Mint Plaza proposal worries Nordstrom

Plans to build the equivalent of an Italian piazza in downtown San Francisco are coming under fire from a nearby shopping mall that stands to lose its valet parking route.

The proposed 18,000-square-foot public space proposal known as Mint Plaza is scheduled for review by the Planning Commission on Thursday. It derives its name from the nearby U.S. Mint landmark, which broke ground in 1869 and abuts the proposed plaza.

The Martin Building Company, which owns four of the nearby buildings, wants to close to traffic a portion of Jessie Street between Fifth and Mint streets to create the public area estimated to cost around $1.8 million. Martin wants to create “a public living room” on the run-down street, in part to raise the value of its buildings.

Proponents hope to have the public space open in about a year, complete with trees, live music, theaters and cafés.

Nordstrom’s valet parking

crew uses that portion of Jessie Street, said Michael Yarne, Martin’s development director. The upscale retailer is in the Westfield San Francisco Center on Market and Fifth streets.

Closing that portion of Jessie Street means valet parkers will need to find a new route to return cars to their owners.

Westfield officials said they want to find a way for the developer and the shopping mall to both achieve their goals.

“Our concern is the effect on traffic and pedestrian safety in the neighborhood. As far as we have been told, The City has notcompleted a thorough traffic-impact study. From a long-term planning standpoint, determining traffic and pedestrian impacts needs to take place before the project moves forward,” Westfield said in a prepared statement. No one from the company was available to discuss the proposal.

Next month, Westfield is unveiling its new 1.5 million-square-foot expansion, which includes the old Emporium at Mission and Fifth streets.

Supervisor Chris Daly, who represents the area and is expected to consider the plan in the fall if the Planning Commission approves it, said he thinks there are ways around the valet parking issues.

Yarne said those opposed to the public plaza are likely not seeing the full scope of the proposal.

“You have to look for the forest through the trees,” he said. “The temporary inconvenience can be remedied through creative thinking.”

Nordstrom’s Brooke White said the company is concerned about what could happen to traffic patterns if the public plaza is approved. Still, White said, the company supports the public planning process.

The Planning Commission will likely approve the proposal Thursday, said Lawrence Badiner, zoning administrator for the Planning Department.

The Board of Supervisors would next consider the plans in September or October.

mcarroll@examiner.com

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