Blog: October, 2011
To Fix Central Market, Start With a Strategy
Question: What’s the best way to revitalize Central Market?
Answer: There isn’t one way, but many — and they all need to be coordinated with one another.
While this sounds like an answer that Yoda might offer, we hope that the folks at the Office of Economic and Workforce Development (OWED) don’t have to rely on the Force alone to help finalize the Central Market Economic Strategy. The objectives of the strategy include creating an arts district, improving public safety, reducing vacancies, encouraging development and improving the public realm. All of these are good ideas — and all will need substantial political support in order to be realized.
The city is well positioned to build on its work in the Central Market District. The passage of the neighborhood’s payroll tax exemption is bringing in big employers like Twitter. Meanwhile several city departments (including Planning, the Department of Public Works and the Municipal Transportation Agency) are in the process of contemplating some major changes for Market Street itself as part of the Better Market Street Plan. All of these positive changes could help form the basis for real improvements in the district.
The Central Market Economic Strategy seeks to build on this work. In doing so, the city will need to find ways of dealing with challenges that have bedeviled planners for decades, such as high storefront-vacancy rates along Market Street. How can the city, given the current fiscal climate, attract and retain businesses in the area? Are there ways of incentivizing temporary uses to enliven the area? How can we get arts uses to thrive?
SPUR is in the process of developing its own position on the latest draft of the Central Market Economic Strategy. We urge you to do the same.
How to Negotiate a Greener Office
Last week, the Bay Area's Business Council on Climate Change — which SPUR is a part of — released the Green Tenant Toolkit, an online resource for improving the sustainable performance of existing commercial buildings in San Francisco. The toolkit is designed to help commercial tenants, building owners and property managers collaborate to improve the energy efficiency and other sustainability metrics of their buildings. It is divided into three sections:
1. Green leases, including sample leases and key negotiation points in the leasing process;
2. Stakeholder engagement, which defines what the roles can be for owners, tenants and occupants in making buildings more green and outlines best practices in how they can interact and set goals;
3. Check lists, which include questions or metrics for understanding the sustainable performance of an existing building and identifying opportunities for the future. (For example, is electricity sub-metered? Does the building have solar panels?)
The toolkit was inspired by the recommendations of the Mayor’s Task Force on Existing Commercial Buildings (PDF), which completed its work and published a report (SPUR was a participant) in 2009. That report found that while San Francisco's green standards for new construction were high, sustainability performance standards and tools were especially needed for existing buildings because they comprise by far the majority of buildings that will be here in the future. Less than 1 percent of the city's buildings are newly constructed each year, which means it would take more than 60 years to “green” even half of San Francisco's building stock through new construction.
The commercial buildings task force proposed a voluntary goal of reducing the energy use in existing commercial buildings 50 percent by 2030, with an average reduction of 2.5 percent per year. The Green Tenant Toolkit is designed to help improve those spaces that are leased and may not be undergoing major renovations in the near future.
SPUR has also examined the challenges of resource efficiency for existing multi-tenant residential buildings, which are responsible for as much of our city's greenhouse gas emissions as commercial buildings. Multi-tenant residential buildings suffer some of the same challenges as multi-tenant office buildings, although leasing terms, capital improvement financing and regulations, among other things, are different.
The Green Tenant Toolkit is intended to evolve based on user feedback, so check it out and provide yours at www.greentenanttoolkit.com.
San Francisco Gets Serious About Earthquakes
Many of us in the Bay Area felt a series of sharp tremors on October 20 and 21 — coincidentally the same day that Oakland-based Christian radio broadcaster Harold Camping predicted would bring the Apocalypse. It might not be time for the Rapture just yet, but we do know the Big One is coming, and we want our buildings to be prepared.
Fortunately, so do the smart people in San Francisco City Hall. They’ve taken the good work developed as part of the Community Action Plan for Seismic Safety and created an Earthquake Safety Implementation Program. Last week Mayor Ed Lee released a first draft of the program, a 30-year road map for strengthening San Francisco’s stock of privately owned buildings so that our city can be well situated to withstand a major earthquake.
The program includes 50 objectives that comprehensively address San Francisco’s building stock, but one of the most important is a plan to retrofit San Francisco’s “soft story” apartment buildings — those that have large openings like garage doors or storefront windows on the ground floor. These buildings house a substantial number of San Franciscans and are also very vulnerable to damage. SPUR has long called for a program of mandatory retrofits for soft-story buildings and enthusiastically endorses the Earthquake Safety Implementation Program.
Read San Francisco’s Earthquake Safety Implementation Program >>
Hidden Hub of the SF Food System: the Wholesale Produce Market
At three in the morning, a four-block stretch of Jerrold Avenue in the Bayview neighborhood is abuzz with business. The San Francisco Wholesale Produce Market, which is busiest during the graveyard shift, is a hidden hub of San Francisco’s fresh food system.
On a recent Friday, fifteen early-rising SPUR members gathered for a walking tour at 8 a.m. — the end of the day for most businesses at the market. Much of the Bay Area excitement around food focuses on either the farms where food is grown or the tables where it is consumed. Our tour of the Wholesale Produce Market gave us an inside look at the infrastructure and people between farm and table. The more than 25 wholesalers and distributors at the market serve as brokers between producers and retailers, balancing the fickle demand of buyers on one hand with a highly variable supply of produce on the other. The businesses that operate at the market provide fresh food throughout the city – to small ethnic restaurants and Michelin-rated ones; to neighborhood grocers like Good Life and Bi-Rite as well as major chains such as Whole Foods, Safeway and Molly Stones. There’s a good chance that the salad you had today passed through the loading docks in Bayview this morning.
And, that’s been true for more than forty years. The Wholesale Produce Market began as an assortment of produce distributors along streets just northwest of the Ferry Building. In the early 1960s, however, the city approved the Golden Gateway Redevelopment Project that includes today’s Embarcadero Centers, forcing the market businesses to move. After years of negotiation, the vendors agreed to move to the market’s current location, which is on city-owned land. Today, the market is in the process of renegotiating its lease with the city so that it can remain and expand in the existing location.
Though the cost of business for the market tenants is higher in San Francisco than in other parts of the Bay Area, many choose to stay in the city. What keeps them in San Francisco? Michael Janis, our guide and the Market’s General Manager, explained that it was a combination of factors. First, the market provides the essential infrastructure of loading docks, warehousing, refrigeration and easy access to highways. But beyond the infrastructure, the market offers added value to its tenants by providing a community of businesses, a mature market with a long-standing customer base and a management structure that works with the businesses.
The Wholesale Produce Market has worked so well as an incubator that some of the businesses have begun to outgrow their space there. Greenleaf, the market’s largest business, is hoping for an expansion. If the market can’t expand to accommodate the growth of businesses like Greenleaf, it may lose them.
The morning’s tour emphasized how infrastructure like the Wholesale Produce Market is essential to the future of our regional food economy. The market provides the region’s farmers with access to buyers while also supporting the growth of food retailers of many sizes. This industrial facility, tucked away in our dense city, is a critical piece of economic infrastructure that would be nearly impossible to recreate in San Francisco today. We’re lucky to have such a thriving market, and we need to ensure that any future food systems policy doesn’t lose sight of the importance of food distribution infrastructure – hidden though it may be.
SPUR's 2011 Voter Guide Now Online
With only eight measures on the docket, this is a short ballot for our fine city — but it's certainly not short on substance. Voters will weigh in on dueling pension reform plans, bonds for schools and roads, and even a sales tax increase. These measures place billions of dollars at stake, making it more important than ever for San Francisco voters to know the details. Get out and vote on November 8, but first arm yourself with our in-depth analysis.
Brought to you by SPUR. We pore over the mind-numbing details so you don't have to. Support SPUR today >>