Can Supe Cohen stem the tide of PDR to office conversions that she set loose?

by JIM MEKO

Earlier this year, Supervisor Malia Cohen carried a piece of legislation for the Mayor that would reward high tech companies by allowing them to build offices in zones that were formerly set aside for the protection of production, distribution and repair (PDR) businesses in exchange for setting aside 1/3 of that space for these light industrial jobs. No guarantee that the space would actually be filled, no controls on the rent, and big loopholes that allowed 100% office use under the Small Enterprise Workshop program. The Board of Supervisors passed it unanimously without even considering some thoughtful amendments proposed by the community organizations that were involved in the original rezoning.

When queried about the inconsistency of supporting such a dubious deal while the Planning Department was actually sacrificing so much existing PDR space nearby by recommending PDR to office conversions in every single case that came before the Planning Commission, Cohen “didn’t want to get involved in something outside of her own District.” 

Now her chickens have come home to roost. Utilizing the same bludgeon that planners have been employing in South of Marker, 2 Henry Adams came close to evicting all the designers who call this Showplace Square institution home to make way for conversion to offices for internet giant Pinterest.

Maybe the Planning Department just got too greedy. Or maybe Supervisor Cohen realized that she’s up for reelection this Fall. But on Monday Cohen let it be known that she would ask that the landmarking of 2 Henry Adams be put on hold and that she would forward interim controls to the full Board of Supervisors that would make PDR to office conversions more difficult in a narrow range of zoning districts that affect only District 10.

“That’s the thing about these transactional politicians,” one of her opponents said. “They are good on an issue at one moment and terrible on the same issue just a short while later. It’s never about the issues,” he said. “But the neighbors and advocates won out this time because of the [election year] calendar.”

Supervisor Jane Kim joined the majority in voting to send the interim controls to the full Board but said nothing about extending those controls to the SLI or SALI PDR zones of her own District.

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