by Jessica Lachenal
The Transbay Transit Center may have just found a way out of its current money woes.
Salesforce has agreed to sponsor the transit center for 25 years, offering $110 million to the financially beleaguered bus and (eventually) train station in exchange for naming rights. Under the deal, the Transbay Transit Center would then be referred to as the "Salesforce Transit Center."
The Transbay Joint Powers Authority has yet to rule on whether the park that sits atop the facility will also take on the Salesforce name (becoming Salesforce Park). According to the Chronicle, that decision comes after their monthly meeting, which takes place Thursday.
What's interesting about this deal is that it's a bit of a rarity. While we're usually completely surrounded by corporate branding in our everyday lives, that daily dose of advertising comes by way of private property usually stadiums and corporate buildings. Think: the Transamerica Pyramid, AT&T Park, Oracle Arena, Levi’s Stadium, the Ask.com Tower. Each of these buildings or facilities is owned and operated by a private company, and the naming rights to each of those could change with the drop of a hat or change of major tenant. (Remember PacBell Park?)
But the Transbay Transit Center is a civic resource, created with the goal of improving public transportation in San Francisco. Slapping the Salesforce name on what's supposed to be a public resource is... an interesting move, to say the least.
Take, for instance, the fact that Salesforce also reserves the right to block out use of the park that sits atop the transit center should it want to use it exclusively for an event—i.e., their annual customer convention, Dreamforce. That might help ease congestion in the city itself during the event, which usually results in some pretty solidly impacted transit services. But on top of that, the park will only be open to public use between the hours of 6:00 AM and 8:00 PM from November to April. It's open for another extra hour (until 9:00 PM) in the late spring/early fall months, from May to October. In essence, it turns the park into just another POPOS (Privately-Owned, Public Open Space).
There's no indication that the park would have been considered a public park had the deal not been made and talk of selling the naming rights to it and other parts of the Transit Center goes back two years, due ongoing cost overruns and panic over being able to finish the project at all. It should also be noted that San Francisco City Code lists public park hours as between 5:00 AM and midnight.
It'd be an understatement to say that the Transit Center needed the money. But so, too, would it be an understatement to say that Salesforce is fighting pretty hard to make sure you know that it's all up in your infrastructure even though nobody can ever really seem to explain what exactly it is they do there.