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Amazon Hits Pause on its SoMa Delivery Center After SF Officials Approve Temporary Zoning Controls
Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Amazon Hits Pause on its SoMa Delivery Center After SF Officials Approve Temporary Zoning Controls

Amazon said it has paused work on a controversial last-mile delivery center in SoMa after the San Francisco Board of Supervisors approved legislation Tuesday that allows for temporary zoning controls which impact the development. 

The ordinance—which was introduced by SF Board of Supervisors President Shamann Walton with support from labor groups—would require conditional-use authorization for 18 months for proposed parcel delivery facilities like the one planned by Amazon at 900 7th St. 

The legislation was passed through a 10-0 vote. Supervisor Aaron Peskin recused himself because he owns Amazon stock. 

According to its language, the legislation is also meant to allow the city to study the “rapidly evolving” industry and allow for orderly development of package delivery service-type uses. 

Amazon said it “will continue to evaluate our long-term use of the site, and in the short-term we will work with our neighbors to look at ways to use the location to serve the community.”

“This is why it is important to speak up and challenge big corporations or any business that doesn’t have the best intentions for surrounding communities and neighborhoods they affect,” Walton said in a statement responding to Amazon’s decision to pause the development. “Why pause versus working with labor, community, and city leadership? This is why we pushed the legislation in the first place.”

Amazon’s planned 725,000-square-foot-warehouse–unlike a housing development that had previously been considered for the site–would have met current land-use guidelines, absent the zoning restrictions.

Critics of the project, including neighbors and labor unions who don’t like Amazon’s anti-union policies, say the warehouse could worsen pollution, traffic and quality of life for residents while offering only low-paying jobs. 

Jason Rabinowitz, president of the Teamsters Joint Council 7 said he considered the legislation’s advancement and Amazon’s response a victory as the union hopes to secure labor jobs and community concessions as part of the development. 

“What we hoped the legislation would lead to ultimately was that Amazon would come into the community as a good responsible neighbor with guarantees that they would have good union jobs that benefit the community and show respect to the neighborhood and the environment,” Rabinowitz said. 

Mayor London Breed told a number of labor leaders at a February meeting that she was supportive of their efforts to ensure the tech and retail giant creates union jobs at the proposed delivery center, The Standard reported earlier this month.

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Jim Araby, the director of strategic campaigns for UFCW local 5, raised the prospects of new legislation after the current 18-month term to make the zoning controls permanent if Amazon fails to work together with other stakeholders on a path forward. 

“It’s not like we’re going away,” Araby said. “If Amazon needs to be in the city then they’re going to need to deal with these issues,” 

Amazon already operates a number of smaller warehouses and delivery centers in San Francisco, including a facility at 435 23rd St. and another at 749 Toland St. The company purchased the six-acre parcel at 900 7th St. from Recology for $200 million in late 2020.

Recology had owned the property since 1970, using it mainly for garbage truck parking and storage. Prior to selling the property to Amazon, the waste management company pitched various uses on the site, including offices and housing. 

“If Amazon is going to come to San Francisco it’s going to be in a responsible way or else they’re not coming. That’s our position,” Rabinowitz said. “This is a win, but we recognize that the battle is not over and we’re going to keep fighting.”

Kevin Truong can be reached at [email protected].

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