By Phil Matier

SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) – A plan to turn the newer, “tower” portion of the Fairmont Hotel into condominiums won’t be happening anytime soon on San Francisco’s Nob Hill.

KCBS and Chronicle Insider Phil Matier reports that the developers presented the plan to the union representing hotel workers, and the plan was soundly rejected.

KCBS and Chronicle Insider Phil Matier:

Was the threat of job losses driving this?

“Yeah, it was, that was the fear of the hotel workers’ union,” summed up Matier. “They thought that replacing, you know, part of the new tower with condominiums rather than hotel rooms for people to buy or lease or stay in for a long time was going to cost the bed-makers and other staff their jobs.”

“But, it’s a fascinating story because it says a lot about San Francisco and San Francisco politics and the whole change in the City itself,” Matier continued. “The Fairmont, the idea of one of the grandest of the hotels switching over to condos, it’s the latest up there on Nob Hill, hotels like the Stanford Court, the Mark Hopkins and even the Huntington, are having a tough time with the changing face of the City.”

Nob Hill, he reasoned, was a neighborhood in transition.

“Well what happened was, in case you haven’t noticed it, there’s just this entire shift out of the Nob Hill, North Beach, Herb Caen era, down into the South of Market and Embarcadero. You’ve got the hotels moving down there, the St. Regis, which is probably the preeminent hotel in San Francisco, is down by the Moscone Center. You’ve got the Intercontinental down there at 5th and Howard, also near Moscone Center, they’re just drawing them down and the Four Seasons, again, closer both to the convention facilities.”

“The hipper restaurants are down there as well, you know, Boulevard and places like that. So, sort of the happening place in the City is down there, a lot of condos, hotel-condo combinations down there, which people find attractive and Nob Hill is just sitting up there, you know, three cable car stops away from what’s happening now and it’s starting to feel the pinch.”

This remarkable shift in the City’s landscape begs the question – what will become of the Fairmont?

“Well, that’s going to be really interesting, they’re waiting to see what the investors are going to do,” Matier speculated. “I don’t know whether they’re going to have to close down a wing or whatever, but they’ve got to figure out a way to fill those rooms one way or another.”

“But this is a union town,” Matier summed it up, “and the union hotel said you’re not doing it that way.”

(© 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

Comments (2)
  1. tn says:

    Historically, the Unions have had their place to keep things fair. Unfortunately, in today’s local economy, they may have outgrown their usefulness. Rather, the local economy may have outgrown the Union. Long story longer- Unions, as good as its original purpose was/is, is costing business and growth. It depends on whose side you’re on- investors/owners or workers. Both are necessary to a successful bottom line, but Unions kind of muddy up the situation, especially when there are much hungrier new workers looking for a job while many Union represented workers know their jobs are “safe” and don’t have to work as hard as they once used to, to keep their jobs. Just look around and you know what I mean. This equates to loss productivity and higher wages, which trickle to less investors thus less growth. Who owes who?

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