|Sightglass Coffee Bar/Courtesy SFGate|
John King is the urban design critic of the San Francisco Chronicle and author of the book "Cityscapes: San Francisco and Its Buildings" (Heyday, 2011)
Lands End Lookout. Yes, it's aiming for LEED-Gold — but the real reason to see this small building by EHDD is that it's the best new building in San Francisco, a tough jewel perched above the Sutro Baths with concrete walls on the north and south and clear glass in-between. You drive west on Geary Boulevard head up Point Lobos Avenue, hit the crest and then, as you sweep down toward the ocean, the center commands a cliff with see-through splendor.
Must-see historic building:
Not far from the Moscone is Montgomery Street, the heart of the traditional Financial District. Pop into the Russ Building at 235 Montgomery and 111 Sutter Street just off Montgomery -- two sumptuous 1920s towers, with lobbies to match. For extra credit, detour down to the Stock Exchange Tower at 155 Sansome. The lobby is the most jazz-age-vivid of all, and the City Club upstairs is worth a quick look as well.
Drinking, dining, and shopping:
For a thoroughly comfortable bar stop by House of Shields, 39 New Montgomery: it has been there since 1908 and a good thing too. Coffee is one of San Francisco's passions, and two spots in the vicinity of the Moscone worth seeking out are is Coffee Bar at 101 Montgomery St. — an offshoot of a Mission District techhie hub, an interesting example of cross-cultural migration — and Sightglass, 270 7th St. between Howard and Folsom. The latter is a bit of a walk but worth it for the adventurously restored tri-level interior. The coffee's great as well, though laughably expensive. Finally, shopping — William Stout Books in Jackson Square should not be missed. There's no architecture bookstore like it in the country, and we're lucky to have it here. 804 Montgomery Street, two blocks north of the Transamerica Pyramid.
Best Public Parks/spaces:
There are an abundance near the Moscone, and the coolest is hard to find: the 11th floor terrace above Market Street in the One Kearny building which, oddly, is reached from Geary Street (just off Kearny). You have to sign in, but use your right as a member of the public (this is what's known as a "privately owned public space," required in all new downtown commercial buildings). Easier to find? Near Mission and Second there are a number of such spaces, with a glassed-in public room at the corner (and Peet's coffee at the edge) and two handsome plazas facing off just to the east.
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