Beer drinkers can raise a glass to Biergarten's future, as this morning the Board of Supervisors voted to extend the beer garden's lease through January 2021, delaying the building of a market-rate housing development.
The decision came after a Budget and Finance committee hearing which saw community residents and business owners gather to voice their thoughts. Public comment was dominated by voices in support of the lease extension, with a few people in favor of a shorter lease, and one in favor of no lease extension.
Before the floor was opened up to public comment, the Mayor’s Office of Economic and Workforce Development and Real Estate director John Updike outlined the state of real estate growth in Hayes Valley. Of the 22 land parcels made available after the Central Freeway was taken down, he explained that seven are set aside for affordable housing, and 15 for market-rate housing. In total, 943 units of housing will developed on these 22 parcels, with 492 units (or 52 percent) designated as affordable housing.
Of these 22 parcels, Updike stated that M, N, R, S and T are all in the process of being built. "We should stagger out development in a thoughtful manner," he said, suggesting that Parcel L, where Biergarten sits, be held until 2021 when development on Parcel K begins.
"The lease for PROXY has been a smashing success," Updike stated. "It's these kind of pop-up uses we want to encourage going forward."
Many local residents spoke of the community space that Biergarten represents. One older woman took the stand. "I'm representing the over-80 contingent," she said. "My husband lives at AgeSong, and he's in a wheelchair. We go there two or three times a week. The garden has become a second home, and the staff like family. We just don't know what we'd do without the place."
Another local resident highlighted the accessibility of the space for parents and families. "It's a family-friendly gathering space where we've met neighbors we didn't even know we had," she said. "The Biergarten is invaluable to our neighborhood. It's a place where we celebrate and gather, and it's the best possible use for that parcel."
Local business owners Charles Bililies (owner of Souvla) and Jake Gulick (co-owner of Juice Shop) spoke highly of Biergarten owners Aaron and Matt Hulme. Bililies called them "some of the best operators I've ever met in my professional life."
Local resident and activist Robin Levitt was one of the few not in support of the full lease extension, but in support of a shorter lease, stating that "we need the funds from the sale of these parcels to deal with transportation issues."
Harvey Rose, the Budget Analyst to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, also spoke in favor of a shorter lease. He pointed out that the housing and land market is high right now, meaning that the city could get a good return by selling the parcel to a developer sooner rather than later.
In the end, Supervisor Katy Tang made a motion to support the extension of the lease, and the lease extension was recommended unanimously. Biergarten will continue to serve steins and pretzels through January 31st, 2021.