Life Sciences Complex Planned on Third Street

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San Francisco developers Ronaldo Cianciarulo and Workshop1 want to develop a roughly 603,286 square feet life science laboratory complex on 3100 to 3150 Third Street, a property owned by 3150 Third LLC and 3240 Mindful LLC. The site is the largest of three properties the team wants to cultivate as life science labs in Dogpatch and Potrero Hill, the others located at 1401 Illinois Street and 1111 Pennsylvania Avenue. 

The Third Street property is zoned for Production, Distribution, and Repair 2 (PDR-2), which allows laboratory space. The land stretches from Dogpatch to Bayview, bounded by Tennessee Street to the west, Third Street to the east, Cesar Chavez Street to the north, and Islais Creek to the south. 

Existing warehouses would be demolished on the site, replaced by two new edifices separated by a 7,200 square feet pedestrian plaza. A 5,608 square feet shoreline greenway would border a proposed public boardwalk promenade along Islais Creek that’d be constructed by the Port of San Francisco. 

“The larger of the two buildings, at 3150 Third Street, is set to be 85 feet tall and six stories,” said William Mollard, Workshop1 principal. “It will be 80 percent lab space, with 20 percent light industrial space on the ground floor. The smaller building, at 3240 Third Street, is set to be 40 feet tall and three stories. This is the one that abuts the Islais Creek Channel. This second building will be 100 percent lab space. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, demand is surging in the City right now for lab space. Lab work has to be done in person.”

Laboratory space rents for close to $100 per square foot, compared with $82.50 a square foot for office space, according to Cushman and Wakefield Research and Statista, respectively. Laboratory space has become commercial real estate’s hottest property, with strong demand from well-funded biotechnology companies.

Still, J.R. Eppler, president of the Potrero Boosters, whose members live in Potrero Hill, Dogpatch, and Showplace Square, said neighbors of the development are concerned that the project will become office rather than laboratory space. 

“That would not be in line with the Production, Distribution and Repair zoning of the parcel,” said Eppler. “In addition, we need to figure out how vehicular traffic would flow in and out of this location. Since the second building is next to Islais Creek, we’d like to see a path and parkway built to the water. There is an opportunity for the complex to have a very long frontage on Third Street. This offers an opportunity to artistically distinguish the shift between Dogpatch and Bayview.” 

Katherine Doumani, Dogpatch Neighborhood Association (DNA) president, said her members are concerned that all three of Cianciarulo and Workshop1’s properties have a nebulous lab space designation. 

“We see this as a workaround of a Planning Department code,” said Doumani. “We’re worried that somehow the lab spaces will not be used for life sciences. Lab space can be leased to tech companies that might otherwise occupy traditional office space. In fact, based on the zoning for these two blocks, no more than 5,000 square feet of retail and office space would be allowed per block, versus over 500,000 square feet of laboratory and industrial space as envisioned. The Third Street project proposes substantial laboratory space. Yet the drawings submitted do not yet show the building facilities, equipment and features that distinguish laboratory space from space designed for office or other general commercial uses.” 

Doumani agreed with Eppler that the proposed development’s frontage “should not be a highway, it needs to connect communities.”

She added that Dogpatch residents would like a mini museum to showcase the history of the Copra Crane on the Islais Creek channel. In the 1940s, coconut meat – “copra” – was imported from the Philippines and pressed into oil by Cargill Mill workers. The crane was used to load copra meal onto outbound ships. 

“This history was meant to be a part of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Authority when they built on Islais Creek,” said Doumani. “SFMTA broke their promise. We would like to have the development use its entitlement funds to complete a path to Islais Creek and a creekside walk that should safely connect onto Third Street. The Copra Crane should be restored.” 

According to Mollard, the developers want to mend the creek as part of their project. “There’s been deterioration of Islais Creek along our property line near the Third Street bridge. The banks have fallen in and there has been trash deposited near the proposed site. We envision improving the quality of the creek, eventually creating a pedestrian connection along the waterfront,” said Mollard. 

Mollard said the open space at Islais Creek, as well as ground floor retail spaces and public plaza between the buildings, would be community amenities.   

“From coffee shops to tasting rooms, there’s a lot of creative ways to pair retail with the development’s ground floor lab and PDR space. Currently, there are not a lot of places open in the immediate vicinity that are not behind a fence. This development would create welcoming and accessible spaces for the community,” said Mollard.