While negotiations with developer continue, advocates will start collecting signatures for a measure that would block the entire office project
By Zelda Bronstein
MARCH 10, 2015 – On Thursday, members of the “Save the Flower Mart” coalition will begin collecting signatures on a petition to place a measure on the November 2015 ballot that would preserve the current zoning at Fifth and Brannan — and thereby prohibit the high-rise, tech office development that Kilroy Realty wants to build on the site.
Last summer, a poll of likely voters found that saving the Flower Mart was supported by 78% of the respondents.
That’s a powerful political statement – and while the negotiations continue, Flower Mart supporters haven’t reached a final deal with Kilroy and are preparing to take the issue to the ballot if their demands aren’t met.
Since late January, the newly formed San Francisco Flower Mart Tenants Association has been negotiating with Kilroy and the San Francisco Flower Mart LLC, the master tenant that now runs the flower market, over Kilroy’s plans to incorporate a new mart in its proposed office towers.
At the time, former Board of Supervisors President Aaron Peskin, who’s helping to lead the “Save the Flower Mart” coalition, told 48 hills that if the negotiations didn’t produce agreement on major issues by the beginning of March, signature gathering would then begin.
On February 27, former Mayor Art Agnos, who’s also working with the coalition, told me: “Kilroy asked us, and we agreed, not to pursue collection of signatures while we are negotiating”—up to the March 1 deadline.
“In return,” Agnos said, “they’ve paid up to $50,000 for an attorney, Scott Miller, to represent the tenants; and any tenant who has signed a lease may renege on that lease if we come up with a better one during negotiations.”
Agnos reported that the talks have produced “some useful and modestly productive agreements,” but that the tenants continue to seek certainty on the following issues:
1. The exact amount of space on the site to be allocated to the flower market.
2. Locating the flower market on the ground floor, not next to the garage, where the ethylene gas emitted from cars would damage the flowers.
3. Guaranteed affordable rents.
“Our position,” Agnos said, “is that Kilroy will make gadzillions on this project. They should consider the Flower Mart an asset for the city as well as for themselves in creating an identity for what is an otherwise anonymous devleopment.” There’s also
4. Relocation during construction.
“All the vendors have to be kept together,” said Agnos, “so that the flower mart can maintain its identity—and Kilroy has to pay for the move.”
He added: “It’s in the realm of possibility, though not a goal, that if there’s another site owned by Kilroy that might be better than the current one, the tenants might be willing to move there.”
Last Friday, Peskin told me that in the past week, progress had been made on two fronts: Kilroy had shown the tenants a potential site to which they could relocate during construction. The developer had also presented a new version of the project that placed the flower mart on the ground floor.
That’s not the version pictured in the San Francisco Business Times’ February 27 story, “Kilroy bulks up plan for Flower Mart,” which refers to a “below ground” wholesale flower market. I’m hoping Kilroy executive Mike Grisso returns my call, so I can ask him about the latest iteration and the proposed relocation site.
Despite these advances, major issues have yet to be resolved.
Peskin said that the tenants will be meeting on Wednesday, and on Thursday “we will start collecting signatures, even if we don’t turn them in.”
The deadline for submitting petitions so that the signatures can be validated is July 6.
In the meantime, negotiations will continue. But as Agnos explained, “we can’t afford to lose the most valuable tool that we have—the initiative.”