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Reverse That Park: Hearst Wages War Against Chairs in the Street. 

Tuesday, Dec 23 2014
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On a recent gray Wednesday, a few brave souls perched in the moist chairs now bolted onto the pavement on Annie Street Plaza. The succulent plants dangling from a rustic wooden arch were, if anything, looking a shade overwatered.

Still, it was an unexpectedly serene tableau for a formerly forlorn SOMA alleyway-turned-public-lounge site.

The Hearst Corporation, however, pines for that forlorn alleyway.

On Dec. 9, it filed paperwork to appeal the permit that's allowing the Yerba Buena Community Benefit District to install seats and rustic arches and vegetation on the street. Hearst's attorneys claim, among other charges, that improper permits were issued and that the traffic count presaging the establishment of a parklet was inaccurate and incomplete. Hearst is, essentially, seeking the demolition of the plaza.

The timing of this move came as something of a jolt to the Yerba Buena Community Benefit District. Planning and installing the plaza was a multiyear process, involving all the usual joyous bureaucratic drudgery and myriad opportunities for aggrieved parties to make their feelings known. The YBCBD raised and spent the $118,000 required to install the plaza, and would be out that wad if it were removed. And, only weeks before Hearst's filing, city dignitaries filed into Annie Street Plaza for a gala opening. Mayor Ed Lee hailed it as "new and imaginative" while Supervisor Jane Kim, in a dazzling scarlet coat, cut a ribbon and declared the plaza "a pedestrian oasis for workers, seniors, and families alike."

Well, maybe not.

The Hearst Corporation runs not just its media empire from the Hearst Building on Market and Third streets, but vast real estate holdings, too. The 800-vehicle Hearst Parking Garage is adjacent to the Hearst Building and without Annie Street as an "escape valve," its petition claims, "vehicles routinely line up bumper-to-bumper on Jessie Street."

SF Weekly is told that Hearst higher-ups park their cars in this garage, and are, presumably, inconvenienced by this "bumper-to-bumper" bottleneck.

Messages for Hearst leadership passed to the company's lawyers were not returned.

An international media and real estate empire's attempts to raze a community gathering spot were not well-received among those enjoying the spot. "These are naked intimidation tactics of a gigantic corporate bully against our small Yerba Buena/SOMA community. How do you think we feel about that?" a letter to Hearst from the Yerba Buena Neighborhood Consortium queries. "Who in the world do you think you are?"

One thing Hearst isn't having, however, is an identity crisis.

On that recent gray Wednesday, a shiny, late-model Mercedes cruised out of the Hearst Garage. Unable to turn on Annie, it waited in the "bumper-to-bumper" lineup on Jessie Street.

And, 90 seconds later, it was gone.

About The Author

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi

Bio:
Joe Eskenazi was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left. "Your humble narrator" was a staff writer and columnist for SF Weekly from 2007 to 2015. He resides in the Excelsior with his wife, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers.

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