City Ponders Ways to Oust JUUL from Pier 70

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San Francisco Port Commissioners want vaping company, JUUL, to relocate from Pier 70, by shortening the firm’s lease or enacting a municipal ordinance that bans vaping firms and firearm manufacturers from leasing or subleasing commercial property. 

The nicotine-supplying e-cigarette enterprise sublets offices in Building 102 on 20th and Illinois streets. As reported in the View, late last year Potrero Hill and Dogpatch residents expressed displeasure that they weren’t notified about JUUL’s habitation, a company advocates view as dangerous to adolescents’ health. In January, the Port Commission held a meeting to discuss the issue. Several attendees spoke against JUUL’s occupation, and asked whether the City could evict it and prevent something similar from happening in the future.

During the meeting, Commissioner Willie Adams said he has a “heavy heart,” and that Orton Development “missed the mark” on its sublease to JUUL. “I don’t think they were vetted properly,” he said.

However, the Port’s hands are tied, according to San Francisco Port Director Elaine Forbes. She said JUUL is in compliance with its lease, and to her knowledge isn’t breaking any regulations. Furthermore, the Port doesn’t have the authority to approve or deny Orton’s subtenants, a loophole some commissioners want to see rectified. 

“We’ve got to change the law,” Adams said. “Something has to be done.”

Commissioner Gail Gilman echoed the sentiments. “We need a citywide policy…we need stronger provisions for sublease tenants.”  

JUUL has a 10-year lease with Orton. According to the City Attorney’s Office, Orton could attempt to renegotiate tenancy to shorten it, something which Adams and Gilman encouraged.

Orton declined to comment on the matter.

Commissioner Victor Makras suggested more broadly interpreting existing law to evict JUUL, such as applying the City’s prohibitions on tobacco and electronic cigarette sales on municipal property. 

City Attorney Dennis Herrera is examining whether JUUL is fully compliant with all regulations. According to Communications Director John Coté, they’re reviewing information the Office requested from the company. “Beyond that, we’re not going to discuss details of an ongoing investigation,” he said. “The U.S. Surgeon General recently warned about the epidemic of youth e-cigarette use and specifically singled out JUUL in his warning. We are very concerned about having a company like JUUL operating in the City. We are looking at a number of possible options to address that.”

A JUUL spokesperson responded, “We don’t want anyone who doesn’t smoke, or already use nicotine, to use JUUL products. We certainly don’t want youth using the product. It is bad for public health, and it is bad for our mission. JUUL and the FDA share a common goal; preventing youth from initiating on nicotine.”

JUUL has implemented a strategy to limit youth access, appeal, and consumption of its products, including halting retail orders for its mango, fruit, creme, and cucumber pods to the more than 90,000 retail stores that sell the items. The company also restricted flavors to adults 21 and older on its secure website.

“We are waiting and hoping that our City attorney will find that JUUL is in violation of its lease due to use of liquid nicotine on Port property,” Central Waterfront Advisory Group member and Dogpatch resident Katherine Doumani said.

The San Francisco Chronicle reported in early February that JUUL leased office space in Mountain View, leading to speculation that the firm is relocating to the Peninsula. 

“We will be continuously evaluating spaces for our workforce of talented employees,” a JUUL spokesperson said.