What if 280 came down?
Design competition presented by the Center for Architecture and Design
and the Seed Fund and co-sponsored by SF Planning, AIA SF, Studio for
Urban Projects, SPUR, and the Architectural Foundation of SF.
What is the Pacific Cities Sustainability Initiative?
The Pacific Cities Sustainability Initiative (PCSI) is a collaborative
dialogue which aims to foster long-term sharing of urban
sustainability strategies between communities across the Pacific
Rim. Launched in 2009 to address the challenges related to rapid
urbanization in the Asia-Pacific region, the initiative is now a
partnership of Asia Society and Urban Land Institute with support
from leading academic organizations.
PCSI's guiding principles are to showcase and share solutions that
emphasize livability for urban citizens and that ensure today's and
tomorrow's cities are designed, built, and governed around the
needs of all its inhabitants.
We envision this project as both a networking opportunity and a
chance to examine how San Francisco can become a more livable
and resilient city.
What if 280 came down? Competition overview.
“In Spring 2013, Mayor Ed Lee announced an exploration of the potential of removing
Highway 280 north of 16th Street in San Francisco. Submit your ideas for new possibilities for
what lies beneath Highway 280.”
Competition participants are invited to submit concepts for public art, buildings, landscape
treatments, public amenities and infrastructure, or other urban design interventions that are
made possible through the replacement of the elevated Highway 280 north of 16th Street
with a surface boulevard.
Suggested areas of focus are the parcels of land freed up by this transformation, especially
along the western edge of Mission Bay, as well as the open space/landscape opportunities at
the west end of Mission Creek to unify both sides of the creek. Entrants are welcome to
submit concepts that explore any aspect of the transformative opportunities introduced by
the freeway removal.
What if 280 came down? Competition details.
• Entrants are asked to submit project plans for either ONE or ALL of the Land Parcels
indicated on the Site Map.
• Entry due July 31, 2013 by 1 PM.
• Emily has already registered the team
• Final package includes:
• 50-word summary should be approximately two sentences on the project. Copy
should be clear, concise and well written.
• 1-page summary should fully outline the program and design objectives and how
the project addressed these objectives. Please indicate the Land Parcel(s) on
which your project focuses.
• Site Plan (JPEG format): Show context and include North arrow.
• Images (JPEG format): Up to 8 images of the project. Images can be represented
through renderings, drawings, CAD files, photos or any other medium that
indicate the texture of the project. Artwork should be saved to a MINIMUM size
of 8”x10” as JPGs at 300 dpi CMYK.
• Design Team Form (Microsoft Excel File): This is for office use only.
Background on the site
Currently, the stub end of Interstate 280 creates a barrier between the developing
Mission Bay neighborhood and Potrero Hill. At the same time, the Caltrain railyard —
19 acres stretching from Fourth Street to Seventh Street between King and
Townsend — forms a barrier between Mission Bay and SoMa.
The obstruction will only get worse if current plans for high-speed rail proceed,
forcing 16th Street and Mission Bay Boulevard into depressed trenches beneath the
tracks and the elevated freeway.
This competition is based on idea that this part of San Francisco can be transformed
while also generating funding for several key regionally important transit projects —
namely, the electrification of Caltrain, the extension of Caltrain into the Transbay
Terminal and as well as putting high-speed rail underground, as opposed to having it
travel at street level through Potrero Hill and Mission Bay, which would require
crossing streets to go below grade.
From the competition website
Snapshot of the area in question with the 6 land parcels identified.
HSR authority proposal for Mission Bay Blvd
Via SPUR – HSR rendering of 16th ST in
trench under HSR
History of the area
Mission Bay has a fascinating history. It used to be a real bay – shallow and filled with oysters
and other wetland life. Shipbuilding, fishing, clamming were the mainstays, followed by
butchers and then railyards. Mission Creek was used to dump refuse. From about 1860-1910,
sand dunes and other fill were used to slowly fill in the bay (from further north in the city).
Garbage dumps and earthquake fill from 1906 filled much of the remainder.
Mission Creek as it pours into Mission Bay was drawn in the 1870s. Long Bridge crosses the mouth of Mission Bay,
roughly where 3rd Street runs today. Image: Library of Congress. Info quoted from FoundSF.org
History of the area…continued.
From 1910 until today, much of Mission Bay was railyards and industrial use –
like canneries and sewage treatment plants. Mission Creek today is just part of
a complex network of natural waterways that once flowed through and under
Water history map from Oakland Museum of CA: pink is landfill, blue are creeks, and
turqoise represents wetlands (historical)
The area today and the challenges
• A community of people live in houseboats in Mission Creek
• Caltrain railyard takes up three city blocks and blocks access between SoMa and Mission Bay
• Peds, bikes, and vehicles can’t cross between 4th and Mission Bay Blvd
• Caltrain plans eletrification and new electric trains; TransBay Transit Center will extend Caltrain – but
both initiatives are not yet fully funded.
• High Speed Rail project is under development
• Pedstrian improvements and parks/open spaces are needed, and the neighborhoods need to be
connected to each other and to transit.
• The area is seismically unsafe (remember the fill?)
• Parts of the area today are being developed at a fast pace – UCSF’s new biomedical campus is being
built. People have expressed concerns that some of the last open space in San Francisco is being
developed into a “suburban-like” isolated yet expensive island of medical and academic facilities,
offices, and unaffordable new condo developments, which will not be connected to surrounding
Photo of mission creek houseboats by dylan bigby
Mission Creek today is still a valuable wildlife refuge and is less polluted
than it once was. Photo by Ginny Stearns
Highway removal in urban areas: inspiration.
Cheonggyecheon stream todayCheonggyecheon “stream” in Seoul is an
elevated highway (1970s)
-stream was polluted and channelized (like LA today). Was seen as symbol of poverty and
filth, like an open sewer with shanties along its banks. In the early 2000s, the stream was
restored, the highway removed (and partially replaced by a BRT system), and a popular
Highway removal in the US: inspiration
• Reduce vehicle miles traveled (improve air quality, safer for pedestrians and cyclists; lower carbon
• Reduce noise pollution and “eyesores” in neighborhoods
• Catalytic effects (economic development, less crime, more attractive, etc.)
• Highway removals projects can be most successful when part of an overall plan with long term goals by
the city, neighborhood and society about what they want their city to look like and how it should work. (ie:
Vancouver’s “Living First” planExamples in SF include: Embarcadero freeway and the Central Freeway
near Octavia (Hayes Valley).
• In Hayes Valley, a portion of the central freeway was removed after earthquake damage – a surface level
boulevard now links to the 101. Positive benefits included a new park, a redesigned boulevard with bike
lanes, street trees, and landscaping (Octavia Blvd), a boom in local businesses and cafes, decreased
crime and increased attractiveness to business, space for new housing to be built. Interestingly, overall
traffic in the corridor decreased. However, there are still challenges to improving traffic flow and multi-
Old elevated Embarcadero freeway in SF and today’s version…