SF gallery unhappy with city politics


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The artwork on their window says exactly how the owners of the Varnish Art gallery and Wine Bar feel. Jen Rogers and Kerri Stephens are being forced to move their business.

"It's just been heartbreaking because we're losing everything," said Stephens.

Their landlord sold the building to the Transbay Joint Powers Authority, the agency in charge of the massive downtown transit project. The art gallery and more than a dozen other small businesses in the area will be displaced.

The two opened their business six years ago, spending more than $600,000 renovating the warehouse.

They say they're entitled to be compensated for that, as well as relocation costs and they want to recover their business losses.

They say talks with the agency has been futile.

"No one's told us what kind of funding were going to have to be able to move. We haven't been able to plan that," said Stephens.

Project officials first told them they would have to move in June, then September and now November.

The women say they haven't been able to book art shows this summer because of all the waffling.

"At this point, I believe it's a little over 300,000 dollars in turned away business," said Rogers.

They say project officials' estimate was much lower.

"They appraised our business loss and goodwill at $65,500," said Rogers.

Rogers and Stevens even found a new place, but after waiting for months, the landlord rented it to someone else.

"They've been intransigent every step of the way," said Rogers.

"We've just been left hanging you know," said Stephens.

Andrew Schwartz represents the Joint Powers Authority. He says the agency has been more than reasonable.

"We are offering them all the benefits including loss of business and goodwill that they're entitled to by law," said Schwartz.

Negotiations between the two sides continue. In the meantime, Rogers and Stephens' legal costs are now more than $80,000.

"We just want to run our business and be done with this hell, dealing with them," said Rogers.

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