461 Valencia Street Site

With the ArtZone 461 gallery having had to vacate its literal bricks and mortar presence at 461 Valencia Street and since gone virtual, a real estate brokerage is now seeking permission to renovate and occupy half the Mission District site.

But Keller Williams isn’t calling its proposal a new “office,” and is, in fact, discouraging any references to it as such. For non-retail commercial uses are now prohibited on the ground floor of buildings within the Valencia Street Transit District.

Instead, the brokerage is pitching its presence as a “networking hub” for clients, with the front 900 square feet of the 3,100-square-foot space designated as an “interactive sales and research center” with a “self-serve refreshment area.”

San Francisco’s Planning Commission is slated to issue it’s opinion about Keller Williams’ plans next month.

Comments from “Plugged-In” Readers

  1. Posted by soccermom

    I have been wondering if a firm puts a 3D printer at the end of a conference table, and offers rubber ducky prototypes for sale, if that qualifies for PDR.

    And quick, if we don’t like this real estate office use, let’s consider Dave Eggers much celebrated ‘Pirate Store’ at 826 Valencia.

    Look the other way shall we?

    • Posted by Joel

      826 is probably a “personal service” use, since they offer writing classes.

    • Posted by Dan

      The Pirate Store is a retail storefront. It sells pirate stuff.

      • Posted by soccermom

        In both cases, a nod is being made to the zoning requirements, when the actual purpose for which the tenant in question seeks to use the space fails to conform to those same zoning requirements.

        Dave Eggers runs a ‘pirate shop’ so that he can use other space to teach low income kids to write. It’s very difficult for me to imagine someone arguing that this is an satisfactory bending of the rules.

        Nonetheless, the concession leads down a slippery slope of tenants failing to conform to zoning.

        • Posted by anon

          “In both cases, a nod is being made to the zoning requirements, when the actual purpose for which the tenant in question seeks to use the space fails to conform to those same zoning requirements.”

          This is really not true.

          The pirate store is one of seven across the country all with the same store/writing workshop format.

          The pirate store also has an online store where items are sold and if you pop in on weekends there are usually plenty of people browsing the store area.

          These facts taken together make it pretty clear that this is legitimately their business model and not just them calling it a “store” to get a wink and nod from planning.

          • Posted by soccermom

            Or you could look at what Eggers has actually said about the rationale for opening the pirate store and find out that it was entirely a zoning concern:

            “So we rented this space. And everything was great except the landlord said, “Well, the space is zoned for retail; you have to come up with something. You’ve gotta sell something. You can’t just have a tutoring center.” So we thought, “Ha ha! Really!” […] “And so this is what we did. So it made everybody laugh, and we said, “There’s a point to that. Let’s sell pirate supplies.” This is the pirate supply store.”

          • Posted by anon

            I stand corrected about their original intent.

            Still, with the effort they put into the pirate store, the foot traffic to the store, their online presence and the multiple locations it’s hard to see on what basis you’d disqualify them from being a store.

            At some point you are what you pretend to be.

          • Posted by SFrentier

            Or perhaps, ironically th retail was successful and they decided to branch out. What makes a “retail concept” successful is a mystery. Sometimes a great mystery. Who knows? Maybe they’ll make a successful app too.

        • Posted by BobN

          Sounds like a good place to learn the three Ahhhrrr’s…

          • Posted by Orland

            Too funny. Am I the only one who doesn’t think that was obvious?

        • Posted by soccermom

          FWIW, when I wrote: “It’s very difficult for me to imagine someone arguing that this is an satisfactory bending of the rules.”

          I instead meant:

          “It’s very difficult for me to imagine someone arguing that this is an UNsatisfactory bending of the rules.”

          I probably need some classes and an eyepatch.

        • Posted by two beers

          “Look the other way shall we?”

          How pissy you are about a non-profit that provides a great service to underprivileged kids while maintaining a unique storefront presence in a neighborhood that is fast moving towards bland, douchy, formula uniformity.

          • Posted by soccermom

            I am all for the good work done by 826 Valencia.

            I’m pointing out that the “off-label” use of the space for a tutoring center introduces a slippery slope of alternative use explanations that will eventually result in shenanigans being called by neighbors, planning, what have you. What happens when one of your favorite app developers wants to set up shop in an ice cream parlor, and sell 5 cones per day?

          • Posted by Frisco

            But it is a store, a retail location on the street. It is a real retail operation, regardless of their intent or motivation. This real estate office probably won’t have any goods for sale and won’t be a store at all. That is the difference. It’s more about a “letter of the law” adherence than a bending of the rules. The intent is irrelevant.

          • Posted by soccermom

            Perhaps that will be the way the city interprets zoning rules going forward.

            If that’s the case, I predict an increase in companies that Produce, Distribute, or Repair one off three dimensional print-capable items, and happen to do a little programming on the side.

          • Posted by two beers

            Ok, you’re concerned about unlikely theoretical possibilities. 826 has been around a long time, and it doesn’t seem to have set the neighborhood down a slippery slope, but hey, let’s beat up on it (even though it IS retail) because someday someone with a business model completely unlike 826 might try to pull a fast one. It reads like concern trolling. I’m more concerned about the actual slippery slope caused by the condolofts and their wide and sterile glass street frontages that kill foot traffic. Smaller footprints, more signage, less reflective and opaque glass please. And lower shop rents, unless your object is a dead corner like the north side of 16th & Valencia.

            I’m not too worried about my “favorite” disruptive ondemand artisinal taco schnapps app (taco.schn.apps ™) going brick and mortar.

          • Posted by soccermom

            Uhhh, this whole article is about some people trying to open a real estate office in a retail space and while pretending it won’t be a real estate office. It’s an actual, not a theoretical concern.

            So should Keller Williams be able to? If Dave Eggers can do it, can these guys?

          • Posted by two beers

            826 is a non-profit that has an actual, wonderful, unique, world-famous pirate shop in front. The real estate networking scam has no connection at all to 826’s business model, but I’m sure Keller Williams’ lawyers will appreciate the lead.

            I’m not as gung-ho about the 826 annex across the street that has no retail function, but it is a non-profit serving underprivileged kids, so it’s vastly more neighborhood-serving than the proposed Keller Williams abomination. I’m also not crazy about the architect storefront a few doors down. In a city where retail space is at a premium, professional services like thqat should be 86’d from storefronts. You’re architects, ferchrisakes — design your own place instead of hogging precious frontage. Okay, so they put art in the windows, but it’s deadweight for foot traffic.

          • Posted by Fishchum

            @two beers – just so we’re clear, you’re OK with one group bending the rules but not another based on your personal perception of who they are and what they do? Is that the basis for sound public policy?

          • Posted by two beers

            Fishchum, 826 isn’t bending the rules (although the place across the street might be, who knows? and who cares?). Only a misanthrope could cite a non-profit that helps disadvantaged kids (who lives have been made much harder because of the RE bubble Keller-Williams gorges on) as a precedent to be taken advantage of by home salesmen for the .01%. So, yeah, my basis for sound public policy extenuates for non-profits that try to compensate for the social devastation wreaked by neo-liberalism.

    • Posted by JR "Bob" Dobbs

      I buy all my eye patches and plank maintenance gear at the pirate store (and my kids have taken writing classes there – they are terrific). I wish they sold parrots so I didn’t have to buy those on amazon.

      This place seems to fit the bill as well as an art gallery (which almost nobody enters) or a cafe (where people mostly just sit around). If I were one of those who sit in a coffeehouse all day coding on my laptop, I’d love a place like this – looks clean and quiet enough, and you need not feel obligated to keep buying coffee or food in order to sit there and work. It’s a pretty weird idea, but I’d approve it.

  2. Posted by Metroliner

    “It’s a place where people who want to sell real estate and those who are looking to buy real estate can network over a cup of $15 coffee. It’s definitely not a brokerage firm office.”

    • Posted by Elitist Pig

      That isn’t fair, it’s clearly a cafe where everyone in it is either a real estate agent or a client of a real estate agent (who happens to also be at the cafe).

  3. Posted by dave jones

    Has anyone considered what an eyesore this block of Valencia Street has become, sushi, gone, Art Zone, gone, corner store, gone, Clothes Contact, gone, and 455 Valencia has been empty for almost and year, pull your heads out of your ass!

    • Posted by two beers

      Way to kill a neighborhood, landlords!

      • Posted by Futurist

        It isn’t JUST landlords. Let’s get real: to make it in retail anywhere, SF or NY or London or any other thriving city, you also have sell a product or service that people WANT and will PAY for it. That’s precisely what business is all about.

  4. Posted by two beers

    High rents have killed hundreds of thriving, long-time businesses in SF. So, apparently those business DID make it before their landlords killed them. There’s only so much a business can pay in rent before the gouging kills it. So, we lose smaller local services and unique neighborhood shops that can’t survive at $20/ft, and they’re replaced by outrageously-expensive douchebro bars and popped-collar restaurants that really add charm and character to a neighborhood.

    • Posted by SFrentier

      Well if those Valencia landlords weren’t loosing money on ther rent controlled apartments upstairs, I’m sure they would be more reasonable with the retail. But as it stands, they gotsa make up the difference, and put the retail at a premium. See what RC does 😉

      • Posted by Schaetzer

        Now there’s some tangential thinking for you! An acrobatic segue from retail space to residential rent control. I dare say they would charge what they can get for the retail space with or without rent control. I sure don’t see the connection.

      • Posted by two beers

        It’s complete nonsense, and not just for the obvious reason you cite, Schaetzer, that LLs rent for what they can get, period. No LL on Valencia is “losing money” because of RC. SFRentier’s claim would mean LLs buy property unaware of the cap rate. Any LL buying a property without due diligence deserves what s/he gets.

        Please, Rentier, show us your poor, abused, downtrodden Valencia LLs who were hoodwinked into buying Valencia RC-over-commercial property with a false cap rate. Also, there’s very little title turnover on Valencia. Most buildings have been owned for years by the same LLs, meaning they likely own the buildings outright, or at least have so much equity that they have surely refinanced the very low mortgage rates available under the neo-liberal regime. How are these LLs “losing money” on property that their renters bought for them?

        SFRentier, please tell us how many LLs on Valencia are jacking up their com rents because they’re “losing money” on RC upstairs. It’s complete and utter LL bullsh*t, and it just shows how cynical and morally bankrupt people like Rentier are.

        • Posted by two beers

          …and before y’all get your panties in a twist, I didn’t say all LLs are cynical and morally bankrupt; I was referring to people who use specious rhetoric to justify self-enriching, socially-destructive policy, like SFRentier does.

      • Posted by SFrentier

        Whoa 2b’s, don’t get your panties all bunched up. My comment was largely tongue in cheek.

        But I will say this. LL’s in SF are no greedier than some tenants here. Creating monetary distortions through public policy is rife with people taking advantage of “the system.”

        • Posted by two beers

          The “system” was created by landlords for landlords. The vast majority of laws and policy favors LLs, so who is it who is really taking advantage of the ‘system?” RC is a mildly-distorting correction of a much greater distortion. Your sense of entitlement is so all-consuming that you bristle at any ameliorating corrective.

          Bonus fun-time question, worth 20 points: who said the following? (hint: it wasn’t Marx):

          The landlord is maintained in idleness and luxury by the labour of his tenants.

          Wherever there is great property there is great inequality. For one very rich man there must be at least five hundred poor, and the affluence of the few supposes the indigence of the many. The affluence of the rich excites the indignation of the poor, who are often both driven by want, and prompted by envy, to invade his possessions.

          • Posted by soccermom

            Bernie Sanders?

          • Posted by SFrentier

            Whoever said that, I agree with them! Was a nice sunny day today. Hung out on the deck with my latte, read a nice novel, and transferred a PayPal rent payment to my first republic account.

            But why is that so bad? I took the risk, capital and time to provide valuable housing to San Franciscans. If you want government to own the land and buildings, and to manage them, I suggest you move to a country that supports that system. Or get on the BMR list…

  5. Posted by Jake

    they are refreshingly self-serving, even for this area. I wonder how much sales tax their “retail” hubs generate. If this is “retail’, then perhaps it would be formula retail since KW has many “interactive sales” centers?

    Maybe they could open as an interactive retail art space, call it something like ‘The Art of the Deal.’

  6. Posted by Orland

    Is the proscription against non-retail uses absolute, or could 826 have applied for a conditional use variance upon the basis of its community service?

  7. Posted by unlivable city

    This string is Socket Site at its best. A forum for those who deep dive into land use, without favoritism as to motive. Here, all thieves are equal, whether they be market rate, non-profit or that vast middle who get by with muddle.

  8. Posted by formerly%whatever

    What happened to Pagani? Weren’t they supposed to go here? Did they get turned down?

  9. Posted by anonymous

    It never ceases to amaze me, that pseudo intellectuals log on to the internet and pop off about a subject they know nothing about. The four hundred block of Valencia Street is a perfect example. High rents did not create the vacancies on this block.

    Yo Yo Sushi’s, that was owned by a wonderful Japanese couple, lease was up for renewal. They decided to vacate because they were tired of the stench that was emanating from the 16TH Street BART station. They were tired of these lowlifes using their doorways as sleeping areas and public toilets. The grocery store across the street, their lease was due. The owner bent over backwards trying to keep them there but no number made sense for either side. The Coin Trader, his lease was due. He was in his mid eighties and decided to retire. The Clothes Contact, they had three years left on their lease at a rate that was not even close to the market rate but the demographics changed and he could not sell enough merchandise to support the store. Art Zone 461, the landlord carried them for almost four years of bi monthly rent payments and no rent increases for those last four years. They were the one’s that decided to close. 455 Valencia Street, it was operated by a management group that had five small start up companies, each with less than seven employees. Three of them were non profit groups trying to help the neighborhood. The landlord had to break the lease and evict them because the City Planning Department made threats of fines and legal action.

    The men and families that own these properties are second and third generation San Franciscans. They bought these properties when Valencia Street was an absolute sh*thole, riddled with gangs, drugs, shootings, muggings and public urination. These owners are hard working, family people. They weathered through hard times because they felt they could make a difference in the neighborhood. So, for all you cry babies, I’m tired of listening to you whine! Don’t condemn the owners for getting of their asses and making a better life for them and their families. Unless you walk a day in their shoes, you have no idea what they have to go through just to rent out a space.

    • Posted by two beers

      Preach it, comrade: Landlords of the World Have Nothing to Lose but Their Chainstores!

  10. Posted by Orenthal Jay

    “vacate its literal bricks and mortar presence” do you understand what the word literal means or are you just trying to sound clever?

    • Posted by SocketSite

      Our apologies, obviously we shouldn’t have assumed the knowledge that “bricks and mortar” is an idiom which refers to a physical, versus virtual, presence, even for businesses within buildings which are constructed of concrete, wood or steel.

      And while that idiom perfectly applies to the situation here, the building is literally bricks and mortar as well.

      Again, our apologies and thank you for taking the time to add such value rather than wasting our time and simply trying to sound clever.

      • Posted by SFrentier

        Actually I missed that one. Clever.

      • Posted by Joel

        This is literally the best running joke on this site.

  11. Posted by 4th Gen SF'er

    I’m all or Keller-Williams being in that space. And while we’re at it, 826 gets tons of grants (free money) from the city, the state, corporate, etc. Dave is not really putting anything out of pocket here, and as someone showed upthread (SM?) he’s got 7 stores. He’s a big time capitalist 1%er who hates…the 1% & makes money off of his books and non-profits to live a wonderful capitalist life of a wealthy millionaire.

    One day in the not-too-distant future I believe someone will buy 826, Eggars will hold a gofundme & get reams of ink about how it’s so unfair, boo hoo…etc. That is all coming. Soon.

    • Posted by anon

      That’s why the salient point here is that they fulfill the spirit of being a retail store. Attractive street frontage, foot traffic, a draw for tourists…

      What’s in the heart and soul of the owners in not relevant.

    • Posted by SFrentier

      Yup, that dude will reach official “1%” status with $8-9 million. Cmon folks, it’s not that rare to be in th top 1%. And I don’t see how derision for the “top 1%” was turned into such a touchstone of economic contempt. I bet some .01% ears were in loved with this brilliant scheme. It’s like, hey, let’s get hatred going against a larger base of pretty wealthy people, so the heat is taken off us really rich people (like those with $50mil and over.). Because that club is really much, much smaller than those with $7-8 mil to their names.

      And the above is a great example. Some schmuck with a few successful pirate stores and some do goodisms can reach that bar. 1%ers, big whoop.

  12. Posted by hgh

    Keller Williams are a joke of a Real Estate company to begin with. They offer jobs to the inexperienced at better splits than usual, then charge them for the office fees….they run it like a pyramid scheme, and encourage agents to place fake ads to get clients, for inventory they don’t have.

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