Barneys has the subterranean building blues 

The City wants to reclaim a portion of the basement of a luxury retailer to build a subway line, but the company is fighting the return policy.

San Francisco often grants temporary permits that allow private companies to use public space below or above sidewalks, with the condition that it reserves the right to revoke them.

But Barneys New York is fighting to keep the so-called subsidewalk basement for its own commercial use in the six-floor, 60,000-square-foot building on the corner of Stockton and O’Farrell streets in Union Square.

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency said the basement space at Barneys is in the way of a planned subway station. The station is part of the $1.57 billion Central Subway project the agency intends to complete by 2018. An underground subway line would run through Chinatown under Stockton Street and into SoMa along Fourth Street. The City sent out a letter Nov. 16 to notify of its intent to revoke the permit and reclaim the space.

But Barneys is battling back, and it has appealed the decision to the Board of Supervisors.

“We continue to work with property owners and businesses to minimize the impacts of The City’s need to use these public spaces for the Central Subway project,” transit agency spokesman Judson True said.

The appeal, filed Monday, accuses The City of “attempting to arbitrarily expand the scope” of the encroachment permit, which was granted by the Department of Public Works on Jan. 23, 2007, and that “public record does not establish” that The City owns the land in question.

The revocation requires the restoration of the area “to a condition satisfactory” with the Department of Public Works by Feb. 1.

Barneys moved into the location in September 2007 after making significant renovations to the building, which is owned by Stockton Street Properties.

The appeal also said The City failed to disclose “critical facts” about what could impact the permit, “which led Barneys to expend millions of dollars to improve its store and will result in the irreparable loss of substantial real property rights.”

Barneys spokeswoman and its company attorney Martin Orlick both declined to comment on specifics of the case, including how much of the store would be affected by the permit revocation.

“We and our landlord have an ongoing dialogue with The City,” spokeswoman Dawn Brown said. “We needed to file the appeal to protect our legal rights.”

The Board of Supervisors has yet to schedule a vote on the appeal. Barneys is among eight businesses occupying subsidewalk basements fronting Stockton Street that are needed to make way for the subway project, according to True. Letters revoking the permits were sent to each one.


Barneys space came full circle when store took up residence

The building at the center of a land fight has a history that stretches back to the early 1900s.

Barneys New York opened in Union Square in September 2007 after significantly renovating the six-floor, 60,000-square-foot building, which once was home to an FAO Schwarz toy store.

Barneys spokeswoman Dawn Brown told The Examiner at that time that “it’s a landmark building, so the front of the building was basically left intact. Inside, we ripped out everything to take out escalators and put in staircases. All of the windows have been restored and the front of the store has also been restored. We really think it’s kind of beautiful.”

The building was built for the Newman and Levinson Department Store in 1909, according to the American Institute of Architects’ San Francisco Chapter.

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