Forget bottles, cans and cardboard boxes. Recology, the Bay Area solid-waste hauler, is getting into a new line of recycling: land.
The company is preparing an application to develop a mix of housing and commercial space on its 6-acre work and truck-storage yard at 900 Seventh St., a site on the edge of Showplace Square and near three fast-changing neighborhoods: Mission Bay, Potrero Hill and Central SoMa.
As proposed, the redevelopment would include 1,059 homes in four buildings and a single 400,000-square-foot structure that would probably be two-thirds manufacturing and one-third office space. There would be 90,000 square feet of open space — a half-acre park would be built on the corner of Seventh and Berry streets — along with ground-floor retail in the residential buildings. The buildings would be six to eight stories, with the exception of two 240-foot towers.
The project would require a significant rezoning of the parcel, which is designated for PDR — production, distribution and repair — and has a 58-foot height limit. Currently, housing is not allowed in the area. Office space is permitted, but only if it makes up one-third of a building’s square footage, with PDR taking up the rest.
Recology has owned the site since 1970, when the neighborhood was dominated by factories, warehouses and storage yards. Over the past decade, residential buildings like 888 Seventh St., One Henry Adams, Potrero 1010 and 855 Brannan St. have added more than 1,000 units to the neighborhood.
California College of the Arts is getting ready to start construction on a 280-unit student housing complex at 1147 Seventh St. Adobe recently moved its headquarters into a new building across the street at 100 Hooper St.
Eric Potashner, a vice president of strategic affairs for Recology, said the neighborhood has evolved enough since the rubbish removal company moved in that the current use — mostly parking for both company workers and 140 trash trucks — is no longer the best.
“The neighborhood has drastically changed over the last 48 years — in some ways we are the last man standing,” Potashner said. “We’ve got Adobe across the street. Residential up and down the street. It seemed to be the right time to look at another use for the site.”
The redevelopment would be part of a larger strategic shift for Recology, an employee-owned company made up of two divisions: Golden Gate, the group located on the Seventh Street site, serves the city’s northern precincts, including the Marina, North Beach, Chinatown downtown and the Tenderloin. The Sunset division’s site is to the south on Tunnel Road in Visitacion Valley near the Brisbane border. That site is much larger — 46 acres — and has 400 trucks, twice the number of the Golden Gate facility.
Recology intends to merge both operations at the Tunnel Road facility and invest in new recycling technologies there. No workers would be laid off.
Combining the two operations would reduce overall truck traffic, because now the Golden Gate trucks have to unload at Tunnel Road before going back to Seventh Street for the night.
“If we can consolidate that, all the drivers would be dispatched out of the Sunset office,” said Minna Tao, general manager for Recology’s Golden Gate division.
Recology has hired the architecture firm SOM to come up with a design. SOM partner Mark Schwettmann said the site now feels disjointed, with several streets dead-ending at the Recology property. Those streets would be extended, reintegrating the parcel into the surrounding street grid.
“The very first thing we all agreed would be to use this site to knit multiple neighborhoods together,” Schwettmann said. “What is important in projects like this is creating a fine balance between the character the place has today while building a new neighborhood. It won’t be a bunch of glass boxes. We will be looking for something that has texture and character and scale.”
San Francisco Planning Director John Rahaim said city planners ideally would study the proposal in the context of the Caltrain rail yard, a 19-acre area site that ends across Seventh Street from the Recology site. The city has been looking at putting the Caltrain terminal at Fourth and King streets underground and moving the rail yard south. The plan, which is likely to take several more years to complete, would allow more than 3 million square feet of commercial and residential development on the Caltrain yard.
“In an ideal world, I’d like to do that before we make any decisions about rezoning anybody’s property,” he said.
He also said protecting PDR is a priority. Over the past few years, Showplace Square has become a growing bastion of boutique manufacturing. Just to the south of the Recology site at 150 Hooper St., SFMade recently opened the Manufacturing Foundry, a newly constructed 50,000-square-foot building that houses an apparel pattern maker, a home-furnishing manufacturer, a distillery and a leather-goods manufacturer.
Meanwhile, to the north, the developer SKS Partners is about to start construction on One De Haro, a 130,000-square-foot mix of PDR and office space that will include Humanmade, a nonprofit offering training in modern manufacturing technologies, including computer-controlled lathes and mills, laser cutters, injection molding machines, and 3-D printers.
Both One De Haro and 150 Hooper took advantage of a 2015 rezoning that allowed office use in a PDR area so long as it doesn’t take up more than a third of the total space. The idea is that the higher office rents subsidize the lower PDR rents.
SFMade Executive Director Kate Sofis said she is open to rezoning part of the Recology property for housing, but that “no matter what, PDR needs to be an important part of any future there.
“This city needs housing and it needs jobs — particularly the kind of middle-class jobs that manufacturing and PDR support,” Sofis said. “That parcel is very key. Let’s not forget about jobs, even as we are trying to solve for housing.”
Potashner said Recology expects to spend the next two years talking to neighbors and city officials about what the best mix of uses would be.
“People have been honest with us,” Potashner said. “PDR is something they care about. Affordable housing as well. These are things we know will be part of the conversation.”
Potrero Hill Boosters President J.R. Eppler said he is open to a variety of uses on the site, including housing, but that PDR needs to be a big part of it.
“That part of the neighborhood was carved out for PDR after a lengthy planning process,” he said. “It does seem wise to honor that.”
J.K. Dineen is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: [email protected]
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