Project Background

From the 1880s through the 1950s, the area of San Francisco near the intersections of Market Street with Valencia, Haight and Gough streets was a well-known and distinct neighborhood called the “Market Street Hub” or simply, “The Hub.” The name was likely derived from the convergence of streetcar lines carrying people from outlying neighborhoods to downtown San Francisco. The area’s distinctive block pattern – created by the meeting of the Mission, South of Market, and North of Market street grids – lends additional meaning to this historic name.

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In the early 2000s the Hub neighborhood was included within the boundaries of the Market and Octavia Area Plan, adopted in 2008. In the plan, the Hub is characterized as “SoMa West” and envisioned as a “vibrant new mixed-use neighborhood.” Numerous policies in the plan support this vision. The plan also created the Van Ness and Market Downtown Residential Special Use District (SUD). This SUD encourages the development of a transit-oriented, high-density, mixed-use residential neighborhood around the intersections of Market Street and Van Ness Avenue and Mission Street and Van Ness, with towers ranging from 250 to 400 feet and reduced parking.

Most of the housing imagined in the Hub would come from the development of relatively large sites. These larger projects take longer to develop, and due to the recession, generally did not receive much attention from developers following the plan’s adoption in 2008. However, in the current economic climate, this area is now receiving concentrated attention from the development community.

The Hub is also in the midst of major infrastructure improvements, such as Van Ness Avenue Bus Rapid Transit, that were identified in the Plan and have since moved through conceptual design. The sudden convergence of both infrastructure improvements and intensive private development activity requires careful coordination, and could afford great opportunity to achieve Plan objectives in a more holistic and effective fashion. In light of these recent changes, the Planning Department is proposing to study this portion of the Market and Octavia Plan, and consider plan amendments. The Department’s proposed Hub project seeks to capitalize on current opportunities and analyze the potential for zoning and policy refinements that will better ensure that the area’s growth supports the City’s goals for housing, transportation, the public realm, and the arts.

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The “Hub” Project Area is in blue, the eastern part of the Market & Octavia Plan.

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This project will evaluate opportunities to enhance implementation of the policy goals of the Market & Octavia Area Plan around affordable housing, coordinated transportation planning and place making. Project goals include:


Recent City policy, including the voter-approved Proposition K and Mayor Edwin Lee’s Executive Directive 13-01, have called on all City departments to aggressively pursue new opportunities to increase the housing stock, especially permanently affordable units. There are a number of ongoing initiatives to implement this, including changing the existing inclusionary program, increasing local dollars via a new affordable housing bond for affordable housing, and increasing development potential to subsidize affordable housing.


The Market & Octavia Area Plan includes conceptual designs for improvements to streets, parks, and other public open spaces in the area. Since these concepts were first created in the early 2000s, best practices and city policies for public realm design have advanced. The City now has a clearer idea and vision for components such as bike facilities, pedestrian safety enhancements, shared streets, living alleys, and temporary interventions such as parklets and plazas. Creating better public spaces will reinforce the area’s identity as both as a gateway to other neighborhoods as well as a distinct neighborhood of its own.


The Market & Octavia area was identified as a desirable place to allow more growth due to its proximity to multiple transit lines and the Van Ness MUNI metro station. As San Francisco continues to grow, the transportation infrastructure will need upgrades to accommodate this growth. Changes to zoning in this specific area could leverage funds to improve transportation both in the immediate area and for the City’s transportation network.;


This project will explore opportunities to incentivize the development of affordable housing for artists, office space for non-profit organizations, and studio space to support the active cultural community already found in our Civic Center. This could occur through policies that incentivize or require new development to support the arts via impact fees or provision of needed arts-related spaces.


Current high rise tower proposals may result in a “table-topping” effect on the area’s rapidly evolving skyline with uniform heights of tall buildings and little transition to adjacent areas.

Learn More at the Planning Department Site

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The project will advance public realm concepts from the Market and Octavia Area Plan, including conceptual designs for key public spaces and streets and the consideration of long-term maintenance and activation of these spaces. Implementation strategies and priorities will also be considered within the existing implementation strategy of the Market Octavia Plan.



The project will re-examine and may propose changes to land use controls to meet the following project goals:

  • Increase Affordable Housing. Analyze how zoning refinements can increase production of affordable housing both on-site and via in-lieu fees or off-site production.
  • Encourage the Arts. Explore opportunities to incentivize the development of affordable housing for artists, office space for non-profit organizations, and performance or fine arts studio space to reinforce the active cultural community already found in the Civic Center area. This analysis will include ways to encourage the development of specific space needs and capture additional funding for implementation.



The project will re-examine and may propose changes to existing height limits on certain parcels. The project will evaluate how adjustments to height limits can ensure that the skyline is more pleasingly sculpted to enhance the overall urban form of the city, while being mindful of key neighborhood quality-of-life considerations such as sunlight and pedestrian quality. Along with considering height increases for a few key sites, the project will also revisit ways to carefully integrate new development with the surrounding public realm; this could include location and orientation of ground floor uses, parking access, and other factors.



This will involve close collaboration with SFMTA to support and coordinate development with current transit proposals and projects, such as the Van Ness BRT and Better Market Street, and to advance study of improving underground MUNI Metro capacity. The study will also consider the capacity to capture revenue for transit infrastructure improvements and reevaluate parking standards to further emphasize the transit-oriented nature of the area.



The project will conduct economic feasibility analysis and develop recommendations for how additional development may contribute to the area in the following ways: help create new/additional affordable housing, contribute to transit improvements, provide development of arts space, or others as identified though the planning process.


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Workshop #2 – June 22, 2016

Workshop #1 – April 13, 2016