San Francisco denies neighbors request to make nursery a historic landmark

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- ABC7 News is committed to Building a Better Bay Area, which means we follow up on stories that could provide solutions like creating more housing in one of the most expensive places to live in the country. We previously told you about plans to convert a block of old, abandoned greenhouses in San Francisco into new single family homes. Neighbors aren't on board with the idea.

The Garibaldi Nursery is the last of more than 20 nurseries left in the Portola neighborhood. Neighbors applied for it to become a historic landmark and made their case at City Hall.

"It's something that we don't want to lose," one neighbor said. "It's too precious. We don't have anything like this in the city of San Francisco. No matter where you go, you won't find anything like this. And we would love to see it preserved."

That neighbor was one of dozens of people who went before the San Francisco Historic Preservation Commission, asking it to consider making this dilapidated nursery in the Portola district a historic landmark.

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"If this were a landmark, it would not be staying there stagnant," said neighbor Elisa Laird-Metke with the group Friends of 770 Woolsey. "It would not just be left to continue in its current state but it would have life and vibrancy in the community."

Neighbors want to turn the space into an urban farm. But the developer who bought the property in 2017 is planning to build 63 units of housing.

"If you do pass the landmark," said Corey Smith of the San Francisco Housing Action Coalition. "I encourage you not to do so today, then you are rejecting homes from people."

In the end, the commission chose not to start the landmarking process for the site, deciding instead to continue the environmental review process.

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"So it's unfortunate that in San Francisco that the people with money are the ones who end up with all the influence," Laird-Metke says. "And this is why this is why there are articles about how San Francisco has lost its soul. Its decisions like this one today."

The commission encouraged both sides to find a common ground, something the site's developer Eric Tao says he hopes to do. In addition to houses, he's offered to contribute 20 percent of the land for public use and programming.

"We can build replica greenhouses," Tao says. "We can build a community garden, we can do programs, we can do community space, we can have lectures and lessons."

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Neighbors say despite the decision, they're encouraged.

"What was heartening about this was to see the community come out and to see everybody really voicing their care for the history of this community," Laird-Metke says.

Laird-Metke says this is a very early decision in a very long process, and they have to decide the best way to move forward.
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