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11.13.13 - ISSUE #18 – Fall 2013

Prowler News
PROWLER NEWSFall 2013 — For just about 15 years, Prowler Inc. has been helping developers, landowners, and public agencies in San Francisco with development and planning challenges. These clients have included SFMOMA, Emerald Fund, 888 Brannan, One Rincon Hill, Glen Park Marketplace, SF State, and the City of San Francisco.  To learn more, please check out Prowler Inc.’s redesigned website at


Location of plazaSan Francisco’s Chinatown is the nation’s densest neighborhood outside of New York. The residents, mostly elderly and families, are crammed into residential hotels and small apartments. Even the neighborhood park, Portsmouth Square is jammed. On Stockton Street, the community’s Main Street, the sidewalks are virtually impassable most of the day. But Chinatown is slated to get a new plaza, right at the heart of the neighborhood at Stockton and Washington, atop the new Chinatown subway station.

The City hired a team directed by David Prowler and including Gensler and Keyser Marston Associates to work with the SFMTA, the Mayor’s Office, other City agencies and the Chinatown Community Development Center to plan the site. The task: to produce not just a design but also a plan for funding, development and maintenance of the space.

There are a lot of possibilities: a second story park overlooking the bustle of the street, film projections and performances, public art, food kiosks, historical displays, maybe even “an open air cultural center”.

The team’s recommendations result from a series of interviews, a focus group, and three workshops in Chinatown. The form and use of the space came last, only after a thorough airing of how people would use the space.

“David’s experience, judgment, and focus led to a plan that responds to community values, meets the needs of City Hall, and can be effectively built and maintained. The Plaza will be a great place for Chinatown residents and visitors alike.”

Cindy Wu, Community Planning Manager at Chinatown Community Development Center

This has got to be one of the most complex projects per square foot ever:

— At least three integrated uses on site: subway entrance, retail or cultural use, and park. It’s got to be a good place to pass through and to hang out, for locals and tourists.

— A small site (just over 10,000 square feet) with the access, exiting, ventilation and security challenges of a subway station.

— A raft of agencies involved: not just SFMTA but also the Mayor’s Office, Planning Department, Arts Commission, Recreation and Parks Department, and the School District. Even the Department of Homeland Security has a say.

Chinatown plaza renderingThe Study will be presented to the Planning Commission, Arts Commission, Recreation and Parks Commission, and SFMTA Board. Construction of the plaza should begin in 2017.


scales-318-320Sometimes it’s hard to say what a piece of property is worth – and when the City needs a parcel for a public use and the seller is unwilling, that tricky question can wind up before a jury. That’s what happened in the case City and County of San Francisco vs. PCF Acquisitions LLC.

At the heart of the dispute, this question: how hard would it be to change the zoning of a gas station to allow a high rise – and would anyone pay a price based on that possibility? The City turned to David Prowler as an expert witness to outline for the jury just how difficult, risky, expensive, and lengthy that process is.

The testimony worked.

According to Deputy City Attorney Jim Emery:

“It was an absolute pleasure to work with David on this trial, and his presentation to the jury was both engaging and persuasive.  Based on David’s testimony, the jury rejected the property owner’s argument that a possible zoning change enhanced the value of the property.”


1. Ross Ulbricht is allegedly an international drug kingpin, the man behind “Silk Road”, an Internet drug marketplace.  He allegedly hired a hit man to take out an associate.  Where did the FBI arrest him?

A- One Rincon Hill
B- Glen Park Library
C- AT&T Park
D- S.F. Firehouse 1

See Answers below.

2. Which of these is not the name of a housing development on Upper Market Street?

A- Nema
B- Norma
C- Linea
D- The Century
E- The Allen Arms

See Answers Below

3. How many people are living on the streets of San Francisco?

A- 5,062
B- 1,084
C- 3,401
D- 7,192

See Answers below.

4. It’s expensive to live in the Bay Area. Of the 9 Bay Area counties, in which does the typical household spend the lowest percentage of its income for housing + transportation combined?

A- San Francisco
B- Alameda
C- Marin
D- San Mateo

See Answers below.

5. When the Bay Bridge opened in November 1936, the toll was 65 cents each way. How much is that in 2013 dollars?

A- $1.30
B- $7.50
C- $10.25
D- $20.00

See Answers below.


SFMOMA Construction

Well underway, construction of the SFMOMA Expansion. Click here to see a time-lapse stream of the construction cam.


David Prowler spoke along with Kelley Kahn from the City of Oakland on a panel sponsored by the Great Communities Collaborative. The topic: lining up all the players for transit-oriented development. Here’s the description of the session:

Building complex, mixed-use development projects around transit requires effective coordination across multiple parties – not just across private (developer) and public sectors, but also within the public sector. The development of just one particular site could include multiple departments within one city such as: Economic Development, Planning, Housing, Public Works, Transportation, Utilities and Building Inspection. In addition, the developer and the city agencies must partner with the transit agencies that serve the property. We will hear from leading Bay officials about their experience aligning multiple agencies to produce the best TOD results.

There to learn: Transform, Low Income Investment Fund, Greenbelt Alliance, and others.

Here’s a link to an article David wrote on this subject published by the United Nations.


To keep up, blogs are indispensible. Check out: — An urban wonk’s dream site. — Essential. — Essential, too – plus snarky. — Also kind of wonky. — What they’re thinking about at SPUR — So trees don’t have to die to bring you political news — For the latest on mastodons, memories of Harvey Milk, Zen billboards, lucky addresses, etc.


1- B. “FBI agents arrested the 29-year-old San Francisco resident — allegedly known online as Dread Pirate Roberts — on Tuesday in the science fiction section of a small branch of the San Francisco public library, where he was chatting online.” Associated Press

2- B. Norma.

3- C. 3,401 According to the City’s June 2013 Homeless Count. That’s way too many. To be part of the solution, consider a donation to HPP, the Homeless Prenatal Program.

4- A. San Francisco. See San Francisco Chronicle article.

5- D. A whopping $20.00.

02.26.13 - ISSUE #17 – Spring 2013

Prowler News
Prowler Inc. is celebrating 14 years of service to public agencies, landowners, developers and institutions.

Please take a look at this review of recent accomplishments, take the quiz, and visit the blog.



On behalf of SFMOMA, Webcor is completing the construction of the firehouse on Folsom Street between Fifth and Sixth Streets.

SFMOMAThe new facility, designed and built to the City’s specifications, will replace Firehouse 1 on the site of the future SFMOMA Expansion.

The land swap between SFMOMA and the City went into effect in mid-February. Construction of the new museum will begin this summer.

Prowler assisted SFMOMA by providing community and government relations services.

Here’s what Greg Johnson, Director of the SFMOMA Expansion Project said about David’s role:

“David is among the handful of team members whose work led to the approvals of our expansion and the firehouse. We really relied on his judgment, relationships, and experience every step of the way.”

UCSF Mission Bay

ucsfMayor Ed Lee and UCSF Chancellor Susan Desmond-Hellmann joined a handful of invited guests at a celebration of the 10th anniversary of the opening of Genentech Hall, the first building built in Mission Bay. The new 43-acre biomedical research campus and the Benioff Childrens Hospital (under construction) will ensure that UCSF remains one of the top spots in the world for medical advances and their applications. David Prowler was the Mayor’s Project Manager for the creation of Mission Bay.

888 Brannan Street

This historic battery factory is coming back to life as the new home of Airbnb. Prowler advised the owner, SKS, on Planning approvals for the conversion.


brannan-sSan Francisco Chinatown: A Guide to Its History & Architecture by Philip Choy

— A close up look at how Chinatown came to be, from the birth of the City at Portsmouth Square to the “veritable fairy palaces filled with the choicest treasures of the Orient” that saved the community from relocation to Hunters Point in 1906, to the International Hotel and beyond.


sfmtaEd Reiskin, Director of Transportation, SF Municipal Transportation Agency

“Outstanding consultant team delivering a great process and a great outcome”

A team of consultants directed by David Prowler recently completed a report called SFMTA’s Real Estate Vision for the 21st Century.

It’s a blueprint for addressing the real estate challenges confronting our transportation system:

– To meet growing demand, the passenger fleet will grow about 20% by 2030, with some vehicle types doubling;

– Some facilities are obsolete and seismically vulnerable. For example, the base for repairing overhead lines is in an 1893- era unreinforced masonry building;

– The entire system of maintaining and parking vehicles could be more efficient, enabling operating savings, better working conditions, and better service.

In addition, SFMTA has the chance to offer selected sites for development, providing revenue to address facilities needs and to help meet City smart growth goals.

The SFMTA Board accepted the report at its meeting of January 29. No decisions have been made regarding report implemetation.

The report results from collaboration between the consultants, including Prowler Inc., Parsons Brinckerhoff, Gensler, Keyser Marston Associates, and Vital Environments and the staff of SFMTA. We held 8 workshops, toured SFMTA facilities and interviewed line staff, and conducted a survey of sister agencies to learn how they do things. We held briefings with members of the Board of Supervisors and their staffs, the SFMTA Citizens Advisory Committee, and SPUR.

Here is the link that leads to the Vision Report. Some of the key recommendations:

– Increasing flexibility by accommodating longer buses everywhere and adding electric lines capacity to the Flynn Yard;

– Consolidating storage, paint and body repair, and the historic fleet;

– Increasing energy and water sustainability;

– Addressing obsolescence and vulnerability of Presidio and Potrero facilities in partnership with private developers;

– Offering the Upper Yard at Balboa Station to the Mayor’s Office of Housing;

The report recommends implementation measures including financing sources.


You ought to check out the blog,

JK Dineen of the San Francisco Business Times posted on Facebook, “ I love David Prowler’s blog”. Posts concern urbanism and design and have recently touched on the past lives of Rockefeller Center, the surrealist architecture of Frederick J. Keisler, broken clocks, and mastodons.


1. The Moscone Convention Center has enough Wi-Fi capacity for how many mobile devices at one time:

A- 2,500
B- 5,000
C- 7,500
D- 60,000

See Answers Below

2. Who said, “The things that spell San Francisco for me are disappearing fast” and when did he say it?

A- Jerry Garcia, 1974
B- Gavin Elster, 1958
C- Dan White, 1977
D- Emperor Josiah Norton, 1859

See Answers Below

3. Americans took 10.4 billion rides on public transit in 2011. That’s a billion more than in 2000. What was the hit song in the year that had set the previous high?

A- All Shook Up, Elvis Presley (1957)
B- The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face, Roberta Flack (1972)
C- To Sir With Love, Lulu (1967)
D- Riders in the Sky, Vaughn Monroe (1949)

See Answers below.

4. It’s expensive to live in the Bay Area. Of the 9 Bay Area counties, in which does the typical household spend the lowest percentage of its income for housing + transportation combined?

A- San Francisco
B- Alameda
C- Marin
D- San Mateo

See Answers below.

5. This was the original Fillmore Ballroom, where Bill Graham introduced the San Francisco sound to the world. What’s here now?

A- Moscone Center
B- Embarcadero Center
C- San Francisco Honda
D- Kabuki Hot Springs

See Answers below.

6. Match the number with the statistic – served by HPP (Homeless Prenatal Program) last year:

A- Families served.
B- Babie born (of which 98% were born drug-free and over 90% normal birth weight).
C- Families placed in permanent housing.
D- Clients receiving help with domestic violence.

1- 142
2- 451
3- 371
4- 3,734

See Answers below.


1- D. 60,000 conventioneers can yak on their cell phones at the same time.

2- B. Gavin Elster, a character in the film Vertigo, in the scene where he hires an unsuspecting Scottie Ferguson (James Stewart) to follow his wife, Madeleine Elster (Kim Novak).

3-A. All Shook Up, 1957.

4- A. San Francisco is the lowest cost of all the counties, at 39.5%. Households pay the highest percentage in Marin (56.3%).

5- C. San Francisco Honda, at Market and South Van Ness.

6- A-4; B-3; C-2; D-1. In addition, HPP even helped clients with 1,337 tax filings, recouping for these families, who have average monthly incomes of $930, tax returns totaling $1,872,707. David Prowler serves on the Board. To learn more or to donate, visit

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