Turn the Flower Mart into tech offices? Say it’s not so
By Zelda Bronstein : 43hillsonline – excerpt
The Flower Mart, a beloved San Francisco institution, is in danger of falling victim to the City Hall-stoked tech real estate boom.
The wholesale market for flowers, a staple for local florists at Sixth and Brannan since 1956 that Martha Stewart once called the “best flower market in the country,” could soon be bought by a real-estate developer, meaning the tenants may face eviction since the property is far more valuable if it’s turned into office space.
Although the headline in the July 25 Chronicle—“Developer acquires S.F. Flower Mart”— suggested that the market is doomed, the Mart can still be saved, and with it a big piece of the city’s old, industrial, blue-collar base.
But that will take a prompt and vigorous show of public support and political muscle.
The beginning of a campaign to save the Flower Mart was on view this week, as Mart tenants, joined by florists, flower market enthusiasts and advocates of an inclusive San Francisco, gathered for a noontime “Save the Flower Mart” press conference and rally in Repetto’s Nursery at the site.
Organized by Mart tenant Patrick McCann of Greenworks, the rally featured an impressive array of speakers: tenants David Repetto of Repetto’s Nursery, “Mama” Lee of SoMa Flowers, and Lupe Rico of Lassen Ranch; former State Senator Quentin Kopp; former Mayor Art Agnos; former Board of Supervisors President Aaron Peskin; District 6 Supervisor Jane Kim; Small Business Commissioner and florist Kathleen Dooley; and the grand old man of the city’s flower-selling industry, the proprietor of the “I. Magnin” flower stand, 92-year-old Albert Nalbandian.
ix years ago, then-Board of Supervisors President Peskin sank the Academy of Art’s attempt to buy the Flower Mart and turn it into sculpture studios.
Some of the Mart’s 100 tenants approached him and Agnos after the Los Angeles-based Kilroy Realty Corporation announced on July 11 that it had “executed a merger agreement to acquire all the outstanding shares” of the San Francisco Flower Growers Association, one of the three firms that own portions of the Mart site…
According to McCann, what’s at stake is not just the 60 locally owned businesses that lease from the SFFGA but also the thousands of living-wage jobs provided by the growers, shippers, and truck drivers who supply our region’s 46,000 florists. The Flower Mart is one of only five such markets in the U.S. In most other places, florists have to drive around from small wholesaler to small wholesaler…
Peskin also noted that the Kilroy project “does not fit the current zoning.”
No kidding. For starters, the SALI (Service/Arts/Light Industrial) District prohibits offices. In addition, the proposed Floor Area Ratio (FAR) exceeds the allowed maximum, and the proposed 160-foot-tall building exceeds the current 40-55 foot height limit.
But like the many other big developers salivating over SoMa’s industrial lands, Kilroy is looking beyond the current zoning to the relaxed standards of the forthcoming Central SoMa Plan. As is their wont, the city’s planners have evaluated Kilroy’s proposal with respect to both current standards and to proposed zoning—in this case, proposals that won’t come before the Planning Commission, much less the Board of Supervisors, before next year…
At the rally, Supervisor Kim announced that at the September 9th Board meeting, she would be proposing that interim controls that would prohibit conversions from Production, Distribution and Repair (PDR), i.e., light industry, to office or residential during the time the Central SoMa Plan is under deliberation and encourage the Planning Department “to work with the developer to ensure the vibrancy of the Flower Mart.”
That’s a step in the right direction… (more)