Reinvesting in the San Francisco Wholesale Produce Market

by Eli Zigas, Food Systems and Urban Agriculture Program Manager
July 9, 2012

Update: On July 17, the Board of Supervisors unanimously approved the expansion proposal and new lease for the San Francisco Wholesale Produce Market.

The San Francisco Wholesale Produce Market, the city’s hub for fresh produce, is looking to modernize and expand. And, this month, the SF Board of Supervisors will be considering a proposal to allow it to do just that.

The market is a critical piece of the region’s food system infrastructure. Its loading docks, warehouses and offices allow more than 25 wholesalers and distributors to link farmers from the region — and from around the world — with grocery stores, restaurants and other food retailers. The market infrastructure, however, is getting old. Most of the warehouses were built in the early 1960s, and its earlier generation of technology and design are limiting the growth of many market tenants and making it more difficult to comply with evolving food safety regulations.

In response, the market is proposing a comprehensive upgrade and expansion of its facilities on city-owned land. The resolution before the Board of Supervisors would allow the market to construct a new building at 901 Rankin and either rebuild or remodel its existing buildings. Importantly, the legislation would also give the market long-term security with a 60-year ground lease. The modernization and the long-term lease are both crucial to the success of the market; without those changes, many of its tenant businesses have indicated that they will leave, taking more than 600 jobs and $720,000 of annual tax dollar revenue out of the city. With the expansion, however, the market projects that its tenants’ total employment will expand to 1,000 people and that the revenue to the city will increase by 44 percent, to at least $1.04 million annually.

The proposal presents San Francisco the chance to support the modernization of its wholesale food infrastructure at less cost than that of other major cities. State agencies in Pennsylvania provided millions in loans and more than $100 million in grants to build the new Philadelphia Wholesale Produce Market. New York City invested a total of $110 million for the redevelopment of its Fulton Fish Market and Hunts Point Produce Market. In contrast, the proposal before San Francisco's supervisors does not involve any capital funding from the city.

Cities around the country are working to develop “food hubs,” organizations that actively manage the distribution and marketing of local and regional food products. In San Francsico, we already have one. SPUR supports the market’s proposal to expand and modernize so that it can continue supporting the vibrant food industry for which the city and region are so well know.

Read SPUR’s letter in support of the San Francisco Wholesale Produce Market’s expansion >>