Wednesday, April 13, 2011

SF Wholesale Product Market - Bayview treasure

Much of the business of the San Francisco Wholesale Produce Market is done old style: with a handshake. - Michael Janis, from a SECF presentation

The San Francisco Wholesale Produce Market will be improved in phases in the years to come, enhancements that include construction on the four main buildings on Jerrold Avenue, and adding a new parcel at 901 Rankin, according to Brian Liles, an architect workin on the project.

Michael Janis, General Manager of the Wholesale Produce Market, one of Bayview's most unique assets, brought Liles, Monica Melkesian (Project Manager) and Helen Sess (Board Member) to formally announce the project to the community at the SECF Commission's February 10th meeting.

Here is the full text of the presentation as captured by Carla Vaughn, Commission Secretary.
Commission Chair Kennedy introduced and welcomed Mr. Michael Janis, General Manager of the San Francisco Wholesale Produce Market.

Mr. Janis thanked Commissioner Kennedy and the Commission on behalf of the entire San Francisco Wholesale Produce Market family. He advised this was the first public presentation of their Retention and Expansion Project and they thought it was important to be at the Commission for the first presentation.

Mr. Janis introduced SF Wholesale Produce Market board member, Helen Sess, Monica Melkesian, Project Manager, and Brian Liles, architect of Jackson Liles Architect. Mr. Janis introduced the Commission to the market and shared the vision of the market.

Given the unique hours of operation many people are not familiar with what the market does.

The market operates in the middle of the night and very few people get to see the market. Fresh produce is provided in many different ways, through neighborhood grocers, through large independent grocery stores like Mollie Stone's, through some unique businesses like SPUD, which is a home delivery company, much like the old milkman use to do. What is really unique about the market is a product that is literally cut in Salinas today would be on sale in our market tomorrow morning. The market family is a very unique one that operates in the middle of the night and is made up of 30 individual businesses that all have one thing in common and they are joined at the hip around fresh produce. They compete against each other but they work together collectively. There are about 650 people who work on the market as part of our market family and they work within about 30 merchant vendor businesses.

The customers are extremely unique and varied such as JB Cafe, a small cafe, independent grocers such as Mollie Stone's Market that has eleven stores throughout the Bay Area and they just added a store in the Castro. There are stores like Good Life Grocery in Potrero Hill and also in Bernal Heights that have been a customer of the market for many years. There are stores throughout the Mission such as Valencia Farmers Market. The customer base varies in the hundreds upon hundreds primarily in San Francisco but throughout the Bay Area. The system in the market is unique also in that it is very old style and much of the buying and selling is done by handshakes. Many of the relationships go back many, many years. Many of our growers have been selling to our vendors for literally generations. One of the most unique aspects of the market is some of the relationships we have beyond buying and selling. The one we are pointing out here is with the Food Bank. Our relationship with the Food Bank is a very special one. It goes back many, many years. It resulted last year in over a million pounds of fresh produce was donated from the market to Food Bank and that resulted in about a million three hundred thousand meals that San Franciscan's were able to benefit from with our partnership with the Food Bank. The Food Bank trunk is literally in the market every morning and goes from business to business picking up produce. Commissioners Chung and LeBlanc were in the market this week and got to see a little bit of that. If any of the other Commissioners would ever like to see the market we would be delighted to provide a tour.

The market family is about 30 businesses. We have businesses that are over 100 years old and we have those that have formed within the last decade. Some of the examples of our business Washington Vegetable was founded in 1931 and they were founded literally on Washington Street at the original market district in San Francisco which is now the Embarcadero Centers. Earls Organic is another one of our very notable businesses. He started his business in 1988 literally with a desk and on his own.

He now has about 45 employees and he is in 20,000 square feet of space. Greenleaf is probably our most visible business on the market. It is also our largest business. Many of you have probably seen their white trucks running around town with the green lettering on it with jingles about food and produce and things like that. They started their business over 35 years ago in the market and it has an incredible story. The founding of it, the motivation was literally to save a commune in San Francisco. The home where the commune was based was going to be sold and the people thought they needed to save the home and they went into the produce business. They now have over 150 people working at Greenleaf and they have a national reputation.

Our vendors work very hard to bring a wide variety of produce to you. It ranges the gamut from international produce like tomatillos and wild mushrooms to conventional to organics. We are fortunate that Earls Organic who I mentioned earlier is one of the foremost organic businesses not only in the Bay Area but really on the West Coast and we are very lucky that he founded the business on our market. If you are in the market in August you’ll see incredible varieties and selections of tomatoes. Even this time of year Commissioner Chung and Commissioner LeBlanc commented about the variety of tomatoes they saw. In August when it is really coming locally you see even more.

THE MARKET TODAY: Mr. Janis provided an overview of the current market location. The market is made up of five major buildings bonded by Rankin and Toland streets. The newest building which was purchased in 2000 and Whole Foods Market has their northern California central distribution center based in that building, as well as Earls Organic. Whole Foods is opening their newest store in San Francisco on Monday in the Haight on Stanyon Street.

The buildings were brought on line in 1963 and although they are serving the market very well it is time to look to the future and look to improvements. The activities in the buildings are very intense. Inside the buildings and on the front docks are where the sales actually take place. In between the buildings is where forklifts go back and forth, hand trucks and product is moved between vendors either selling to each other or loading customer trucks.

VISION: Brian Liles provided details of a proposal for the market’s vision for the future. The proposal is a phase program of improvements that will be implemented over many years. These improvements incorporate construction on the four main building sites and the addition of an adjacent parcel at 901 Rankin. 901 Rankin is viewed to be the first phase of the proposed project and will include warehouse space and associated office space. In addition the market would like to find a way to include a demonstration kitchen and associated meeting space. The subsequent phases of the project on the market will be on the market’s existing site. These improvements will occur on the four main building sites, and will also include a small marshalling yard. 2101 Jerrold will remain as it is since it was just recently constructed and finished in 2000.

The latter phases of construction that take place after 901 Rankin will either renovate the existing buildings providing grade level parking at the current location and under freeway 280, or provide new construction with rooftop parking. At the completion of these improvements depending on whether new construction or renovation takes place the market will increase in size from approximately 100,000 to 200,000 square feet. Inside the new or renovated buildings will be the infrastructure to support a vibrant market place where produce will be displayed, purchased and loaded. The building improvements will include a durable flexible warehouse space, adjacent office space above, and a dock area below. All of the building improvements whether renovated or new will have seismic strengthening new building systems such as, electrical, mechanical, and plumbing. The improvements will meet lead silver standards for sustainability in energy use. Key features will be renewable energy, such as solar heating on the roofs, or possibly wind energy. Day lighting would be provided by sky lights and clear story windows, construction waste management and recycling, use of regional building materials, bicycle accommodations and potentially a green roof. The focus will be to provide functional, durable infrastructure that will serve the market far into the future.

Mr. Liles reviewed the proposed site and roadway improvements. Currently Jerrold Avenue, which approaches the market on either end, splits and public traffic circulates around a median of market buildings and some grade level parking. Industry Street which is north of the market does not connect through to Toland Avenue. Innes Street which is just to the north of the market does not connect through to Toland Avenue, and neither does Kirkwood Avenue which is just to the south of the street. This limits their overall utilization into the surrounding transportation grid. The conditions of Kirkwood and Innes are also substandard lacking curbs, gutters, sidewalks, and street lighting with the street paving actually being in fairly poor condition. All of these conditions result in their underutilization. Rankin Street to the north of Jerrold which picks up at the east end of Innes and connects back to Jerrold Avenue is quite narrow and not very useable. Loading and other market activities happen right out on the apron of the existing buildings creating a mixture of public traffic and market operations. It is important to realize that many of these market functions happen throughout the night when it is dark and visibility is limited. Given these existing conditions the market is proposing a number of improvements to the streets adjacent to it. These improvements are intended to work in concert with each other and to provide a new and improved overall transportation network. The market proposes to create a new intersection at Innes Avenue and

Toland, and another new intersection at Kirkwood Avenue and Toland. These two intersections will increase the connectivity and utilization of these important street assets. There will be a new alignment connecting the east end of Innes to Jerrold Avenue, widening that connection and making it useful again. That alignment will run roughly parallel to the Cal Train spurs.

The market proposes to improve the conditions of all of these surrounding streets the actual way that they are built. With the sum of these improvements the market proposes that public traffic will be rerouted around the market utilizing these improved street areas. People will be able to flow from Jerrold up and around Innes and back, and do likewise with Kirkwood. Both Kirkwood and Innes will be two way streets. With this rerouting of traffic the market seeks to minimize the conflict between the public traffic and market operations.

These improvements will create a more typical street experience which willreduce confusion about which roadways are intended for public traffic and which areas are intended for market use. The improvements will route all of thetraffic around the market and vehicles inside the market will be limited for those necessary for market operations. In tandem with the proposed improvements will be two new entry and orientation points at either end of the market at Jerrold and Rankin, and Jerrold and Toland. It will allow you to come in and enter the market and gain orientation to it’s’ buildings and the marshalling space in between.

Mr. Liles provided images related to the proposed details of the rebuilding of those streets. The rebuilt streetscape is proposed to include new sidewalks, curbs, and gutters on both sides of the street. A better environment will be created for both pedestrians and motorists alike. Improvements additionally will provide street trees, additional landscaping, storm water control elements, and street lighting. All of these improvements will make the streets more attractive, useable, and sustainable. Mr. Liles provided images of new curb, gutter, sidewalk, street trees, and new paving. Another image showed the current condition of the area.

Commissioner LeBlanc asked if the traffic improvements would be completed first.

Mr. Janis responded it was anticipated the road improvements would be completed within the first phase. The process will provide flexibility and allow for change if necessary.

Commissioner LeBlanc suggested notifying the Commission when it was time to go before the Planning Department so they could lend their support.

Monica Melkesian said the market was in the process of preparing their environmental evaluation and anticipate it will be published in the next month or two. After the completion of the environmental evaluation process there will be a move forward to finalize the project approvals. This is a long term plan of 10 to 15 years and it is envisioned that the first phase of construction will be occurring in 2012.

Commissioner Chung thanked Michael Janis for the tour of the market and asked what the budget was for the project.

Monica Melkesian said they were in the preliminary stages of development of the project and were currently working to identify various financing vehicles to fund the project development. When the project is fully built out this will be an investment into the community of about 90 to 100 million dollars.

Commissioner LeBlanc reported that during the tour she learned that although the market is on city property their funding is raised by private funding so it will not affect the city budget. Commissioner LeBlanc suggested they talk to people in the hospitality industry since San Francisco is the home of many restaurants. Mr. Janis thanked the Commission and invited the other Commissioners to tour the market.

Toye Moses, Executive Director, thanked Mr. Janis for providing healthy food at the SECFC Health Fairs and had a question regarding the market’s ability to provide jobs to the community and reduce the unemployment rate that plagues the 94124 area.

Mr. Janis said approximately 650 people work at the market through the private businesses. About 250 people are San Franciscans and within that group over half are people from the Mission, Bay View, and Visitation Valley. Mr. Janis said there are opportunities to increase employment. However, the challenge at hand is that the businesses are fairly small and the size of their Training and HR departments are minimal compared to a large national retailer that has that infrastructure. The market is working with the City to identify partners that can work with the market to increase the number of people hired from the community.

Director Moses commented regarding the produce being sold on San Bruno Avenue and Mission Street. He asked if the market could do something to help the Commission promote small businesses on Third Street.

Mr. Janis said several months ago Jacob Moody was here for SEFA (Southeast Food Access Working Group), an organization co-chaired by Mr. Janis and Mr. Moody, whose priority it is to increase fresh foods into the retail base here in the Bay View. It is frustrating to those at the market to have so much produce right here in the community, however at a retail level the access is limited.

SEFA is working on three or four different initiatives that range from working with FoodsCo with their existing store, as well as looking at the opportunities to enlarge that store. SEFA has been supportive of Fresh and Easy coming in, which will be opening up this year. The other piece of the puzzle that SEFA has focused on is SuperSave. There is a tremendous opportunity with SuperSave given that they have been in the community for many years. It has a very strong infrastructure and there is a tremendous opportunity for that store to be repositioned for a significant amount of retail outlet for produce.

The other area is that we do have many merchants that shop in the market today that have stores in the Mission or other neighborhoods in San Francisco that are doing very well focusing on produce. Working with the City through the Office of Economic and Workforce Development we can make sure those retailers are aware of opportunities here in Bay View. We absolutely do see part of our role is to try to increase the amount of access to fresh and healthy foods here in the Bay View.

Commissioner Kennedy said the process of getting anything built in San Francisco is horrendous, however she is delighted that they will be looking at hiring individuals from the community. She asked if they were strictly wholesale.

Mr. Janis said the vast majority of their business is business to business, however they do have consumers come down and buy for events, or church groups and as long as people know it is a wholesale environment they are more than welcome.

1 comment:

1700newcombave said...

While there is a produce hub in the Bayview, residents are still plagued with the lack of accessibility to fresh produce at affordable prices. Some thought should be given to allowing residents not only to seek employement at the SF Wholesale Produce Market, but to purchase produce at discounted prices. There are limited venues, within the Bayview, for fresh produce and SuperSave and independent produce iniatives are far from affordable and often the quality of the produce is questionable. I recently purchased atractive looking peaches (externally), from 3rd Street, at a dollars a piece that were evidently frozen or internally rotten as result of processing and/or transportation. Please consider allowing residents to purchase produce availble to Molly Stone or Whole Foods at an outlet at the SF Wholesale Produce Market. This could be limited to specific days and/or time of operation.