A request to renew the lease for a gas station on city-owned land at Portola Drive and Woodside Avenue has turned out to be unexpectedly conroversial. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

Vote postponed on controversial gas station lease on public land

A decision on whether to extend a gas station lease on public land for decades was postponed Tuesday amid opposition from those who argued the lease undermines San Francisco’s climate goals and that affordable housing should go on the site instead.

Twin Peaks Auto Care has operated at 598 Portola Dr. for decades, but a proposal to extend its lease on city-owned land for 25 years with a five-year option has fueled mounting opposition in the weeks leading up to the Board of Supervisors vote Tuesday.

Board President Norman Yee, who represents the area, has supported the lease extension, as has the adjacent Midtown Terrace Homeowners Association. But on Tuesday Yee requested a postponement of the vote, which indicated he did not have the six votes needed to approve it. He referred the matter back to a board committee for further discussion. No date has yet been set.

“There are many strong feelings about this item,” Yee said.

Supervisor Matt Haney tweeted his opposition to the proposal hours before the board meeting.

“I cannot support a 25-30 year lease for a gas station on public land,” Haney wrote. “State & city climate goals require phasing out fossil fuels much earlier. Our City has declared a Climate Emergency. There are many other uses for site, including affordable housing.”

Yee has argued that the lease allows the owner to transition away from fossil fuels. But nothing requires it.

Michael Gharib, who acquired the Mobil Oil franchise in 1985, has said he needs the long term lease to help finance an estimated $750,000 replacement of underground single-walled fuel storage tanks with double-walled tanks, as state law requires by 2025.

Yee said the business “is well loved by the neighborhood” and indicated changes to the proposal are expected to address concerns.

“I feel that we need more time to allow the Department of Real Estate and the business owner to discuss and negotiate terms, especially when it comes to making sure that the terms will reflect the compatibility to our environmental goals and not selling fossil fuel by the year 2040,” Yee said.

But some opponents argued after the postponement that The City shouldn’t support any lease extension given the severity of climate change and housing needs.

Shanti Singh, a tenant organizer, said a “gas station on public land is a huge waste of precious resources, especially when Juvenile Hall is closing down right next door and there’s a massive parking lot available.”

“I would like to see a pilot site for social housing, which is on the ballot right now,” Singh said.

jsabatini@sfexaminer.com

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