Proposed building causes controversy in SF

February 11, 2010 7:35:50 PM PST
San Francisco is in the middle of what one supervisor calls a battle royal. The controversy surrounds housing development in the city. But this one is a bit different, because the debate is over height and shadows.

San Francisco's iconic Transamerica Pyramid could one day have a new neighbor if a developer's project ever gets off the drawing board.

"We came up with a building that is better architecturally, its better from the standpoint of creating more open space on the ground and its better for the city," developer Andrew Segal said.

The cylindrical 38-story condominium tower would require exemptions to city regulations and one powerful voice, former Supervisor Aaron Peskin, says no.

"This is a brazen attempt to break any number of long held city laws," he said.

There are two main controversies: The project at 430 feet would be more than twice as tall as the city currently allows for that neighborhood and it would cast shadows on nearby parks.

That's a violation of a measure approved by voters in 1984. The developer is willing to renovate another park in exchange.

The developer would expand Redwood Park, actually doubling its size, open it up to the public and maintain it forever.

That's what sold one neighborhood group -- The Jackson Square Historic District.

"We're definitely improving the character of the neighborhood by making these changes," neighborhood activist Peter Scott said.

He was one of dozens who spoke at a public hearing before the Planning Commission. The president of another community group, The Telegraph Hill Dwellers believes the developer should just play by the rules.

"If we could get a building that was 200 feet, designed in a lovely fashion, not casting shadows, not a problem," neighborhood activist Vedica Puri said.

"There's no project in San Francisco that's going to be unopposed," Segal said.

But this one has a long fight ahead from the Planning Commission, Rec. and Park and the supervisors before it can get off the ground.