With plans to limit the number of new Mission District restaurant spaces in the works, plans to convert the former Sapphire Photo shop at 2761 Mission Street into a 20-seat ‘Tea Art’ café are being challenged.

From the requested Discretionary Review (DR) of the conversion:

The “Valencia-nation” of Mission St is currently occurring with negative displacement impacts on the Latino and working-class communities, the elderly, and children. Projects such as this one that convert retail to restaurant would contribute to this negative outcome.

This project will create displacement and gentrification impacts in the Latino Cultural District and is not a “necessary” or “desirable” project for the existing community. This project is in conflict with Priority Policy 1 of the General Plan in that it eliminates neighborhood-serving retail use and replaces it with restaurant use.

There are currently 6 active restaurant proposals for Mission St alone right now, and this stable, working-class Latino corridor is on the tipping point of flipping to being a “destination site” for tourists and upscale workers. Once retail use is converted to restaurant use it rarely ever changes back. This is destabilizing to working-class communities. This project would contribute to displacement not only on Mission St but in the entire Mission neighborhood.

Broader limitations on new restaurant spaces in the neighborhood, in the form of zoning controls, are being advanced by community groups as part of the City’s pending Mission Action Plan 2020 (MAP2020) which is expected to be adopted this spring.

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Comments from “Plugged-In” Readers

  1. Posted by SFMichael

    Yes, we must preserve the closed store-front of an obsolete business.

    • Posted by Bobby Mucho

      Agreed. These complaints are becoming more and more hyperbolic. Which is sad, because there is plenty worth saving and preserving but this sort of nonsense just waters down the debate and works to discredit the intentions of these groups.

  2. Posted by Anon123

    Individual retail spaces like this are fairly easily converted from retail to a cafe, and back again. It would be different if they were tearing down the block to put up a 20-story condo building.

  3. Posted by The Milkshake of Despair

    “…it eliminates neighborhood-serving retail use…”

    Hmmmm…. The vacant former photo studio certainly did not serve the neighborhood.

  4. Posted by marco

    If there were no demand for the cafe nobody would go there and the business would close, and something more useful would replace it. The new cafe would likely employ several more of the local latino residents than the current (closed) photo shop does. Do the opponents have a proposal for what business to install in the location?

  5. Posted by San Francisco

    Tea is always killing Latino and working-class communities. Seen it a million times.

  6. Posted by gentrified is a dirty word for clean

    Gotta preserve those payday loans and 99c stores.

    • Posted by SFer

      Definitely the 99c stores! Seriously, it’s amazing what you can get there, and for a family on a budget, it’s a Godsend.

  7. Posted by SF_Landlord

    If the roles were reversed and a “white” neighborhood was trying to deny Latino businesses from entering the hood the screams of racism would be deafening.

    • Posted by scott f

      Yeah, because that would be racism, which this is not. Also, the inequalities that resulted from SF and other US cities doing exactly what you say (and denying black and Latino residents, not just businesses, from entering neighborhoods) persist to this day. Ask yourself why there are no taquerias in Forest Hill, which was founded on explicitly racist covenants and maintains its segregation today through low-density zoning, a “colorblind” way to maintain ethnic and economic segregation.

      • Posted by ohmy

        Ahhh…perhaps commercial rents deny access to potential commercial tenants in “whatever” neighborhood. Geeze get handle on it..if you restrict supply of anything, or if you have commercial space is surrounded by high income residents then commercial space can command higher rent…”Boardwalk vs. Baltic”…remember?

    • Posted by pablito

      Yeah, pretty much everything West of the Muni Portal station was deed restricted to whites only. That’s one of the reasons Willie Brown first got involved in SF politics – his family was not allowed to buy a house here. Some rich West-side developer had to step in so that Willie Mays could buy a house when the Giants first moved here from NY. A lot of people still very much alive today lived and remember our crappy not -so- long – ago history of past SF land use discrimination. Agreed that a tea house is stupid thing to protest against- but it’s going to take a few more generations before we can really move past the stupidity of our past history.

  8. Posted by scott f

    I’m not mad about this. The Mission IS oversaturated with cafes and restaurants and too much of one use is bad for a neighborhood’s long-term health. As Jane Jacobs wrote in Death and Life, an extreme lack of diversity eventually makes the neighborhood less appealing even for people seeking out the one use it does have, leading the neighborhood into a period of decline.

    Best-case scenario here: in response to limits on restaurants and cafes, commercial rents fall. Art supply stores and music stores and other uses flourish. Worst-case: empty storefronts linger. Either way it’s better than a continued housing shortage, and blocking high-end restaurants is probably more effective at actually slowing evictions than blocking housing, so hopefully this will take the focus instead of the housing moratoriums of years past.

    • Posted by haighter

      I call BS. Capping the number of fancy restaurants won’t slow the influx of yuppies/techies into the mission

      • Posted by scott f

        Who knows, but it can’t be any LESS effective than not building housing.

      • Posted by scott f

        One specific way it could help is if restauranteurs, failing to get permits to open in the Mission, go to underserved areas like Mission Bay, Dogpatch, Western SoMa, the Portola, Excelsior or Bayview and their restaurants become a magnet for yuppies who would otherwise have chosen the Mission. Jane Jacobs called this “competitive diversion.”

        Note that I’m not necessarily saying it’s a good thing if it’s the Portola, Excelsior or Bayview since folks in those neighborhoods are at risk of displacement as well… but then we come back to the big picture, that if we want to protect communities in every neighborhood instead of just shifting the problem around, we need to build a whole lot more housing.

        • Posted by Jeremy

          Yeah, but thoes neighborhoods dont have a subway with 2 stations and major bus lines running through them. If you build it, they will come, but only if they can get there.

    • Posted by heynonnynonny

      I agree, except that the worst case would be putting unaffordable housing there.

      It would be interesting to know the story behind the vacancy. In the Castro the most notable empty storefronts seem to be linked to a handful of people who are abusing prop 13. If empty storefronts are considered a problem, pass the cost on to owners who choose to keep them empty.

      • Posted by scott f

        Not sure if you’re serious with that first sentence. If you mean housing that only higher-income professionals can afford, no, that’s not a worst case scenario at all. It takes those professionals out of competition for the existing (older, plainer) apartment stock, reducing upward pressure on rents. I’d support any kind of housing on the site.

        Totally agree on Prop 13 reform. I understand it limits our ability to do a vacancy tax.

        • Posted by heynonnynonny

          I was serious. Demand elasticity for places in the Mission is too high for your supply argument to work. Let the people who want to live in shiny condos move to places where people want to live near shiny condos.

          • Posted by haighter

            Actually, demand for Mission housing is pretty inelastic .. given the number of techies paying top dollar to live in poorly maintained, long-since updated flats. They’re paying for the location, not the housing stock

          • Posted by scott f

            So I disagree with your approach for two reasons. One, it doesn’t work, based on the best information we have – studies by urban economists, including the independent Urban Displacement Project at UC Berkeley, don’t show a causal connection between market-rate housing construction and higher rents/more evictions in the older housing stock. Question the report? Use your own eyes – walk around the Mission and observe what homes people who look like yuppies are entering and exiting. The vast majority will be coming home to hundred year old Edwardians. Shiny new condos aren’t the draw.

            The second reason I disagree is, even if it did work, this is a zero sum game. Convince a yuppie not to move to the Mission, and they’ll substitute a different urban, walkable neighborhood like SoMa or the Tenderloin or West Oakland, all of which also have low-income communities threatened by rising rent. When you do stuff like improve transit, beautify sidewalks with street trees, add bike lanes, I wouldn’t be surprised if that actually does draw more yuppies to the neighborhood, but keeping a neighborhood treeless, unsafe and annoying to get around, just to make someone else bear the burden of demand pressure instead of you … well, that doesn’t feel like an answer to me.

          • Posted by heynonnynonny

            Thanks for the correction haighter, that’s what I meant to say.

  9. Posted by anon2.5

    Sad to see equally hyperbolic and racially tinged reactions in these comments. Not advocating that this DR has merit, I don’t have all the facts, only making a general observation. It’s not unreasonable or unprecedented for a community to want to preserve its retail fabric in the form of zoning. There is no evidence to suggest that if left unconverted to restaurant space, the site will remain vacant forever. There is plenty of evidence to suggest that Mission st. would end up looking like Valencia if nothing is done.

    • Posted by scott f

      Yeah, the “reverse racism” accusations are off the mark and inappropriate. Some folks need to examine their privilege.

      • Posted by anon

        To even mention ‘privelege’ is massively offensive to those of us who have started from nothing and worked insanely hard to get where we are today.

    • Posted by ess

      Banning additional restaurants worked so well for 24th St. in Noe Valley.

  10. Posted by BigV

    limiting the number of new restaurant spaces that can open will cause increased pressure on existing lower-end restaurants, pushing them towards becoming high end restaurants (due to rent increases, etc.). Caps like this never work and always results in other distortions.

  11. Posted by BuildHighAndDense

    I’m not entirely sure why a certain corridor needs regulations on what kind of business can open as long as it is in line with zoning. This is akin to SF saying what can be opened at Stones Town.

  12. Posted by gentrified is a dirty word for clean

    If a John Smith changes his name to Juan Herrero, can he open whatever gawddang store he wants? Or does he also have to prove that less than 40% of his clientele will be white?

    Just trying to figure out how “diversity” politics work…

  13. Posted by Out of Town

    Well, that sure took an ugly turn. 50% of people in ‘my’ area are Latino, and it is no big deal if anybody opens a taqueria, a tea shop or a cell phone store. Taking a Google ‘drive’ on this street I see plenty of cell phone stores, chain stores, independent stores, many of which are Latino… hard to see what the big deal is about a tea cafe. Also, most Latinos here are bilingual (some first generation don’t speak English and some third generation don’t speak Spanish) and many would be considered white.

    I don’t think this is an issue about culture or color, but an issue of who can (afford to) live in the area. If you grew up there and like the area, it is hurtful to get pushed out.

    • Posted by gentrified is a dirty word for clean

      Yes, it is hurtful. It is also a perfectly natural thing, like so many other hurtful things in life. In the late 90s when I was living hand-to-mouth in Laurel Heights I got pushed out of there as noveau-riche dot-commers were buying buildings and doing OMI evictions. But my heritage is not worthy of special interventionist protection, so I sucked it up, told myself that this is what happens in a city whose neighborhoods have been constantly changing for 150 years, and moved to a cheaper neighborhood (Sunset).

  14. Posted by SF-ing

    ^ too funny 😉
    SF has really needs some of it’s planning/zoning & building laws deleted. Wonder why everything is so expensive, the code books (online) are now so thick for CA then SF add a whole lot more BS. All these costs mean only the patient & very rich can make it happen. We need some Sups w/ the balls to repeals some of this crap.

  15. Posted by JJ

    Times change! It is sad but one can not stop change! People have to keep the stores alive.

  16. Posted by SocketSite

    Speaking of the broader Mission Action Plan 2020: Draft Plan to Preserve the Mission District Released

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