Development applications have been filed for two undeveloped sites in the heart of San Francisco’s Financial District. Shorenstein Co. has filed applications to build office structures on both sites – the only two available plots in the historic square mile.

The company hoping to build a five-story structure at Pine and Kearny streets that would compliment rather than dwarf the neighboring St. Mary’s Square Park. It also proposes a 19-story office tower at 350 Bush St., which incorporates the San Francisco Mining Exchange Building, a run-down, 77-year-old city landmark. The building would become a galleria of shops and restaurants that would double as the entry to the office tower.

The five-story structure would be located at 500 Pine St., across Kearny from the Shorenstein Co.-owned Bank of America Tower. Walter Shorenstein, father of current owner Douglas Shorenstein, proposed a 14-story highrise for 500 Pine St. in the late 1970s that would have cast a shadow on tiny St. Mary’s Square Park, which with Portsmouth Square are Chinatown’s only parks. The administration of then-Mayor Dianne Feinstein rejected that idea.

The second site, a block away, is co-owned by the Shorenstein Co. with the Swig Estate of Fairmont Hotel fame. A previously proposed 27-story tower there would have demolished the Greco-Roman styled Mining Exchange and also blocked sunlight from St. Mary’s Square.

The proposals, although rejected, prompted voters to pass Proposition K, the park shadow initiative that bans new construction from blocking sunlight from public open spaces. Further, at urging of the Landmarks Preservation Advisory Board and the Planning Commission, the Board of Supervisors later declared the Mining Exchange an official city landmark.

The same issues exist as when the Walter Shorenstein was running the show, but son Douglas has expressed confidence that the 350 Bush St. proposal can survive any questions about shadows on St. Mary’s Square. The shadow would be a minor one of only 500 square feet, gone by 9:30 a.m., and noticeable only for 30 to 50 minutes during September and March, according to Shorenstein Co.

Though that would still technically violate The City’s park shadow ban, Shorenstein Co. is proposing to add some 4,500 square feet to the little park by landscaping the roof of the company’s new five-story building, and deeding the roof to The City as new public space. As another tradeoff, because the new 350 Bush tower would reach Pine Street, developers propose to demolish four buildings including a McDonald’s franchise and the now-empty Temple Hotel.

The hurdles don’t stop there. Before the city grants Shorenstein permission to build, the Landmarks Preservation Advisory Board must approve alterations to the landmark Mining Exchange, the Recreation and Park Commission must approve the means of compensating for new shadows on St. Mary’s Square, and the Planning Commission must approve the demolitions, the design of the two new buildings and the allotments from annual limits of square footage.

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