930 Cole Street: Cole Garage

A rent increase has claimed the iconic Cole Garage, the most recent operators of which had been there for 25 years.  And while a new lease for the nearly 10,000-square-foot space adjacent to Cole Hardware has yet to be inked, the building owners have been in talks with a private elementary school to renovate and occupy the building.  And it’s a plan which the Cole Valley Improvement Association is preemptively opposing.

From the President of the Cole Valley Improvement Association to San Francisco’s Planning Director ten days ago:

On behalf of the 500 members of the Cole Valley Improvement Association (CVIA), I am writing to express concern over recent information that the owners of the Cole Garage, doing business as “930 Cole Street Associates, LP,’ have been in lease discussions with Altschool, a private elementary school. Altschool is not, nor is any other school, the right fit for this large space in Cole Valley’s very small commercial corridor.

CVIA strongly opposes any use of 930 Cole Street that 1) does not serve neighborhood residents, 2) does not conform to the neighborhood character of the corridor or, 3) hinders the highly used public transit system (four different Muni lines), which is already compromised by double parking and commercial deliveries. This location is critical to the present and future identity of this neighborhood shopping corridor and any noncommercial use of this site could easily have a tragic impact on the soul of Cole Valley.

Make no mistake, the Cole Valley Improvement Association supports the development of 930 Cole, but because the site is such an important part of the community, urges the Planning Department to consider the impact of this project on the commercial vitality of this pedestrian-oriented neighborhood.

The owners of 930 Cole are seeking $2 per square foot for the space, and the landlords are not requiring the pet mural on the building’s facade be protected as a term of any new lease.

UPDATE: An official update from AltSchool: “We had an initial meeting with the city a few weeks ago and after further exploration, we have decided not to pursue the location at 930 Cole.”

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Comments from “Plugged-In” Readers

  1. Posted by curmudgeon

    Oy….double parking parents are the worst! I have to agree that an elementary school does not belong on a commercial strip for that reason alone. I would think it would be a non-conforming use that would require planning approval.

    • Posted by Sofia Ir

      I’m not against the school. They could require that start times for the school do not conflict with rush hour. For example – school could start at 8am so that pretty much all parents would be making deliveries before then. Also, they could ticket double parked cars.

      I am definitely not against it. There are a lot of parents here in cole valley that would love an alternative educational option for their children. And a lot of them would walk to the location.

      • Posted by gumby

        That stretch of Cole street has double parked delivery trucks between 7-9am every weekday, 37 Corbett and 6 Parnassus bus lines coming through frequently, and garbage trucks several days a week. Throw in the rush hour N Judah and this will literally be a train wreck.

  2. Posted by J

    The landlord should say “Okay, that’s fine, let’s put in a homeless shelter instead. Or perhaps a halfway house?”

    • Posted by san FronziScheme

      Better: an SRO hotel with common bathrooms and 2 liquor stores. Add a methadone dispensary at the back and a syringe swapping station.

      Seriously? They’re worried a school would do what exactly? Make Cole Street more lively? Slow down their commute?

      • Posted by zig

        It is a poor fit for a commercial strip since no kids walk to school anymore

        • Posted by Alai

          I regularly see kids walking to school.

          • Posted by zig

            I lived across the street from a school for 10 years in SF. It was a double parking nightmare with many times people blocking my driveway (sometimes actually leaving their cars). Since there are not neighborhood schools in SF and this would be a private school assume a large percentage of the kids will be dropped off in a SUV

          • Posted by san FronziScheme

            zig, as you said it would be a private elementary school. Many parents who do not want to have to shlep their offspring to the other end of the city will look for a private local school.

            In SF, the luxury is not to DRIVE your kids to school, but to WALK your kids to school!

          • Posted by curmudgeon

            The reality in our (overly) hyper vigilant age, parents are going to take their elementary school aged kids to school, and most often that will be in a vehicle. Maybe if the parents are within five blocks or so they would walk, but most will live further away.

    • Posted by Butzi

      Precisely. Or maybe a Target! 🙂

    • Posted by zig

      Is this in the real world or libertarian fantasy land?

  3. Posted by wsf

    Agreed. Terrible use of this space. What a nightmare it would be to have muni rail, a busy bus corridor running cole street, yellow zoned commercial delivery on both sides, daytime shoppers, and now drop-off parents all in the heart of this primarily one block commercial zone of this neighborhood. Might as well put a firehouse next door to the ice cream shop.

  4. Posted by wsf

    They missed their opportunity to take over the Boys and Girls Club at 1950 Page St, a much better location for something like this.

    Or they could have went after the French American Immersion School land further down on Page & Broderick.

    [Editor’s Note: As we first reported: Falun Gong Buys Boys & Girls Club Building On Page For $6.9M.]

  5. Posted by redseca2

    I recall that Haight Street Market wanted this location when they were outgrowing their single storefront on Haight Street.

    But they couldn’t make it happen so they expanded to the storefront next door on Haight instead.

  6. Posted by NOPA

    This would obviously never happen, but the site should be redeveloped into residential – keep the facade and have 3 or 4 stories of residential set back from the street (this has been successfully done on Hyde Street) with retail on the first floor.

    One can only dream though.

    • Posted by Serge

      The development on Hyde turned out very nice. Much better than what was done at 421 Arguello.

    • Posted by Orland

      Just where on Hyde is the development? Maybe a link to a picture.

      [Editor’s Note: 1945 Hyde.]

      • Posted by Kathy Castro

        1945 Hyde. Namelink for the development site. It’s a super-high end beauty on Hyde between Union and Green.

        • Posted by Orland

          Thank you. Can’t believe I had never been aware of it.

  7. Posted by GoBlueInSF

    God forbid the contribution to a vibrant commercial corridor that an auto body shop provides should be replaced with a school for children.

    • Posted by zig

      I think they mentioned that [they’re] for redevelopment just not a school

  8. Posted by alberto rossi

    I’m surprised that auto shop doesn’t treat the sidewalk as an extension of its work area, like they do in my neighborhood.

  9. Posted by Patrick

    Cole Valley NIMBY Association is more like it.

  10. Posted by Bostwick

    I think the real issue is the double parking parents. I live near another school in the area and the attitude of many of the parents is it is OK to block my driveway, walk a block with their kids — tough #$#$ if I have a meeting or need to get out to something on time. Their kids are much more important…..even if I have to wait 15 minutes for them to come back and move…..

    So having a tenant which would create bad traffic on an already very busy street is ultimately the concern…..unless they design some way to keep parking for the customers of the existing stores AND keep parents from double parking and blocking the street, I feel it is a poor decision to have a school there.

  11. Posted by Bob Newlin

    the reality is that a plan that doesn’t piss off a single special interest group in this town does not exist.

  12. Posted by redseca2

    If this school is approved for this location, you just know who will oppose any new bar/restaurant, or change to any existing bar/restaurant in the Cole Street business strip, complain about Cole Street Hardware’s dangerous displays of succulents (some have thorns!), and the dangerous dogs that congregate at the bulk pet food store.

    • Posted by Alai

      We must pre-emptively NIMBY to prevent future NIMBYs!

      • Posted by san FronziScheme

        No NIMBY In My BackYard = NNIMBYIMBY

  13. Posted by Dubocian

    In a retail corridor you want business that will contribute to the neighborhood-serving retail. In other words, businesses that will bring in shoppers that will cross-pollinate with other nearby stores. A school or any kind of office usage does not belong there. The garage was probably not an ideal use, but at least folks waiting for their cars might have browsed/shopped/eaten/etc.

  14. Posted by steve

    And for those of you who don’t live in the neighborhood, we have a commercial strip that is slightly less than one block long and this is the single largest frontage on the street. We could use a little more retail diversity and have very little space in which to put it. No one in neighborhood is against kids – it’s swarming with kids and very family-friendly. It’s just that the location is not appropriate as Dubocian says – and if you’ve ever driven down that block with three bus lines blocked by double-parked cars and trucks already, it just wouldn’t work. In any case, AltSchool has dropped the proposal as I understand it.

  15. Posted by Orland

    Any word on the fate of the garage — relocation vs liquidation?

  16. Posted by spruce

    Regardless of the land use issue, who would want their kid in an environment soaked with lead and hydrocarbons?

    • Posted by BobN

      That’s what I was thinking. Is it even allowed without a lot of remediation?

  17. Posted by lark

    I would think that a garage would have some issues with toxins in the soil, building, walls, etc. I would not want to have my child educated in a former garage.

  18. Posted by Deborah

    I wanted to share an official update from AltSchool. We had an initial meeting with the city a few weeks ago and after further exploration, we have decided not to pursue the location at 930 Cole.

  19. Posted by John

    The difficulty with this space is that it is way too big for the kind of small-scale neighborhood retail that would be logical for this block.

  20. Posted by Sad Day

    Bad news week. The busy Cole Valley Boulange is closing per Starbucks bad business investment and now the Cole Valley garage that I – and it sometimes seem all of Cole Valley – have been entrusting their cars to for years will be gone.

  21. Posted by Moto mayhem

    the city’s fight against kids and families continues, with most of you supporting it.

    • Posted by san FronziScheme

      100% Agreed. If we are worried about having too many kids slowing us down we’ve become the old cranky dude Dr Seuss was writing about.

      • Posted by Moto mayhem

        funny thing. If it were a doggy daycare, then there would likely be no opposition.

  22. Posted by NJ

    As a neighborhood resident, I would welcome something like Osha Thai in that space. That’s the type of place that I think would make a killing there.

    • Posted by marco

      A 10,000 square foot restaurant on Cole St? Not viable. I like the idea of residential over retail.

      • Posted by NJ

        To my eyes, the place looks like one tall story. Where would the “over” come from, and in any event, what retail would you propose below?

        Many types of businesses are already accounted for along the strip. A fancy Asian-type joint is not–hence my suggestion for a place like Osha Thai. Padrecito seems to be busy all the time. You need moderately expensive and kid-friendly (like Padrecito), and the locals will come and spend. Another option is a kids’ birthday party type place, like a ceramics-making joint or whatever.

        Even if too big for one restaurant, it could be split into smaller spaces, no?

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