Pinterest moved into new offices two years ago, but thanks to venture capital-fueled growth, the San Francisco-based company is already planning another relocation. Only this time, the move would be into an already occupied building, forcing dozens of home design businesses out.
The company has already signed a deal to move into the San Francisco Design Center, the anchor of the city's Design District "Showplace Square." Zoned for "production, distribution and repair" (PDR), the building serves as a showroom for many skilled trade companies—and currently has a 90 percent occupancy rate. But as property owners across the city enviously ogle at SoMa's high office rents, other neighborhoods are looking to cash in, city Supervisor Malia Cohen told the San Francisco Chronicle.
"The market is changing and the landlords are seeing dollar signs," Cohen said. "They want to push everyone out. That kind of displacement sickens me, and it's the kind of displacement that has San Francisco in a crisis."
Ordinarily a tech company couldn't move into a building zoned for PDR. However, SocketSite reports the landlord is having the building designated as a historic landmark, exploiting a loophole that allows historic structures to be rezoned for preservation purposes.
[Another] key objective of the Showplace Square/Potrero Hill Area Plan is to ensure the economic viability of historically significant buildings, providing an exception for the conversion of such buildings to office use. And as such, the owners of [the SF Design Center are] planning to seek a Landmark Designation for the building which would clear the way for its conversion.
The move might be entirely legal, but it is a raw deal for San Francisco's middle class:
While the showrooms may not have the on-site blue-collar jobs commonly associated with PDR, the buildings are the underpinning of an ecosystem of skilled trades for people who are able to earn a living wage without a college education, [Jim Gallagher, general manager of Garden Court Antiques] said.
"There are upholsterers, refinishers, manufacturers, fabrication workrooms and movers, all of which are good-paying PDR jobs throughout the city," Gallagher said. "We are at the heart of that network. If you shrink us down, you shrink those jobs. Not just in this building, but all across the city."
The issue is not without debate. While some designers feel the Pinterest move could be good for area businesses, as the site often serves as a digital showroom for designers, others feel losing its anchor would mean the "death of the district."
Regardless, Supervisor Cohen is considering an amendment to the loophole which would reduce the amount of office space allowed in converted historic buildings. She's also holding up the building's landmarking until the legislation is introduced, potentially killing the Pinterest move altogether.
[Photo: Google Street View]