Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The New SFPUC EcoPalace Arises

The on-again, off-again plans to construct an expensive, ecologically advanced new headquarters for the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission are not only on-again, but the building is slated to be completed by next summer.

According to Dan Schreiber at the SF Examiner: "The cost to build the project is estimated at $140 million, but the bill rises to $205 million once design services and things such as furniture are added to the mix. Planners had estimated the cost at $190 million."

The original plans were scrapped and construction was suspended in 2008 because the newly appointed SFPUC director Ed Harrington decided that it was another one of Gavin Newsom's outrageously expensive pie-in-the-sky initiatives and he temporarily pulled the plug. Harrington never stated that publicly, since he'd just been appointed to the position by Newsom, but it was fairly obvious when reading between the lines.

The escalating expensive design was "modified" after plenty of lobbying for the project to continue, including Chronicle architecural critic John King back in 2008 (click here).

The pagoda style finish at the corner of Golden Gate and Polk above is rather stylish, but creating a completely transparent, 13-story glass building for a rich, powerful city department that has flourished on backroom deals for decades seems like something of an architectural oxymoron. It's a good bet there will be serious curtain hanging within a year of its being inhabited.

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