How did Amazon end up renting city property to park delivery vans, in violation of the law?

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Tony DeLorio was driving south on Interstate-280 late last month when something out of the ordinary caught his eye: Amazon pickup trucks, a whole fleet of them, parked out in the open on land in a warehouse district next to Cesar Chavez.

DeLorio is the chief officer of Teamsters Local 665, which organizes UPS drivers as well as parking attendants and a host of other blue-collar workers. The Teamsters have made it clear that Amazon — with its infamous union-busting practices and $17.25-an-hour warehouse jobs and $21-an-hour freelance delivery drivers — is their pet peeve.

But until his recent drive through, DeLorio felt like Amazon was focused on its new $200 million property on Seventh Street, or its smaller warehouses in Bayview and Potrero. “I say, ‘What’s going on? What are all these Amazon vehicles doing here? “, he recalls. “I thought we would have heard something.”

DeLorio took the nearest exit and headed north. Taking the Chavez off-ramp, he approached the property at 2000 Marin Street, and there they were: about “50 Amazon pickup trucks” in a newly repaved parking lot dotted with what looked like state-of-the-art solar streetlights, he said in an interview.

DeLorio asked his union’s research team to dig a little deeper. As they discovered, the problem wasn’t so much that Amazon managed to grab even more real estate in San Francisco without anyone noticing – it was that the real estate that ‘Amazon seized in this case is a city property.

And no one at the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, which has owned the 2000 Marin site since May 2020 and became the owner of Amazon some time after, has noticed or done anything about it — despite a contractual provision. and a point of municipal law regarding wages and labor standards that should have prevented this land from being used by Amazon.

For critics like DeLorio and the rest of Organized Labor, this latest breakdown of the city’s oversight process — a failure that ultimately benefited Amazon, of all companies — raises serious questions that so far remain unanswered. response. Did the PUC manage not to notice a fleet of Amazon vans on their property that by all rights shouldn’t have been there? Or did the PUC know about all of this – and, for some reason, look the other way? “It’s hard to know which is worse,” DeLorio said.

“What the hell is going on? What are all these Amazon vehicles doing here?”

Tony DeLorio, Teamster

What is known is that the PUC acquired this site two years ago from real estate giant Tishman Speyer as part of a land swap related to the planned flower market relocation, records show. of city property.

Eventually, the PUC plans to build a new head office for its water division at 2000 Marin.

But when the PUC took over that land, under then-Executive Director Harlan Kelly – who has since faced a slew of federal charges as part of the ongoing corruption probe into the city – the PUC also took over a lease.

On April 29, 2020, about a month before the swap became official — but with the terms largely finalized and approved by the Supervisory Board — Tishman Speyer leased 2000 Marin St to United SF Parking, which operates a number of garages and local land. in town, according to a copy of the lease obtained by Mission Locale.

Some time later — no one involved, including Amazon, will say when — United SF Parking turned around and sublet 2000 Marin Street to Amazon.

Neither Tishman Speyer nor United Parking responded to requests for comment.

In a raunchy March 10, 2022 letter, DeLorio and his union demanded the PUC immediately cancel the lease.

To their credit, the PUC, under new general manager Dennis Herrera, had a head start. The day before, on March 9, the PUC sent a termination notice to United Parking, telling the company that its last day — and, by extension, Amazon’s — would be May 31.

The exact date of Amazon’s arrival is still unknown, PUC spokesman John Coté said in an email. “We have not reviewed or consented to any sub-licensors in accordance with the terms of the license, and at no time have we received copies of any documents between United SF Parking and the sub-licensors,” he wrote. .

In other words: Tishman Speyer did what he wanted with PUC land. United Parking too. And at least according to the PUC version of the story, the PUC had no idea.

But to the detriment of the PUC – albeit under previous management – none of this was supposed to happen in the first place.

The lengthy agreement the city signed with Tishman Speyer prohibits anyone from entering into “a binding lease or contract…or building[ing] any improvements to the Property without first obtaining » the written consent of the other party.

Yet both of these things happened and the PUC has so far been unable to produce any documentation to show that they knew Tishman was renting from United Parking let alone that they gave written permission to do so. make.

Additionally, as DeLorio pointed out in his letter, union-negotiated “wage and prevailing benefits” standards for workers on public property should have prohibited an entity like United SF Parking, which pays its labor- less than the standard union wage, to lease the new PUC property in the first place.

Taken together, these two clauses absoutely should have banned Amazon, which notoriously underpays its employees, from renting the property.

“It’s a breakdown in the PUC’s property store…they’re supposed to watch their properties.”

Supervisor Aaron Peskin

Meanwhile, the PUC was still cashing rent checks from United SF Parking to the tune of $30,000 a month, according to the lease. And, presumably, United SF Parking was renting a lot more from Amazon.

And there the vans were, in plain sight, operating without care or concern until Tony DeLorio spied them out of the corner of his eye. If he hadn’t?

“All’s well that ends well… but this obviously raises a lot of questions about the professionalism of [the PUC’s] real estate department,” said supervisor Aaron Peskin, who eyed the deal earlier this month after being alerted by the Teamsters. “The big question in my mind is how the hell did Tishman Speyer make a deal 30 days before handing over the land to the city?”

“It’s weird,” added Peskin. “It’s a breakdown in the PUC’s property store…they’re supposed to watch their properties.”

According to a company spokeswoman, Amazon simply uses the site for parking: Amazon employees (or contractors who drive the company’s ubiquitous delivery vans) park their private vehicles on the property, then move on to the vans – which are stored there overnight. and probably laden with boxes full of toilet paper, electronics and books elsewhere.

There are signs that the company – or someone else – was planning to stay on this site for a while and use it to deliver packages. According to Marin’s building permit history in 2000, the city approved tenant improvements worth $165,000: installing lights and redeveloping the parking lot. And the use of the site has changed from “incidental parking” to parking for “parcel delivery service” – that is, someone like Amazon.

For DeLorio and the Teamsters, the 2000 Marin Street case isn’t over yet. It’s yet another so-called worker-friendly city light of San Francisco.

Shortly before his fall of 280 in February, DeLorio sat in a City Hall conference room opposite Mayor London Breed. He says she professed complete ignorance of a 2021 negotiation agreement that the city’s Office of Economic Development and Labor signed with Amazon for the last mile delivery center proposed by the city. business at 900 Seventh Street.

Amazon’s plans for Seventh Street are now on indefinite hold, after the supervisory board unanimously passed a moratorium on new parcel delivery sites on March 22. But the company is clearly hungry for land – anybody’s land, the public’s land. This leads DeLorio to wonder who is watching the store and where Amazon might appear next

“I said [the mayor] directly,” DeLorio said. “‘How can you not know that?'”

“There are a lot of trust issues with the city at the moment.”

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