2 Henry Adams - San Francisco Design Center

The landmark loophole which the owners of the San Francisco Design Center have been planning to invoke in order to convert the 330,000 square foot building from showroom to office use, a conversion which would clear the way for Pinterest to move into the Center, is close to being substantially closed.

Under the draft language which San Francisco’s Historic Preservation Commission is ready to recommend for adoption next week, landmark buildings in the area could still qualify for conversion from Production, Distribution & Repair (PDR) to office use, but only partially.  And for four-story buildings, such as the Design Center, only one story of office use would be allowed.

The new limits for the conversion of landmark buildings from PDR to office use are likely to be as follows:

  • For one-story buildings, no office uses would be allowed
  • For two- to four-story buildings, one story of office would be allowed.
  • For five- to seven-story buildings, two stories of office would be allowed.
  • For eight or more story buildings, three stories of office would be allowed.

And regardless, office use would not be allowed on the ground floor of any converted building.

In addition, to ensure that a conversion from PDR to office use is intended to enhance the viability of landmark buildings versus being a speculative move, “the City may consider requiring an economic report from buildings seeking office allocation detailing how such conversion will support their maintenance and rehabilitation needs.”

No word from Pinterest as to whether a single floor of space with no options to expand would be enough to meet their growing demands.

Comments from “Plugged-In” Readers

  1. Posted by soccermom

    So, if this amendment passes, the Design Center-Pinterest conversion as currently contemplated is basically off the table. Am I interpreting this correctly?

  2. Posted by mas

    Why is it so important to keep Design District strictly PDR? They don’t allow housing there. They do their best to remove offices from there. But just look at the map, DD is in a very convenient location. I’m sure some of the hoards of commuters who bike/walk through DD on their way to Caltrain would love to live there. And we already know business would like to set up shop there. So why don’t we take advantage of this location? Why can’t we have a mix of PDR, offices, and condos? It just seems to me that it’s a wasted resource.

  3. Posted by BigV

    This is such a stupid move. Why so strongly anti-office? it would be good for the city, and for the neighborhood, to support more jobs in the area.

    • Posted by Wonkster

      Why would it be good for the city to support more jobs in the area? Don’t we have enough jobs? Seems like the thing SFneeds is not “more jobs” but a little bit of a breather while it figures out how to accommodate the recent surge of jobs.

      • Posted by formidable doer of the nasty

        Right, because all the poverty, blight and filthiness is no longer here, so why should we seek further economic development?

      • Posted by Picard

        Wonkster, your name is ironic. Actually, I don’t think it would be very “progressive” to shun job growth. Rather, how about embracing job growth and, at the same time, promoting housing development, especially in the neighboring cities with accessibility to BART. It’s ridiculous to take for granted the opportunity to work.

      • Posted by anon

        To answer your two questions:

        1. This should be obvious.
        2. No, there is no maximum amount of jobs that we should support, until all bastions of poverty in the world are obliterated at least.

      • Posted by Mike

        “Don’t we have enough jobs?”

        That is honestly one of the most ludicrous and uninformed comments I’ve ever seen on a site like this.

  4. Posted by Brad

    This whole thing is a joke. Anyone who thinks that this protects any sort of working-class-style jobs has clearly never stepped foot into the building.

    • Posted by The Milkshake of Despair

      I’m not sure whether this counts as working class but I had a conversation with one of the employees there who lived in a rent controlled studio. The clientele is upscale for sure though.

  5. Posted by tj

    Ever tried to select a dining chair or to compare fabrics online? Take away A&D showrooms, and you take away a critical part of an economic sector whose presence and vibrancy distinguishes San Francisco from San Jose or Salt Lake City. If you truly believe than a city’s planning process should be dictated by the highest economic return of each specific parcel of land, you should think about why it is you live and work in San Francisco rather than Houston.

    • Posted by formidable doer of the nasty

      Right, this is why the Design Center is such a bustling hub of activity all the time. Oops, sorry, I meant to say it’s a frickin’ ghost town. And it’s not open to the public, only to people in the trade. Absolutely no valid reason to preserve it in such an attractive location.

      • Posted by tj

        So that it can be replaced by a monoculture of tech offices that will become a true ghost town once the venture capital runs out?

        • Posted by LJL

          If that happens, there’s no reason these showrooms couldn’t come back.

          • Posted by Mike

            If/when the venture capital runs out, these showrooms will be even more deserted than they are now. Economic downturns generally don’t correlate with boom times for high-end furniture sellers.

        • Posted by anon

          Ghost towns are great places for furniture showrooms (as witnessed by the ghost towns of the current building), so they can come back. In the meantime, we support jobs that the market (and people) actually want.

          • Posted by Brian M

            Yeah. There is such a need for aps to allow one to wave one’s phone vaguely to pay for useless boutique junk and $7 coffees, because it is so HARD to give someone a debit card. Or companies that make aps that turn your cell phone screens different colors to reflect ones mood.

            The SF economy is based on utter ephemera.

    • Posted by anon

      I live and work here because of urban density, not because of overpriced furniture showrooms.

      lol.

  6. Posted by Joseph A

    It actually makes sense to reserve certain parts of San Francisco for specialty zones , be it the Design Zone, or a Flower Market ,
    The question though would be how much space should be reserved , and where ?

    It is clear that the Design Zone needs protections, and that its already in a great location so it just comes down to square footage.

    The Flower Mart though is a different story,
    I can see it staying in its current location if a developer is given significant air rights to make it profitable to let the Mart stay in the current location , but otherwise I could see this being moved to one of the viable piers.

    • Posted by Faceword

      Why on earth do we need central planning from SF city government to dictate what specific business occupies prime real estate? The Design Center and their patrons pulled the strings of government to change the rules – crony capitalism in action.

    • Posted by LJL

      Why does this make sense?

      • Posted by Joseph A

        why ?

        Because certain things add flavor to SF that if it is possible to retain them without preventing growth then its a good thing. That said , if SF Gov wants to put restrictions that in effect subsidize an industry they should also give breaks to those bearing the cost of policy.

        • Posted by anon

          You still haven’t answered why this “makes sense” or “is clear”. You’ve merely offered an opinion that is well, wrong, in my opinion.

  7. Posted by EcceMorons

    Maybe Pinterest should just establish a subsidiary whose business is “selling design products”, and have that subsidiary rent the spaces in the Design Center. They could have a few tile samples here, and few upholstery swatches there – and a bunch of people doing “other stuff”.

  8. Posted by soccermom

    I think the whole notion of the inflexibility of PDR-zoned space is a little bogus.

    But to let a big landlord do a conversion to office when smaller landlords can’t is even more bogus.

    We should open up the PDR-conversion language in zoning code, and the Design Center owners should have to play by the same rules as everyone else.

    The Preservation = Office Conversion carve out was dubious IMHO. Change the SOMA plan.

  9. Posted by Jane Antonacci

    The people who work in the design center and designers who use the design center are usually not people with 4 year degrees. This showrooms support all the “makers” in the area who have had small business there for the past 30 years. This adds sustainability and local purchasing to the economy. The idea of PDR is that space is protected to support those businesses and to retain diversity in the city. If we want to live where everything is about tech jobs, the Bay Area already has that in the entire area south of Palo Alto, and most of the East Bay. Do we want San Fran to become Santa Clara where EVERYBODY works in Tech and there is no art or design areas? The question is really, What kind of city do we want this to be? There are 10’s and 10’s of buildings going up right now that will have 10, 20 and 50 floors of office space. Pinterest should be able to find all the office space they need in the Trans Bay Tower. Why displace makers, artists and designers so that the whole city will only be tach? Move to Atlanta or or Huston if you don’t value diversity. If you value the arts and the local, maker economy, you should support this.

    • Posted by anon

      Do those people live in SF or commute in?

      Subsidizing a random group of people for no reason has nothing to do with “diversity”. And no, this does nothing to add sustainability or local purchasing to the economy. lol

      • Posted by soccermom

        There is no special moral value to the Design Center beyond any other business that has been effectively ‘protected’ with a Production Distribution Repair zoning. You can lol all you want, but this isn’t about this one building. The city has chosen to zone this way.

        Write your supervisor and tell her you want more offices. See how much traction you get.

        • Posted by anon

          I was responding to the statement about “diversity”, nothing more.

    • Posted by Mike

      First, these showrooms do NOT support “all the makers in the area” — they support only a small and very specific category of businesses who are focused on “fine home furnishings and accessories.” Second, IMO it’s rather specious to characterize these businesses as “makers” (as that term is colloquially used) in the first place — very few of the products sold in these upscale galleries are made in San Francisco, and many of them are not even made in the US.

      It’s fine to retain diversity in the city in cases where people value such diversity, as evidenced by them going to such an area and patronizing its businesses. In the case of the design district though, in spite of its incredibly prime location and its beautiful structures, this entire area of the city has been consistently EMPTY of activity for at least 10 years (and probably far longer). This proves that there simply is not sufficient demand for such businesses to justify this amount of space — so why should we artificially prevent other uses of this area that would make it far more utilized?

      The designers that conduct their business in these showrooms don’t need to leave the Bay Area. Surely they can and would continue to conduct their business if these showrooms were moved elsewhere in the Bay Area, like South San Francisco or Millbrae or somewhere else on the peninsula where there is a greater appetite for empty buildings that no one ever goes in and out of…

      Finally, equating showrooms full of rugs, tables and lamps with “the arts” is another misleading and specious argument. If this were true, the arts capital of the United States would be High Point, NC (a town that I would suspect many readers of this blog are completely unaware of). The reality is that the vast majority of the space in the design district is not being used for anything that most people would associate with “the arts.”

  10. Posted by BG

    Have any of you ever been to Showplace? It’s dead! These designers would be better off in another location where foot traffic exists. North Water Front w/ all the tourists and proximity to CBD would be a good alternative.

  11. Posted by formidable doer of the nasty

    20 years ago you wouldn’t be caught dead within a quarter mile of Showplace after dark. Otherwise you’d be, you know, dead. The NIMBYs have been consistently opposing every inch of progress since those days.

  12. Posted by Brian M

    Well…muggers and drug dealers do offer another kind of economic diversity. I suggest special mugging preservation zones where brave tourists can go to experience “urbanity”

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