There is, as of today, no “deal” to save this San Francisco institution.
By Zelda Bronstein
APRIL 22, 2015 — On Monday, April 20, Jon Schwark, a member of the one-eyed (we-can-build-our-way-out-of-the-affordability-crisis) San Francisco Bay Area Renters Federation (SFBARF), posted a broadside on the organization’s blog under the headline “SFBARF Stands Against Deceptive Ballot Box Zoning Push.”
Schwark was apparently offended by 48 hills editor Tim Redmond’s report of his Sunday encounter in Bernal Heights with Dan, a BARFer who was trying to keep people from signing the petition to put the Flower Mart initiative on the ballot in November by claiming (among other things) that if the measure passes, big-time office developers will build on Cortland Avenue. Redmond demurred: “I just don’t see even Ed Lee’s Planning Commission approving a giant highrise office building in Bernal Heights.”
Schwark told a different story: “[A]ccording to Dan,” he wrote, “the signature collector was telling people that their signature would save the San Francisco Flower Mart” by making permanent the current 40-foot height limit at the market’s present location at 6th and Brannan, thereby preventing the construction of the soaring tech tower that has been proposed for the site by the property owner, the L.A.-based REIT, Kilroy Development.
Where’s the deception? Schwark:
The Flower Market HAS ALREADY BEEN SAVED. In fact, at a public community meeting a couple of months ago I heard directly from Steve Wertheim, the head planner on Central SoMa, that the city viewed expanded development on the as site contingent on the flower market plan staying real.
Schwark fumed: “No mention was made [by the signature collector] of the plan to include space for [the Flower Mart] in the new development.”
File the above under: A Little Knowledge is a Dangerous Thing.
Yes, the city has told Kilroy that without space for the Flower Mart, its office high-rise is a non-starter.
But there is no “flower market plan.” That’s why the signature said nothing about such a plan: it doesn’t exist.
The three parties who have been negotiating the terms that would incorporate the Mart into the Kilroy project—Kilroy, the San Francisco Flower Mart Tenants Association, and the market’s new master tenant, the San Francisco Flower Mart LLC—have yet to reach an agreement.
As 48 hills has reported, the flower vendors are asking for guaranteed affordable rents, a ground floor location for the mart, and en masse relocation during construction.
The Planning Department has not been involved in the negotiations. On Monday afternoon, florist and San Francisco Small Business Commissioner Kathleen Dooley told me that the city’s planners have never offered the tenants any assistance.
On Monday afternoon I also spoke to former Board of Supervisors President Aaron Peskin, who, along with former Mayor Art Agnos, has been leading the movement to save the Flower Mart. I asked Peskin, who’s participated in the talks, where things stand. “Negotiations have progressed,” he said, “and a deal is close,” but nothing final has been approved.
If and when a deal has been reached and a contract signed by all three parties, the initiative campaign will end (the deadline for submitting signatures for validation to the city is July 6).
Until then, anyone who says that signing the petition to put the initiative on the ballot will help save the Mart is telling the truth.