As proposed, a new five-story building with 28 condos over 6,300 square feet of new retail space and a 19-car garage will rise upon the Oil Changer site at 198 Valencia Street.

In August, shortly after anti-tech flyers were posted in front of the bar, the owner of Zeitgeist filed a formal challenge of the project, citing concerns that the development would cast additional shadows on Zeitgeist’s (back yard) beer garden at 199 Valencia Street and adversely affect the bar’s business.

Last month, Zeitgeist’s challenge was heard by San Francisco’s Planning Commission, which requested an additional shadow analysis and continued the hearing to next week.

From Zeitgeist’s latest plea to the Commission, which seeks to have the height, design and positioning of the development altered:

“Throughout this process, the developer has demonstrated an unwillingness to cooperate with Zeitgeist in order to adequately address the valid impact that this proposal has on our business.

We recount the sequence of interactions during this last 10 months and implore the Planning Commission to recognize that the developers are actively choosing to ignore this issue, hoping that the Planning Commission will approve their proposal in the [2/16/17] meeting.

In our view, the developers have followed the “letter of the law” rather than the “spirit of the law” in holding the required Pre-Application Meeting, but not actually discussing and addressing the concerns of the stakeholders.”

But with the new analysis in hand – which projects that the proposed development will add 255,000 square foot hours of net new shadow on Zeitgeist’s garden, a total annual increase of just 2.06 percent but with the maximum impact occurring on April 26th and August 16th (“when some new shadow would be present in locations within the Beer Garden for a period of approximately 2 hours” and affecting up to 37% of the garden area) and the days between – San Francisco’s Planning Department is recommending that the development be approved as proposed.

The Department’s reasoning for its recommendation:

  1. The Project complies with the Planning Code and advances the Objectives and Policies of the General Plan
  2. The Project is in an appropriate in-fill development that will add 28 new dwelling units to the City’s housing stock and 6,269 square feet of commercial space in an area that encourages the development of moderate-scale buildings with a pattern of ground floor commercial with upper story residential units.
  3. The Project fully respects the character of the adjacent mixed use and residential neighborhoods.
  4. The Project will include at least four units of on-site, permanently affordable housing

Keep in mind that neither San Francisco Planning Code nor the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) require a project to consider or design around the shadowing of a neighbor’s back yard, unless said yard is a public space.

And while Zeitgeist has been designated an official Legacy Business by the City, said designation doesn’t confer any special protections beyond financial support.

63 thoughts on “Zeitgeist Likely to Lose Literal NIMBY Challenge”
  1. Would a building containing a few potential new regular customers offset the loss caused by that 2% increase in shade? Seems like the Zeitgeist is quibbling over not much.

    1. you think zeitgeist will actually let any residents of this building into the bar? Somehow I doubt it

      1. There is no way for them to stop it, and the idea that they don’t want more money in their hands is straight up absurd.

    2. So can we quibble over what to do when the last place to get gas or get a motoried vehicle serviced or repaired in SF is transformed into condos (some for people with cars)?

  2. “Zeitgeist likely to lose…”

    As well they should. I hope their attorney got his (or her) money up front.

  3. I love Zeitgeist but this complaint is completely disingenuous. Nobody goes to Zeitgeist during daylight hours anyway. And if you do go while the sun still shines and opt to sit outside, you’ll be at a picnic table under a giant sun-blocking parasol. It’s just straight-up NIMBY obstructionism. The real reason they filed this complaint is that they don’t want well-heeled techies taking over the bar at happy hour; they want to keep their punk aesthetic pure.

    1. “I love Zeitgeist…..Nobody goes to Zeitgeist during daylight hours anyway.” This statement makes no sense at all. You must not get over there too often. Remember, it’ll be light until 8-830 in two months.

      With that said, Zeitgeist can feel the walls closing in between this development and whatever happens with 170 Valencia. Two blocks away The Armory and the lot across from it are influx as well. The ultimate goal for the area, as a whole, should be the destruction of the 101 ramp.

        1. Bingo! Not only do they own their building, they also own the tattoo building next door, all free and clear. What business in SF is in a better situation? And to top it off, they bought the building around the corner on Duboce last October to expand their operations.

      1. “The ultimate goal for the area, as a whole, should be the destruction of the 101 ramp.” Because all the community meetings involving designs of a PERMANENT replacement for the Central Freeway and all the time spent in hasseling out the configuration of where and how 101 would come to ground means nothing now that the anti-car crowd has eaten their bite and now want more.

        1. As you imply, BTinSF, there was a short but vigorous late-in-the-day effort to change the touchdown for the newly reconfigured terminus of the Central Freeway to Bryant Street rather than Market Street and extend the boulevard concept adopted for Octavia Street to a stretch of Division Street south of Market.

          I supported this proposal. But the effort failed. So we move on to other possibilities.

          It is very difficult to imagine that any agency with authority to do so would approve reconfiguring the existing arrangement in the next 50 years. That said, to support greater accommodation for public transit, pedestrians, and bicyclists in our dense, crowded, wonderful city is not to be anti-car, or not necessarily so.

          I’ve lived in the city for almost 30 years and owned a car the entire time. I am not anti-car. But I am pro-balance and to me that means giving equal or greater consideration to transportation modes other than automobiles in an era when many or most streets and roads and highways are saturated with automobile traffic much or most of the time.

          I’m happy to see the Age of Auto Dominance come to a close in San Francisco and other big cities. This isn’t the same as welcoming the elimination of automobiles or being “anti-car.” As with most things, the reality here is not black and white, all good vs. all bad, 100% right vs. 100% wrong.

          1. Given that public transit investment continues to lag, I would have to say the Age of Auto Dominance is stronger than ever. Sure, you have people out on bikes and walking, but many of these people continue to own cars. Most of the new development going up has parking which adds cars to the streets. You have more people commuting longer distances by car because they need a more affordable place to live.

            Removal of the Central Freeway from Market St. to Hayes Valley took cars off an elevated structure and put them on the surface. Traffic is still bad. People still drive. I wish that more emphasis would be placed on transportation modes other than cars, but sadly that is not the case. The Bay Area is quickly repeating the mistakes that the LA-area made two generations ago.

          2. unless the city gives its citizens a via transformative transit solution, the number of cars in SF will continue to increase as it has been for past 5 yrs.

    2. Tons of people go to Zeitgeist during the day and enjoy what sun there is, actually. The thing is that most of the shadow is cast onto the beer garden by Zeitgeist itself. This will effect them in no way whatsoever.

    3. last time i went to zeitgeist, i would say the majority of the crowd was hipster tech people. the majority of the mission is now hipster tech workers. Its now more homogenous than the marina, except that some hipsters tatoos are slightly different than others

      1. Last time I went to Zeitgeist I would say the majority of the crowd was the kind of people who think they can identify “hipster tech people” just by looking at them.

        1. im also being TIC mostly, in response to aeral and Hilarous, whose depictions are even more far off than mine.

      2. Conflating techie with hipster renders your comment meaningless. Draw a Ven diagram with hipsters in one circle and techies in the other with a very small overlap – unless that small overlap of people all hang out at Zeitgeist.

        1. totally disagree. almost all the people i know in tech are hipster, sipping coffee at Ritual Roasters and riding their fixies to work every day. very common. i would say at least a 70% overalp in the Venn diagram

          1. As an alternate perspective I work with techies all day long and less than 1% are hipsters. Maybe the Venn overlap is greater for small smartphone app companies based in SOMA, but not for techies as a whole.

          2. 70% of the techies we see are hipsters. But only 10% of techies are hipsters. There’s a good 30% that are nerdy introverts working long hours and then going home. There are also techies that are civically engaged, are business d-bags, are middle aged dads, etc. It’s an industry covering sales, engineering, etc.

  4. ITT: techies [upset] that nobody ever wanted them at Zeitgeist. You guys really have no idea how much your entitlement grates, do you?

    1. It always amuses me when people accuse tech workers of being entitled. They’re usually the same people who claim they should be able to continue paying less than half fair market rent for their apartment just because they moved here first.

    2. What a colossally pointless and hypocritical statement. There’s no damn way you could *actually* identify anyone there as a “techie” unless they explicitly told you what they do. Anyone who thinks Zeitgeist won’t take money (spoiler: everyone’s money is equally green) from any patron that walks through their door is a fool of the highest magnitude.

      1. You can usually tell because they dont have the self awareness to not broadcast thr company they work for on every garment they wear. Most people got over this when they stop working at pizza hut / target / blockbuster. Life skill deficient tech workers are VERY easy to spot, have you ever entered the bart system and found yourself surrounded by a bunch of clones, none of whom seem to have basic spatial reasoning or common sense? Deluded betas who insist on aggressively walking on the extreme left in a crosswalk to thr point of walking in thr road or physically slamming into another person because thats jeffs path!! Those guys arent firemen.

        1. i would say 3/4 of the hipster folks who sit at Ritual roasters covered in tats work in tech. that seems about as often as possible from the description above

        2. If you’re really that upset about other people making a living, maybe you should go back to school.

        3. if i went to zeitgeist, people would probably think i’m a techie, even though i’m an architect who can barely pay his rent and gets his clothes at target. part of the problem is that people judge so quickly. zeitgeist used to be the type of place where people don’t give a sh*t about who you are. now, everyone is so quick to judge. this behavior couldn’t be more anti-punk, if you ask me.

    3. No, “entitled” is when you want to block housing for 28 households and prevent the creation of a few ground floor retail businesses because it might throw some shade on your beer garden.

  5. Zeitgeist is located right next to a dog park, yet they don’t allow dogs into their backyard. So I took my business else where.

    1. I assume you’re not a dog owner, because dog owners in SF don’t give a fog whether dogs are allowed somewhere or not.

      1. im a dog owner and take my dog almost everywhere, but always ask whoever is working in business before doing so. most say yes. however, would never take my dog in a restaurant

  6. Good for them. Hope it makes the developer pay out some big concessions to keep them quiet and they can use the money to pay for better bathrooms

    it’s win win

    1. Those developer concessions payments come straight out of the wallets of the people buying the units. You’re advocating for screwing future homeowners.

      1. Consumers pay what the market, not the cost of development, dictates. And in terms of the direct impact, concessions are taken out of the property owner’s or development team’s bottom line, not a buyer’s or renter’s wallet.

        That being said, when projected development costs are increased to the point of exceeding the projected price consumers are willing to pay, or a target return, it can constrain future supply which does impact the market as a whole.

        1. ridiculous. Any costs born by the developer gets passed on to the purchaser. Yes within what the market will bear. You may have noticed the market in SF can bear a hell of a lot.

          1. Developers don’t raise prices when it costs more to build, nor do they lower prices when it costs less. Prices are set by what buyers are willing to pay (demand), not the underlying cost of construction.

          2. Joe, if a builder can get $2 million in the market, they will sell for $2 million, whether it cost 1 cent or $10 million to build. They can’t just “pass on” any added costs to the buyer because they are already selling at the max the market will bear (unless you know some altruistic builder out there who cuts buyers a break out of the goodness of his heart). If the builder could sell at a higher price, they would go ahead and do so regardless of their costs.

          3. it does raise costs but not directly. at a certain price, builders slow or stop new developments, which raises the prices due to supply constraint.

  7. “Keep in mind that neither San Francisco Planning Code nor the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) require a project to consider or design around the shadowing of a neighbor’s back yard, unless said yard is a public space.”

    This is EXACTLY what’s wrong with this whole process. This should have been shut down immediately, why is the city even wasting it’s time on something like this?!

  8. If a project conforms to zoning as far as height goes, that should be the end of the issue. If increased shaddows on private property were an issue, what if the owner wants to shade his own yard? Could someone object?

  9. I don’t understand these comments about ZG wanting to keep techies away. That’s not at all my experience, surrounded by many people some of whom work in tech. I’m a techie too and about as uncool as they come. Yet the staff always treats me well. They’re a little curt when they get busy, but I detect no attitude at all.

  10. “the developers have followed the “letter of the law” rather than the “spirit of the law””

    The reason we write laws down, is specifically so that people can follow them to the letter. We don’t want to have laws just floating around like spirits in people’s heads. Pardon the pun, but there are many good reasons why we do not govern by zeitgeist.

  11. Zeitgeist owns 2 buildings, the $ will make them sell soon enough. Just like Bottom of the Hill. Both are owned by older ex-hipsters who still think they’re hip & cool. They will want the $ soon enough.

  12. good, cars and cities don’t go together very well, parking lots and gas stations everywhere ruin a city and make everyone fat. do you want to end up like indianapolis? because that’s how you end up like indianapolis.

  13. What crybabies. If you don’t want a neighboring lot built up (within zoning regs), you buy air rights over the parcel. Otherwise, you are just temporarily enjoying a benefit.

    1. I am not quite sure if they “won.” They got a 5-foot reduction in the building, which supposedly gives them an extra 30-minute of sunshine on their beer garden. I seriously doubt they fought the project so vociferously to get 30 extra minutes without shade.

      This compromise just inconveniences the developer by making the ground-floor retail space less marketable (perhaps that was Zeitgeist’s goal all-along–fight off any future competition?), but it does not stop the development, nor does it really give Zeitgeist any great benefit–will the 30 extra minutes without shade really make that much of a difference?

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