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Food truck bonanza proposed for old temporary Transbay Terminal [Update]

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Neighbors in uber-expensive condos don’t truck with plan

The temporary Transbay terminal, with bus lanes, parking areas, and a Greyhound station.
The Temporary Terminal, temporarily in limbo now.

Parklab, the SF-based park development company behind events like SoMa’s StrEat Food fest, have big plans for the former temporary Transbay Terminal, including event space and scads of food trucks, to the annoyance of some neighbors in the nearby, ultra-swanky Infinity condos.

The block surrounded by Main, Howard, Beale, and Folsom served as a temporary bus depot for nearly a decade during the construction of the new Transbay Terminal.

Now that the real deal is finished and the surrounding neighborhood has in the meantime become a prime locale, the question remains what to do with the temporary site.

On August 1, Parklab developer Seth Hamalian sent a letter to the San Francisco Office of Community Investment and Infrastructure that proposed turning the site into an events space, which would include fleets of food trucks slinging eats.

Hamalian writes:

The proposed program will entail a mix of uses including, but not limited to:

1. A variety of food trucks

2. One or more bars serving variety of beverages, including alcoholic

3. Recreation space for games or sports

4. Flexibly furnished gathering areas

5. Planters / landscaping elements

6. Events may include: classes and workshops, food festivals, game days, movie nights, picnics, outdoor recreation, team-building events, exercise classes, birthday parties, family events, movie nights, pumpkin patch, art and craft events, and concerts.

[...Events] may range in size from a children’s birthday party to a corporate team building event, from a food festival to a whole site gathering in support of one of the city’s many conventions throughout the year.

According to the Parklab pitch, the proposal “will be essential to countering the potential blight and security issues [...] created by the transition of transit operations from the Temporary Terminal.”

Hamalian notes that the developer based the proposed uses on responses from nearby residents via public outreach app Neighborland and that food trucks were the most popular suggestion.

Early renderings of the future park site circa 2014.
Courtesy City of SF

But apparently popular appeal has limits. On August 7, Pierre Louveaux, a software architect who works at Stanford, sent a group email to condo owners at the nearby Infinity building at 300 Spear Street warning about the Parkland proposal and complaining that food trucks attract “homeless people and rats.”

Loveaux, whose message Curbed SF obtained from a tip, predicts that “this plan for the temporary terminal would cannibalize” space for retail from Salesforce Tower “and severely degrade the quality of life that surrounding residents and workers currently enjoy.”

The San Francisco Chronicle notes that the Parklab setup is just a temporary proposal and that the longterm uses for the site including housing and a new 1.1 acre park, which will reportedly begin construction in 2020.

Nevertheless, Loveaux suggests that the temporary use of the ephemeral terminal amounts to bait and switch on the “peaceful, eye-pleasing” park already in the works.

A presentation about the plan was on the agenda for the August 9 meeting of the Transbay Citizen Advisory Committee. Loveaux encouraged neighbors to come oppose or approve of Parklab.

[Update: Tom Kolbeck, Director of Operations for the East Cut, tells Curbed SF via email that the August 9 item was delayed until a future hearing but that “neighbors voiced concerns” about the Parklab initiative on Thursday anyway.

Kolbeck also notes that although Parklab says the market research it conducted via Neighborland indicated that food trucks were a popular choice, the East Cut district’s own outreach showed that uses like “gardening,” “markets,” and “dog park” had the most neighbor appeal.]

[Correction: The Neighborland survey sited in Parkland’s submission was actually conducted by the East Cut Benefits District. Although the publicly available survey results do list food trucks as a top “popular idea,” Kolbeck protests that this is not a comprehensive enough reading of the data.]