City Gives Final Approval For New Store

March 6, 2014

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors has approved a planning code variance for a single parcel of land on Union Square, effectively giving final approval for Apple to begin construction of its proposed high-profile store. The project will involve demolishing the current triangular Levi’s store, rebuilding the adjacent plaza and constructing a two-level glass and steel retail store on a corner parcel. Over the past 10 months several city committees and commissions raised and resolved issues about the store project, even including the potential number of birds killed by flying into the huge front glass windows of the store. Last month the Planning Commission deadlocked on approving amendments to the planning code that would only affect the Apple store parcel, putting the store’s approval in the hands of city supervisors.The code section involves Apple’s plan to demolish the existing building and replace it with a structure that is smaller in square feet, thus affecting the sites’ floor area ratio (FAR). In return for modifying the FAR requirements, the amendments added nine additional requirements for the project, including that it would not result in an adverse impact to an historic resource, and wouldn’t obstruct public view corridors.

After just two minutes of thank-you’s to the various stakeholders at its Monday meeting and with no debate, the board of supervisors approved the amendments by a 11-0 vote. A second required vote on the amendments will be taken next week, and the mayor—who sponsored the proposal—must then approve them.

One mystery about the store remains, however. During the two-minute vote, supervisor Malia Cohen referred to “the labor board leaders that came and coalesced around this particular issue.” She was referring to members of the local SEIU chapter who had raised various design objections to the store, but as a way of pointing out Apple employs non-union security guards. Supervisor David Chiu also mentioned “members of the community labor coalition” who worked with his office to obtain a consensus. It’s not clear from the comments if Apple agreed to use union labor security guards at the future store.

If demolition begins immediately, the store could open by spring 2015.

Download (pdf) the variance and supporting materials.

Update: One week later, on March 11, 2014 the Board of Supervisor approved without comments (in fact, in a group vote on four separate matters) the second reading of the ordinance amendments, giving really final approval for the future store. In a rare company statement about the retail stores, spokesperson Amy Bessette told Re/Code–

“We are thrilled that the city of San Francisco has given its final approval to begin work on our new store and public plaza, which will make a wonderful addition to Union Square and create hundreds of local jobs. Our Stockton Street store has been incredibly popular, welcoming over 13 million customers since it opened nine years ago, and we look forward to making a new home on Union Square.”

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