Dozens of design and production businesses in San Francisco’s Showplace Square District likely face eviction as Pinterest plans to take over the building at 2 Henry Adams St.
The building is currently zoned for PDR–production, distribution, and repair–and can’t be used for office space, like Pinterest plans to build. But a loophole in zoning regulations allows building owners to convert PDR-zoned buildings to office spaces if they are designated as historic landmarks.
The property manager filed the paperwork to start that process last year. The San Francisco Historic Preservation Commission unanimously approved the historic designation on the almost 100-year-old building and now it just needs the official stamp from the Board of Supervisors.
If 2 Henry Adams St., which was built in 1915 during the post-earthquake reconstruction, is designated as an historic landmark and Pinterest moves in, all tenants but a few on the first floor face eviction. Some of the tenants have been there for several decades.
“At the moment we don’t know exactly what is happening. That is part of the problem,” says Jim Gallagher, General Manager at Garden Court Antiques, which is currently on the first floor of 2 Henry Adams St. “Everyone has been sort of paralyzed and we realized that we need to speak up.”
Rumors Proved True
Rumors began circulating months ago and several companies started to get worried as the property owner stopped renewing leases.
Country Floor, which has been on the first floor for 21 years, tried to renew their long-term lease several months ago, but were told (without being given a reason) that they could only sign a month-to-month lease, says Jeanne Reynolds, showroom manager at Country Floors. They were also told they couldn’t remodel after hiring an expensive architect.
“They weren’t telling us the truth about anything. They were telling different people different things. Not all tenants got notices about meetings.” Reynolds says. “We never even knew about the hearings. We felt threatened.”
The property owner, who is pursuing the lease with Pinterest, plans to attempt to relocate some of the tenants with longer leases, like Garden Court Antiques, to spaces in the Galleria building across the street at 101 Henry Adams St. But that building is currently 80 percent leased, leaving little room for new tenants.
While relocation and eviction details are still murky, it is clear that many of the current tenants don’t want to leave their space or their community.
“I know for a fact, because I am in the location I am in, I work with the top designers. My clients are the top designers,” says Reynolds. “I would lose all my top clients.”
Garden Court Antiques has been on the ground floor, surrounded by big windows for years. Gallagher fears that moving the business will result in less foot traffic and business overflow from other business in the building.
“We are a community of folks and part of how we have survived is because of what we draw in for one another,” Gallagher says. “If we are all spread out, we don’t have critical mass.”
Gallagher adds that one of the important things to keep in mind are the blue-collar workers who rely on the businesses in 2 Henry Adams St.
Meanwhile, Supervisor Malia Cohen is preparing legislation that could change the historic landmark designation loophole, mandating that even historic buildings can’t fully convert to office space. Her office says that fourteen other buildings in the area are vulnerable because of that loophole.
“I am not comfortable with what the building is being proposed to be used for,” Cohen told KQED’s Cyrus Musiker. “I believe that the design center is one of the most unique and important aspects that we have inside San Francisco and I want to acknowledge that office space is being built all over the city right now and i don’t see why we need to convert precious PDR spaces into offices.”
The Board of Supervisors heard a review on the historic designation of 2 Henry Adams St. last Monday and will continue reviewing for the next three weeks.
“I do believe that [the building] is of landmark quality,” Cohen says. “I just don’t feel comfortable moving forward until all the tenants have their questions answered.