February 26, 2008
Property Supervisor Rights Prevail At The Flower Mart
"Relenting to City Hall pressure, the Academy of Art University appears ready to pull out of a controversial plan to buy the San Francisco Flower Mart, potentially an 11th-hour reprieve in a deal critics felt would have destroyed the local landmark."
"[A] quashed deal would be a blow to the owners, who have been trying for years to cash out of the business. In 2005, the San Francisco Flower Growers Association accepted an offer to sell its portion of the property to a Virginia housing developer for a reported $18 million. That transaction fell through." (Academy of Art near deal on saving Flower Mart)
∙ Rose Sellers Still Selling [SocketSite 8/05]
First Published: February 26, 2008 7:42 AM
Comments from "Plugged In" Readers
The "critics" should be forced to buy the property for $18M at which point they could do with it as they please. Screwing with land use after the fact is a complete joke and dangerous precedent. Wonder if any of our esteemed supervisors have every heard of Half Moon bay?
Half Moon Bay grapples with $36.8 million judgment against it
Posted by: Michael at February 26, 2008 8:45 AM
If you haven't figured it out yet, Special Interest Groups dominate San Francisco.
Power to the people (that agree with my "progressive" opinion)!
Posted by: urban_angst at February 26, 2008 9:31 AM
The phenomenal SF marketing machine would have us believe this is a landmark:?
There is no shame in San Francisco.
Posted by: invented at February 26, 2008 9:39 AM
How much will Academy of Art lose by walking away from a deal that was close to closing escrow? I can't help but wonder if the Academy didn't threaten the city with litigation, and if this didn't play some role in forcing the city's hand on granting the Academy zoning concessions elsewhere.
Posted by: zzzzzzz at February 26, 2008 9:44 AM
I love the flower mart. What about all the folks who work there? Those are important jobs. Not everyone is busy inventing bio things or gizmo phones and inventing and, marketing and selling aforementioned. Isn't a flower market worth perserving?
Posted by: kathleen at February 26, 2008 10:17 AM
"Isn't a flower market worth perserving?"
Perhaps. The question is: is it worth $18 million to the city?
if so, the city can simply buy the property from the PRIVATE owners and then the city can run it.
I agree with others that it's a rediculous precedent to not allow rightful owners of a property to sell, and instead FORCE them to keep a property (at a loss).
Posted by: ex SF-er at February 26, 2008 10:21 AM
zzzzzzzz - I think you hit the nail on the head. Tha Academy is a huge operation, and I remember the Chronicle did a piece on them a few months ago. Their "dorms" are all different buildings, ranging from an old motel in the Marina district to two buildings that they've leased from my company at 2nd @ Harrison and Bluxome, respectively. It sounds as if The City is going to give them some concessions regarding the scope of their operation if they back off this purchase.
Posted by: Fishchum at February 26, 2008 10:35 AM
"It sounds as if The City is going to give them some concessions regarding the scope of their operation if they back off this purchase."
That's great for the Academy, now what about concessions to compensate the sellers for a busted deal?
Posted by: Michael at February 26, 2008 10:46 AM
Not sure what constitutes a landmark, but the flower market has been there since 1931 and a city has the responsibility of considering the larger community when looking at deals like this. As for special interest groups running SF, the Academy of Art has done a very good job of holding its own, reportedly having acquired at least 27 properties throughout SF as well as several dozen code violation over the manner in which they've been used.
There's no precedent at work here. If you want to sell your large parcel of developed land to whomever you want to be redeveloped however they'd like you best not buy it in the middle of major city.
BTW, there apparently was another offer on the table for $17 million that would've preserved the market but that deal was financed over 5 years and the owners opted for the $15 million cash offer from AofAU instead.
Posted by: keller at February 26, 2008 10:47 AM
It's a difficult issue, given that the flower market is a private operation, but a real public resource. And that the private operation is divided into a "japanese" side and an "italian" side...even though it all feels like one operation. When one wants to sell, it basically screws the other to the wall. That to me was the tragedy in the Academy of Art purchase.
I hate backroom deals, but I'm personally glad that it seems we get to keep a flower mart. Probably, ideally, the city would own the property (or at least the land) and lease it out to private operators, thereby allowing it some control in maintaining the use as long as the use is economically viable. Even with the development in the area, it seems like a good central location which should function for years to come. Though I'm by no means an expert...given that the bulk of flowers are now flown in, maybe the flower mart should actually be down by the airport.
Posted by: curmudgeon at February 26, 2008 11:00 AM
Probably "institution" would be a better term to use to describe the Flower Mart as opposed to "landmark"
The Flower Mart should stay in full operation, though unfortunately they have been offloading tenants with abandon. I am not worried about the ego of the "Academy of Art" people.
Posted by: plantguy at February 26, 2008 11:40 AM
What does "institutional uses" mean with regard to the articles' mention of a ban thereof?
I too am concerned with the city meddling in private businesses. If the flower mart was so 'worthy' of keeping, why is it running at a loss to the owners? Why aren't there other private business rushing to buy it out and keep it as "much needed" (= profitable) business?
Posted by: natomahead at February 26, 2008 11:48 AM
I think everyone might feel differently about what the city is doing here if it was the exception and not, what appears to be, the rule.
Posted by: badlydrawnbear at February 26, 2008 12:11 PM
Until the folks who have a problem with this government interference can get off their duff and start putting in the time and effort to organizat a recall and otherwise changing the make-up of our City's leadership, we'll get more of this stuff. The so-called progressives get to treat San Francisco like North Korea because they are organized, willing to put in the effort, and win at the polls.
Posted by: jamie at February 26, 2008 1:14 PM
I grew up with a guy who grew up on a flower farm in Half Moon Bay
they went two times a week to the Flower Mart
From what I understand the business is hardly viable anymore with global trade. His father still grows flowers because it is a lifestyle but my friend won't and that will be the end of that industry
Not sure what I am getting at here other than things change and the Flower Mart is not likely viable in a generation at least with regard to the local growers
Posted by: Zig at February 26, 2008 2:37 PM
for all the pundits posting here, there is a remarkable lack of understanding the development process or even basic planning and zoning procedures and land use legal frameworks:
the zoning for the Flower Mart does not currently allow housing. thus, the owners sought to sell the facility to people who wanted to speculatively take a risk that the zoning would be changed. this type of thing is a big gamble, and there is nothing askew or wrong or illegal about the fact that their gamble might not pay off and the City not change the zoning. No one was or is entitled to build housing there. You shouldn't feel sorry for either the Flower Mart or the Academy. The Academy knew the gamble and the Flower Mart just wanted to cash out. If anything, a remarkable bout of sanity and normal predictable planning process has ruled the day, which is infrequent here in SF where any developer can usually successfully propose to spot zone their property in exchange for handing out goodies.
Posted by: in the know at February 26, 2008 3:04 PM
Uh, wasn't the Academy going to use the site for its sculpture studio? As I understand it, housing was never in the picture and right up until the Supes got involved there was no zoning issue of any sort.
Posted by: zzzzzzzz at February 26, 2008 4:30 PM