For Whom the Wrecking Ball Tolls

Flax Art & Design on the Chopping Block (For Condos, Of Course)

This again?  Yup, this again.  We here at Uptown Almanac have written so many of these stories on doomed neighborhood institutions lately, we cannot dredge up the energy to be creative about it.  But here we are: FLAX Art & Design at the corner of Valencia and Market is shaping up to be next target of condo frenzy.

The Preliminary Project Assessment filed with the Planning Department on March 28th sums the plans up nicely:

Demolish existing 60 year old 1 & 2 story industrial/commercial building and surface parking lots. Construct new 9-story residential (160 units) and commercial (4,500 sf) building with 123 below-grade parking spaces. Proposed project was designed to be respectful to neighboring buildings by providing setbacks; access is from side streets; building and main courtyard are oriented to take advantage of sun exposure and light; ground floor retail activates Market Street.

Hoodline, who broke the news of the plans, notes:

Flax Art & Design is a family-owned business that opened its first shop in San Francisco in 1938. This specific location began as a warehouse and discount retail store in 1977, and became the flagship store in 1981.

We spoke to a Flax manager on duty to ask if the company was aware of the plans, and she confirmed that they are aware of what’s going on. She said that nothing is set in stone, and if anything did happen, it wouldn’t begin for another two years.

This sounds a lot like the reaction of the owners of Elbo Room, who insisted the venue was safe despite the building owner pushing demolition plans forward.  But who knows—we’ll just have to sit back and see how this all plays out.

[Photo: Patric Butler]

Comments (28)

Dibs on the articulated wooden body and pencil.

That better return on Bender’s wall.

Kat and Barry’s finest storefront, in my opinion. They also did Mr. Pickles. 

“Doomed neighborhood institution”? Slow down there! We’re missing a lot of information. Does Flax own the property? If so, they stand to make a lot of money - enough to move somewhere nearby, if they choose. As well, 4,500 sf of retail is quite a bit of space - maybe Flax itself will continue to occupy it once construction finishes. Let’s not sound the death knell quite yet.

“maybe Flax itself will continue to occupy it once construction finishes.”

That would be a win-win.

If not, and the Flax guys do own the building, then I don’t know why there’s any hate being directed to a building owner who decided to cash out on a lifetime of hard work.

Was Flax ever the owner of the property, or were they always renting?

I have no idea if this is or is not the case, but owners will often transfer to themselves (or a group they’re a part of) under a new business structure.

That company name is a good one. I would have gone with “Agglomerated Communities, Inc.”

Look, its a housing crisis, not everything is the Elbo Room.  And to be honest, everyone clammering for low density housing heights, e..g, 5 stories, 9 stories here, need to realize that the end case of that is the entire city populated by low rise condos.  Like having places like Zeitgeist or El Rio with large open back areas?  Like having art explosion?  Like having music venues? 

Then fucking vote to increase housing heights so we can concentrate housing, imagine if this were 50 stories, imagine if Nema was 50 stories.  Do you really want all buildings to be turned into condos spread thinly across our 49 square miles?  One unintended consequence of absurd height laws is the complete dismantlement of the arts and entertainment areas for more profitable condos.  Another problem is that if housing is spread thinly around in 5-9 story buildings then music venues will be destroyed with noise complaints.  Concentrate housing, concentrate housing, concentrate housing.  It’s not purely an abstract argument, it has real consequences.

At least in areas near transit, such as literally on Market street for instance.

I agree. Market street should have absurdly high-rise apartment buildings. That’s what it’s going to take, isn’t it?

When will the entire span of Market between Valencia and Van Ness be turned into something luxurious??

I want more….More….MORE!!! 

SF is going to be SO GREAT when luxury spreads. There’s really no other way it can work. This is it. It’s all about supply and demand. We must cater to the whims of the wealthy.

It just makes sense!!

Or I guess we can build nothing and become Zurich.  That way no one under the age of 30 can move here!  And no one that makes under 200k!  That will be a fantastic city!

It’s not a matter or build or don’t build, Bob. It’s all about more!!

Bring us the millionaires!! Pack ‘em in!! We want them all…gotta have more of them…more of their money….that’s all that matters.

Will someone please just think about the millionaires??

They do so much. They do no wrong. It’s all gonna be fine as long as we let them do what they think is right. 

I’m ready to just lay back and take it. Why resist? 

Who wants to be Zurich? 

Put it in me, Ron Conway!!

I think you should consider Bob’s point. Becoming a city exclusively for the rich - like Zurich - is a real risk for San Francisco if we don’t build more housing for all income levels.

Who the fuck is “we”?

Since you and Bob aren’t going to be building shit, maybe you should take a look around at what developers are currently building and will continue to build for the forseeable future. Not housing for you and Bob, just more luxury units for the rich and for overseas investment groups. If you’re lucky, maybe a few slightly less over priced units will be sprinkled somewhere far away from your financial superiors. Even if you and Bob bend over like groupies for your development company idols for the next 20 years, YOU do not get any of this new housing stock. None of us do, unless we happen to be very, very wealthy. Which renders your apocalypic predictions regarding a Zurich like future totally without merit. You’re simply arguing about how many more or less luxury units get built.

The question is: Will we allow the destruction of San Francisco as we know it in exchange for a supply and demand, trickle down piss shower fairy tale, or will we try to preserve what we have left of an amazing place to live? We have the option to regulate development in such a way that the ratio of luxury units to affordable housing is completely reversed, if that’s what we as a community want. The developers can still get rich, just not 7 times as rich, in half the time. I realize that this idea is terribly painful to those who view supply and demand as a form of religion, and for that you have my sympathy.


I never argued against affordable housing in my post. In fact, I specifically said we [as a City] need to build more housing for all income levels. Enacting more laws that require affordable housing to be built on site (or at least in relatively central areas) seems like a good idea to me, so you’re wasting your time by arguing with me about it. What I don’t get is the people blocking the development of ANY housing just for the sake of blocking housing, as if that will somehow drop prices.

I agree with you there and I don’t oppose most of the new stuff being built, just don’t like the idea of a completely unregulated system where money rules without question. I also conflated your comment history with Grizzled Mission and was replying to him as well as all the other supply/demand types.


Wow. There was a time where I was convinced that was the best store on the planet, and I’m not even that creative. 

I am vaguely heartened by the “access is from side streets” bit in such a heavy bike- and car-traffic area, but even so, I fear that it will be like the Twitter building, where the green bike lane in front is so often used as an Uber loading zone.

This should be interesting to say the least.

mmhmm. Not like the no building policy resulted in the highest rents in the entire country, oh wait… Enjoy your city of aging residents where the only new people warn outlandish salaries. Me I’ll be in Portland this time next year

Don’t let the Golden Gate hit you on the ass on your way out, Bob.

Hear, hear.

Oh shit, that sucks.  I love Flax.  Probably the best art supply + stationery store I’ve ever been to.

An overpriced art store replaced with overpriced condos?  THE HORROR

You think Flax is overpriced?  That’s crazytalk, Eric.

“Market Street has served us well since 1977 - but there is nothing magical about Market Street,” said Flax, whose 76-year-old family business previously operated various art stores downtown. “John F. Kennedy said change is the law of life. I am a big advocate of change. It’s an opportunity to turn an entity into something different and something better.”

You guys, Flax is cool with it.  Don’t have a protest where nobody shows up.