A ballot measure for the Flower Mart

October 2, 2014, 48 hills

The fight to save the San Francisco Flower Mart ramped up yesterday, as the coalition supporting the flower vendors filed paperwork at City Hall to place a measure on the November 2015 ballot —provisionally titled the San Francisco Flower Mart Protection Act — that would preserve the current zoning and thereby prohibit the high-rise development proposed for the site by Los Angeles-based Kilroy Realty.

The move was announced at a press conference held at Repetto’s Nursery stall in the Mart and attended by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, former Mayor Art Agnos, former Board of Supervisors President Aaron Peskin, Small Business Commissioner and florist Kathleen Dooley, who filed and signed the initiative petition, vendor Patrick McCann, fellow vendors and florists, and their allies.

The Save the Flower Mart campaign was launched at a rally held in the same space, exactly five weeks earlier to the day. Soon afterward a petition circulated by the vendors garnered nearly 10,000 signatures in a week.

On September 11, 68% of the stockholders of the San Francisco Flower Growers Association, which owns the portion of the Flower Mart site where McCann and over 80 other vendors rent their space, voted to approve a merger with Kilroy. On the same day, vendor Dave Repetto, who’s also an SFFGA stockholder, sued the organization for breach of fiduciary duty.

The Flower Mart is currently zoned SALI (Service/Arts/Light Industrial), which limits heights to 40-55 feet in the Western SoMa Special Use District. Kilroy wants to demolish the existing structure on the site and replace it with a 160-foot development containing over half a million square feet of office space.

The language submitted to the city specifies only the part of the Flower Mart owned by the SFFGA—Assessor’s Block No. 3778, Lot No. 005 (575 Sixth Street). It says nothing about the portion of the Mart owned by the California Flower Mart, which is also reportedly negotiating with Kilroy.

Assemblymember Tom Ammiano bought the flowers for his wedding at Flower Mart

Assemblymember Tom Ammiano bought the flowers for wedding at the Flower Mart

At the August rally Agnos said that the mayor and his planning department had been invited to come to the Flower Mart and meet with the vendors. Yesterday he reported that “[t]he response was nothing,” adding: “That seems to be what the mayor does best these days.”

Agnos also noted that a recent poll of likely voters found that saving the Flower Mart was supported by “a remarkable 78%” of the respondents—a number “almost as high,” he quipped, as the public support for Ammiano.

Ammiano himself then revealed that he comes to the Flower Mart once a week. “I recently got married,” said the assemblyman, “and the flowers for my reception came from here.

The vendors’ leases expire on December 13, 2014.

Speaking last, Peskin said that it would take ten days for the city attorney to issue a title and summary for the initiative, after which the coalition would have six months to get the 9,703 signatures required to place it on the ballot—“unless Kilroy Corporation starts talking to the vendors” about long-term leases at affordable rents. “Game on!”