The San Francisco Flower Mart at Sixth and Brannan streets is set to relocate to Potrero Hill. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

Plans for new Flower Mart in Potrero Hill approved

The famed San Francisco Flower Mart’s new home in Potrero Hill was approved Thursday after a contentious path to relocation.

The Planning Commission unanimously approved construction of a new wholesale flower market between 16th and 17th streets at Mississippi Street, across Interstate 280 from Mission Bay medical facilities.

Vendors at the nearly 100-year-old Flower Mart initially opted to return to their site at Sixth and Brannan streets after developer Kilroy Realty Group converted it into an approved mixed-use development. But, in between clashes over its temporary relocation, concerns emerged over the impact of traffic on the wholesale hub, which relies on truck and vehicle access.

Earlier this year, vendors switched to the other option offered: a newly constructed home in Portero Hill.

“I can’t think of a project that’s got more public notoriety over the past few years as this one,” said Commission President Joel Koppel. “This is a great opportunity for us to approve not just office, housing, or a hotel. There’s an incredible amount of housing already approved on the east side so I don’t really buy the argument that this should be housing.”

An existing modular office building would be demolished while an industrial warehouse building and vacant brick office would be reused to bring the new flower market to fruition. When completed, vendors will have a new mezzanine level, public parking garage with up to 180 off-street parking spaces, 25 box truck parking spaces, a new loading dock, and 23 bicycle parking spaces.

Several Flower Mart vendors and customers expressed support for the new home in the new neighborhood. The market has 45 owner-operated vendors that employ 300 people processing flowers from around the world and distributing them through Northern California, according to Vance Yoshida, president of the Flower Mart’s board of directors.

“This will be our fourth home in The City,” Yoshida said. “We are excited about the design, location, and being part of a great neighborhood in San Francisco. The development gives us hope for the future and better times ahead.”

Some speakers questioned why housing wouldn’t be built at the large site, which was formerly slated for 395 housing units in a project that stalled after opposition.

“This is the right project but the wrong location,” said Robert Mitchell, who lives across from where the new market would be. “This is a burgeoning residential and retail commercial corridor. The flower market is essentially a wholesale factory and an improper use.”

Commissioners, however, expressed excitement for the project and agreed it was the right location. Koppel noted that The City rarely adds projects that help bring industrial jobs for those without higher education.

Plans for a bold, purple color were also a point of contention for neighbors. Commissioner Deland Chan added an amendment to continue community outreach and settle on agreeable exteriors while encouraging the developer to look into public-serving uses like food trucks for the parking lot during off-hours.

“San Francisco is not a city of colors, San Francisco is a city of hues and tonality,” said Commissioner Kathrin Moore, who otherwise fully supported the project. “The use of purple is far too strong.”

The project was approved unanimously.

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