imparted by preservation and highlighting
of architectural features common to the area, and the use of special materials
and colors in buildings.
Make centers of activity more prominent through design of street features
and by other means.
Shopping streets and other centers for
activity and congregation of people should stand out in an attractive
manner in their districts. Some such centers, in appropriate cases, will
have buildings larger than those in the surrounding area, while others
will be set off only by their distinctive design treatment.
Street landscaping of a type and size
appropriate to the area should be used, as well as lighting that identifies
the area through special fixtures and quality of light. Sidewalk treatment
should be coordinated, with distinctive paving, benches and other elements
suitable to the needs and desires of merchants, shoppers and other people
using the area. Building facades and the total composition of the activity
center should be designed to make clear the geographical extent of the
center and its relationship to the district.
Recognize the natural boundaries of districts, and promote connections
Visually prominent features such as hills,
roadways and large groves of trees often identify the edges of districts
and neighborhoods. Although these features should not be regarded as barriers
to movement from one area to another, they do have the advantage of creating
an awareness of districts and neighborhoods within the total city pattern.
The positive effects of natural district
boundaries should be emphasized in decisions affecting visually prominent
features such as new roadways and large-scale landscaping. At the same
time these same types of features can be useful links between districts,
and between parks and other public and semi-public facilities. Connections
between districts and facilities should be improved, with special attention
to the possibilities for landscaped pathways that will provide an alternative
to the street system in movement about the city.
Increase the visibility of major destination areas and other points for
In travel about the city, the ability
to see one's destination and other points of orientation is an important
product of the city pattern. Such an ability should be fostered in public
and private development.
- Plan For Street Landscaping and Lighting
The design of streets, the determination
of street use and the control of land uses and building types along streets
should all be carried out with the visibility of such orienting features
taken into account. Views from streets and other public areas should be
preserved, created and improved where they include the water, open spaces,
large buildings and other major features of the city pattern. Entranceways
to the city and to districts are of special concern in this respect, as
are lateral and downhill views that show a panorama or corridor with prominent
Increase the clarity of routes for travelers.
Many types of improvements can be made
in street areas and in their surroundings to provide greater clarity and
increase the ease of travel. Once such improvements have been made, adequate
maintenance of them is of equal importance.
Among the least difficult actions would
be development of a better system of identifying and directional signs,
through improvement of verbal messages, symbols, graphic design and sign
Although trafficway signs should be improved,
the purpose and direction of traffic channels should also be made as clear
as possible through design of the channels themselves. The roadway should
be consistent in width and materials, with channels separated by islands
and dividers where possible and changes of direction made distinct. At
intersections, the differences in importance and function of the intersecting
streets should be made visually clear by differences in roadway width,
landscaping and lighting. The number of streets intersecting at one point
should be minimized, and signs and traffic control devices should be adequate
to indicate the movements permitted in all traffic lanes.
The roadway environment should be simplified
and made attractive through screening of distracting and unsightly elements
by landscaping, walls and buildings. The clutter of wires, signs and disordered
development should be reduced. Conflict between unnecessary private signs
and street directional signs should be avoided.
Clarity of routes is of similar importance
for transit riders. Legible and frequent trafficway signs and an ordered
roadway environment will assist these riders. Other improvements should
be made in the vicinity of transit stops: these include wider sidewalks,
landscaping, lighting and waiting shelters to help identify the stops,
and better signs at stops and on vehicles to explain routes, types and
frequency of service, and transfer points.
Indicate the purposes of streets by adopting and implementing the Better Streets Plan, which identifies a hierarchy of street types and appropriate streetscape elements for each street type.
Orientation for travel is most effectively provided where there is a citywide system of streets with established purposes: major through streets that carry traffic for considerable distances between districts, local streets that serve only the adjacent properties, and other streets with other types of assigned functions. Once the purposes of streets have been established, the design of street features should help to express those purposes and make the whole system understandable to the traveler.
The appropriate purpose of and role for a street in the overall city street network depends on its specific context, including land use and transportation characteristics, and other special conditions. Streets in residential areas must be protected from the negative influence of traffic and provide opportunities for neighbors to gather and interact. Streets in commercial areas must have a high degree of pedestrian amenities, wide sidewalks, and seating areas to serve the multitude of visitors. Streets in industrial areas must serve the needs of adjacent businesses and workers; and so forth.
Similarly, busy transportation corridors by necessity carry high volumes and speeds of vehicle traffic, while neighborhood streets have lower speeds and volumes. Hence, the goal for busier corridors should focuses on creating a strong image appropriate to the street’s importance to the city pattern, buffering pedestrians from vehicular traffic, and improving conditions for pedestrians at crossings. The goal for neighborhood streets should be to protect neighborhoods by calming traffic and providing neighborhood-serving amenities.
The Better Streets Plan identifies and defines a system of street types and describes the appropriate design treatments and streetscape elements for each street type. Future decisions about the design of pedestrian and streetscape elements should follow the policies and guidelines of the Better Streets Plan, as adopted by the Board of Supervisors on December 7, 2010 and amended from time to time. The Better Streets Plan, is incorporated herein by reference.
Indicate the purposes of streets by means of a citywide plan for street
One type of feature that can be readily
adjusted to the street system is landscaping. Accordingly, a plan should
be put into effect for street landscaping that indicates the relative
importance of streets by the degree of formality of tree planting and
the species and size of the trees. In addition to differences in traffic-carrying
functions, the plan recognizes the width and visual importance of certain
streets, the special nature of various activity areas, and the need for
screening or buffering of residential uses along streets carrying heavy
traffic. Special consideration is also required for major intersections,
and for important views that should not be blocked by landscaping.
Indicate the purposes of streets by means of a citywide plan for street
The same considerations that apply to
street landscaping under Policy 10 apply to street lighting as well. A
plan similar to that for landscaping should therefore be carried out with
respect to lighting, with the design and placement of lighting fixtures
and the type of illumination determined by street type and other relevant
the intensely urban environment of San Francisco, there are things that
have not changed. These features provide people with a feeling of continuity
over time, and with a sense of relief from the crowding and stress of
city life and modern times. As the city grows, the keeping of that which
is old and irreplaceable may be as much a measure of human achievement
as the building of the new. Certainly, the old should not be replaced
unless what is new is better.
Natural areas are one such irreplaceable
resource. Few examples remain of the original sand dunes, hills, cliffs
and beaches that once characterized the peninsula, and fewer still are
the examples of natural ecology. Reduction of such areas by development
has continued until recent time, and the city can be seen to have reached
an irreducible minimum if it is to keep a sense of unspoiled nature for
The natural areas answer human needs for
rest, quiet, escape from the city's pace and freedom from confinement.
They provide places to view the city from afar, but just as often they
can turn the viewer's attention to the secluded interior of the area or
to the expanses of the Ocean or the Bay.
The Bay is itself a resource of nature,
although it has been encroached upon by filling and by barriers that prevent
access to much of its present shoreline. Hardly any of the original shoreline
remains, but the water of the Bay is still a natural area that can be
seen and used by the city's residents as an important part of their lives.
The parks and other open spaces developed
by man are also resources that change little over time. These areas often
approach a natural state, and even as pure open space they would have
value for recreation and relief from city congestion. Creation of substantial
new open space is both financially and physically difficult, and therefore
existing open space has even greater public value as time goes on.
buildings, too, lend a sense of permanence and pleasant contrast. They
are links with past history, and with earlier styles of development and
of living. Buildings that endure maintain a continuous culture and may
set standards of excellence with which contemporary development can be
compared. In some cases certain buildings may be identified with specific
people or events or with great architects. Such buildings are resources
for education, recreation and other human enjoyment.
Historic buildings, and in fact nearly
all older buildings regardless of their historic affiliations, provide
a richness of character, texture and human scale that is unlikely to be
repeated often in new development. They help characterize many neighborhoods
of the city, and establish landmarks and focal points that contribute
to the city pattern.
The work of San Francisco's Landmarks
Preservation Advisory Board has been notable as a dedicated effort to
gain recognition for the city's heritage of older buildings. A number
of landmarks have been designated, but many others are threatened and
even those designated will not be permanently retained without the cooperation
of their owners. Of equal importance to the designation of individual
buildings is the recognition and protection of whole block frontages and
areas that exemplify early architectural styles and a high quality of
design character. The retention of many of the traditions of San Francisco
is dependent upon an expansion of preservation efforts in the future.
There are other developed areas which,
though they may not contain individual buildings that are historic or
otherwise outstanding, have a special character worthy of preservation.
These areas have an unusually fortunate relationship of building scale,
landscaping, topography and other attributes that makes them indispensable
to San Francisco's image. Threats to the character of these areas are
sure to be met with intense concern by their own residents and by the
public at large.
The city's streets are a further resource
to be conserved. Their value is not merely in the carrying of traffic.
Streets are important in perception of the city pattern, since they make
visible the city's outstanding features and its points of orientation.
Streets also help regulate the organization and scale of building development,
spacing out buildings and giving continuity to their facades.
Good views are another product of the
street system. A majority of the city's streets may be said to have pleasing
views of the Bay, the Ocean, distant hills or other parts of the city.
Where good views are not available, streets can still function as open
space for use by neighborhood residents and for landscaping to bring some
sense of nature to the area.
Where the intensity of development is
high, streets may even be necessary to maintain decent levels of light
and air for residents and for pedestrians. In these areas, streets are
the "breathing space" that permits buildings to reach high density
on private properties. In other functions, streets also carry a complex
of utility lines and provide access for truck deliveries and police and
3 - Where Streets Are
Most Important as Sources of Light, Air and Open Space
With this great variety of public values
in the street system, it is necessary that clear policies be established
to determine when streets must be retained in their present state, and
when, under exceptional circumstances, street areas may be released for
other uses consistent with the public interest.
CONSERVATION OF RESOURCES WHICH PROVIDE A SENSE OF NATURE, CONTINUITY
WITH THE PAST, AND FREEDOM FROM OVERCROWDING.
If San Francisco is to retain its charm
and human proportion, certain irreplaceable resources must not be lost
or diminished. Natural areas must be kept undeveloped for the enjoyment
of future generations. Past development, as represented both by distinctive
buildings and by areas of established character, must be preserved. Street
space must be retained as valuable public open space in the tight-knit
fabric of the city.
These fundamental principles and their
illustrations reflect the needs and characteristics with which this
Plan is concerned, and describe measurable and critical urban design
relationships for conservation.
Natural areas and features such as sand dunes, cliffs, hills and
beaches--particularly where a relatively undisturbed natural ecology
exists--are irreplaceable and of special public value and benefit
within an intensely developed city.
A: The function and beauty of natural areas aresignificantly diminished
by the intrusion of trafficways, parking lots and buildings. These
facilities detract less when located in areas that have already
been built upon or otherwise developed.
B: Development for human activity within these areas,such as pathways
and service buildings, must be carefully located and designed if
it is not to damage the natural landscape.
C: The value of natural areas can be diminished by views of buildings,
parking lots and trafficways in adjacent areas.
||New development can enhance and
preserve SanFrancisco's distinctive qualities if it is designed with
consideration for the prevailing design character and the effect on
External details in building facades, entries, stairways, retaining
walls and other features provide visual interest and enrichment
and are consistent with the historic scale and texture of San Francisco.
A: Richly detailed facades enhance the character of the street
by giving it greater visual variety. Such detail often reduces building
facades and textures to a more human scale and makes the street
a more pleasant place to be.
B: Even blank walls may possess visual interest if they are textured
||To conserve important design character
in historic or distinctive older areas, some uniformity of detail,
scale, proportion, texture, materials, color and building form is
|A: Large buildings impair the character
of older, small scale areas if no transition is made between small-scale
and large-scale elements.
|B: New blank facades introduced
into areas of older, more detailed buildings detract from neighborhood
|C: New buildings using textured
materials with human scaled proportions are less intrusive in older
areas characterized by fine details and scale.
|D: Visually strong buildings which
contrast severely with their surroundings impair the character of
Preservation of San Francisco's strong and continuous downtown
street facades will insure maintenance of that area's distinctive
character and spatial quality.
A consistent commercial facade on neighborhood shopping streets
will give definition to these areas and promote activity.
||New construction can have a positive
effect on the area around it if it reflects the character of adjacent
older buildings of architectural merit.
Renovation and restoration of older, well-designedbuildings can
preserve the character and interest of the streetscape if the original
building design is respected in use of materials and details.
On commercial buildings, signs that fit within the architectural
order of the facade do not obscure or damage the building's integrity.
COMMENT: Renovation of the old White House building includes signs
that fit the building's facade. The architectural order of the Lincoln
Building is almost totally obscured by signs.
Historic buildings represent crucial links with past events and
architectural styles and, when preserved, afford educational, recreational,
cultural and other benefits.
A: Historic buildings often serve as landmarks and focal points
for interest, or orientation and add to a neighborhood's visual
B: Relatively homogeneous groupings of buildings of architectural
and historic merit, such as in Jackson Square, are especially rare
||Historic buildings and grounds often
provide necessary visual open space or passive recreation areas. Open
space in the city can be supplemented by enhancing the semi-recreational
functions of historic areas.Historic buildings and grounds open to
the public can function as a recreational resource.
||Preservation of some older, low
and small-scaled buildings and grounds amidst larger building towers
will help conserve unique cityscape character, maintain a sense of
openness and green space, and produce a more livable environment.
||Building of parking garages under
parks can seriously lessen their natural qualities when the access
ramps, air vent and elevator structures and other changes in the park's
surface intrude upon the landscape.
Street space provides an important form of public open space, especially
in areas of high density that are deficient in other amenities.
COMMENT: Alleys and streets in Chinatown and in the Mission district
often serve as recreation places. Building in the street would remove
this important resource.
Street space provides light, air, space for utilities and access
COMMENT (a): Building development in or over street spaces can
reduce light and air.
COMMENT (b): Alleys and small street spaces are often one of the
few means for trucks and other service vehicles to stop out of the
main stream of traffic. Vacation of them could add to the congestion
of other city streets.
Street space services as a means to control and regulatethe scale
and organization of the future development by: a. protecting against
the accumulation of overly large parcels of property under single
ownership on which massive buildings could be constructed; and b.
indirectly controlling the visual scale and density of development,
as well as maintaining continuity of facades.
COMMENT: Once vacated, a street space could be built upon to allowable
densities. In some critical areas of the city, the addition of dwelling
units or floor space on vacated street areas might be acutely felt.
Traditional street patterns and spaces can often be essential to
maintaining an appropriate setting for historical and architectural
landmarks or areas.
COMMENT: Development in the street space abutting historic buildings
would destroy the setting.
||Views from streets can provide a
means for orientation and help the observer to perceive the city and
its districts more clearly.
||Blocking, construction or other
impairment of pleasing street views of the Bay or Ocean, distant hills,
or other parts of the city can destroy an important characteristic
of the unique setting and quality of the city.
Preserve in their natural state the few remaining areas that have not
been developed by man.
Natural areas in the city that remain
in their original state are irreplaceable and must not be further diminished.
Significant development should not take place in these areas, and facilities
necessary to aid in human enjoyment of them should not disturb their visual
feeling or natural ecology. Accordingly, parking lots and service buildings
should be confined to areas that are already developed, and access pathways
should be designed to have a minimum effect upon the natural environment.
Where possible, the interior of these natural areas should be out of sight
of the developed city.
Lands in public ownership, primarily those
of the City and Federal governments, constitute the bulk of these natural
areas. Coordinated programs for conservation of both land features and
ecology should be carried out, with high priority given to such management
functions. Where natural areas are in private ownership, either special
incentives or public acquisition should be used to assure a similar degree
Limit improvements in other open spaces having an established sense of
nature to those that are necessary, and unlikely to detract from the primary
values of the open space.
The recreation and open space values of
parks and other open and landscaped areas developed by man ought not to
be reduced by unrelated or unnecessary construction. These resources are
not expected to be increased substantially in future time, whereas the
public need for them will surely grow.
Facilities placed in these areas should
be of a public nature and should add to rather than decrease their recreation
and open space values. Facilities that can be accommodated outside of
established parks and open spaces should be placed at other appropriate
locations. Where new facilities are necessary in these parks and open
spaces, they should be sited in areas that are already partially developed
in preference to areas with a greater sense of nature.
Through traffic, parking lots and major
buildings should be kept out of established parks and open spaces where
they would be detrimental to recreation and open space values. Parking
garages and other facilities should not be placed beneath the surface
in these areas unless the surface will retain its original contours and
natural appearance. Realignment of existing trafficways in these areas
should avoid destruction of natural features and should respect the natural
topography with a minimum of cutting and filling. The net effect of any
changes in parks and open spaces should be to enhance their visual qualities
and beneficial public use.
Avoid encroachments on San Francisco Bay that would be inconsistent with
the Bay Plan or the needs of the city's residents.
The filling of San Francisco Bay over
more than a century has already reduced the size of the Bay and the quality
and extent of its natural shoreline below acceptable limits. Further filling
and replacement of filled areas should be severely limited to cases in
which there are strong public purposes to be served and clear opportunities
for increased public use and enjoyment of the Bay and its shoreline. These
basic policies have been established on a regional basis by the San Francisco
Development on the Bay shoreline should
be related both to the water of the Bay and to the uses and activities
that occur inland. Specific plans for sectors of the shoreline adopted
by the City should govern the urban design aspects of detailed development,
and should emphasize access to the Bay by the city's residents.
Access to the Bay should be considered
as a total system in which a maximum of communication with the water is
made possible consistent with other shoreline uses. Access includes physical
contact with the water and the shore at recreation areas, and it also
includes visual contact through views of the water and of water-related
activities. The system of access requires careful review of development
and land use at the water's edge, and similar review of projects further
inland that will affect physical and visual contact with the water.
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.
Older buildings that have significant
historical associations, distinctive design or characteristics exemplifying
the best in past styles of development should be permanently preserved.
The efforts of the Landmarks Preservation Advisory Board should be supported
and strengthened, and a continuing search should be made for new means
to make landmarks preservation practical both physically and financially.
Criteria for judgment of historic value
and design excellence should be more fully developed, with attention both
to individual buildings and to areas or districts. Efforts for preservation
of the character of these landmarks should extend to their surroundings
as well. Preservation measures should not, however, be entirely bound
by hard-and-fast rules and labels, since to some degree all older structures
of merit are worthy of preservation and public attention. Therefore, various
kinds and degrees of recognition are required, and the success of the
preservation program will depend upon the broad interest and involvement
of property owners, improvement associations and the public at large.
Use care in remodeling of older buildings, in order to enhance rather
than weaken the original character of such buildings.
Although the Landmarks Preservation Advisory
Board and other agencies have certain powers relative to the exterior
remodeling of designated landmarks, the problem of detrimental remodelings
is far broader. The character and style of older buildings of all types
and degrees of merit can be needlessly hidden and diminished by misguided
improvements. Architectural advice, and where necessary and feasible the
assistance of public programs, should be sought in order to assure than
the richness of the original design and its materials and details will
be restored Care in remodelings should be exercised in both residential
and commercial areas. Along commercial streets, the signs placed on building
facades must be in keeping with the style and scale of the buildings and
street, and must not interfere with architectural lines and details. Compatible
signs require the skills of architects and graphics designers. In commercial
areas as well as residential neighborhoods, the interest and participation
of property owners and occupants should be enlisted in these efforts to
retain and improve design quality.
Respect the character of older development nearby in the design of new
Similar care should be exercised in the
design of new buildings to be constructed near historic landmarks and
in older areas of established character. The new and old can stand next
to one another with pleasing effects, but only if there is a similarity
or successful transition in scale, building form and proportion. The detail,
texture, color and materials of the old should be repeated or complemented
by the new.
Often, as in the downtown area and many
district centers, existing buildings provide strong facades that give
continuous enclosure to the street space or to public plazas. This established
character should also be respected. In some cases, formal height limits
and other building controls may be required to assure that prevailing
heights or building lines or the dominance of certain buildings and features
will not be broken by new construction.
Recognize and protect outstanding and unique areas that contribute in
an extraordinary degree to San Francisco's visual form and character.
All areas of San Francisco contribute
in some degree to the visual form and image of the city. All require recognition
and protection of their significant positive assets. Some areas may be
more fortunately endowed than others, however, with unique characteristics
for which the city is famous in the world at large. Where areas are so
outstanding, they ought to be specially recognized in urban design planning
and protected, if the need arises, from inconsistent new development that
might upset their unique character.
These areas do not have buildings of uniform
age and distinction, or individual features that can be readily singled
out for preservation. It is the combination and eloquent interplay of
buildings, landscaping, topography and other attributes that makes them
outstanding. For that reason, special review of building proposals may
be required to assure consistency with the basic character and scale of
the area. Furthermore, the participation of neighborhood associations
in these areas in a cooperative effort to maintain the established character,
beyond the scope of public regulation, is essential to the long-term image
of the areas and the city.
A hilltop park with the highly visible green of trees from which
Coit Tower rises above all else.
Low, small-scale buildings having predominantly flat roofs and
light pastel colors, hugging the topography in a highly articulated
form which contrasts with the power of downtown construction.
Cliffs and complex stairs and walkways on the east side above the
waterfront, with buildings perched precariously along the slope
and trees interspersed.
Intimate pedestrian scale and texture of streets and housing, with
sudden and dramatic views of the Bay and downtown through narrow
A harmonious, balanced relationship of low, small-scale older buildings
and tall, slender towers. Increasing height of buildings toward
the top that emphasizes the hill form and sets Russian Hill apart
from other high areas to the south and west.
Varied and well-tended landscaping in parks, yards and streets
that provides a rich background for the buildings and a cascading
effect on the slopes.
Highly detailed buildings and many retaining walls that articulate
the hill and provide warmth of color.
A sequence of building heights rising steadily up the north slope
to the top of the ridge. Emphasis of this sequence, and of the contrasts
of low and high buildings, by the dark colors of trees and houses
at the base of lighter apartment towers.
Outstanding Bay views down streets and across the formally landscaped
grounds of detached houses.Spacious and distinguished residences
with richness of detail and materials, including works of outstanding
architects and excellent examples of the Victorian period.
Well-landscaped and well-proportioned street areas, with building
setbacks and fine details in stairways, fences and paving patterns.
BUENA VISTA AND UPPER MARKET
Exceptional variety produced by differences in street patterns
across an uneven chain of hills, and a diverse mixture of building
styles and roof types.
A finely scaled building pattern of small wall surfaces and pastel
colors, with highly visible planting on steep slopes.
Hilltop parks easily seen from below, with excellent views of the
city from a central location.
Houses of varied sizes and individual forms having interesting
setbacks, cornices and bay windows, many of notable architectural
A uniform scale of buildings, mixed with abundant landscaping in
yards and steep street areas.
Rows of houses built from nearly identical plans that form complete
or partial block frontages, arranged on hillside streets as a stepped-down
series of flat or gabled roofs.
Building setbacks with gardens set before Victorian facades and
Maintain a strong presumption against the giving up of street areas for
private ownership or use, or for construction of public buildings.
Street areas have a variety of public
values in addition to the carrying of traffic. They are important, among
other things, in the perception of the city pattern, in regulating the
scale and organization of building development, in creating views, in
affording neighborhood open space and landscaping, and in providing light
and air and access to properties.
Like other public resources, streets are
irreplaceable, and they should not be easily given up. Short-term gains
in stimulating development, receipt of purchase money and additions to
tax revenues will generally compare unfavorably with the long-term loss
of public values. The same is true of most possible conversions of street
space to other public uses, especially where construction of buildings
might be proposed. A strong presumption should be maintained, therefore,
against the giving up of street areas, a presumption that can be overcome
only by extremely positive and far-reaching justification.
Review proposals for the giving up of street areas in terms of all the
public values that streets afford.
Every proposal for the giving up of public
rights in street areas, through vacation, sale or lease of air rights,
revocable permit or other means, shall be judged with the following criteria
as the minimum basis for review:
a. No release of a street area shall be
recommended which would result in:
- Detriment to vehicular or pedestrian circulation;
- Interference with the rights of access to any private
- Inhibiting of access for fire protection or any
other emergency purpose, or interference with utility lines or service
without adequate reimbursement;
- Obstruction or diminishing of a significant view,
or elimination of a viewpoint; industrial operations;
- Elimination or reduction of open space which might
feasibly be used for public recreation;
- Elimination of street space adjacent to a public
facility, such as a park, where retention of the street might be of
advantage to the public facility;
- Elimination of street space that has formed the
basis for creation of any lot, or construction or occupancy of any building
according to standards that would be violated by discontinuance of the
- Enlargement of a property that would result in (i)
additional dwelling units in a multi-family area; (ii) excessive density
for workers in a commercial area; or (iii) a building of excessive height
- Reduction of street space in areas of high building
intensity, without provision of new open space in the same area of equivalent
amount and quality and reasonably accessible for public enjoyment;
- Removal of significant natural features, or detriment
to the scale and character of surrounding development.
effect upon any element of the General Plan or upon an area plan or
other plan of the Department of City Planning;
- Release of a street area in any situation in which
the future development or use of such street area and any property of
which it would become a part is unknown.
b. Release of a street area may be considered
favorably when it would not violate any of the above criteria and when
it would be:
- Necessary for a subdivision, redevelopment project
or other project involving assembly of a large site, in which a new
and improved pattern would be substituted for the existing street pattern;
- In furtherance of an industrial project where the
existing street pattern would not fulfill the requirements of modern
- Necessary for a significant public or semi-public
use, or public assembly use, where the nature of the use and the character
of the development proposed present strong justifications for occupying
the street area rather than some other site;
- For the purpose of permitting a small-scale pedestrian crossing consistent with the principles and policies
of The Urban Design Element; or
- In furtherance of the public values and purposes of streets as expressed in The Urban Design Element and
elsewhere in the General Plan.
Permit release of street areas, where such release is warranted, only
in the least extensive and least permanent manner appropriate to each
In order to avoid the unnecessary permanent
loss of streets as public assets, methods of release short of total vacation
should be considered in cases in which some form of release is warranted.
Such lesser methods of release permit later return of the street space
to street purposes, and allow imposition of binding conditions as to development
and use of the street area.
Mere closing of the street to traffic
should be used when it will be an adequate method of release. Temporary
use of the street should be authorized when permanent use is not necessary.
A revocable permit should be granted in preference to street vacation.
And sale or lease of air rights should be authorized where vacation of
the City's whole interest is not necessary for the contemplated use. In
any of these lesser transactions, street areas should be treated as precious
assets which might be required for unanticipated public needs at some
Much of the characteristic pattern of
San Francisco has remained the same, and yet change is continuous. New
development stands out because it is new and because it is different
sometimes quite different from what the city has known before. The effect
upon the pattern of the city and its neighborhoods is often auspicious,
but at times it is not. As rebuilding occurs, there may be changes in
the city's essential qualities.
The fitting in of new development is,
in a broad sense, a matter of scale. It requires a careful assessment
of each building site in terms of the size and texture of its surroundings,
and a very conscious effort to achieve balance and compatibility in the
design of the new building. Good scale depends upon a height that is consistent
with the total pattern of the land and of the skyline, a bulk that is
not overwhelming, and an overall appearance that is complementary to the
building forms and other elements of the city. Scale is relative, therefore,
since the height, bulk and appearance of past development differ among
the districts of the city.
People in San Francisco are accustomed
to a skyline and streetscape of buildings that harmonize in color, shape
and details. Much effort has been made in the past to relate each new
building to its neighbors at both upper and lower levels, and to avoid
jarring contrasts that would upset the city pattern. Special care has
been accorded the edges of distinct districts, where transitions in scale
are especially important. By tradition in San Francisco, as in other great
cities of the world, unusual building forms and monumental scale have
been reserved for buildings with the greatest significance to the community.
These buildings characterize the mood and institutions of the city, and
by their quality and nature express the city's aspirations to the world
In questions of scale, the height of buildings
haws received the greatest and most continuous public attention. San Francisco
has established the most extensive system of legislated height controls
in any American city, expressing its concern over building height in this
manner since as early as 1927. Nevertheless, a citywide plan for building
height has not existed prior to this time, and both residents and visitors
have experienced stress and concern at the prospect that the appearance
of the skyline may continue to change rapidly without further direction.
Tall buildings are a necessary and expressive
form for much of the city's office, apartment, hotel and institutional
development. These buildings, as soaring towers in a white city, connote
the power and prosperity of man's modern achievements. They make economical
use of land, offer fine views to their occupants, and can permit efficient
deployment of public services. In recent times, however, new pressures
upon the design of these buildings have been produced by increases in
technical construction capabilities, in demands for large blocks of
space, in the breadth of financing methods, and in the image-consciousness
of major business firms. As each building becomes larger and the whole
city becomes more intensively developed, the challenges for urban design
Exceptional height can have either positive
or negative effects upon the
city pattern and the nearby environment. A building that is well designed
in itself will help to reinforce the city's form if it is well placed,
but the same building at the wrong location can be utterly disruptive.
If properly placed, tall buildings can
enhance the topographic form and existing skyline of the city. They can
orient the traveler by helping to clarify his route and identify his destination.
Building height can define districts and centers of activity. These advantages
can be achieved without blocking or reduction of views from private properties,
public areas or major roadways, if a proper plan for building height is
followed. Such a plan must weigh all the advantages and disadvantages
of height at each location in the city, and must take into account appropriate
established patterns of building height and scale, seeking for the most
part to follow and reinforce those patterns. Such a plan must also be
applied with recognition of the functional and economic needs for space
in major centers for offices, high density apartments, hotels and institutions
providing public services.
The remaining aspect of building scale
to be considered is that of bulk, or the apparent massiveness of a building
in relation to its surroundings. A building may appear to have great bulk
whether or not it is of extraordinary height, and the result can be a
blocking of near and distant views and a disconcerting dominance of the
skyline and the neighborhood. The users of modern building space may find
these bulky forms more efficient, and the forms may seem logical for combining
several uses in a single development, but such considerations do not measure
the external effects upon the city. Neither height limits nor limits upon
the amounts of floor space permitted will directly control excessive bulk,
and therefore specific attention to this problem is called for.
The apparent bulk of a building depends
primarily upon two factors: the amount of wall surface that is visible,
and the degree to which the structure extends above its surroundings.
Accordingly, a plan seeking to avoid excessive bulkiness must consider
the existing scale of development in each area of the city and the effects
of topographic form in exposing building sites to widespread view.
The largest potential building sites present
the greatest problems and challenges for moderation of building form.
On these sites, normal controls over the form and intensity of construction
that are intended primarily for smaller sites have less precision, and
the external effects of large developments upon the surrounding area and
upon the city may be far greater. The stakes are high for both the developers
and the future of the city, with a resulting tendency toward controversy
and frustration, and unfortunate divisive effects in the community. For
these reasons, the larger sites require separate and more intensive consideration
in policies relating to building form.
MODERATION OF MAJOR NEW DEVELOPMENT TO COMPLEMENT THE CITY PATTERN, THE
RESOURCES TO BE CONSERVED, AND THE NEIGHBORHOOD ENVIRONMENT.
As San Francisco grows and changes, new
development can and must be fitted in with established city and neighborhood
patterns in a complementary fashion. Harmony with existing development
requires careful consideration of the character of the surroundings at
each construction site. The scale of each new building must be related
to the prevailing height and bulk in the area, and to the wider effects
upon the skyline, views and topographic form. Designs for buildings on
large sites have the most widespread effects and require the greatest
These fundamental principles and their
illustrations reflect the needs and characteristics with which this
Plan is concerned, and describe measurable and critical urban design
relationships in major new development.
The relationship of a building's size and shape to its visibility
in the cityscape, to important natural features and to existing
development determines whether it will have a pleasing or a disruptive
effect on the image and character of the city.
A. Tall, slender buildings near the crown on a hill emphasize the
form of the hill and preserve views.
B. Extremely massive buildings on or near hills can overwhelm the
natural land forms, block views, and generally disrupt the character
of the city.
C. Low, smaller-scale buildings on the slopes of hills, at their
base and in the valleys between complement topographic forms and
permit uninterrupted views.
D. Low buildings along the waterfront contribute to the gradual
tapering of height from hilltops to water that is characteristic
of San Francisco and allows views of the Ocean and the Bay. Larger
buildings with civic importance, as evidenced by a vote of the people,
providing places of public assembly and recreation may be appropriate
along the waterfront at important locations.
E. Larger, taller buildings can blend pleasantly with small-scaled
areas if the change in scale is not excessive and if their form
or surface pattern is articulated to reflect the existing scale.
Building siting and massing with respect to street pattern influence
the quality of views from street space.
A. Tall buildings on the tops of hills allow clear views down streets.
B. Tall buildings on slopes of hills severely restrict views from
Clustering of larger, taller buildings at important activity centers
(such as major transit stations) can visually express the functional
importance of these centers.
||The relationship between areas of
low, fine-scaled buildings and areas of high, large-scaled buildings
can be made more pleasing if the transition in building height and
mass between such areas is gradual.
Taller or more visually prominent buildings can provide orientation
points and increase the physical distinction, variety and contrast
of large areas with similar streets and buildings, particularly
areas of unrelieved monotony.
||When highly visible buildings are
light in color, they reinforce the visual unity and special character
of the city.
||Buildings which meet the ground
and reflect the slope of the hill relate to the land form.
||The use of unusual shapes for tall
office, hotel or apartment buildings detracts from the clarity of
urban form by competing for attention with buildings of greater public
significance. The juxtaposition of several such unusual shapes may
create visual disorder.
Unique building forms can appropriately signify major community
COMMENT: The distinctive forms of City Hall and St. Mary's Cathedral
clearly indicate their public importance.
Major public buildings of symbolic importance may be appropriately
located in highly visible settings.
COMMENT: Major public buildings have traditionally been placed
at the focus of axial street views, provided they do not block city
A building situated in a visually dominant position, whose exterior
is blank and uninteresting, does not relate to surrounding development
and tends to repel the observer's attention.
COMMENT: The exposed location and extensive, uninterrupted mass
of the San Francisco College for Women dormitory produce a discordant
form relationship to other college buildings, to the hill and top
of the immediate vicinity.
A long or wide building becomes excessively bulky in appearance
when its height significantly exceeds that of buildings in the surrounding
COMMENT: While the Federal Office Building is similar in length
and width to many large buildings nearby, it exceeds the prevailing
building heights and is a discordant element in the skyline.
||A bulky building creates the most
visual disruption when seen from a distance as the dominant silhouette
against a background and/or foreground of much smaller structures.
Bulky buildings that intrude upon or block important views of the
Bay, Ocean or other significant citywide focal points are particularly
COMMENT: The Fontana Apartments, near the waterfront, block many
public and private views of the Bay and Marin County.
Plazas or parks located in the shadows cast by large buildings
are unpleasant for the user.
A. Large buildings can be oriented to minimize shadows falling
on public or semi-public open spaces.
B. The height and mass of tall, closely packed buildings can be
shaped to permit sunlight to reach open spaces.
||Corner plazas can be pleasing if
the streets are not excessively wide and if surrounding properties
are developed with buildings that define the space well.
Elevated pedestrian levels in large developments, if they relate
visually and functionally to the street-level pedestrian system,
are easy to find and use and contribute to the consistency of development.
A clearly expressed transition from an elevated pedestrian system
to the sidewalk ties the two systems together visually and functionally.
Buildings of a uniform height provide good spatial definition of
larger public squares or plazas.
Larger public open spaces surrounded by irregular buildings are
Promote harmony in the visual relationships and transitions between new
and older buildings.
New buildings should be made sympathetic to the scale,
form and proportion of older development. This can often be done by repeating
existing building lines and surface treatment. Where new buildings reach
exceptional height and bulk, large surfaces should be articulated and
textured to reduce their apparent size and to reflect the pattern of older
Although contrasts and juxtapositions at the edges
of districts of different scale are sometimes pleasing, the transitions
between such districts should generally be gradual in order to make the
city's larger pattern visible and avoid overwhelming of the district of
smaller scale. In transitions between districts and between properties,
especially in areas of high intensity, the lower portions of buildings
should be designed to promote easy circulation, good access to transit,
good relationships among open spaces and maximum penetration of sunlight
to the ground level.
In new, high-density residential areas near downtown
where towers are being contemplated as part of comprehensive neighborhood
planning efforts, such as Transbay and Rincon Hill, such towers should
be slender and widely spaced among buildings of lesser height to allow
ample sunlight, sky exposure and views to streets and public spaces. It
is thus to be expected that some tall buildings will be located adjacent
to buildings of significantly lower height. This, does not in itself,
create disharmony or poor transitions, but is in fact necessary in order
to achieve important neighborhood-wide livability goals. Because these
areas are on the edges of the downtown, stricter standards than exist
in the downtown core for tower bulk and spacing should be established
to minimize the bulk of towers and set minimum tower spacing. It is especially
important that towers have active ground floors and that lower stories
are highly articulated and engage the pedestrian realm, with multiple
building entrances, townhouses, retail, and neighborhood services. (See
Avoid extreme contrasts in color, shape and other characteristics which
will cause new buildings to stand out in excess of their public importance.
Large buildings are most consistent with the visual
unity of the city when they are light in color. The characteristics of
San Francisco's climate and the varied effects of sunlight through the
day in clear and fog-filled skies make bright but subtle hues a life-giving
element in the skyline. Prominent new buildings should reflect this pattern.
Buildings of unusual shape stand out in the skyline.
They call attention to themselves and correspondingly reduce the visual
significance of other features in the city pattern. Such buildings may
also create a jarring disharmony that counteracts the traditional blending
of regular rectilinear forms in the San Francisco skyline. Unusual shapes,
especially in large buildings, should therefore be reserved for structures
of broad public significance such as those providing community-wide services.
Promote efforts to achieve high quality of design for buildings to be
constructed at prominent locations.
Certain buildings will achieve prominence, whatever
their design, because of their exposed locations. Among such locations
are those at tops of hills; those fronting on permanent open space such
as the Bay, parks, plazas and areas with height limits; those facing wide
streets or closing the vista at the end of a street; and those affording
a silhouette against the sky, a muted background or a formal order such
as in the Civic Center.
At locations of such prominence, the quality of building
design is of special significance, and special efforts should be made
to promote the best architectural solutions in both public and private
buildings. In such solutions, the positive potentials of the site should
Promote building forms that will respect and improve the integrity of
open spaces and other public areas.
New buildings should not block significant views of
public open spaces, especially large parks and the Bay. Buildings near
these open spaces should permit visual access, and in some cases physical
access, to them.
Buildings to the south, east and west of parks and
plazas should be limited in height or effectively oriented so as not to
prevent the penetration of sunlight to such parks and plazas. Larger squares
and plazas will benefit, in addition, from uniform facade lines and cornice
heights around them which will visually contain the open space.
Large buildings and developments should, where feasible,
provide ground level open space on their sites, well situated for public
access and for sunlight penetration. The location and dimensions of such
open space should be carefully considered with respect to the placement
of other buildings and open spaces in the area, and with respect to the
siting and functioning of the building with which it is provided. Where
separation of pedestrian and vehicular circulation levels is possible
in provision of such open space, such separation should be considered.
Relate the height of buildings to important attributes of the city pattern
and to the height and character of existing development.
The height of new buildings should take into account
the guidelines expressed in this Plan. These guidelines are intended to
promote the objectives, principles and policies of the Plan, and especially
to complement the established city pattern. They weigh and apply many
factors affecting building height, recognizing the special nature of each
topographic and development situation.
4 - Urban Design Guidelines
for Height of Buildings
Tall, slender buildings should occur on many of the
city's hilltops to emphasize the hill form and safeguard views, while
buildings of smaller scale should occur at the base of hills and in the
valleys between hills. In other cases, especially where the hills are
capped by open spaces and where existing hilltop development is low and
small-scaled, new buildings should remain low in order to conserve the
natural shape of the hill and maintain views to and from the open space.
Views along streets and from major roadways should be protected. The heights
of buildings should taper down to the shoreline of the Bay and Ocean,
following the characteristic pattern and preserving topography and views.
Tall buildings should be clustered downtown and at
other centers of activity to promote the efficiency of commerce, to mark
important transit facilities and to avoid unnecessary encroachment upon
other areas of the city. Such buildings should also occur at points of
high accessibility, such as rapid transit stations in larger commercial
areas and in areas that are within walking distance of the downtown's
major centers of employment. In these areas, building height should taper
down toward the edges to provide gradual transitions to other areas.
In areas of growth where tall buildings are considered
through comprehensive planning efforts, such tall buildings should be
grouped and sculpted to form discrete skyline forms that do not muddle
the clarity and identity of the city's characteristic hills and skyline.
Where multiple tall buildings are contemplated in areas of flat topography
near other strong skyline forms, such as on the southern edge of the downtown
"mound," they should be adequately spaced and slender to ensure
that they are set apart from the overall physical form of the downtown
and allow some views of the city, hills, the Bay Bridge, and other elements
to permeate through the district.
In residential and smaller commercial areas, tall buildings
should occur closest to major centers of employment and community services
which themselves produce significant building height, and at locations
where height will achieve visual interest consistent with other neighborhood
considerations. At outlying and other prominent locations, the point tower
form (slender in shape with a high ratio of height to width) should be
used in order to avoid interruption of views, casting of extensive shadows
or other negative effects. In all cases, the height and character of existing
development should be considered.
The guidelines in this Plan express ranges of height
that are to be used as an urban design evaluation for the future establishment
of specific height limits affecting both public and private buildings.
For any given location, urban design considerations indicate the appropriateness
of a height coming within the range indicated. The guidelines are not
height limits, and do not have the direct effect of regulating construction
in the city.
Relate the bulk of buildings to the prevailing scale of development to
avoid an overwhelming or dominating appearance in new construction.
When buildings reach extreme bulk, by exceeding the
prevailing height and prevailing horizontal dimensions of existing buildings
in the area, especially at prominent and exposed locations, they can overwhelm
other buildings, open spaces and the natural land forms, block views and
disrupt the city's character. Such extremes in bulk should be avoided
by establishment of maximum horizontal dimensions for new construction
above the prevailing height of development in each area of the city.
- Urban Design Guidelines for Bulk of Buildings
The guidelines for building bulk expressed in this
Plan are intended to form an urban design basis for such regulation. These
guidelines favor relatively slender construction above prevailing heights,
but would not limit the horizontal dimensions of buildings below those
heights. Generally speaking, the guidelines would not limit the total
floor space that could be built, but would help to shape it to avoid negative
external effects. If two or more towers are to be built on a single property,
their total effect should be considered and a significant separation should
be required between them. The precise form of the building or buildings
would in large measure be left to the individual developer and his architects
under these guidelines.
The guidelines of this Plan for building bulk are only
minimum guidelines, and they are not intended to reduce the necessity
for other expressed policies pertaining to height, visual harmony or other
factors. Even with building bulk kept within these guidelines, efforts
should be made to articulate and soften building surfaces to reduce the
massiveness of appearance to a great degree.
MAXIMUM PLAN DIMENSION:
The greatest horizontal dimension along any wall of the building, measured
at a height corresponding to the prevailing height of other development
in the area.
MAXIMUM DIAGONAL PLAN DIMENSION:
The horizontal dimension between the two most separated points on the
exterior of a building, measured at a height corresponding to the prevailing
height of other development in the area.
Recognize the special urban design problems posed in development of large
The larger a potential site for development, the greater
are apt to be the size and variety of the urban design questions raised.
Larger sites may mean greater visual prominence of development and greater
impact upon the city pattern. As more land area is included in a single
project, the possibilities are increased that the public resources in
natural areas, historic buildings and street space will be affected. Larger
developments also have substantial requirements for public services, including
Under normal land use controls, most large development
is governed by a "floor area ratio", which permits floor space
to be built in each project in proportion to the amount of land area available.
The floor area ratio limit tends to be geared to development of sites
of small and moderate size, but not to take account of the impact of occasional
developments that take up one or more whole blocks of land. Such developments,
under this type of formula, may have a single building of truly massive
proportions, or a series of building forms constructed in one or more
These differences in nature and impact require that
large sites be given close consideration in urban design planning.
Discourage accumulation and development of large properties, unless such
development is carefully designed with respect to its impact upon the
surrounding area and upon the city.
The height and bulk guidelines of this Plan will help
to some extent in reducing the negative effects of development on large
sites. They will not, however, deal with all the special problems raised
or guarantee good quality of design.
Other measures are available and may be necessary.
In some cases, ordinary zoning restrictions might be tightened, or rezoning
to permit a large development might be deferred in the absence of adequate
assurances of compatible development. New standards might be added to
require open space in large projects, and floor area ratios might be
reduced or made less advantageous for larger sites.
involvement often occurs as larger sites are developed,
through marketing of the site itself, through redevelopment powers,
through vacation of streets or in some other manner, the government role
be made more restrictive in such involvement.
There is no substitute,
however, for early and frequent communication as to the merits and
design of a proposed project between the developer
and his architects on the one hand and public urban design professionals
and interested citizens on the other. Such communication will give
early and more reasoned assessment of the positive and negative effects
of the project upon the city and the surrounding area, and will reduce
the chances of later delays and controversies. Processes toward these
ends should be employed for all major projects in the city.
Encourage a continuing awareness of the long-term effects of growth upon
the physical form of the city.
Development of large properties, by condensing growth
and change in certain areas of the city, emphasizes the effects that long-term
growth and change can have upon the physical makeup of San Francisco.
There is nothing in the nature of cities that will guarantee the continued
livability of this or any other city. The citizens of San Francisco have
an uncommon awareness that the environment is finite, and that the advantages
of greater size and intensity may have ultimate limits.
That awareness is healthy and progressive and should
be fostered. It should be given new outlets to help shape the physical
form of the city. As in this Urban Design Plan, it can identify the attributes
of the city that need to be protected and enhanced. Good planning, supported
by an interested public, can channel growth to the right places in the
city, build growth around previously established transportation systems
and other services, cause other public costs to be borne in part by the
developers who benefit from them, and hold in place the natural regulators
of growth such as streets and open spaces. Above all, it can and should
control the form of individual buildings so that they will be compatible
with the character of the city.
More should be known as to the long term effects of
growth in San Francisco. These effects and the means for moderating them
should be studied in a rational manner through the normal processes of
planning, and none of the important factors should be overlooked. Ultimately,
certain limits upon total growth may prove to be necessary if the integrity
of the city is to be preserved.
The people of San Francisco are the city's reason for
being and its hope for the future. Most residents live in areas that can
be characterized as distinct neighborhoods, and the quality of these neighborhoods
has a strong effect upon their personal outlook. Neighborhood quality
is of overriding importance to the individual, since the most basic human
needs must be satisfied close to home. The long-term future of the city's
entire physical environment may also depend upon good neighborhoods, because
only when they find satisfaction in their own areas can residents freely
turn their attention to matters affecting the larger community.
There is no great difference of opinion as to what
makes a neighborhood a good place to live from an urban design standpoint:
people wish to have a tolerable and comfortable living environment, safe
and free from stress, and the elements that make up such an environment
are easily described. People also wish to know that their neighborhoods
will be guarded against physical deterioration, and that any elements
they consider deficient are likely to be improved. Because neighborhood
quality is defined in the residents' own terms, the neighborhood environment
will be better if residents participate in the planning of local improvements.
Studies show that the outstanding concerns of people
today in their neighborhood environment are matters of health and safety.
Traffic is the leading issue, with automobiles moving through residential
areas in large volumes and at high speeds, producing noise and pollutants
and putting pedestrians in constant danger. With each increase in traffic
the streets become less a part of the living environment and more a world
of their own. Residents find the streets unsafe and unpleasant, and try
to shut them out.
The quality of neighborhood maintenance is also of
major concern. A sense of pride and satisfaction requires that all parts
of the local environment be well maintained: streets, parks, public buildings,
neighbors' properties, and especially one's own house and yard. When the
area is well kept and has visual qualities that distinguish it from other
areas, a resident has a feeling of neighborhood that gives him a sense
of being at home though he may be a block or more from his dwelling.
Another element of good neighborhoods is the presence
of open space and recreation opportunities. The most satisfying recreation
space is close by and visible, with a feeling of nature and a variety
of facilities for all age groups. Such recreation space may be found on
private properties, in neighborhood parks, along the sidewalks and in
undeveloped street areas. On a citywide scale, larger recreation facilities
that require travel away from home provide an even greater variety of
opportunities. On this larger scale, the shoreline of San Francisco Bay
has a potential that is not fully used.
There are many other elements that can bring amenity
to the neighborhood environment. Planting in streets and yards, well designed
and well cared for, adds immeasurably to the visual quality of an area,
softening and complementing the hard appearance of pavement and buildings.
Continuous building facades and generous sidewalks with interesting details
establish a pleasant mood for the pedestrian. Freedom from the clutter
of open parking lots, large signs and overhead wires can also make the
difference between an agreeable living environment and one that is disquieting
or even blighted.
With respect to the many improvements in environment
that can be made by public and private actions, the needs of the city's
neighborhoods are by no means uniform. Some neighborhoods have serious
deficiencies in one or more elements affecting neighborhood quality, while
others are more fortunate. Some neighborhoods have greater needs because
their residents live in conditions of greater density, or because the
residents include more children and older people who tend to live within
a smaller world in which the resources close at hand are the most important.
People of low income, too, especially renters who have little direct role
in maintaining their own physical environment, have special needs that
characterize certain neighborhoods where the danger of physical decline
is already very apparent.
These differences in neighborhoods point up the need
to establish priorities in the programs that will stabilize and improve
the local environment. Where serious physical deficiencies already exist,
and where the density, age and economic status of residents indicate special
needs, the neighborhoods require immediate and continuing assistance.
Of equal importance, however, are many other areas that may be on the
verge of physical decline. These other areas require priority because
the residents' fear of change may contribute as much as any other factor
to real deterioration, and such fear can be overcome by visible efforts
to stabilize the neighborhood. Once lost, the existing resources in any
neighborhood can be restored only through great expense and dislocation.
The programs relating to neighborhood environment should, therefore, be
designed both to hold neighborhood quality at its present levels and to
improve deficient areas that do not enjoy the fine attributes of other
parts of San Francisco.
IMPROVEMENT OF THE NEIGHBORHOOD ENVIRONMENT TO INCREASE PERSONAL SAFETY,
COMFORT, PRIDE AND OPPORTUNITY
San Francisco draws much of its strength and vitality
from the quality of its neighborhoods. Many of these neighborhoods offer
a pleasant environment to residents of the city, while others have experienced
physical decline and still others have never enjoyed some of the amenities
common to the city as a whole. Measures must be taken to stabilize and
improve the health and safety of the local environment, the psychological
feeling of neighborhood, the opportunities for recreation and other fulfilling
activities, and the small-scale visual qualities that make the city a
comfortable and often exciting place in which to live.
6 - Coincidence of
Environmental Deficiencies and Social/Economic Factors
These fundamental principles and their
illustrations reflect the needs and characteristics with which this
Plan is concerned, and describe measurable and critical urban design
relationships in the neighborhood environment.
The livability, amenity and character of residential areas are
greatly enhanced by trees, more so than by any other single element.
In areas where houses have no front yards, a sense of nature can
be provided by planting in the sidewalk area.
COMMENT: Front yards (setbacks) are not required in many parts
of the city. This results in rows of buildings adjacent to the sidewalk.
At times it creates a pleasing sense of enclosure; but the result
can be rather bleak and monotonous when the street is unrelieved
by landscaping or the buildings lack visual interest. A few large
trees or other street landscaping can add a needed sense of nature
The use of appropriate plant material, and careful consideration
of environmental factors in the design of landscaping and open space,
contribute to a neighborhood's identity and improve its environmental
COMMENT (a): Areas of poor environmental quality can often be improved
by the addition of benches, trees, shrubs, and textured paving.
A "vest-pocket" park in a dead-end service court in Chinatown
is one potential form for such improvement.
COMMENT (b): Landscaping can screen residences from commercial
or industrial activities, such as by reducing the glare of lights
at gas stations and parking lots.
COMMENT (c): Windbreaks can make open spaces more pleasant and
usable in windy areas. The sunning area at Phelan State Beach is
a good example.
COMMENT (d): A consistent and attractive neighborhood landscaping
theme can be established, such as the flowering street trees on
COMMENT (e): Open space that contains facilities desired by the
residents, and that is designed when possible with local participation,
is more likely to be used and cared for by local residents.
Open space and landscaping can give neighborhoods an identity,
a visual focus and a center for activity.
COMMENT (a): Dolores Street has a special identity because its
median is consistently planted with large, distinctive palm trees.
COMMENT (b): Mission Park and Washington Square are examples of
open spaces that are both centers for activity and features giving
identity to the surrounding area.
Street rights-of-way on hills too steep for cars or not needed
for traffic use are useless for people if covered with concrete.
They can be modified to provide useful and attractive open space.
Wide, generous sidewalk areas provide opportunities for outdoor
recreation and pedestrian amenities.
A. Portions of wide sidewalks can be turned into children's play
areas, and sitting areas for adults.
B. In intensive shopping areas, wide sidewalks allow free pedestrian
movement, and provide room for benches for resting and shelters
for transit patrons.
||Interesting details in the design
of street furniture, paving and other features in pedestrian area
can increase the amenity and character of streets.
||Wide streets can be narrowed at
the intersections and landscaped to provide sitting areas and visual
Open, unlandscaped parking areas are dull and unattractive, and
generally have a deleterious effect upon their surroundings.
A:. Parking lots next to the street, such as those for supermarkets
and diners, detract from street life and impair definition of street
space. Placement of buildings adjacent to the street, with the parking
behind, can improve this condition.
B. Parking lots along the street in housing developments neither
define the street nor contribute visual interest.
C. Parking under buildings or in an inside court allows the building
to help define the street and avoids the blighting visual effects
of an exposed parking lot.
Parking garages lack visual interest if they have extensive rows
of doors, blank walls or exposed vehicles. Extensive curb cuts prevent
planting and other enhancement of the street, eliminate curb-side
parking and are potentially dangerous to pedestrians.
A. Arcades create some visual interest where long garage facades
or multiple driveways cannot be avoided.
B. Restricting entry and exit points minimizes curb cuts.
C. A basement garage one-half level down brings the building closer
to street level and increases visual interest for pedestrians.
D. The inclusion of stores at ground level maintains continuity
of pedestrian activity on what would otherwise be a sterile street
frontage of parking garages in a commercial area.
Fast and heavy traffic on residential streets makes them unattractive
for pedestrian activities, and generates irritating dirt and noise.
COMMENT: Widening of residential streets or making them one-way
can increase traffic-carrying capacity at the expense of the environment
for fronting residences.
Excessive speeds and amounts of traffic in residential neighborhoods
can be reduced by a variety of design techniques, including narrowing
of streets or intersections, landscaping, diversion of traffic and
closing of streets.
A. Visually narrow street spaces assist in reducing the speed of
traffic. Most drivers tent to reduce speed in confined spaces, since
confinement narrows the field of vision and creates a sense of rapid
B. Diversion of cars from a straight path in a residential neighborhood
is an effective way of discouraging through traffic.
C. Modifying long, wide, straight sections of street eliminates
the opportunity or temptation for vehicles to speed.
Intensive landscaping, walls and other screening devices can insulate
residential and pedestrian areas from the adverse effects of heavily
A. Buffer planting can effectively screen adjacent residences from
B. Park areas and smaller open spaces can be protected from the
noise and sight of traffic if well screened by berms, changes in
level, and landscaped barriers.
C. Even small-scale landscaping can ameliorate the effect of heavy
traffic on adjacent areas.
Vehicle-free or pedestrian-priority spaces contribute to pedestrian comfort and the public life of the city.
Pedestrians can be given primacy in certain areas of the city by prohibiting traffic from certain streets, either permanently or temporarily, or through the design of shared public ways that prioritize pedestrian travel but accommodate small numbers of slow-moving vehicles.
In the design of new pedestrian areas, changes of level can add
greatly to interest and amenity if a reasonable relationship between
levels is maintained.
Most important is the visual connection between levels, which enhances
the experience of being on one level through awareness of the other
COMMENT (a): A space slightly above street level gives a sense
of overlook and advantage to its occupants, while the passerby retains
visual connection and interest.
COMMENT (b): A space slightly below street level gives a sense
of intimacy and enclosure to its occupants, as well as a sense of
overlook and advantage for the passerby on the sidewalk.
COMMENT (c): A space too far above street level loses visual contact
with the street.
COMMENT (d): A small space too far below street level is uncomfortable
to its occupants and suitable only as a place of movement or access.
Continuity of interest and activities at ground level in commercial
buildings adjacent to pedestrian ways creates rich street life and
enhances pedestrian experiences.
A. Stores contribute both visual interest and activity to the street
in downtown and district shopping areas and are the principal generators
of street life.
B. Office lobbies usually lack interest for the passerby, and they
can detract from a good shopping environment.
C. Major office buildings contribute more to street life if they
have commercial activity at ground level.
||Arcades provide continuous covered
access to buildings and greatly increase pedestrian comfort in inclement
lleys and small streets which are usable as part of the general
network of pedestrian and service ways are potential areas of activity
COMMENT: Large new projects that provide mid-block pedestrian and
service shortcuts similar to those that now exist would continue
and improve upon a workable pattern.
Planting and paving treatment in alleys, coupled with active uses
in the adjacent buildings, form, in effect, a commercial promenade.
COMMENT: The intimate pedestrian scale offers a welcome contrast
to the wider streets around.
Dignified and well-maintained signs designed with respect for the
scale and character of the street can enhance commercial areas.
When signs do not relate to the area, when they reach excessive
size, and when they feature blatant and discordant designs, they
reflect poorly upon the overall quality of a commercial area.
||Pedestrian scale can be achieved
at the base of large vertical building surfaces by the use of arcades,
emphasis of horizontal divisions, texture and other architectural
||The undergrounding of overhead utility
wires enhances the appearance of streets and neighborhoods.
||Attractive and well-maintained public
buildings, streets and parks can stimulate private improvements.
Public buildings can contribute to neighborhood appearance if they
are well-designed, attractively painted and generously landscaped.
COMMENT (a): Chain link fencing used around many school grounds
is unattractive. The growing of ivy on such fencing can ameliorate
its effect somewhat.
COMMENT (b): Lack of landscaping and total asphalting make school
playgrounds a negative rather than a positive feature in many neighborhoods.
COMMENT (c): Use of bright and lively colors in painting drab public
buildings could enhance many neighborhoods.
||Parks on hillsides can be developed
for sitting areas with views, and for unusual recreational facilities
that take advantage of the hill, such as a long slide for children.
Private lands that are landscaped or developed as open space contribute
to the visual and recreational resources of the city.
COMMENT (a): Private landscaping or developed as open space contribute
to the visual and recreational resources of the city.
COMMENT (b): As the city becomes increasingly built up and acquisition
of public open space more difficult, privately developed open spaces
become more important. Open spaces at the Crown-Zellerbach Building
and St. Francis Square are good examples of such private development.
Improved and diverse means of transportation can increase the value
and use of parks.
The ease with which pedestrians and motorists locate parks can
be increased by improved signs or special roadway treatment.
If auto traffic and parking in parks are discouraged, recreational
use can be increased.
COMMENT: A large park such as Golden Gate Park can be made more
usable by a special transportation system that links various facilities
and encourages motorists to leave their vehicles outside the park
or in peripheral parking areas.
Waterfront development that maximizes the interface between land
and water increases the opportunities for public access to the water's
A. Finger piers create a greater variety of possible ways to experience
the water and the city.
B. Commercial and residential uses oriented toward the water and
designed to create varied public spaces can add visual interest
to the waterfront.
||Open space along the water provides
opportunities for maximum public use of the waterfront.
||Street rights-of-way carried through
to the water allow views directly to the waterfront and provide a
sense of contact with the water.
Protect residential areas from the noise, pollution and physical danger
of excessive traffic.
In order to reduce the hazards and discomfort of traffic
in residential neighborhoods, a plan for protected residential areas should
be put into effect. Such a plan is intended to prevent or discourage heavy,
fast and through traffic from using residential streets, and to put such
traffic on arterial streets where the impact upon residential areas will
be less disruptive. Although development of further traffic-carrying capacity
on some arterials may be warranted, the local streets should remain as
they are or have their capacity reduced.
speed and volume of traffic on protected streets should be limited by
all practical means. Such means include making streets discontinuous to
divert traffic from a straight path, narrowing streets and intersections,
creating the appearance of narrowness through landscaping and other improvements,
and prohibiting access from arterial streets by signs and barriers. Such
changes in streets should be so designed that they will not limit the
access of vehicles for police and fire protection and other emergency
purposes in the protected areas. The total effect of these changes in
residential streets should be to give the dominant position to residential
qualities and pedestrians rather than to vehicles.
Land uses throughout the city should be regulated in
such a way that heavy traffic will not be drawn through protected streets
by large commercial, industrial and institutional traffic generators.
Traffic for these generators should be channeled as much as possible on
arterial streets. High traffic speeds should be discouraged on non-residential
streets where the traffic on those streets is destined for protected residential
Provide buffering for residential properties when heavy traffic cannot
When arterials and other streets having heavy traffic
must go through residential areas, steps should be taken to screen dwellings
from the noise, fumes and other adverse effects of traffic. Heavy landscaping
at the sides of streets and in center islands may provide an effective
barrier, as can walls, differences in elevation and the setting back of
dwellings from the roadways.
Dwellings along streets with heavy traffic should,
where possible, have the main orientation of their living space and access
away from the traffic. In some cases further measures such as soundproofing
may be required. Business and industries that attract or produce heavy
traffic, such as service stations and trucking terminals, should be screened
from nearby residential areas. Screening should be provided, as well,
for all open parking lots within or adjacent to residential areas. All
of the aforementioned considerations should apply to recreation areas
as well as to dwellings.
7 - Plan for
Protected Residential Areas
Provide adequate lighting in public areas.
In order to reduce the hazards of traffic at night,
and to provide security from crime and other dangers, public areas should
have adequate lighting. Although the need for lighting is general, special
attention should be given to crosswalks and to pathways in parks and around
public buildings. Care should be taken to shield the glare of any such
lighting from residential properties.
Design walkways and parking facilities to minimize danger to pedestrians.
Pedestrian walkways should be sharply delineated from
traffic areas, and set apart where possible to provide a separate circulation
system. Where necessary and practical, the separation should include landscaping
and other barriers, and walkways should pass through the interiors of
blocks. Walkways that cross streets should have pavement markings and
good sight distances for motorists and pedestrians.
Driveways across sidewalks should be kept to a practical
minimum, with control maintained over the number and width of curb cuts.
Barriers should be installed along parking lots to avoid encroachments
on sidewalks, with adequate sight distances maintained at driveways. Truck
loading should occur on private property rather than in roadways or on
the sidewalks, and sidewalk elevators should be discouraged. Residential
parking should be as close as possible to the dwelling served, with adequate
lighting along the walking route from the parking to the dwellings.
Provide adequate maintenance for public areas.
In view of the importance attached to the cleaning,
paving and other maintenance of streets as an index of neighborhood upkeep,
and as a stimulant to private improvements, these types of programs should
be carried on continuously and effectively.
The same degree of maintenance should be accorded to
parks, buildings and other public facilities. In both the initial design
and the upkeep of these facilities, the image of government and of its
role in the community should be made attractive and inviting. Special
attention should be given to the landscaping of public buildings.
Emphasize the importance of local centers providing commercial and government
Local centers for shopping, government services and
congregation of people should stand out in their areas. Landscaping, distinctive
pavement and other features will help to emphasize these centers. Along
shopping streets pedestrian interest should be maintained by continuous
store frontages. Government services for the local area, such as offices
and libraries, should occupy the same center as the commercial activities.
Encourage and assist in voluntary programs for neighborhood improvement.
Neighborhood participation in programs for the physical
improvement of residential and shopping areas assures an additional measure
of pride and satisfaction in the results, and helps to stimulate continuous
maintenance of the improvements. Such stimulation of neighborhood interest
may be unnecessary or more drastic action for upgrading of the area at
some future time.
Programs that can make use of both voluntary work and
government assistance include street tree planting and development of
small parks and other recreation facilities. Where possible, significant
public improvements in street areas should be accompanied by financial
and design assistance to property owners under programs such as the Federally
Assisted Code Enforcement Program which assure the coordinated upgrading
of an entire neighborhood.
Provide convenient access to a variety of recreation opportunities.
As many types of recreation space as possible should
be provided in the city, in order to serve all age groups and interests.
Some recreation space should be within walking distance of every dwelling,
and in more densely developed areas some sitting and play space should
be available in nearly every block. The more visible the recreation space
is in each neighborhood, the more it will be appreciated and used.
Recreation space at a greater distance should be easily
accessible by marked driving routes, and where possible by separated walkways
and bicycle paths. Larger recreation areas should be highly visible. San
Francisco Bay is included among the major recreation resources of the
city, and visual and physical access to the Bay should be increased, with
a maximum interface of land and water made available in new developments
having public access.
All possible means of providing recreation facilities
should be explored. Some historic buildings and their sites have such
a potential. Many commercial areas have a semi-recreational aspect, and
this aspect should be recognized and strengthened. Where possible, new
facilities such as parking garages in more intensively developed parts
of the city should have recreation space placed above them.
Maximize the use of recreation areas for recreational purposes.
Parks provide their greatest service to the community
when they bring a sense of nature to city residents. Recreation facilities
suited to each park and its neighborhood should be installed and maintained,
while facilities not primarily intended for recreation or not requiring
a park location should be placed outside the park system.
Automobile traffic in parks should be minimized, and
where possible means of transportation other than automobiles should be
provided in larger parks. Automobile parking should occur at the edges
of parks, preferably outside the park boundaries. Parking lots and other
visually distracting uses should be screened from the areas devoted to
Encourage or require the provision of recreation space in private development.
As the city grows more intensive, much of the new area
for recreation will have to be provided on private property, whether for
individual developments or for the public at large. This recreation space
may be of many types.
Recreation space should be provided in large developments,
especially in areas of high population and building density. In the downtown
area, well-designed plazas with public access and good exposure to sunlight
serve this function. In apartment developments, some of the recreation
needs of the occupants should be satisfied on the site itself, if necessary
by joint use of space by several properties in the block. New developments
along the shoreline of the Bay should whenever possible provide recreation
space or general public access to the Bay.
Make use of street space and other unused public areas for recreation,
particularly in dense neighborhoods, such as those close to downtown,
where land for traditional open spaces is more difficult to assemble.
Walking along neighborhood streets is the common form
of recreation. The usefulness of streets for this purpose can in many
cases be improved by widening sidewalks and installing simple improvements
such as benches and landscaping. Such improvements can often be put in
place without narrowing traffic lanes by use of parking bays with widened
sidewalks at intersections and at other points unsuitable for parking.
Streets that have roadways wider than necessary, and
streets that are not developed for traffic because of their steepness,
provide exceptional opportunities for recreation. This is particularly
applicable in new neighborhoods like Transbay and Rincon Hill, where traditional
open spaces are more difficult to assemble because of higher densities
and lack of available sites to acquire for parks. This excess street space
can be developed with playgrounds, sitting areas, viewpoints and landscaping
that make them neighborhood assets and increase the opportunities for
recreation close to the residents' homes.
Install, promote and maintain landscaping in public and private areas.
Trees and other landscaping are a recurring theme in
these policies, for they add to nearly any city environment. Both public
and private efforts in the installation and maintenance of landscaping
should be increased.
In residential areas, side yards and setbacks provide
the best opportunities for landscaping visible in public areas. If no
such space exists, then trees should be placed in the sidewalk area, preferably
in the ground. Care should be taken to select species of trees suitable
to each location. The most visible points, such as street intersections,
should be given special attention.
Other unused opportunities for landscaping exist on
exposed banks, usually along roadways. Where it is feasible, these should
be planted and maintained by the public or private owners of the land.
Portions of parks that are unlandscaped should also be considered for
new planting, especially when the areas are visible from nearby neighborhoods.
Improve pedestrian areas by providing human scale and interest.
In addition to landscaping, other features along the
streets add to the comfort and interest of pedestrians. Sidewalk paving
and furnishings, if designed in a unified way, make walking more pleasurable.
Gentle changes in level have the same effect. In commercial areas, continuous
and well-appointed shop windows and arcades are invitations to movement.
Little-used alleys can be improved as walkways, and new promenades put
through blocks in new development. Greater comfort should also be provided
at transit stops, where benches and shelters can be placed on sidewalks
and on private property.
Remove and obscure distracting and cluttering elements.
No other element in the street environment is more
disrupting than exposed parking. Parking lots and open parking decks break
the building facades and stand as large voids in visual interest. Exposed
vehicles clutter the pedestrian's view and reduce the sidewalk to a narrow
corridor between rows of automobiles. Parking should, wherever possible,
be placed beneath or behind buildings or else screened from view by landscaping,
walls or fences. The screening should be designed to restore to the street
some of the visual interest that has been taken away by the removal of
Signs are another leading cause of street clutter.
Where signs are large, garish and clashing they lose their value as identification
or advertising and merely offend the viewer. Often these signs are overhanging
or otherwise unrelated to the physical qualities of the buildings on which
they are placed. Signs have an important place in an urban environment,
but they should be controlled in their size and location.
Other clutter is produced by elements placed in the
street areas. The undergrounding of overhead wires should continue at
the most rapid pace possible, with the goal the complete elimination of
such wires within a foreseeable period of time. Every other element in
street areas, including public signs, should be examined with a view toward
improvement of design and elimination of unnecessary elements.
Protect the livability and character of residential properties from the
intrusion of incompatible new buildings.
Whatever steps are taken in the street areas, they
may be lost in the changed atmosphere produced by new buildings. Human
scale can be retained if new buildings, even large ones, avoid the appearance
of massiveness by maintaining established building lines and providing
human scale at their lower levels through use of texture and details.
If the ground level of existing buildings in the area is devoted to shops,
then new buildings should avoid breaking the continuity of retail space.
In residential areas of lower density, the established
form of development is protected by limitations on coverage and requirements
for yards and front setbacks. These standards assure provision of open
space with new buildings and maintenance of sunlight and views. Such standards,
and others that contribute to the livability and character of residential
neighborhoods, should be safeguarded and strengthened.
This Urban Design Plan for San Francisco has been developed
with the conviction that quality in the urban environment is an important
and growing concern in this great city. The people of San Francisco have
taken a leadership role among the citizens of the country in balancing
conservation and change through new safeguards for cherished attributes
of their city's character. This Plan is intended to reflect the people's
needs and to improve the physical makeup of the city. As new needs and
concerns arise in later years, this Plan will be added to and revised
in the continuing process of comprehensive planning.