For your next driving tour, I recommend The Beacon at 250 King St. in Mission Bay. I didn't see that this complex had been mentioned. One feature that stands out is the south building has a nice, large dog run. I don't recall if there is a limit on the number of dogs but my recollection is that there is not a size limit (this can be confirmed in the HOA/CCR docs).
As has been mentioned, there is great access to the bay, shopping and restaurants & nice walkability to the Ferry Market Plaza.
If you're considering renting the property as a furnished rental when you're away, units at The Beacon command really good rents. I sold a 1-br unit to an investor client in 12/07 and the tenant was paying close to $3000/mo.
I am about to ratify on another unit at SOMAGrand or so I have been told by the folks there. We did some heavy negotiating. I tell you this to remind you to please take a realtor with you - one who is experienced in negotiating for new construction - so you can get some real representation and help with what to ask for in credits.
None of these complexes will accept a realtor once you have signed in without one! It's too bad but that is that way they work.
There are many other complexes not mentioned in the answers already given. Be careful of those on top of the Bay Bridge for the noise factor and the dust/dirt that comes from all the cars driving past. You can find them by going to Pacific Marketing Associates and The Mark Company websites for they are companies that sell most of the new construction in SOMA/South Beach/Mission Bay areas. Also Polaris Group markets new construction....try them as well.
I can also email you a list if you contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Elain from Trulia here (also in SF) -- happy to hear you're looking in SOMA. Great answers below, I also wanted to point out that you can set up OPEN HOUSE EMAIL ALERTS so you can plan your next visit ahead of time. Check them out here:
Agents typically upload these every week for the upcoming two weeks, so you should get emails on Thursdays, Fridays, and weekends.
And personally, I'd also recommend the South Beach Apartments. It's an older complex, but they have great service and a less corporate feel than some of the newer hi-rises.
Good luck - keep us posted if you find anything.
Here are my suggestions based on your parameters.
The Millennium Tower (301 Mission St)
-If the southern part of the financial district is neighborhoody enough, this tower is top notch.
The Infinity Towers (Two new green towers at Spear & Folsom)
-Located by the Embarcadero, these towers are in a primo location. Although the area is not as neighborhoody as the Castro, it does have some nice places to walk to nearby.
The Greenwich (Van Ness at Greenwich)
-Not in SOMA but very walkable area, with Cow Hollow and Marina Green close by.
-Remaining units may be sparse at this point but I could certainly check for you if interested.
The Brannan (229 Brannan St)
-Built in 2001. Sellers are discounting prime units right now. Overall a well-managed, desirable building in South Beach.
Those are just a few of my suggestions. I would keep in mind the following as you search these areas:
1) Have a buyer's agent. It costs you nothing and many agents (myself included) know the inside scoops about these buildings and how much you can truly get units for. Asking prices these days are soft.
2) Don't buy anything in any of these buildings unless you're going to own for at least 4 years, preferably more (that's my opinion, anyway).
3) There are many buildings in the SoMa and South Beach. However, one must be careful because some perform very well resale wise, have better HOA's, and have less problems. You'll want to stick with the best ones and avoid the buildings that are fledgling. A good agent will know these trends.
4) No matter what building you choose in SoMa or South Beach, none will provide the same level of "neighborhoody" charm that you got in the Castro. If you want that established neighborhoody feel, I would add Nob Hill and Russian Hill to the search. SoMa and South Beach can feel a little "new". Despite this, my favorite locations out of the above are the Infinity Towers and the Millennium Tower.
5) Good luck and call or email me if I can assist you further!
Head down 4th (over the bridge) and you'll hit Radiance at Mission Bay. Nice units, they're doing deals and there are balconies or patios available.
This area is great for dog owners due to the creek-side esplanade and the park that run behind Berry.
Also head over to Townsend, between Embarcadero & 2nd or so. There are several buildings there that are worth evaluating.
South Beach is also a good option; it's closer to the heart of downtown San Francisco. The Infinity has been selling for a while (Folsom & Spear).
For dogs, the advantage to Mission Bay & South Beach is that you're near the Embarcadero or parks. South of Market is a different proposition.
You have the right idea--driving through the neighborhoods & seeing buildings is a great start. There are a lot more suggestions we could all provide, but starting in Mission Bay & South Beach is excellent. The weather is also most hospitable in those areas.
Once you get a sense for areas you like, you can deal with the other specifics such as selling prices, HOA dues amount, etc.
Pacific Union Real Estate
There are a number of buildings available and many are discounting because they're not selling very well. I'm happy to make some suggestions if you contact me directly.
I would also suggest that in terms of investment value you get a lot more bang for your buck in the smaller buildings, they're much easier to sell down the road, and the HOA fees are much lower.
Happy to pursue either/both types of properties, and make sure to ask about our Buyer's program.
Lance King/Managing Broker