January 2018 SF Mission by CM Collins

Back in the 90s, when hotel concierges would warn visitors to stay away from the dirty Mission District, some downtown building developers would go to a special expense to have their main entry on any street but the Mission.  Now a new concentration of high rise structures are rising at the base of Mission Street to international prominence just as the Mission appears on the threshold of a new identity.

Mission Plank Road at 9th and Mission in 1856

Remembering our past, the history recalls that Mission and 16th Streets are the two main historic streets connecting the Bay Area’s original neighborhood,  our beloved Mission, to the San Francisco downtown and waterfront.


The City of San Francisco was originally situated at the tip of a windswept peninsula without water or firewood and thus transportation via the Mission District connection was an essential priority. A plank road on Mission Street, opened as a toll road in 1851, threaded through sand dunes and marshes to the waterfront. The toll road to the mission probably would have gone out on Market Street, but there was an 80-foot sand hill between 2nd and 3rd Streets.

Center Street, which became 16th Street in 1892, was most likely named for Scottish immigrant John Center whose success as a grower and purveyor of Mission district berries and vegetables during the 1849 Gold Rush allowed him to become the major Mission landholder in his day. His foresight to create water wells at 16th & Shotwell Streets in preparation for a fire proved critical when battling the 1906 earthquake fire, saving many blocks of nearby buildings. His obituary called him the “Father of the Mission” known for his hearty disposition, keen interest in public affairs and his abiding interest in chasing opportunities. In addition, Mr. Center was a key mover behind the public transit connections to the Mission. For much of his life he participated in making the Mission the main manufacturing district West of Chicago. He died in his home at 2528 16th street, at the age of 92 in 1908.

Chase Center

Courtesy Golden State Warriors rendering of Chase Center at 16th and 3rd Streets. Opening 2019

For the nearly all the Mission’s history, 16th Street has been the most direct path to the waterfront and for 30 years it led to the City’s largest stadium at 16th and Bryant called Seal’s stadium where the SF Giants first played and the three local DiMaggio brothers started out their famous pro baseball careers. Now rising and opening soon, before the Warrior’s 2019 Basketball season, will be an 18,000 seat arena to be called Chase Center at 16th and 3rd Streets with waterfront views. Until 1972 the Warriors were at the Cow Palace 5.4 miles away surrounded by a parking lot. Now the magnificent arena will be surrounded by a 5.4 acre park with good and improving transit access. There is no truth to the rumor, possibly heard here first,  that the arena has been named after Mission pioneer John Center, still it is good to point out as the yet to be funded water transit station might yet be.

Looking historically at degrees of separation, we find that Salesforce CEO Mark Benioff‘s wish to occupy and name the Salesforce Tower saved the teetering Warrior Stadium deal when he allowed his then surplus future 14 acre Mission Bay campus was able to be sold to the relocating Oakland team at the Mission Bay location over the strenuous objections of UCSF’s biotech neighbors.

The towering Salesforce building on Mission Street was designed by Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects, whose retro modernist structures (including nearby 540 Mission) achieve a level of exquisite attractiveness rarely found among the dull rectangular modernist structures erected in the downtown since World War II. This tallest building in the Northwest reminds many of both the past and the future with a beautifully proportioned shape similar to a  rocket ship as a symbol to the “space age” or our own new millennium age where history will record if humanity came together or perished. The past is referenced as its function as a lighthouse for not only is its “firmly and safely socketed into earth’s bedrock”  unlike the tower’s next-door infamous neighbor at 301 Mission Street but the top nine floors will feature changing illumination. 

Brent Jones can be seen at front door of the famous Clam House (299 Bayshore Blvd. SF) where boats once docked on their back porch which is now miles inland.

301 Mission St.: The Leaning Millennium Tower of San Francisco

Since 2009 the 58-floor luxury tower has sunk more than 17 inches and tilted 14 inches to the northwest. Satellite imagery in 2017 showed the tower as the only moving highrise on the planet and that it is sinking at potentially at a faster rate than previously thought. Just the same, former 49ers Pro Bowl tight end Brent Jones in November 2017 paid $4.15 million for a two-bedroom unit in downtown San Francisco’s sinking and tilting Millennium Tower, according to real estate records it was a 2,819-square-foot unit on the 50th floor. This upper end $1500/sqft pricing means the tower could not have lost too much value over the engineering decision to challenge the infill soil. Still neighbor and former teammate Joe Montana, nine floors down from his ex-teammate, is part of a lawsuit against the developer and the neighboring Transbay terminal seeking compensation for the still moving building.

415 Mission vs 600 Montgomery

Now the new Salesforce Tower at 415 Mission looms above San Francisco. The skyscraper, which will be occupied in the first quarter of 2018, measuring 1,070 feet (326 meters) or 200 feet taller than the also iconic Transamerica Pyramid Center, which has been San Francisco’s tallest building and the downtown’s most famous landmark since its completion in 1972


The sacred geometry of San Francisco features a nine-sided enneagram.

The building is also technically an obelisk, and one of the few recognizably distinct high rises that San Francisco’s downtown has managed to produce. The 48-story icon of the late 20th century San Francisco first unveiled by architect William Pereira and Mayor Joseph Alioto in 1969 is set at the old San Francisco edge of the downtown next to North Beach and Chinatown.  The location is also a few feet from the very spot where the very first Masonic meeting ever held in California took place at 728 Montgomery in 1849. The builders wanted a 1000 foot tall building which would have made it the second tallest in the world at the time but City planning reduced the size. Still the building remains one of the most recognizable high-rise buildings in the world with a very powerful light in its crown used for special occasions.

The Pharos of Alexandria was a lighthouse built in the 3rd century BC on the island of Pharos associated with the Library of Alexandria in Egypt which was the first secular “Universal Library” with a mission like google.com or organizing all the world’s knowledge. With a height estimated at over 115 metres (383 – 440 ft) it was among the tallest man-made structures on Earth for many centuries and identified as one of the Seven Wonders of the World. Largely destroyed by two 14th century AD earthquakes, plans are in the works to open its ruins as an underwater park

This site for the Tranamerica pyramid is at the 40-degree corner of Columbus and Montgomery which was discovered by Scott Onstott to play a prominent role in adding the catalytic number nine to the sacred geometry of San Francisco in conjunction with the building of Treasure Island in 1936–37 for the 1939 Golden Gate International Exposition.

The Enneagram is a nine-sided figure,  best known in our present day for its use in a particular system of personality analysis, with roots in the San Francisco Bay Area, to represent the spectrum of possible personality types. The Enneagram represents the possibility of fostering greater understanding through a universal language that transcends gender, religion, nationality, and culture. While we are all unique, we can share common experiences. The number nine, as the first odd number squared  [ 32 ]  contains unique arithmetic powers valued by the ancients for harmony and magic.

The opportunity for this curious alignment began with the Irish freemason Jasper O’Farrell who conducted the original street survey of San Francisco, as instructed to do so by Lt. Washington A. Bartlett– who renamed the City San Francisco from Yerba Buena and is still connected Masonically by virtue of the Mission Masonic temple standing today at 169 Bartlett Street.  O’Farrell laid out Market Street to connect the downtown with Mission Dolores and later with further likely Masonic help, to allow Van Ness, Columbus and Montgomery streets to create a pyramid like that found on the Great Seal on the back of a dollar bill. The most prominent buildings of early San Francisco have been shown by Stephen O’Rourke to be at key points on this pyramid.  In 1883, Albert Pike, the leading Masonic figure of his time, chartered a San Francisco lodge called the Pythagoras Lodge of Perfection #11. In 2017 a different Pythagoras lodge became a fully chartered lodge meeting at 169 Bartlett. “All is number” is the motto of the original Pythagorean School

Former resident and author Scott Onstott speculates on the meaning of such a collective San Francisco centered synchronistic coincidence using ancient Egyptian archetypes and myths of the Golden Gate and the Silver Gate as Treasure Island in his youtube video. The ancient Egyptian civilization, during the rise of Greek and Roman civilizations, became as well known for its lighthouse and library of Alexandria as the timeless pyramids of the desert. Placing an emphasis on collecting all knowledge of the past in service to the future made it the great learning center of the planet attracting the brightest and enlightened. The proudly multicultural San Francisco Bay Area today might also be judged in the future to be an equivalent of Alexandria in the 21st century, after all, it is the undisputed leader in disruptive innovation at a time when the world is shifting to fewer births than the year prior and the colonization of the planet Mars in our lifetime seems possible according to the West Coast titans of Boeing, Tesla and Amazon.com.

415 Mission Capped by World’s Tallest Public Art Piece 
The 21st-century building’s top occupiable space is the 61st floor, which Salesforce will offer to community nonprofits for use after it is completed this fall. A nine-story 11,000-LED art crown completes the structure. The bottom third of the tower rises straight from the street before beginning smooth ascent with compelling symmetry. A fifth-floor bridge will lead to a new 5.4-acre park atop the new Transbay Transit Center. The plaza at Mission and Fremont streets and the unique light diorama won’t be ready until late spring 2018 when the Mission District celebrates its 40th Carnaval.

A new Obelisk for San Francisco Replaces the Transamerica Tower


Super moon’s new look of the city skyline on December 3, 2017 by event photographer David Yu The moon is framed by the new Salesforce tower and the former tallest building in San Francisco since 1972, the Transamerica Pyramid


Salesforce Tower is one of several new highrises surrounding the Transbay Bus Terminal which has no current plans for connection to the Peninsula rail corridor which should be an important issue in the Mayoral election of June 2018

The tallest piece of public art on Earth, “Day for Night” a nine-story electronic sculpture in the round will cap the Salesforce Tower will debut as the Tower opens in early 2018. Moving images will softly glow in the evening when Jim Campell’s permanent installation for the top of 415 Mission Street via 11,000 pixels attached to the crown or top six floors. At this time plans call for cameras installed around San Francisco to record movements like waves crashing on Ocean Beach and pedestrians crossing Market Street then at night, have the images projected onto the top of the tower like a visual diary of the day. Altogether it will allow 100 foot tall images in the sky and Campell is wondering how the public will react to something unprecedented.

415 Mission Street is the first “supertall building” of more than 300 meters for San Francisco but thirty-five other cities already have taller buildings. However, in the USA only the three metro areas larger than the SF Bay Area, or New York, Chicago and Los Angeles have taller buildings. According to the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat, it is the 12th tallest building in the USA but there are 120 future supertall buildings now under construction. Among these is the Jeddah Tower which, if all goes according to plan, will be the world’s tallest building at 3,281 feet (exactly one kilometer) when completed in 2020 in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

The Wilshire-Grand’s spire, measures just under 295 feet, making the Wilshire Grand 1,100 feet tall and the tallest building on the West Coast. The top piece is an LED beacon that can be programmed in harmony with the lighted cap and spine to light up in many patterns and colors.

West Coast Rivalries

The rise of high-tech in the San Francisco Bay Area has led to a more friendly rivalry with Los Angeles although participating in a chant of “Beat L.A.” at a SF Giants baseball game is still an essential rite of passage to considering yourself a native.  Still many feel a closer competitive relationship to the West Coast’s other high tech hub of Seattle where tech titans Microsoft and Amazon are headquartered and wonder if high-speed rail might go north before venturing to take on the Tehachapi mountains on the other side of Bakersfield.

An example of a softer rivalry is the lightweight discussion regarding the claim to the tallest building on the West Coast. Many of these very tall structures feature vanity spires which allow the building to claim a taller height. This includes the new Los Angeles tower or Wilshire Grand which is only thirty feet taller than Salesforce by virtue of its 295-foot spire. That’s not all,  in addition to the lighted top, the building itself is covered in roughly 2.5 miles of LEDs running up and down the building’s spine. They are capable of a wondrous and captivating light show that will help publicize the 2028 Los Angeles Olympics who have invited SF Bay Area participation.  The building also anchors the downtown hub and perhaps the fastest growing mass transit system buildout in the country.


George Lucas hoping that the third or fourth time would be the charm for his proposed billion dollar Museum of Narrative Art, which had already been the victim of community opposition first in San Francisco (including prominent SF Chronicle critic John King) and then Chicago. San Francisco’s Mayor Ed Lee offered a generous location on transit-starved, undeveloped Treasure Island while Los Angeles won with a location near their Natural History Museum, just west of the Coliseum. As 2017 began, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti praised his City’s selection saying with Lucas’s help, Exposition Park could now become the Central Park of Los Angeles and serve as a new hub for the City’s visitor industry.  Disney Studios of Los Angeles who has been consolidating its premier West Coast  position with previously purchased the SF Bay Area’s Lucas Arts and rights to Star Wars as well as the animation studio Lucas founded with Steve Jobs known as Pixar will soon launch a new global TV channel to rival Seattle’s Amazon and the Bay Area’s Netflix.  Together with the Bay Area’s global domination of so many fast moving technologies we know we are better growing together.

The City is making a $50 million dollar commitment to Treasure Island Public Art. The long-awaited Arts Master Plan lays out a strategy where development firms under San Francisco’s “1 percent for art in private development” requirement will fund the project. The first three million dollars proposals will be presented in 2018 from seven chosen finalists.

In 2018 the Mission Street downtown office rents have become the highest in San Francisco ($93.68 SQFT/YR) and 3rd highest in the nation trailing 1st place Silicon Valley Finance Hub submarket Sand Hill Road in Menlo Park at $119.38 SQFT/YR. San Francisco has recently regained its perch as the 2nd largest financial center in the USA and capital of the West Coast.  The inferiority complex with Los Angeles is long gone.

Time Waits for No One

[<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/captin_nod/sets/72157633525252561/">Full Set</a> | <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/captin_nod/collections/72157626252388053/">More San Francisco Madness</a> | Bay To Breakers <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/captin_nod/sets/72157629826378858/">2012</a>/<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/captin_nod/sets/72157626731456614/">2011</a> |

Sutro Tower still stands the tallest at 552 m (1,811 ft) above sea level although its 977 ft (298 m) has now been surpassed by the Salesforce tower it still remains the most visible structure in the City’s neighborhoods and a monument to the tri metro center of the Bay Area defined by the three urban cities of San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose. The unique three-pronged antenna tower is a mediation of threes capable of serving as an archetype to rise us up to our higher selves by mere contemplation of the Trinity

Bay Area Future Transit Map by SPUR which maintains hubs in Oakland, San Jose and San Francisco [enlarge map]

Meanwhile back in our Mission District,  inevitable change is looming larger as the new 2017 California state-mandated shuffle of the deck could mean a boom of new housing which could well be unsubsidized affordable small units rather than luxury units. San Francisco is the place where they launch ideas, trends, movements, change they want to spread across the nation, or world. It is also a place where more people want to live than there are homes. This leads to widespread gentrification, displacement and homelessness.  State Senator Scott Wiener in 2018 is trying to pass a bill that steamrolls local zoning by establishing a minimum height (45 to 85 feet) for new buildings sitting on the valuable land that abuts transit corridors.  It could end parking minimums and pave the way for moderate to the high-density housing around transit stations in California, and some big transit corridor avenues like El Camino as well.

High rises along the Peninsula rail corridor, despite much-feared local opposition, is becoming more possible. This key Caltrain corridor is undergoing a multi-billion dollar upgrade and by 2021 will allow much easier commuting from the Central Valley and perhaps even high-speed rail by 2025. Wiener, in 2017 did pass the strongest pro-housing legislation (SB-35) which undercut the all too effective delay tactics used to downzone or discourage moderate or high-density housing by cities throughout the state. However, passage of this bill (SB 827) would be the biggest change to the housing equation since 1978’s Proposition 13 and will be fiercely opposed despite its ability to best address the California housing crisis.

Our moderate density corridors may grow two more floors as shown by trailblazing developer Robert Tillman who is on a Mission to push back on the self-destructive political tendencies of one of the world’s most problematic bureaucracies to exacerbate the highest residential rent rates in the world by delaying projects indefinitely. But too much focus on our beloved Mission district will mean failure as we must focus regionally and one key to successful community building with a place for everyone should be going for tall apartment buildings along our transit corridors with density bonuses for affordability.

Once a year, the Mission invites everyone to come together in the spirit of the last days of Spring for the celebration of life known as Carnaval. New world traditions from Latin America, the Caribbean, Brazil and New Orleans star in the Bay Area’s largest festival of live music and costumed dancers. This year, Carnaval SF 2018 is celebrating its over the hill birthday, as it asks the SF Bay Area to come together for its 40th anniversary. This includes leading corporate citizens who appreciate promoting harmony during trying times.

In the 20th century, San Franciscans, encouraged by the writings of columnist Herb Caen (1916 -1997), were happy to pretend their surrounding metro area was not consequential and make jokes about the lack of culture in San Jose and overlook the importance of Silicon Valley to the local economy. While few think this way today, the one hundred plus cities in the nine Bay Area counties will need to be prodded to do their share of desperately needed housing. The tri-metro reality of the Bay Area now needs to be superseded by the three tech capitals of the West Coast, SF Bay Area, Los Angeles and Seattle. the city of San Francisco earned its motto “The City that Knows How” when led by the Mission’s Sunny Jim Rolph,  it threw one of the world’s greatest parties in 1915 called the Panama–Pacific International Exposition (PPIE). The civic leaders of the time built momentum by first holding annual Portola festivals dedicated to bringing everyone together in a spirit of good vibrations and can do optimism.


The Spanish Portolá expedition, led by Don Gaspar de Portolá arrived overland from Mexico on November 2, 1769. It was the first documented European visit by land to the San Francisco Bay Area, claiming it for Spain as part of the Viceroyalty of New Spain. This means 2019 is the 250th anniversary of the discovery of the Bay by Balboa, times a wasting. Please join in.  http://www.carnavalsanfrancisco.org/