Case Study: San Francisco’s 1180 Fourth St.

The new development in San Francisco’s evolving Mission Bay offers luxe living to low-income and formerly homeless renters.

1180FourthStreet_7After the 1906 earthquake, San Francisco was faced with more building refuse and debris than it could handle. As the mass of rubbish was dumped in the convenient marshland location of Mission Bay, the once-unsuitable area quickly stabilized due to the weight of the infill. Soon enough, the neighborhood was home to shipbuilding and repair businesses, butcheries, and oyster and clam production. Upon the advent of the railroad, Mission Bay became a veritable industrial hub, with shipyards, canneries, a sugar refinery and warehouses cropping up around the area.

1180FourthStreet_10Rags to riches
Before the late 1990s, most San Franciscans would have scoffed at the idea of Mission Bay as a trendy residential community, considering its longstanding history as an industrial and railyard enclave. However, following the area’s 1998 designation as a redevelopment project and the establishment of the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine and the University of California at San Francisco’s Mission Bay research campus, the area has swiftly evolved into a hotspot for medical and technology research and development. The recent influx of technology-focused employment centers has naturally been followed by a variety of new housing options.

1180FourthStreet_25Design on a mission
One of the most recent additions to Mission Bay’s burgeoning residential community is 1180 Fourth St., a unique multifamily mixed-use building designed by executive architect Mithun-Solomon, associate design architect Kennerly Architecture & Planning and associate architect Full Circle Architects, and developed by Mercy Housing California. The community is situated on the corner of Fourth and Channel streets in Mission Bay South, an area projected to become the Fourth Street Retail District. “(The area) is the gateway to Mission Bay South, an entirely new residential neighborhood in San Francisco,” said Jennifer Dolin, regional vice president of operations for Mercy Housing, “and Mercy Housing has an excellent track record of attracting unique, small retailers.” The building breaks away from neighborhood precedents for design and asset class by offering affordable, distinct and ergonomic residences for 150 low-income and formerly homeless families in an area largely dominated by monolithic industrial development catering to young singles in the tech field. “It is a new and vibrant neighborhood that has open spaces (and) beautiful views, and everyone should have a chance to grow up in such a beautiful place,” Dolin told MHN.

1180 Fourth St. aimed to address the popular view that the area’s architecture is bland and homogenous compared to the vibrant diversity of much of San Francisco’s existing housing stock. “The Mission Bay neighborhood has been roundly criticized as bland and overscaled, lacking the charm and complexity of the rest of the city. We responded to what people felt was a need for architectural zest and complexity, with a rich mid‑block program for residents and children,” said Mithun-Solomon partner Daniel Solomon.

1180FourthStreet_23To break up the design of a building that occupies a full city block, a large entry courtyard was installed. The multi-level courtyard offers tenant services like daycare and community gardens, and is visible through a glass community room, providing views and light to the inside of the development block. “In our family buildings, we design spaces that help create community,” said Dolin. “The large community room and the open courtyard off that area were created to bring everyone together.”
Instead of maintaining the same architectural look around the perimeter of the block, the design is broken into three distinct styles, giving the illusion of different building frontages from the street. “The building has exposure on all four sides, and each side was considered differently to make it feel scalable, not large and overwhelming,” Dolin added.

A total of 10,000 square feet of ground-floor restaurant and retail space, along with community facilities, tie together the property’s residential and commercial aspects. “Our property management and resident services offices are centrally located so they are easy to find and accessible,” Dolin explained. Common amenities like exercise and study rooms, laundry facilities, barbecues and playing fields emphasize healthy living and sociability within the community, while public daycare units and proximity to transportation cater to busy working families.

1180FourthPlans_diagramStrategic sustainability
Incorporating sustainable features into multifamily developments is almost a given these days, but the consideration given to sustainability in constructing 1180 Fourth St. was more in depth. The development’s location itself represented a sustainable strategy, as Mission Bay is home to several large employers near local and regional transportation. “Mission Bay is transit rich and accessible to many parts of the Bay Area and the city of San Francisco, so our working families can work close to where their children are going to school,” Dolin explained. Retail services and city parks are within walking distance, and most residents employ car-sharing, biking or public transportation. The community’s 49 car-share spaces are used almost exclusively for occasional trips rather than daily commuting.

1180FourthStreet_11The building’s design also sports sustainable features like its distinct sun shades on the façade that circumvent the need for unit cooling, with ventilation achieved via operable windows, wall vents and low-energy fans. With a certified Green Point rating of 127, 1180 Fourth St. features solar hot water, no- or low-VOC products, recycled building materials and Energy Star appliances.

The variety of materials and styles used to diversify the building’s look is a fitting analogy for the spirit of the development: an amalgamation of ideas and innovations tailor-made for the people responsible for Mission Bay’s bright future.