Dogpatch and Potrero Hill Residents Unhappy About JUUL’s Presence at Pier 70

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Dogpatch and Potrero Hill residents, along with their neighborhood associations, are unhappy that vaping company JUUL has leased space at historic Pier 70.  The nicotine-supplying e-cigarette maker is occupying 8,000 square feet of office space at Building 102, on 20th and Illinois streets. 

In June, the View broke the news that Orton Development, which is renovating and leasing existing structures at Pier 70, leases two buildings to Restoration Hardware and Tea Living Inc, which has a clothing company, Tea Collection. According to an Orton Development spokesperson, JUUL is a subtenant of Tea Living.

In November, Central Waterfront Advisory Group (CWAG) member and Dogpatch resident, Katherine Doumani, sent a letter to the San Francisco Port Commission in which she stated, “I am appalled that the many years of planning with and for the community on the new iteration of historic Pier 70 has proven to now solely benefit high-paying corporate tenants and at the same time, utterly fails the community. That the expansion of private use on public land is for JUUL – a tobacco company that has come under fire by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), UCSF, and Stanford, and whose core mission is nicotine addiction – is unconscionable.”

“We demand that the Port of San Francisco take whatever measures available to it to remediate this slap to the face of our community,” stated a letter submitted by the Potrero Boosters to the Port Commission.

The CWAG worked with the Port to develop a master plan for Pier 70, which was published in 2010. The two parties targeted a restaurant or retail facility that would be “community-serving” for the space. “In light of this intent, building 102 should serve the public openly, not just with access, but with a full-service restaurant, food hall or cultural use,” stated the Dogpatch Neighborhood Association (DNA). “We need to take a stand and call out that the promises made for what the historic core would offer the neighborhood and our growing community has been broken and this is the last straw.”

According to the Port, Orton Development is in compliance with its master lease.  “The Port is not involved in direct subleasing but has instead conveyed this responsibility to its development partners,” the Port said in a press release. “Because most Port historic building rehabilitation projects require the developer to attract significant capital investment, these master leases provide the rules governing the developer’s use of the property to generate the revenues required to repay that investment. Accordingly, these master leases provide the developer with the flexibility to enter subleases at its own discretion, so long as the subtenant’s use is consistent with the terms of the master lease. The Port’s Historic Core Master Lease with Orton Development reflects this model. The Port included provisions in the lease that defined acceptable types of uses for the premises and prohibited activities that are not allowed on Port property under applicable City laws. Orton Development’s subleasing activity is in compliance with the terms of the Historic Core Master Lease.”

The Port indicated that it’ll put Orton Development’s Pier 70 lease on future agendas for further discussions.

In response to community complaints, City Attorney Dennis Herrera, a Dogpatch resident, asked Orton Development to provide documents showing that JUUL is complying with state, city and leasing requirements for handling hazardous materials, such as liquid nicotine, and posting warnings about exposure to chemicals that may cause cancer.

Community comments “illustrate the potential adverse financial impacts that JUUL’s occupancy may have on the proprietary interests of the city, including its port, in its property,” Herrera wrote in his request. “The backlash from JUUL’s tenancy could negatively affect the master tenant’s ability to maximize revenues from the historic Pier 70 premises and therefore reduce potential participation rent payments to the Port under the master lease.” 

Doumani and others are convening a community group to help Orton find ways to realign its activities with the historic core of 20th Street and bring the public into the space. Orton is developing a plan for the public spaces to present early next year to CWAG as well as the Dogpatch and Potrero Hill neighborhoods, according to Doumani. 

District 10 Supervisor Shamann Walton, who attended the Booster’s December meeting, said he’s getting up to speed on the options and in touch with all stakeholders.