For 95 years, the San Francisco Flower Mart in South of Market has been a hub for dozens of growers offering a dazzling range of blooms. Soon, its nondescript home will be demolished to make way for a 2.2 million-square-foot office and retail campus — more than 50% more space than Salesforce Tower, the city’s tallest building.
A block away, the 24-court San Francisco Tennis Club will be replaced by a massive office project where Pinterest has signed a lease, along with affordable housing and a public pool. (Both the tennis courts and flower mart will be rebuilt in the new buildings, although the flower mart may relocate elsewhere.)
Near the Caltrain station, 900 apartments in two swooping residential towers designed by superstar architect Bjarke Ingels are planned.
These projects are among the largest that will reshape 230 acres in central South of Market. They can potentially start construction next year, after the city and developers settled four lawsuits seeking to invalidate a 2018 rezoning of the area in the past week.
The result will be a new heart of the city: 30,000 new jobs and over 8,000 new homes are expected by 2040. After nearly a decade of studies and backlash, new projects will generate an estimated $2 billion in city fees to make a third of the housing in the area affordable, transit improvements and open space investments between Second and Sixth streets north of Townsend.
“We’re pleased this could be resolved without the need for further litigation,” said John Coté, a spokesman for City Attorney Dennis Herrera. “Now everyone can focus on ensuring that SoMa continues to grow as a thriving, livable neighborhood with the major public benefits that the city’s Central SoMa Plan secures.”
The plan had numerous critics, and the idea of even more office growth, towers up to 400 feet and fears of traffic congestion led to four separate lawsuits. Condo owners Jonathan Berk and Paul Phillips filed two separate lawsuits, alleging the city didn’t properly study the environmental impacts of more growth. One Vassar LLC, one of the developers, filed a lawsuit seeking taller buildings. The nonprofit Todco called for additional studies on public facilities needs and seismic vulnerabilities, which the city agreed to last week.
Todco executive director John Elberling confirmed the settlement. Berk referred a request for comment to Pang Ly, San Francisco Superior Court commissioner pro tem, who oversaw the settlement negotiations. One Vassar LLC and Phillips’ attorneys didn’t respond to requests for comment.
Housing advocates feared the higher number of jobs compared to new homes would exacerbate the regional shortage. City officials responded that jobs were best located near public transit, and Central SoMa would be bolstered by the new, albeit long delayed, Central Subway.
Ultimately, more growth won.
“It was a collaborative process to ensure there will be reasonable growth that balances the need of additional housing while honoring San Francisco’s history,” said Ly. “I was really pleased that the parties worked collaboratively.”
Negotiations took place between city officials, the four opponents of the plan and unspecified developers who have projects in the area, said Ly. She declined to disclose any financial terms of the settlements and would not say whether any of the parties had signed nondisclosure agreements.
Robert Selna, a Wendel Rosen attorney who wasn’t involved in the cases, said having four different lawsuits was unusual.
“Typically it’s one, unified opposition, not multiple lawsuits going in different directions,” he said.
But the fact that each opponent challenged the environmental merits of the city’s rezoning showed how environmental laws are being used as an anti-development tool, he said.
“To me, it shows that CEQA is abused pretty widely,” Selna said, referring to the California Environmental Quality Act. “It’s very hard to counter environmental claims because they’re highly technical.”
Other projects that have been delayed because of environmental lawsuits include the Golden State Warriors’ Chase Center and 5M, which is developed by Brookfield and Hearst Corp., owner of The Chronicle. In both cases, the developers won in court.
“Apparently all sides believed it was in their interest to move forward,” said Selna. “Litigation is time-consuming and expensive and generally wasteful.”
Don Falk, executive director of the Tenderloin Housing Development Corp., who wants to build 200 affordable housing units at 5th and Howard streets, said the rezoning will have upsides and downsides.
“The value capture is such that there will be substantial community benefits and affordable housing,” Falk said. “The shadow sides of development are gentrification and displacement.”
But even with $2 billion in expected fees, rising construction costs could mean the public gets less, he said. The 5th and Howard project’s costs have risen around $15 million to $150 million in the past year, making the project financially infeasible for now.
“We are not giving up. We are looking really hard,” Falk said. “It will continue to be difficult. We have owned it for 10 years.”
Chronicle staff writer J.K. Dineen contributed to this report.
Roland Li is a Chronicle staff writer. Email: email@example.com Twitter: @rolandlisf