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City land swap could give Flower Mart new home, boost affordable housing project

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A pedestrian crosses Brannan Street near Bechelli’s Flower Market Cafe at the San Francisco Flower Mart. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

A proposed land swap deal between a developer and The City could provide the Flower Mart with a place to relocate temporarily, allow for a Central SoMa affordable housing development with a public park and provide more space for the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission.

The deal moved closer to becoming a reality Wednesday with approval by the Board of Supervisors Government Audit and Oversight Committee.

The plans calls for the SFPUC to swap its 1.37-acre Central SoMa parcel at 639 Bryant St. with a Tishman Speyer-owned 8-acre parcel at 2000 Marin St., the former location of the Hearst Corporation’s printing facility. Tishman Speyer purchased the Bayview site in 2015.

Both sites are valued at about $63 million.

Tishman Speyer wants the Bryant Street parcel as part of a larger project proposed in the Central SoMa development plan, which is pending city approval. The project spans 4.5 acres and includes a 1-acre public park, three office buildings totalling 922,000 square feet and 72 affordable housing units.

“This is a project we’ve been working on since 2012, and we first approached the PUC in 2014 when we saw the opportunity to buy 2000 Marin and do the swap,” Henry Sears, of Tishman Speyer, told the SFPUC last week.

Supervisor Aaron Peskin supports the “complex” deal and said that “there is an interesting twist and that twist is, it will be an ideal location for the temporary relocation of San Francisco’s beloved Flower Market.” Peskin has long fought to preserve the Flower Mart in San Francisco’s South of Market neighborhood.

Kilroy Realty Corp. which owns the location of the wholesale flower market at Sixth and Brannan streets, would relocate the Flower Mart to 2000 Marin St. while it constructs a mixed-retail and office space project that would include new space for the Flower Mart to return to by 2022.

Vance Yoshida, president of the Flower Mart, praised the deal. “We’ve had a very difficult time finding a location in which the flower market can relocate in the interim while the new flower market is being built,” Yoshida said. “This location actually provides a great place in which it is easily accessible by our customers and also a great a location for tenants to be sustainable during the relocation.”

The deal is not final and will require subsequent approvals. One unknown is the level of contamination of the property, which The City will determine through additional soil analysis expected by the end of this year and would then negotiate a cleanup plan with the develper.

“2000 Marin served as a secondary metals plant from 1939 to 1986, then as a printing facility for the San Francisco Chronicle, and has soil contamination with certain hazardous heavy metals stemming from these former uses,” said a SFPUC memo.

The SFPUC currently uses the Bryant site for as a warehouse and parking lot for heavy equipment, construction staging as well as for the operation of a hydrogen peroxide tank that drips the chemical into the sewers to combat odors in the downtown area. The tank would be relocated on site or to a nearby site.

The full board will vote on the deal next week.

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