53 Bluxome Street Site

Six years ago, City Vintners San Francisco was granted permission to convert the industrial building at 53 Bluxome Street into a winery and tasting room based on an expected annual production of 5,000 cases of wine, all of which was to be bottled by way of a mobile bottling trailer which would visit the site three days a year.

While the Central SoMa site zoned for Light Manufacturing, which doesn’t include the assembly line production of canned or bottled beverages, the winery’s limited scope of production and lack of permanent bottling equipment was cited in the City’s Letter of Determination to allow the winery to operate.

The Bluxome Street Winery, however, is now planning to ramp up production to 200,000 cases a year and install a permanent bottling line.

From the City’s Zoning Administrator in response to the Winery’s request for an updated Letter of Determination blessing the increased production and bottling line, a request which notes, “Mayor Lee has named us the “Official Winery of San Francisco” and he buys our wines as gifts for visiting dignitaries”:

“Based upon the description provided in the Letter of Determination Request Letter…it is my determination that the proposed operation (with increased production and bottling) would not comply with the definition of Light Manufacturing Use.  The proposed use most closely meets the definition of Food, Fiber, and Beverage Processing 1 Use…which is not permitted [in the area as zoned].”

Also noted in the Winery’s (denied) request: “Our future business success is now contingent on mapping out a plan to support our growth plans to best fully utilize our property…it is now necessary to confirm our ability to expand our winery case production.”

Comments from Plugged-In Readers

  1. Posted by Drew

    Ridiculous. Why is our local government so overbearing?

    • Posted by Ohlone Californio

      In this case the answer is likely water usage, and I don’t find this one particularly overbearing.

      • Posted by SocketSite

        The actual issues are increased noise, fumes and general “nuisance” (industrial traffic) to support the 3900 percent increase in production and shipping.

        • Posted by The Milkshake of Despair

          Which is odd considering that this is zoned for manufacturing. News flash: manufacturing often creates noise, fumes, and truck traffic.

          • Posted by SocketSite

            As reported above, the site is zoned for Light Manufacturing, which doesn’t include assembly line production of canned or bottled beverages or food.

          • Posted by Can't Think of Cool Name

            @SS, is there a link you can provide on the zoning document(s)? I’d like to read up on their definition of “assembly line production.”

          • Posted by soccermom

            @CTOCN Go to the San Francisco Information Map, punch in the street address, get the zoning code. If you can’t get a direct link from there, keep googling.

          • Posted by Can't Think of Cool Name

            Thanks @soccermom. So I found this:

            A commercial use, including light manufacturing, wholesale sales, and storage, as defined in Subsections (a), (b), (c), and (d) below.
            (a) Light Manufacturing. A nonretail use which provides for the fabrication or production of goods, by hand or machinery, for distribution to retailers or wholesalers for resale off the premises, primarily involving the assembly, packaging, repairing, or processing of previously prepared materials, when conducted in an enclosed building having no openings other than fixed windows or exits required by law located within 50 feet of any R District. Light manufacturing uses include production and custom activities usually involving individual or special design, or handiwork, such as the following fabrication or production activities defined by the Standard Industrial Classification Code Manual as light manufacturing uses:
            (1) Food processing, not including mechanized assembly line production of canned or bottled goods;
            (2) Apparel and other garment products;
            (3) Furniture and fixtures;
            (4) Printing and publishing of books or newspaper;
            (5) Leather products;
            (6) Pottery;
            (7) Glass blowing;
            (8) Measuring, analyzing, and controlling instruments; photographic, medical and optical goods; watches and clocks.
            It shall not include the chemical processing of materials or the use of any machine that has more than five horsepower capacity, nor shall the mechanical equipment required for the use, together with related floor space used primarily by the operators of such equipment, in aggregate occupy more than ¼ of the total gross floor area of the use.
            It shall be not include a trade shop, as defined in Section 890.124 of this Code, or a heavy industrial use subject to Section 226(e) through (w) of this Code. It shall not include general or heavy manufacturing uses, not described in this Subsection (a).

            I’m not an attorney, but to me, the decision not to grant an expansion is kind of a coin flip. The section talks about “not including mechanized assembly line…” (890.54.a.1) but in the general description talks about “fabrication or production of goods, by hand or machinery…” (890.54.a). Well which is it? If something is assembled by machinery (which is OK), then essentially its both “mechanized” and an “assembly line” when you think about it (which is not OK).

            If the decision is based on the last paragraph of 890.54.a “It shall not include… or a heavy industrial use subject to Section 226(e) through (w),” when I jump to section 226, the entire section is shown as “[REPEALED].”

            What’s also interesting to me, (but maybe not applicable) is that the winery falls under light manufacturing, which in general describes a business that is non-retail, but in fact the winery does have a retail operation on site as well. But that doesn’t appear anywhere in the definition of “light manufacturing.”

            And no, I’m not associated with the winery, or have had their wines.

          • Posted by SocketSite

            Your summary truncates the most important line in the ordinance, which doesn’t contradict, but rather serves to clarify, the previous section and specifically allows for food processing, “not including mechanized assembly line production of canned or bottled goods” (as we originally reported above).

          • Posted by The Milkshake of Despair

            Thanks. I would never have imagined that a boutique winery would be classified as heavy manufacturing. The explicit ban on bottling probably has to do with the high pitched sound created when empty bottles are clanked together.

          • Posted by Can't Think of Cool Name

            I guess what I was trying to point out was as somebody who has some familiarity with factories and manufacturing is that any “fabrication or production of goods” by any “machinery/mechanized means” is going to “noisy.” Its not just glass bottles and aluminum cans. A lot of times the machinery is more noisy than the components running through them – regardless of what those components are made of. Hence, there’s a level of discrimination by calling out specifically packaging of glass and aluminum.

            To me, the section on light manufacturing needs some cleanup, probably along the lines of what’s tolerated from an overall noise perspective – dB levels maybe?

        • Posted by Oh Dear

          I will take this over a big box night club or auto repair shop any day.

    • Posted by Tony

      Because San Francisco landowners and voters are overbearing.

    • Posted by BobN

      They must be seen to be doing something.

  2. Posted by Futurist

    This IS ridiculous. Our government and inept mayor should be dealing with far more important issues than this. And the water usage issue is ridiculous too: only using a literal drop in the bucket.

    • Posted by Orland

      YOU, the zoning czar questioning application of applicable zoning?

  3. Posted by alberto rossi

    For what it’s worth:

    “The WSoMa Mixed Use-Office (WMUO) runs predominantly along the Townsend Street corridor between 4th Street and 7th Street and on 11th Street, from Harrison Street to the north side of Folsom Street. The WMUO is designed to encourage office uses along with small-scale light industrial and arts activities. Nighttime entertainment is permitted, although limited by buffers around RED and RED-MX districts.”

    “Office, general commercial, most retail, production, distribution, and repair uses are also principal permitted uses. Residential uses, large hotels, adult entertainment and heavy industrial uses are not permitted.”

  4. Posted by R

    This is the typical BS. We want to add good manufacturing jobs but not really. We want to build housing to make it affordable but not really…

  5. Posted by gentrified is a dirty word for clean

    You all seem to be overlooking the fact that their wine is terrible.

    • Posted by soccermom

      How is that possible? It comes out of a dirty warehouse in SOMA?

      • Posted by HousingWonk

        There’s plenty of good wine being produced in warehouses in industrial areas. Dashe Cellars in Jack London Square is located near the freeway in a warehouse and produces some of the best Zinfandel in the state. Jeff Cohn (JC Cellars) have been producing wine in the same area of JLS for years, and he puts out award wining boutique Zins and Rhone style varietals.

        • Posted by gentrified is a dirty word for clean

          Roar and August West also have winemaking facilities in the city (Dogpatch and Bayview, respectively) and those are great. Bluxome Street’s wine isn’t bad because of contamination, it’s because it’s poorly made sappy fruit punch. Also known as “for the American palate”.

      • Posted by The Milkshake of Despair

        My favorite juxtaposition of a beverage plant with heavy industry is how the Kirin brewery is nestled in a huge chemical factory complex in Yokohama: This street view picture doesn’t really do it justice. Look to the other side of the road for a hint. But the overhead view describes the situation much better.

  6. Posted by Brian M

    Donkey and Goat (which can be a challenging wine style) and their neighboring wineries on Fifth Street Berkeley are pretty urban as well!

    Jeff Cohn is a little rich for my palate…15% abv in every bottle, but they are really impressive examples of that style.

    • Posted by Ohlone Californio

      I thought Donkey and Goat make a classic style wine, Rhone. Have they evolved to an actual Donkey and Goat style? If so great but you know, funny name for a style…

      • Posted by Brian M

        Maybe “classic” in the sense of pre-1980 wines! Definitely “natural” wines is their focus. Low sulfur. Native yeasts. Organic vineyards.

        Which means much higher acidity than a typical California wine, and you can get some funkiness. I like their wines a lot, but then I am an acid hound, they need food, and they are not for everyone (just drank with friends a very young Carrignan this week LOL)

        “Donkey and Goat” comes from French folklore…the donkey does all the work and the goat keeps the donkey company and calm! They do not say which member of the couple is which 🙂

        • Posted by Brian M

          Oh…and Broc Cellars is their neighbor! Broc makes amazing lighter style natural wines, maybe a touch more approachable than D&G, but definitely delicious and elegant! His Syrah is called Cuvee 11.9 because that is the measured alcohol level! delicious!

        • Posted by gentrified is a dirty word for clean

          “Natural” wines are not necessarily more acidic, and I have never perceived D&G to be particularly acidic but I haven’t had many of their wines. The sour notes you may be experiencing in “natural” wine are likely from oxidation due to the absence or low content of SO2.

  7. Posted by Donny

    Jax Vineyards opened up a tasting room in SOMA and they have some of the best wines coming from Napa Valley.

    • Posted by Brian M

      Cool. I will look for them!

    • Posted by gentrified is a dirty word for clean

      “Some of the best”? I might recommend that Brian seeks out a second opinion on that.

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