August 6, 2013
Plan To Convert San Francisco Design Center Building Pitched
A plan to convert over two-thirds of the San Francisco Design Center building at 2 Henry Adams Street from showroom space to general office use has been pitched to Planning.
Zoned for Production, Distribution & Repair (PDR), the conversion of the building to office use is not allowed by San Francisco’s Planning Code as of right. In fact, the conversion flies in the face of a key objective of San Francisco’s Showplace Square/Potrero Hill Area Plan which seeks to preserve the supply of PDR space within the district.
Another key objective of the Showplace Square/Potrero Hill Area Plan, however, is to ensure the economic viability of historically significant buildings, providing an exception for the conversion of such buildings to office use. And as such, the owners of 2 Henry Adams are planning to seek a Landmark Designation for the building which would clear the way for its conversion.
First Published: August 6, 2013 1:30 PM
Comments from "Plugged In" Readers
Great move by the owners. Assenting to the landmark designation for their building in exchange for a complete reversal of the PDR zoning rule that totally prohibits office or residential uses in the subjectively chosen locations in the Eastern Neighborhood district.
Perhaps this will presage a wave of interest in historical preservation on the part of landlords.
On the downside, it will be one more place in the city where we will not be able to create jobs repairing typewriters, producing rotary telephones, or distributing mimeograph ink.
Posted by: soccermom at August 6, 2013 2:07 PM
Posted by: Marten at August 6, 2013 2:37 PM
That Building is Showplace Square East, right? If it is, its full up pretty much currently with showroom use. Or am I confused?
I'm all for yanking the ridiculous PDR & Industrial zoning mess from the east mission/showplace square area. It allows for toxics, explosives, noise, etc. in neighborhoods filled with kids, schools, homes, etc. Its NOT like the area behind Bayshore Blvd.
That said, there should also be some kind of protection for current tenants so they can't be ousted just to rent office space to snarky app makers from back East.
Posted by: egg_cream_of_OCD at August 6, 2013 3:45 PM
SF is getting so much less and less interesting with every new proposal..
Posted by: sf at August 6, 2013 4:03 PM
I am confused, what do typewriters, telephones, toxics, explosives have to do with the SFDC?
The San Francisco Design Center houses a bunch of commercial and home design companies, from carpet and drapery vendors to furniture and other showrooms.
Maybe you guys haven't actually been inside, but there isn't any sort of industrial use. Only the landlords probably want to get rid of it so they can make more money off internet startup rent.
Posted by: RobBob at August 6, 2013 4:10 PM
The time I was in that building was for a large company holiday party. It was really nice but I had no idea it has an alternative use. shrug.
Posted by: OMN at August 6, 2013 4:30 PM
Another opportunity for Oakland to pick up the slack. Oakland should develop a design / home furnishings district the way Brooklyn did. These showrooms need lots of space and that is getting very expensive in SF.
Posted by: AnonArch at August 6, 2013 4:59 PM
@RobBob - Great question. Here is how I understand the history and implementation of PDR.
In the late 90's, the South of Market and "Eastern Neighborhoods" began to change dramatically during the first dot com bubble. Startups willing to pay high rents for office space near downtown, and employees willing to pay high rents for cool converted loft spaces near the city center began to displace some businesses that had operated in the area for some time, along with cleaning up the neighborhood generally.
Eventually there was enough pushback from the local population for the planning department to do something to "change the dynamic." One of the outcomes of the Eastern Neighborhood Plan was to rezone what had been industrial buildings into "PDR (production, distribution, repair) buildings, with some variation of PDR types (PDR Core, PDR Buffer, PDR Design). This was an explicit effort by planning to devalue these properties such that industrial users could afford rent simply because no one else was allowed to compete with them for space.
The way the process works, the entrenched businesses in the neighborhoods obviously have a vested interest in defending the status quo. There is no one to speak at 5-10 year planning strategy meetings for new business people and residents who will not show up and need space for half a decade.
Residential and Office use are absolutely prohibited in PDR buildings. At the same time, many PDR buildings in the Eastern neighborhood are connected to transit, near services etc. and represent great candidates for office and residential space in the city. Planning is choosing to put the interest of maintaining a diverse economic base (auto paint shops, chemical distribution, etc.) over increasing the amount of housing and office space available to families and entrepreneurs.
The office conversion described here represents a step down a slippery planning slope of making exceptions to the PDR prohibition on office and retail. If this building qualifies as historic, can't others?
While I can appreciate the enthusiasm for maintaining a range of businesses in the city, I think this PDR approach is a misguided policy. I think there are a lot of other places in and near the city where better industrial space is available for less money.
We don't need to fill every inch of downtown with $2mm condos if we would start letting more space be converted to residential use in these Eastern Neighborhood areas. The point about typewriters and telephones is that we should think about a future for our city that will get the best use for the most people rather than trying to preserve an image of our past that no longer applies. Levis Strauss isn't expanding their SF production any time soon. Why shouldn't the city be welcoming new businesses who will (need office space, not industrial space) help us grow?
The answer of course, is that most people here like the city as it is and don't want it to change. The recent Portland article someone referenced from the Economist is our future.
Posted by: soccermom at August 6, 2013 5:06 PM
There are businesses that have been housed in the San Francisco Design Center for 30+ years. The design center charges ASTRONOMICAL rents that high-end wholesale furniture, lighting and rug vendors are compelled to pay to be located by similar businesses. Make no mistake, this is a community and a powerful one. We have put up with the homeless encampments, broken down RV's and snarky hipsters for many years. We will ALL move if we have to, but we won't go without a fight.
Posted by: Jasper at August 7, 2013 9:15 AM
Why should the city grant property tax benefits to these jerks. They have been very hard on their tenants in the worst economy in 100 years. Current sewage can barely handle all of the other new developments. This neighborhood often stinks. Certainly no parking already. More hand outs for politically connected elites at every one elses' expense
Posted by: HOWARD at August 14, 2013 1:47 PM
UPDATE: As expected, the owners of 2 Henry Adams have formally filed a request to landmark the building.
Posted by: SocketSite at January 9, 2014 6:32 PM