10/22/2012 08:25 pm ET Updated Oct 23, 2012

Transbay Tower, Tallest Building On West Coast, Given Go Ahead For Construction (PHOTOS)

Late last week, the San Francisco Planning Commission gave its final approval to the Transbay Tower--the 1,070-foot skyscraper slated to become not only the highest point on the San Francisco skyline, but the tallest building on the entire West Coast.

The 61-story structure will be the focal point of a massive, 145-acre development project complete with residential housing, hotels, retail space and a transit center serving as the northern terminal of the state's controversial high speed rail project.


"For years there has been a strong desire to create a very high-density district around the Transit Center," Planning Director John Rahaim told the San Francisco Chronicle. "The tower has been in the plan since day one and was meant to be the centerpiece of the larger district."

The Pelli Clarke Pelli-designed edifice (which the San Francisco Bay Guardian once called "a giant penis in the sky" and has only gotten more phallic as subsequent designs have been released) will be primarily filled with 1.35 million square feet of office space, a valuable commodity in the super-hot South of Market commercial real estate market.

Revenue generated by the tower will be used to pay for the transportation center; however, some financial setbacks have caused Hines, the project's Houston-based developer, to scale back some of the tower's public-facing elements.

In a column earlier this month, San Francisco Chronicle urban design critic John King groused that the elimination of both the footbridge and cable car connections between the tower and the 5.4-acre park atop the Transbay Terminal were antithetical to the public spirit of the entire Transbay Transit Center project.

"What has been removed, in short, is almost every public feature of an office tower that would be allowed to climb past current height limits because of public largesse," wrote King. "This might be good for the long-stalled project's bottom line, but it undermines one of the most ambitious park projects in the nation."

Hines initially paid the Transbay Joint Powers Authority, the government entity in charge of the land, $350 million for the rights to create the structure, but that number was slashed to $185 million earlier this year.

One of the biggest controversies surrounding the tower's design was the issue of the building's considerable shadow. The structure is projected to cast a shadow over downtown parks as far away as Chinatown's Portsmouth Square.

In the mid-1980s, San Francisco voters approved a law aimed at curbing the growth of the city's downtown core by requiring all newly constructed buildings casting a shadow over city parks first gain approval from both the Planning and Recreation and Parks commissions. In recent meetings, both bodies have given the tower their blessings.

Hines reports that construction on the tower could begin as soon as next summer and see completion by late 2015.

Take a look at the plans below:



Transbay Terminal Photos