Stacking Light Industrial in San Francisco

Posted on March 14th, 2018 at 2:58 pm by

We are currently at work on a multi-level industrial building for the emerging economies and culture of San Francisco. Throughout the Bay Area, industrial buildings have uniquely evolved as civic places, sites for innovation, and social condensers. This project embraces a light industrial lineage and the diverse energies and communities of the Potrero Hill neighborhood through a generous civic gesture that draws from and gives life to its surroundings. The project can accommodate a range of uses — from artists studios to small scale manufacturing, from design retail to leading edge technologies — and seeks to signal the innovations within to the surrounding city.

Industrial manufacturing has historically been a defining characteristic of San Francisco’s urban fabric, and a critical component to its growth and evolution as a city. Since the rise of a technically advanced shipbuilding industry during World War II, San Francisco has remained at the forefront of advanced manufacturing, and has integrated the digital age into its contemporary industrial landscape.

As Bay Area neighborhoods face increased density, however, many small manufacturing businesses and communities have been forced out of the urban core, giving way to mixed use developments that capitalize on higher land values and increased housing opportunities. These trends have left San Francisco’s urban core with a diminishing set of Production, Distribution and Repair (PDR) uses, and a diminishing presence of centralized PDR zoning for light industry.

Potrero Hill, a diverse neighborhood between Dogpatch and the Mission with dramatic views of the skyline and the bay, has long supported a dynamic range of PDR uses, bridging industrial era manufacturing and craft to a new wave digital manufacturing and innovation. In effort to support light industry within the central core of the city, the San Francisco Planning Department is seeking to preserve existing PDR zoning in Potrero Hill, and in doing so, inviting new development models for urban sites that justify increased density.

Group i, an innovative and civically minded development firm, recently invited el dorado to design San Francisco’s first newly constructed vertical PDR building at the corner of 16th Street and Kansas Street, adjacent to the elevated 101 Highway. The proposed structure, rising from a durable concrete plinth, is, by contrast, a lightweight study in flexible programming that will host a diverse tenancy of PDR uses in a pivotal mixed-use light industrial neighborhood.

view looking north from Kansas Street

view looking west from 16th Street

At street level, an understated cast-in-place concrete façade will open up to large volumes within, and an exterior staircase will connect the sidewalk to a socially programmed 2nd level. The upper volumes carefully consider adjacent building massing and focus on environmental efficiency. The windows and sheathing of the south, east and west walls are wrapped in perforated corrugated aluminum, providing protection from glare and solar heat gain, while the north walls are clad in a high performance polycarbonate glazing system, allowing diffuse north light to fill multiple levels of production and manufacturing. Large glass apertures on all walls allow natural ventilation into the building and provide generous visual connections to the surrounding context of the neighborhood, the city and the bay. As evening turns to dusk, the 16th Street polycarbonate elevations will glow from within, broadcasting the vibrancy of San Francisco’s evolving manufacturing community.


view looking south from 16th Street

The design process with Group i has unfolded as a true collaboration, yielding a new PDR typology that exudes optimism by re-imagining light industry as a dynamic participant in urban density. Concept Design is under review with the San Francisco Planning Department and we hope to continue forward with a comprehensive team and full design services later this spring.