2 Henry Adams - San Francisco Design Center

Despite an offer by the owners of the San Francisco Design Center to cover up to $3 million in relocation costs for tenants which would be displaced by the conversion of the Center to general office use and leasing of much of the building to Pinterest, and Pinterest’s offer to pay displaced tenants’ first and last month’s rent to help them stay within the district, proposed legislation to either block or delay Pinterest’s move was passed by San Francisco’s Land Use and Economic Development Committee yesterday and will advance to San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors for consideration next week.

As we first reported last month, the proposed legislation introduced by Supervisor Cohen would impose interim zoning controls for the Design Center building, require a reassessment of the Showplace Square/Potrero Hill Area Plan’s policies and priorities — which currently allows for the conversion of area buildings by way of a landmark loophole — and could effectively block any move for at least 18 months.

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Comments from “Plugged-In” Readers

  1. Posted by blabla

    Good! This was not about landmark status, but rather a disingenuous exploitation of the loophole to convert PDR space to office use.

  2. Posted by The Milkshake of Despair

    Why is pinterest so dead set on this building? If they want to locate in this neighborhood then just wait to fill in the growing zyngavoid.

    • Posted by soccermom

      “We wanted a space for our business that had a real connection to people making careful meaningful curation choices – just like our users do every day.”

      ‘New digs for more clicks – Pinterest seeks industrial past with new SOMA HQ’
      -Forbes December 2014

      • Posted by Jack

        Haha, so they will occupy all of said space thereby removing all of the people making ‘meaningful curation choices.’ What a fiasco this whole thing was. Pinterest management are fools if they thought this would end well.

  3. Posted by SFJohn

    where are all the whiners from last week who agreed with Pinterest throwing out well established businesses?? Hmmm?

  4. Posted by joy

    I think that the design district needs a new place. Maybe that great North Beach area. We need to let this city grow and get cleaned up. Just make sure that it is done with the best designers and architects around. This is a one chance opportunity to make the new as wonderful and beautiful as the old. Come on SF take the chance. If you lose the tech industry you will be a failing city.

    • Posted by Futurist

      More fear mongering. We’re not about to LOSE the tech industry, joy. Get real.

      Pinterest does not make life on our planet better. It just makes certain people very rich.

      And, for the record, the Design District was once in Jackson Square, mainly at the Ice House. They moved to their current area for more space, and better costs. I hope they stay right where they are and Pinterest just goes away.

      • Posted by SFJohn

        Oh my gosh I couldn’t agree with you more!

      • Posted by RomanMoroni

        “Pinterest does not make life on our planet better. It just makes certain people very rich.”

        Pinterest should not have to make the world a better place in order to work in an office of their choosing, provided that they’re able to pay market rates. From a more realistic perspective, why should politicians arbitrarily decide that certain for-profit companies (assuming these design companies are for-profit) are entitled to certain buildings?

        • Posted by Mr. E.

          There was nothing arbitrary about the decision re: Pinterest. 2 Henry Adams is zoned for production, distribution and repair (PDR). Showplace Square, where 2 Henry Adams is located, is similarly zoned, creating a district of like businesses that are successful because they are clustered together. It’s a City policy to preserve PDR space, in large part to maintain a diversity of economic activities in the City. 2 Henry Adams would not be allowed to change its zoning, but for a provision that allows landmark buildings to change their zoning to ensure that they are properly maintained and are able to keep a tenant base.

          2 Henry Adams, however, is well maintained, and has a healthy tenant base. Thus, the reasons for allowing a zoning change were not compelling. Further, such a change would disrupt several existing businesses, and perhaps damage a successful commercial ecosystem.

          Hardly arbitrary.

        • Posted by Jack

          It’s called zoning, roman. Same reason the surviving Mitchell brother (is there one?) can’t put up a strip club next to your house.

        • Posted by RomanMoroni

          @Mr E. — thanks for the thorough explanation. However, I’d argue that SF has little need for commercial zoning of PDR in an era where businesses interact via the internet. In particular, I’m not sure that protecting furniture companies, print shops, interior designers, etc is worth the economic costs of zoning.

          @Jack — I get zoning for residential vs commercial, however it’s a little naive to think that SF city planers know best how to design/manage economic sectors. Such policies introduce economic inefficiencies and potential for corporatism.

      • Posted by flowmotion

        Ice House Alley is one of my favorite “urbanism fail” places. Surrounded by big corporations where everyone eats in the cafeteria, it’s a dead zone of loud A/C units, dumpsters, double-parked Mercedes, and people who still smoke.

        Glad the city saved the Design Center from this fate.

        • Posted by Chris

          Ice House Alley is in Jackson, Missippi, so I am not sure how that is in anyway relevant to San Francisco? Or, if you mean the Ice House where Williams-Sonoma is located in Telegraph Hill, your description still does not make much sense (there are no loud A/C units, dumpsters, or double-parked Mercedes). Also, Pinterest is not a big corporation, nor do I think its employees are known for smoking (cigarettes, anyway, though perhaps pot).

          And, no, the city did not “save” the Design Center from any fate. The legislation is still pending and would have to be approved, and even then it would be an interim (i.e. temporary) control on converting the use of the space.

      • Posted by Fishchum

        So Futurist, you’ll only support a business that “makes life on our planet better”? That has to be one of the most unreasonable and idiotic basis for support that I’ve ever read.

        • Posted by Futurist

          Calm down. No, I don’t support Pinterest period. That’s all I said.

          • Posted by san FronziScheme (formerly known as lol)

            Pinterest brings jobs, aka people. More people mean more density, traffic, and the way of life futurist thinks is what is the best for SF. Good thing we have people like that in SF to defend us from evil density.
            Apart from that, if they’re breaking any rules, kick them out. If they found a way to get around the hurdles but are still following the rules, good for them. But creating laws specifically targeted at a specific business reeks of a mix of class envy/Nimbyism.

          • Posted by Futurist

            I would prefer that the “design district” retain businesses that relate to and are actually part of “design” Pinterest isn’t.

            I’d like to see Pinterest with their billions go downtown to say 6th and Market or a similar area and infuse a ton of cash and PEOPLE into that area. That’s being responsible and making life better.

  5. Posted by moto mayhem

    what a waste of time and money.

  6. Posted by SFredtape

    Oh no! Make sure we protect the design show rooms for millionaires who can afford to “shop” there.

  7. Posted by arch

    I am surprised the Design District did not move to Oakland/Emeryville years ago. They have the space and the warehouses and the lower rents. Chicago has the Merchandise Mart, and Los Angeles has the Pacific Design Center, and if we want something similar someone should have built it by now.

    • Posted by Anon

      what do you mean, arch? we have it and it is the Design District. It is not all housed in one building, and that’s fine. Honestly what are you getting at? must everything be mall-like?

  8. Posted by arch

    Ever been to NeoCon or Westweek? There is nothing mall like about structures who were built for design professionals to conduct business. We do not have anything like the Merchandise Mart or the PDC and the Bay Area is overdue for someone to build it. Many of the Bay Area vendors I use (stone, cabinetry, custom light fixtures, door hardware, tile, etc. etc.) all relocated to the East Bay over 10 years ago because of space requirements.

    Still, again and again I find myself going to Los Angeles to their ENORMOUS design district (Robertson and La Cienega, west Melrose and the Pacific Design Center, as this concentrated area has more showrooms than any other city in North America. San Francisco just does not have the space for such a neighborhood.

    • Posted by modernedwardian

      we used to have a great design building on market street. it is now twitters office and closed years ago as a design mart when los angeles, las vegas, and dallas , and events like neocon and westweek, grew as design hubs/convention destinations.

      the current district works quite well but really is small compared to the amount of wealth in the bay area – though not necessarily population.

      and while these businesses do need density and proximity to really prosper and a surprising number of people actually want to sit in a chair or read under a light before they buy them, too many of the bay areas wealthy follow pretty suburban and traditional tastes to support anything like the PDC (or are more then happy to pay you to go for them). i’d love to see a bigger design center and better convention type events; i’m not expecting them in my lifetime in SF.

  9. Posted by flowmotion

    Chicago’s Merchandise Mart is rapidly being turned into tech offices as well.

    • Posted by Ron

      I wonder how many of the commenters on this board have actually gone into that particular building and researched what stores are in there, how they feel about getting paid out to move, and what is really going on with this political move by Cohen. The over/under is at 1.5 of the 20 commenters….

      • Posted by anon

        Not sure why that should matter. Rules shouldn’t be set by cronies that “know the people” in specific buildings.

      • Posted by SFredtape

        I agree on the thought of if people even actually know what the tenets of the Design Center even are. Cohen and supporters are acting like these are some small mom-and-pop shops that are barely making it by. Which, anyone who has been there, knows that’s so far from the truth.

  10. Posted by tj

    This situation seems to be an extension of what has become a common thread among technology companies – to find economic opportunities by flaunting conventional regulatory processes: AirBNB avoiding accommodation regulation, taxes and lease laws, Uber’s belief that an app-driven systems exempts them from being considered a public conveyance, Steve Job’s utter disregard for preservation ethics, Amazon’s behavior as the Walmart of the internet, and here Pintarest flaunting zoning regulation.

    I am glad that the Land Use/Economic Committee finally had the balls to stand up to one of these companies and realize that regulations and regulatory law which have evolved over time for a myriad of reasons should apply to all and should not be bent at the whim of technology companies.

    It really is not any different this time.

    • Posted by san FronziScheme (formerly known as lol)

      The reason you are able to freely type this message on a personal computer from your home/work and without paying the website for access is because someone someday decided to test some limits that had been set by people before him. Being against progress and using all this incredible technology to express it is deeply ironical.

    • Posted by badlydrawnbear

      While I take your points, and they are certainly valid, there is an argument to be made that services like Uber and Air BNB actually expose how our regulatory system has calcified and is out of woefully out of date.

      Uber has risen because dealing with the old taxi system of dispatchers and medallioned taxi’s that provided poor service to many neighborhoods and resident needed to be radically altered.

      Air BNB has succeeded because it has provided low cost space in areas of the city that visitors want to stay in and get a true flavor of the life in SF. Many potential visitors do not want to stay in high cost, tourist trap hotels/motels at Fisherman’s Wharf. They want to stay in an area that feels like the ‘real’ SF.

      Obviously there are problems with these services that should (and will be addressed). However, these ‘disruptive’ apps are doing a great job at pointing out the long overdue and much needed revamping of the regulatory state for many goods and services that has not adapted to the technological revolution of the last 25 years.

      The regulatory system should be there to protect vulnerable consumers, not to help an entrenched system fend of challenges to their market dominance.

  11. Posted by SF Developer

    There is a plethora of available space in this area that is attractive to tech tenants for the reasons stated; however, these buildings are zoned PDR, therefore, folks are seeking loopholes to convert to office use. Frankly, PDR uses above the groundfloor is unattractive for PDR users.

    I fully support a diversity of business types within neighborhoods, that’s what makes San Francisco unique and the kernal of its economic innovation engine. The solution is, much like having inclusionary affordable housing mixed with market rate, to rezone these types of PDR buildings permitting office uses above a certain floor and permanently requiring arts/PDR uses on the lower floor(s), eliminating all loopholes. It will free up many thousands of SF of underutilized upper story space, will help grow the economy, protect permanently PDR/arts uses and eliminate predatory practices.

    • Posted by parklife

      That just makes way too much sense. Therefore, it will not be considered.

  12. Posted by J

    @TJ — Yeah, we finally stood up to capitalism! Woo-hoo! Don’t we dare give a rapidly growing tech company any office space! Godspeed San Francisco socialism! A win for socialists everywhere! Say hi to all your socialist friends for me…This has nothing to do with “regulation”, it’s just more NIMBY BS.

    • Posted by Futurist

      No, it actually has to do with appropriateness, location and current uses. Pinterest can go elsewhere.

    • Posted by tj

      The essence of government involvement in a free market economy is to ensure that there is a level playing field for all. Allowing some firms to be regulated and some to exist unregulated is in fact a classic feature of third-world economies.

  13. Posted by tj

    Its not a matter of being anti-technology or against progress (whatever that means); it is simply an issue of fairness. Regulations have come to exist over time for a myriad of reasons; the process by which they are enacted relies on public participation. Once enacted by a community they are applicable to all members of the community. Waving a “new technology” card that exempts certain organizations from abiding by these regulations creates a two tiered system that is bound to have numerous problems – Uber’s liability issues and Air BNB’s tax avoidance being perhaps the best examples.

    The solution is to reexamine and update the regulatory framework, and then ensure that the updated regulations are applicable to all, regardless of what technological platform is being used.

    • Posted by Chris

      However you may feel about the issue, there was nothing unfair, illegal, or unethical occurring. The law AS WRITTEN allowed for this type of conversion. You may call it a “loophole,” but when the law allows something, then it is legal. The very fact that Supervisor Cohen has to propose new legislation to temporarily (hint, that is what “interim” means) prevent a conversion of the use of the building shows that such a conversion is in fact legal–you only have to pass legislation to make something illegal, if it is in fact legal in the first place.

      So, let’s drop all the straw man arguments and sideshows and get back to the facts. If you want to argue that it is not good public policy to allow the Design Center to be converted to tech space, fine, that is at least a valid argument (that people can agree or disagree with), but all this nonsense that somehow Pinterest was trying to evade regulations is just that–crap. Pinterest was trying to use the law as written to its advantage, which is perfectly legal.

    • Posted by J

      This has nothing to do with favoring certain companies over others. It is just more of the same NIMBY attitude that has resulted in SF’s housing/affordability crisis in the first place.

  14. Posted by atoak

    I don’t see the point in keeping the Design center where it is… it would be in their best interest to move to a new building with lower rents and PARKING. Like the Merch mart in Chicago and the PDC in LA, those are self contained meccas of design. They’re awesome!!

    As is the norm of SF, parking in SOMA is not easy nor is it safe for consumers of the showrooms. It’s a sprawling neighborhood of design showrooms spread out across a couple blocks. I’ve come close a few times to accidentally hitting people wandering blindly into the middle of the street (who are clearly interior designers) when I find myself driving through that area. It would be awesome for Oakland (or somewhere) to invest in building a new massive design center which would bring gobs of revenue to their city… Just sayin’

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