In the works for over two years, the custom-tailored ordinance to allow the owners of the 31-story Intercontinental Hotel at 888 Howard Street to privatize the two outdoor terraces on the 3rd and 5th floors of the hotel, which are currently privately-owned public open spaces (POPOS) and were required as a condition of the hotel’s approval back in 2002, has been approved by San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors.
In exchange for being allowed to privatize the 12,600 square feet of terrace space, the hotel will be required to pay a retroactive $2.6 million in-lieu fee, a fee which is to be dedicated to the Recreation and Parks Department and to be used to improve the lighting and safety features of the nearby Victoria Manolo Draves Park.
In addition, the hotel has offered to gift another $300,000 to the City for the maintenance of the park or other under-utilized parks in the area.
The City’s rational for approving the privatization of the hotel’s public space (which was the result of a 1980s-era city policy which requires all new South of Market commercial buildings to provide privately-owned public open spaces):
- the Planning Commission’s original approval of the project noted the poor quality of the open space
- alternative, suitable open space sites cannot be acquired within the neighborhood of the project
- improvements to the quality of the existing open space are neither feasible nor appropriate, and
- while the City should always strive to maintain requirements associated with development approvals, in this case the alternative in-lieu payment provides greater public benefit than the original open space requirement
While the privatization will be immediate, the aforementioned improvements to Victoria Manolo Draves Park are to be implemented “within two years” of the the Recreation and Parks Department receiving the funds.
And with the privatization of Salesforce’s former publicly accessible open space at 50 Fremont Street underway, any wagers on which of San Francisco’s POPOS is next in line to be sold or optimized?