249 Pennsylvania Project Site

Plans to raze the Center Hardware and Supply Company warehouse at 999 Mariposa Street, and the Brickley Production Services building behind at 249 Pennsylvania Avenue, have been submitted to Planning for review.

And as proposed, a contemporary five-story building with 65 dwelling units over a ground floor of residential/commercial flex space and a basement garage for 65 cars would rise across the Potrero Hill site, a site which abuts I-280 to the east and Pennsylvania Garden to the south.

From Planning with respect to the development’s draft design, which sites its rear yard facing the freeway:

The Planning Department questions the amenity and quality of the rear yard facing I-280 freeway and believes this compromises the exposure to the units facing onto it with a foreground of concrete, noise, and pollution….The existing Pennsylvania Garden to the south presents an opportunity and amenity that the project should embrace.

Also noted, the maximum amount of off-street parking permitted for the Eastern Neighborhoods parcel as proposed is 52 spaces, and “the proposed project is notably inconsistent with key [area] policies related to off-street parking and urban design.”

65 thoughts on “Plans For Condos To Replace Prized Potrero Hill Hardware Store”
  1. Where it doesn’t interfere with the scale of the neighborhoods, housing in San Francisco needs to go up at least 8 floors to get the maximum value for minimum space. At this location the building could be higher at the bottom of the hill, with reduced height as it climbs the hill, fitting into the neighborhood.

    1. Agreed. All the more so adjacent to the traffic-y raised highways crisscrossing SOMA/Potero/Design District. Would seem to be good locations to build mixed use. No one wants to live looking right on to the SUV lanes.(although people will live anywhere).

  2. Can anybody else get with me and see why this might be one location that housing should not be built on, at least not yet? You have a freeway as a neighbor, but also a freeway that could be seeing a complete redesign at that very location within the next ten years… the caltrain ROW which is going to have construction going on within the next ten years… The space requirements, the noise… what is the city thinking? Housing on that site will just become one more obstacle to any progress with our transportation infrastructure.

    1. I get what you’re saying, but money, and community support (or more commonly, the lack thereof) are the only two things going to potentially slow a massive project like reconfiguring 280, or running Caltrain underground.

    2. Adam: When you are talking about the caltrain ROW, you mean ROW as in disagreement? Sorry, but American English isn’t my first language and there are certain words which make me think twice ie. biscuit/cookie, jumper/sweater, lift/elevator vs. car ride, motorbike/motorcycle.

        1. I would not buy for a second the argument that when it comes time to tear down that freeway or rebuild those train tunnels that residents in this building perched practically on top of them will not raise a fuss over noise or engineering and delay the project–or that this building will simply be in the way. Which is reason enough for the city to compel the developers to back off. And I would ask people on this site which outcome is more advantageous for growth in the neighborhood- the swifter completion of high speed rail and a ground-level boulevard, or one apartment building? No, I don’t expect these projects to be done in less than ten years, but sometimes you have to look farther ahead than the current housing boom.

          1. definitely a ground level boulevard is not better for growth. A ground level blvd is jsut a dumb idea that will further create congestion

  3. And what is the neighborhood supposed to do for a hardware store then, unless it becomes part of the residential/commercial flex space on the ground floor? People prefer to live is places that have local services, not distant ones.

      1. Yes, we will all need to DRIVE to a national chain, big box hardware store now, rather than walk to one of the best locally owned hardware stores anywhere.

      2. Why would anyone want to support a big box store? Also, Home Depot is not a short drive unless you consider Daly City a hop, skip and a jump away.

    1. Center Hardware is not just a local hardware store. They are one of the best, if not the best hardware store in the San Francisco area. I have gone there since the were on Bluxome and Fourth.

    1. If I owned that property, I’d be greedy. Are you telling us that you always do what’s best for the city and not what’s best for yourself?

  4. I love this hardware store and all the people who work there. I’d much rather go there than Lowes or Home Depot. Apparently the building is leased not owned by the hardware folk, so it seems there’s not much chance of stopping this.

    Another local business that could eventually go away, but is counted on by so many people and somewhat of a community hub, is the New Potrero Coin Laundry. Rent increases, although not at top market value yet, keep increasing and margins shrinking. Price hikes are inevitable. The hill is really losing a lot of what is special about it.

      1. What a stupid question. In what planet do you suppose a tiny, local hardware store has the resources to compete in one of the most competitive real estate markets in the country? I suppose the obviously answer will prominently feature something about ‘the free market’ and ‘go to a big box store’.

        1. The planet where they charge a premium for higher quality service and having knowledgeable friendly salespeople?

          Go ask a question at

          Home Depot in San Rafael – Employee probably doesn’t know the answer
          Golden State Lumber in San Rafael – Employee probably knows the answer, but won’t be too bothered to tell you the answer very politely.
          Jackson’s Hardware in San Rafael – Employee probably knows the answer or will actually help you find out the answer if he doesn’t know.

          In my experience Jackson’s charges about 20% more than Home Depot on commodity items and 30% plus on more specialty hardware.

          I don’t know this place in Potrero Hill so I can’t comment on it specifically, but there is still a market for higher value retail sales.

          1. Well duh. Go to the local hardware store and get the education you from the polite sales person. Then go online and order from Amazon to deliver with your next grocery order. Problem solved – no big box store and eventually no little store either. And you don’t need a car!

        2. And you, of course, assumed the bleeding heart stance of this “poor little tiny local store” that has no financial resources to move and continue their business. If they are successful now, why should they not be successful somewhere else?

          And yes, it IS about the free market. But everybody knows that.

          Well most everybody.

          1. This “free market” you’re so beholden to, among other things, tends to enrich too few to too great an amount while degrading the general weal to an undesirable extent.

          2. I find it sad that “free market” people always define situations as maximizing success. Many times, success doesn’t mean maximizing everything. Sometimes success is finding a nice comfort zone, a human scale of success. Knowing when NOT to expand.

            Center Hardware is that kind of place. It’s not about profit. It’s about quality, expertise and service. I’m sure as a business they’ve done very well and having done so kept their business humble and pertinent to the needs of contractors and d.i.y.ers alike.

            We all know that they won’t be able to find another place in SF that will be able to deliver what they’ve delivered for many, many years to SF citizens and stay in business. What’s now know as a destination business where you can find hardware that no other place within miles (or even on-line) will have, will be replaced by yet another bland, overpriced set of condos on a highway – that’s the free market.

          3. If this store were NOT about profit they would not have survived this long. You seem to forget that. Offering quality personal service is very important. We get that.

            So is making a profit to stay in business. If they choose to move their quality service AND profit will continue with them.

          4. Orland – great use of words to try to make an invalid point. If it’s *not* about the free market, then please describe the government subsidies you’d use – methods, amounts, allocation – to keep local businesses such as this one afloat. Because either it’s the free market, or it isn’t; and if it isn’t, someone’s got to make payments to tip the scales.

        3. It’s not a stupid question. There are other retail locations available and a good hardware store has the margins to be able to move. One example is the Ace Hardware store on Clement. It recently moved from Clement and 12th to Clement and 4th. It’s now a longer walk for me, but I still prefer to go to the small local store than drive to Lowe’s or Home Depot. Jackson’s in San Rafael is worth the drive if you are looking for quality products and people who know a lot about what they are selling.

  5. We use this hardware store about once a month for emergency work items. Maybe they can relocate to the Dogpatch. We’d love to have them here. But I don’t blame the property owner for selling out. We can’t expect individuals to lose money for the sake of the city. Most people aren’t willing to pay a large premium for hardware from an indie store, which is what would make them better able to afford a higher rent. So the property owner will sell.

    We are deciding this, as a community, with our pocketbooks.

  6. Center isn’t an indie hardware store, it’s a REAL hardware store. Lowe’s & Home Depot are abominations. The tools they sell are not commercial grade, but cheap knockoffs. The loss of a commercial grade hardware store will not help city goal to retain PDR. Nor will it help those building new structures. Soon we will lose Flax’s, Arch, Center Plywood is gone.

    Can someone tell me why a useful store never moves into the ground floor retail spaces above new condos?

    There are so many windows in new buildings around town that are covered with brown paper.

    1. My theory is that most of these ground floor retail spaces have big windows, but not much floor space, since they’re not very deep. The deep space in these buildings is used for parking garages, ramps, and other such things. These prominent but shallow spaces are suitable for some uses, like salons or banks or some smaller restaurants, but are not useful for shops with lots of inventory, like groceries or hardware stores..

        1. Huh? There are many local hardware stores in SF which exist in mixed use buildings, like Nob Hill Hardware, Cole Hardware on Polk, and Ace in the outer Richmond. Are they pointless, for some reason?

  7. Mission Dweller: The new buildings want to attract the sexy retailers to up the perceived value of the building and its occupants. Look, we have Philz/Blue Bottle Coffee, a European Atelier, Savile Row, and Sommelier owned 1000 wine shop. Any old hardware store simply will not do. Unless, it is a hardware store specializes in one of a kind pieces from castles and European estates.

  8. As one builder told me, the only reason he puts commercial on the ground floor in an out-of-the way location (like this!) is because the city requires it. If he had the choice, he wouldn’t. It is nearly impossible to lease. It will be interesting to see how Octavia shapes up. There’s a lot of competition from more established retail locations along Hayes and even Market. Yet nearly all the new buildings in the pipeline will have small ground floor retail spaces. Great idea, but only if the economics work.

  9. “Free market”??? Free only to the wealthy and privileged who can buy into it. Soon your “free” market will have turned our city into high-priced condos and chain stores. San Francisco is fast losing all the character that has made it so desirable, bought and sold by developers who can’t destroy it fast enough…. I mourn the loss of our lovely, unique city. Losing Center Hardware is a big loss to the community.

    1. Free market to everyone. If you have money to buy an expensive one, feel free to buy. If you have money to buy an inexpensive one, feel free to buy. If you have no money to buy anything now, feel free to work hard. If you like to never buy, feel free to not buy.

      You are very fortunate to have the freedom to choose. Millions of people in North Korea and Cuba are willing to risk their life to get an opportunity to have the freedom you are enjoying. Millions of people in some countries are willing to risk their life to come to this country without proper documentation, they are willing to get the freedom you are enjoying here.

      1. North Korea and Cuba? That is as histrionic an argument as christine’s!

        The choice is basically between San Ramon (which seems to be the goal) and North Korea? There is nothing, nothing at all, in between?


    2. free market rules based on money yes. We live in a capitalist country, where making money is the goal of a business, and you have to make enough money to cover your costs and be profitable. In a city like ours, you need to make a lot of profit. Im sure the owner would sell to Center Hardware at the right price. Maybe Center should raise their prices for its loyal customers, and take a loan to buy the property. i don’t understand why people complain about land being controlled by people with money in a capitalist society. This is the way our country was set up and it is the way SF has always worked. most cities would love to have these money “problems”. Do you want to govt to turn center hardware into a govt owned business and prop it up to stay in business?

  10. Doesn’t change the fact that our city government is doing a great job meeting above-median and high-end housing goals, while dispersing longterm resident businesses such as Center.

    If the owners want to sell — do they? — that should be their right (am curious who submitted to Planning…). But it seems everything is for sale in SF at the moment, and there seems to be little commitment to retaining vital commercial uses like Center — a great hardware store.

    As a longtime customer of Center as well as the owner of a brick and mortar company struggling to stay in SF while providing a service to which those who flock here expect to have access, on more than one level I will miss this store dearly if it goes away.

  11. I think the neighborhood will HATE this. And therefore I predict that one way or another this change will be a lot more painful for the landlord than he/she is anticipating. There are ways to grind down landlord greed and turn it into pure pain through the regulatory process. On the neighborhood blog there is already signs of organized resistance.

    1. “HATE,” “painful,” “pure pain?” Wow, written like a true emotionally-driven mindless obstructionist.

      1. Because a few biddies with too much time on their hands should have total veto power over all land use decisions? Really. whywhywhy nails it.

        I think we need to have massive riots and demonstrations! That will show THEM.

  12. I often walk to Cole Hardware on Mission St. just below Noe Valley. They have an amazing array of hardware and parts for houses. But there are also times when I need to go to Lowes or Home Depot for something.

    Both are good places to shop.

  13. I go to that hardware store to get items that no other sites in SF carry. It is one of the best hardware does in the city.It would be unfortunate if Brickley Production Services would have to relocate out of SF. It certainly doesn’t seem like suitable residential real estate.

  14. When I get too old to climb my many stairs, and need a building with an elevator, I would be delighted to live above a good hardware store. Much more useful than a European atelier.

  15. Agreed — not a good location for housing. Then again, I don’t think high speed rail will happen in 10 years. If some developer wants to build at this site, let them build and let the market decide how much these condos are worth. There is a risk with building on an iffy site even with cheaper land value.

  16. A bit off topic, but I too wonder about the viability of all these ground floor retail spaces in new buildings. I work near the Blu on Folsom, and that space has never been leased. I recently walked the length of Market from Montgomery to Castro and there are dozens of new store fronts in all the new buildings along there. I can see them being a total blight on the streetscape if they don’t get rented. What happens if they sit empty for 2-3 years? Will the city let the building convert them to housing? Or will they lower the asking rents to attract really small businesses / startups?

    1. That is a serious concern. It would be a shame to see more vacant retail storefronts in these new buildings. Businesses should open or congregate to serve the new residents of these neighborhoods. Doubtful these spaces would be suitable for restaurants since a full-scale restaurants require vent hoods and larger space. Bakeries? Coffee bar? Upscale grocer? Drycleaner? Medical Clinic? The list of potential businesses gets smaller when everything is already available online.

      1. But I wonder if there is an upper limit on coffeesshops and dry cleaners in many of these dense areas. Many of these businesses already exist, so how much demand is there for more? Half the bottom floor of the Riverbed building at New Montgomery and Folsom was taken up by a new Specialty’s – so what’s going to go in the other half? There is already a small market/liquor store, dry cleaner, 5 restaurants, and two other coffee shops within 1 block of there.

  17. The only reasons that you enjoy a free market, and private property is because of government.
    The whole free enterprise vs gov. dichotomy is a false one.

  18. I’ve found one or two hard to find items at Lowe’s but for general hardware the stock has been sparse and the staff has been frantically running around. The personalized service at Center Hardware and also at Flowercraft across the street from Lowe’s are far superior, and much more organic, human and educational experiences. Much.

    Center Hardware excels at catering to the trades as well as homeowners, renters and do-it-yourselfers. If we had more of a “Planning Department” we wouldn’t just destroy local gems in the name of money and progress. What we have more is a “Permitting Department” though I’m grateful that Planning has at least raised concerns regarding the initial submission.

    Also just because some people “call” the current economy “free market” doesn’t mean there is a level playing field for all businesses. Large corporations have subsidies, tax breaks, lawyers who exploit loopholes, and a parade of lobbyists. They even write or co-author chunks of legislation.

    Raising the standard of living is good. Wiping out anything that has stood the test of time or has a unique or special character to accomplish this is not so good.

  19. Am I the only one that finds it comically ironic that the same forces which are driving the massive appreciation in everyone’s property value (which I hear zero complaint about) also draws investors to build and invest in our area, which increases demand and prices further? Just an observation.

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