The temporary ban placed by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors on delivery of packages has been implemented to try and shake down Amazon.
The board unanimously voted Tuesday to place “interim zones controls” on parcel delivery services for 18 months. Those interim controls will require new package delivery services to go through the city’s conditional use authorization process—a long, expensive, and fraught prospect. These are the San Francisco ChronicleAnd San Francisco Standard Each describes the ordinance as an 18 month “moratorium.”
Since late 2020, Amazon is in process of setting up a 725,000-square foot distribution center in Showplace Square. The plan has been opposed by neighbors and an art school nearby. They cite the possibility of more noise and traffic, and Amazon’s track record regarding safety.
In a public letter, one resident stated that “the massive Amazon project will totally change the character of my neighborhood creating traffic congestion safety issues and pollution as well low-paying jobs in a company hostile worker rights.”
A coalition of trade unions—including the Teamsters, the United Commercial Food Workers, Service Employees International Union, and the Building Trades Council—have embraced the ordinance as well. Before the vote, they rallied outside City Hall.
This moratorium on delivery service innovation is supported by a lot of people who know that Amazon will be smashed.
“You are going into our neighborhood to speak to the residents. They will receive community benefits,” Shaman Walston, the man who introduced yesterday’s moratorium bill, said at yesterday’s city hall rally. Chronicle.
Jim Araby from the United Food and Commercial Workers also spoke at the rally yesterday, saying that legislation was the first step in making sure that there’s a process. He said that it’s not possible to just set up a 700k square foot and then say that we’ll buy you off with $5 and an iced tea.
To extract concessions for project sponsors, organized labor is fond of long approval processes.
Because unions can delay proceedings by filing frivolous lawsuits and appeals, they have the power necessary to get developers to employ all-union labor. Neighborhood groups will do the same in pursuit of developer-provided “community benefits”—whether that’s a new park, new community space, or a $1 million cash payment.
Araby, a union rep, said that the local Potrero View Amazon’s planned facility should have union jobs “not only during construction but even while it’s being operated.”
The approval process in San Francisco is usually lengthy and long. Third parties have ample opportunity to prolong the process in an effort to extract concessions.
Even more, the 18-month moratorium slows everything down. This seems like an attempt to keep other parts of the city’s government from becoming too open to Amazon.
When introducing the moratorium bill at a February Board of Supervisors meeting, Walton complained of being blindsided by the city’s Office of Economic and Workforce Development (OEWD)—which had already signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Amazon about its plans for the Showplace Square site.
“I didn’t know that the Office of Economic and Workforce Development signed an MOU for District 10 with this company until the day it was covered in the press,” he stated. “At minimum, the OEWD should have reached out and had a courtesy conversation with our office.”
Aaron Peskin from Supervisor Aaron Peskin said, “It just feels kind of janky.” StandardThe MOU was signed back in January. It’s basically a signal that Amazon, along with traffic and labor issues, are being ignored.
Ironically, Amazon was only able to acquire Showplace Square because San Francisco had a rigorous approval process and it gave project opponents the power they need to stall things.
Recology was the previous owner. He had plans to transform its rubbish hauling plant into 1000 units of housing. The plan was opposed by neighbors who argued that Recology would lose an industrial-zoned location that could be used locally for auto repair shops and small manufacturers.
The rubbish company sold 6-acres of land to Amazon, despite facing an approval process that would take three to four years. This is not counting delays caused by environmental lawsuits in San Francisco. Chronicle.
Amazon now wants to turn that abandoned industrial property into a distribution hub, but residents and activists are against it. According to city officials, the solution is to continue adding process to whatever new development occurs on that site.
It is not the first time San Francisco has had to backfire on its efforts to protect small businesses through its zoning codes. To prevent Starbucks’ takeover, the city’s restrictions on chain retail also prevented a family-owned burrito shop from opening another one.
You would expect that these regulatory failures might persuade city officials, community activists and organized labor to abandon micromanaging zoning regulations. But they are more determined than ever before to resist every new development.