Bay Area flower growers and florists who frequent the historic San Francisco Flower Mart may have caught a break this week, with a little help from the Board of Supervisors.
Supervisor Aaron Peskin introduced a resolution Tuesday urging the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission to make an unusual move: trading a piece of city-owned property in SoMa for another property owned by real estate developer Tishman Speyer in the Bayview.
The city is stepping in to mediate drama-filled negotiations between Kilroy Realty Corp., which purchased the Flower Mart’s building in 2014, and the growers and vendors who depend on the Flower Mart for survival.
“It seems like things have stalled a bit,” says Sunny Angulo, legislative aide for Peskin. “Tenants are really concerned, everybody lawyered up.”
The city hopes the property swap clears the way for the Flower Mart to move temporarily to 2000 Marin St. in the Bayview, instead of the currently proposed temporary site spanning three piers along Embarcadero. The temporary relocation is needed while Kilroy constructs 27-story office building on its current site. Once completed, the Flower Mart can move back into the ground floor.
Market growers and customers argue the temporary site needs to be in an industrial part of town that offers multiple access points for large trucks, as its current location does along Harrison Street. But Kilroy Realty Corp. argues the desired 2000 Marin St. site simply isn’t available, and that finding a suitable site in land-poor San Francisco is tough. But Mark Grisso, vice president of development for Kilroy, did tell SF Weekly that if 2000 Marin St. opens up, Kilroy would support, and fund, the move.
Birthed in 1956, the San Francisco Flower Mart is the second largest flower market in the United States, second only to the colossal one in Los Angeles. In 2014, Kilroy Realty Corp. purchased the Flower Mart. As part of a deal worked out in 2015 by Peskin and former-Mayor Art Agnos, the Flower Mart and Kilroy Realty Corp. struck an agreement guaranteeing the Flower Mart could return to the building after it’s completed, a task that could take three to five years.
As part of the tri-party agreement, Kilroy agreed to finance the temporary relocation of the Flower Mart to a new site, providing it was approved by all parties involved. And the agreement lists only one property pre-approved by the San Francisco Tenants’ Association: 2000 Marin St.
Geoff Spellberg, the lawyer for the San Francisco Market Tenants’ Association, which represents the 54 vendors that sell flowers at the flower mart, called Peskin’s resolution “a step in the right direction.”
But the idea didn’t come out of thin air: A change.org petition that SF Weekly reported on last month hit 75,000 e-signatures this week. The petition calls on Mayor Mark Farrell and the Board of Supervisors to halt the Central SoMa Plan rezoning effort, which is crucial for Kilroy’s office space development to go forward. The petition claims Kilroy Realty Corp. reneged on its agreement to temporarily move the flower mart to 2000 Marin St. with malicious motives, and claims the new “relocation scheme” is intended to push the Flower Mart out of business.
The Board of Supervisors is set to vote on the resolution next Tuesday, and if passed the official “urging” will be left up to the SFPUC to take further action. Then, the ball’s in Kilroy’s court.