Degaussing to grazing: Woodhouse Fish Co. on Marina Green

Artist’s rending of Woodhouse Marina Green Image: Midglen Studio

On Sept. 20, the San Francisco Recreation and Park Commission unanimously approved a negotiated lease agreement to turn the Marina Green’s historic degaussing station into a new restaurant.

The degaussing station is the 720-square-foot clapboard building that sits aside the Marina Harbor seawall, in line with Fillmore Street. It was built in 1943 by the U.S. Navy as part of a “wiping station” for large ships that would pass, making them less detectable to World War II-era magnetic nautical mines. The building was rebuilt in the mid-1980s and later donated to the City. It has been vacant for the past decade, locked behind a chain link fence.

A request for proposal was issued by the S.F. Recreation and Park Department (RPD) in April 2011 seeking “an operator to offer creative, healthy and high-quality food and beverages to athletes, tourists and park visitors.” From the proposals received, the selection committee unanimously chose Woodhouse Fish Co.

Woodhouse Fish Co. is a self-described “American seafood restaurant.” It will be owned and operated by the MacNiven family, which has diverse restaurant experience in the Bay Area. Sons Dillon, Rowan, and Tyler operate three other restaurants in the City: two Woodhouse Fish Co. locations (Market Street and Fillmore Street) and West of Pecos (Valencia Street). Their father, Jamis MacNiven, has owned and operated Buck’s Restaurant in Woodside since 1991.

Both existing Woodhouse restaurants are walk-in only and open seven days a week, similar to how the Marina Green location plans to operate. With the small size of the degaussing building, this location will offer counter service only with seating for up to 25 indoors and 50 outdoors.

The property is defined by RPD as having 450 square feet of patio seating area, which opponents have said does not exist, but rather is just existing parking spaces now allocated to the lease. That patio seating area will be partially enclosed by new windscreens as part of the renovations.

RPD believes the degaussing station is an ideal location for a restaurant because of the spectacular views and the lack of other adjacent food options. According to Dillon MacNiven, his family had a boat docked in the Marina Yacht Harbor and had always thought the area could use more food outlets. When they saw a notice posted to the chain link fence around the station, they also thought it was a perfect opportunity.

The lease offers a 10-year initial rental term with two five-year extension options. Rent will be paid as the greater of $110,000 annually or a percentage rent: 10 percent of gross revenues under $2 million and 12 percent over $2 million. The City will provide a rent credit of $150,000 to help offset the proposed $650,000 in improvements that are planned.

Beyond the basic expenses of turning an empty building into a restaurant, costs include moving the entire building 13 feet to the south (away from the sea wall) and restoring the seawall and public right of way along the water. The renovation will also include public bike racks and restrooms that are not currently available on this section of the Marina Green.

All rental income from the lease is required to go into the Marina Harbor Fund for use only on projects and expenses associated with the East and West Marina Harbors.

The lease stipulates that minimum operating hours will be 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily, but the owners have the option to open at 7 a.m. and close at 9 p.m. Closing hours will be reviewed after the first six months of operation. Criteria for the analysis were created with input from the Marina Community Association and Woodhouse and include:

  • Following stipulated hours of operation
  • Impact of restaurant lighting on the surrounding neighborhood
  • Garbage found in the vicinity of restaurant
  • Any alcoholic beverage control violations

Outreach meetings with the community had shown that some of the biggest concerns were light pollution, amplified sound, and aggressive signage. The lease addresses many of these by requiring:

  • Blackout curtains on south windows one hour after sunset
  • Exterior lighting must be neighborhood sensitive to minimize impact from Marina Boulevard
  • No amplified sound
  • Only minimal necessary signage will be allowed

Woodhouse must also install exterior signage clearly explaining the history and use of the degaussing station.

The owners will also be required to create a $20,000 maintenance fund for future building repairs so that there will be no additional burden on RPD’s general fund.

The lease will now go before the Board of Supervisors for final approval. If approved, the project must get planning department and building department approvals. The MacNivens hope to have “Woodhouse Marina Green” open to the public in time for the 2013 America’s Cup events.

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