280 Freeway Competition

What if 280 came down? In Spring 2013, Mayor Ed Lee announced an exploration of the potential of removing Highway 280 north of 16th Street in San Francisco. The tradition of removing freeways is not a new one for our city– two neighborhoods, the Embarcadero and Hayes Valley, have enjoyed a renaissance through freeway demolition that healed scarred communities. Submit your ideas for new possibilities for what lies beneath Highway 280.

Competition participants are invited to submit concepts for public art, buildings, landscape treatments, public amenities and infrastructure, or other urban design interventions that are made possible through the replacement of the elevated Highway 280 north of 16th Street with a surface boulevard. Suggested areas of focus are the parcels of land freed up by this transformation, especially along the western edge of Mission Bay, as well as the open space/landscape opportunities at the west end of Mission Creek to unify both sides of the creek. Entrants are welcome to submit concepts that explore any aspect of the transformative opportunities introduced by the freeway removal.

Competition Details

  • Open to artists, academics, architects, planners, landscape architects and designers
  • There is no entry fee
  • $10,000 in prizes to be awarded

Entrants are asked to submit project plans for either ONE or ALL of the Land Parcels indicated on the Site Map; if choosing to focus solely on one land parcel, you may select any of the six. If you choose to focus on all land parcels, you must submit project plans for all six land parcels.


The deadline for entries is July 31, 2013 at 1:00 pm

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Submit a project


Site Map

Planning Department Resources

Competition Background

After the Embarcadero and Central Freeways were severely damaged in the Loma Prieta earthquake, San Francisco took a tragic situation and turned it into a great urban planning success story: the creation of the Embarcadero and Octavia Boulevards. Taking down these freeways and replacing them with surface boulevards created enormous positive land use changes in the surrounding neighborhoods. This enabled San Francisco to reconnect with its waterfront and supported the creation of the Market and Octavia Neighborhood Plan.

San Francisco now has another opportunity to take down a freeway while creating major transportation infrastructure improvements in an important area of the city. Currently, the stub end of Interstate 280 creates a barrier between the developing Mission Bay neighborhood and Potrero Hill. At the same time, the Caltrain railyard — 19 acres stretching from Fourth Street to Seventh Street between King and Townsend — forms a barrier between Mission Bay and SoMa. The obstruction will only get worse if current plans for high-speed rail proceed, forcing 16th Street and Mission Bay Boulevard into depressed trenches beneath the tracks and the elevated freeway.

This competition is based on idea that this part of San Francisco can be transformed while also generating funding for several key regionally important transit projects — namely, the electrification of Caltrain, the extension of Caltrain into the Transbay Terminal and as well as putting high-speed rail underground, as opposed to having it travel at street level through Potrero Hill and Mission Bay, which would require crossing streets to go below grade.


Allison Arieff, New York Times Opinionator columnist / SPUR Urbanist Editor
Allison Arieff is Editor/Content Strategist for the urban planning and policy think tank, SPUR, and is a contributing columnist to the New York Times. The former editor in chief of Dwell magazine, she is co-author of the books Prefab and Trailer Travel: A Visual History of Mobile America.

Alma Du Solier, Principal, Landscape Design, AECOM
Alma Du Solier is an architect and landscape architect with a Master in Landscape Architecture from the University of California, Berkeley and a Bachelor in Architecture from ITESM Campus Monterrey (Mexico). Alma is a Principal in the San Francisco Landscape Design Studio of AECOM (formerly EDAW). Since joining AECOM in 2003, Alma has been lead designer for a wide range of projects from urban parks and waterfront projects, to large development communities, covering the entire spectrum of tasks, from concept and landscape master planning to detailed construction documentation and implementation. Alma employs a unique multidisciplinary design approach due to her strong background in both landscape design and architecture, and her interest on collaboration and on the meaningful integration of design with site and culture.

Walter Hood, Founder, Hood Design
Walter Hood is an Oakland, California based environmental designer, artist and educator. He is a professor at the University of California, Berkeley’s Landscape Architecture and Environmental Design Department, which he chaired from 1998 to 2002. His studio practice, Hood Design, has been engaged in environmental design, urban design, art installations, and research commissions since 1992.

Bill Roger, Senior Vice President and Director of Healthcare Design, HOK
For more than 28 years, Bill has been responsible for the management and implementation of facility strategic planning, master planning, design and capital project management for complex, highly technical projects. One highlight in Bill’s extensive career is the Master Plan, Programming, and leadership for the replacement of Los Angeles County +USC Medical Center. He is extremely skillful in guiding clients and projects through complex issues and differing opinions, and ultimately organizing it into cohesive solution endorsed by all.


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Image Credits: Top: Courtesy San Francisco Planning Department / Middle (Competition Background image): © BOB CAMPBELL/San Francisco Chronicle/Corbis