Number 34: 50 California Street, Financial District, San Francisco


50 California Street is tied as the 34th-tallest building in the Bay Area planned or built. The 1972-built tower in San Francisco’s Financial District shares the same height as 555 Mission Street, 487 feet above street level. Originally known as the Union Bank Building, its distinctively ubiquitous modernist design from the Welton Becket architecture firm was part of a larger moment in the city’s development history of rapid economic growth and local anxieties about the ‘Manhattanization’ of the West Coast metropolis.

Today’s story is part of a weekly series on SFYIMBY to count down the 52 tallest towers in the Bay Area built or planned as of January 2021.

50 California Street lobby, image courtesy Shorenstein Properties

50 California Street lobby, image courtesy Shorenstein Properties

The 37-story steel tower yields 663,490 square feet of offices from its 39,890 square foot parcel. Each occupiable floor plate offers roughly 18,500 square feet of office space serviced by 17 elevators. The property was renovated in 1997 and 2015 and currently has LEED Platinum Certification.

White pre-cast concrete columns run vertically between clear glass curtain walls to form a familiar modernist aesthetic. Welton Becket completed the project during a period of rapid redevelopment in the Bay Area. San Francisco’s skyline was filled with Becket’s One California, plus SOM’s Hartford Building and 555 California Street. 50 California opened the same year as the Transamerica Pyramid and the Bay Area Rapid Transit train system, i.e., BART.

50 California Street evening view, image by Andrew Campbell Nelson

50 California Street evening view, image by Andrew Campbell Nelson

Office employees have access to on-site bicycle parking, lockers, and valet parking. The ground-level retail condos offer a cafe, a fast-food restaurant, and a full-service banking branch. For other amenities, 50 California Street is adjacent to the four-block-long Embarcadero shopping center.

The building was developed by Haas & Haynie with Dillingham Construction as the main contractor. Shorenstein Properties now owns and manages the property.

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