Massive monument to e-commerce proposed for the Bayview

The southeastern corner of San Francisco could be destined for a new landmark: a mammoth monument to our e-commerce addiction.

The global warehouse developer Prologis is requesting approvals for the San Francisco Gateway, a two-building, 2.16 million square foot industrial facility bracketing Interstate 280 in the Bayview. The three-story structures would rise over 100 feet tall, in order to accommodate trucks on every level of the building. The buildings, which would include over 1,000 parking spaces shrouded by rooftop solar panels, would tower over the freeway and nearby grocery wholesalers.

Just days after Amazon put its San Francisco fulfillment center proposal on ice following a chilly reception at the Board of Supervisors, Prologis’ plan demonstrates the continued appetite for storage and logistics space in The City. While this project has yet to attract much attention from neighborhood and environmental groups, these kinds of developments have become political lightning rods elsewhere in the country.

The project, which has been in the works since 2016, still has many hurdles to clear. The environmental review process is expected to last into the second half of 2023, with multiple opportunities for public input along the way. After environmental clearance, the project will require several discretionary approvals from city agencies. Construction will take an additional two and a half years.

On Wednesday evening, the Planning Department hosted a virtual information session as the kickoff to the project’s environmental review process. The forthcoming environmental review will specifically focus on air quality, traffic, and noise, department consultants said. The presentation went on to describe how the project intends to transform the four 1940s-era warehouses on the site into a modern logistics behemoth.

The most conspicuous aspect of the project is its size. At nearly 2.2 million square feet, the San Francisco Gateway would be triple the size of Amazon’s controversial Showplace Square proposal. (For context, Salesforce tower clocks in at 1.6 million square feet.) Amazon hit pause on its project earlier this month after the Board of Supervisors, pressured by organized labor, passed an 18 month moratorium on new parcel delivery services in San Francisco.

Prologis’ two, near-identical buildings would be designed for flexible use, potentially hosting multiple tenants with very different businesses. The space could be configured for truck or bus storage, a goods warehouse, a last-mile delivery center, or even a research lab. Each floor would have direct vehicle access via truck ramps at the southern end of each structure. The facility would accommodate an average of nearly 2,000 workers every day.

Prologis is also proposing significant changes at the street level, building new sidewalks and adding street trees, and making adjacent McKinnon and Kirkwood streets one-way to improve truck circulation. The ground level of the buildings would include retail and office space.

Despite calls for feedback at Wednesday’s meeting, no members of the public spoke up.

Over the past decade, and even more so since the pandemic-induced e-commerce boom, warehouses have emerged as one of the most lucrative real estate categories. In the New York area and Southern California’s Inland Empire, warehouse projects have triggered fiery development battles, pitting environmentalists and locals against economic development officials and consumers demanding ever quicker delivery services.

Since last year, the Sierra Club and organized labor organizations have been fighting several proposed Amazon warehouses across the Bay Area, highlighting the environmental toll of trucks going to and from warehouses, often through low-income Black and Latino areas.

With its Bayview location, the SF Gateway project is sited in a historically marginalized neighborhood, although it’s fairly distant from residential areas, unlike Amazon’s proposed facility in Showplace Square.

While it’s too early to assess the project’s environmental impact, the developer says that the rooftop solar panels could be used for electric vehicle charging. California regulations require truck manufacturers to gradually phase out gas-powered truck sales between 2024 and 2045.

Existing warehouse buildings on McKinnon Avenue where the proposed development would take place. (Craig Lee / The Examiner)

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