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La Victoria bakery tenants told to clear out

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Commercial tenants at La Victoria Bakery have been served eviction notices. (Laura Waxmann/S.F. Examiner)

Long-time employees and commercial tenants of La Victoria Bakery at 2937 24th St. have been told that they will have to vacate the more than half-century old Mission District establishment next month.

Beginning last week, a handful of merchants who currently sublease space inside of the the bakery were served with 30-day notices of “termination of tenancy” by Jaime Maldonado, son of La Victoria’s proprietor, Gabriel Maldonado.

The eviction notices followed an announcement in March that the two-story building, in which the bakery has operated for the better part of 67 years as one of three commercial tenants, had been put on the market for $3.4 million.

Maldonado has been running the family bakery for decades, but gradually began subleasing the commercial kitchen space to a rotation of merchants to strengthen his business and support local merchants.

“It’s a challenging environment running a panaderia in a neighborhood going through changes,” said Danny Gabriner, the founder of Sour Flour, a sourdough bread bakery that has been renting kitchen space and holding baking classes in the La Victoria space since 2010.

“When you are up against financial challenges…finding synergies and renting out the kitchen and the bakery was one key way that that was able to keep everything going,” he said.

Laura Hernandez, who has been employed at La Victoria for more than a decade, said she and Gabriner took over a month-to-month sublease for the Latino bakery in January.

Hernandez has tried to buy the bakery space from Maldonado but was unsuccessful. She said she has made substantial investments in the space since taking over the lease six months ago.

The fate of the bakery remains murky.

On Wednesday, Maldonado told the San Francisco Examiner that the bakery “is not officially closing,” at least not yet.

“The trust is taking control of La Victoria. Officially, they are the ones who now own La Victoria, not myself,” he said, adding that the takeover was part of a mediation agreement with the Maldonado Family Trust, which owns the building.

The trust is headed by Maldonado’s stepmother, Susanna. Maldonado is part of the trust, and held the lease for La Victoria. As was first reported by Mission Local, Maldonado’s stepmother previously initiated proceedings to evict La Victoria and her stepson.

Maldonado said that he did not know who the trust has chosen as the building’s new owner.

“They decided to go into a completely different direction of what the original family had in mind for the building and neighborhood,” he said. “We have always been very cognizant of the feel of neighborhood and what’s going on and advocating for small Latino business and local control.”

Maldonado confirmed that he declined Hernandez’ offer to buy La Victoria.

Last week’s notices informed all of Maldonado’s subtenants that they have until mid-August to vacate under threat of legal action.

At least two of the bakers who stand to lose their jobs have been employed with La Victoria for 30 years.

“We have been fighting to keep it going forever. We have talked to MEDA [the Mission Economic Development Agency] about them buying the building,” said Gabriner, adding that the tenants have also reached out other members of Maldonado’s family trust, which owns the building, to no avail. “We have been pushing any angle we can to keep the business going.”

MEDA, a nonprofit developer, has previously attempted to purchase the building to ensure that its longtime tenants, which alongside the Bakery include a Latino run-hair salon and jewelry shop, remain in place, but was unsuccessful. A spokesperson confirmed Wednesday that the property is under contract with another buyer.

The tenants are currently working with The City and District 9 Supervisor Hillary Ronen to obtain legacy business status for La Victoria. The designation would require any new owner to seek a conditional use hearing before The City’s Planning Commission if they wanted to make changes to the business.

The bakery and property appear to face a complex set of troubles.

The Maldonados suffered financial setbacks stemming from a fire in the units above the commercial spaces.

Last October, tenants from another unit that was not damaged by the fire sued the Maldonado Family Trust for wrongful eviction – that lawsuit is ongoing.

More recently, La Victoria was cited for a number of fire code violations.

“Therefore, the Fire Marshal for the San Francisco Fire Department has probable cause to believe the building structure, or a portion therefore is an unsafe building or property,” reads a notice posted near La Victoria’s entrance this week. A hearing is scheduled on July 26.

“We are working on fixing the violations,” said Gabriner. “La Victoria has provided for so many customers and supported so many businesses. We want to continue the tradition and service to the community.

lwaxmann@sfexaminer.com

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