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SF to extend restrictions on Mission District restaurants, storefront mergers

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The resolution is an attempt to level the playing field for businesses in the Mission. (Mike Koozmin/2013 S.F. Examiner)

Restaurateurs and large retailers vying to set up shop in the Mission District could continue to face more stringent review by The City pending the approval of temporary restrictions that seek to level the playing field for smaller, neighborhood-serving businesses.

The Board of Supervisors is expected to vote Tuesday on a resolution that calls for the extension of existing interim controls on restaurant conversions in an area bounded by Duboce, 13th and Division streets to the north, Mission Street to the west, Potrero Avenue to the east and Cesar Chavez Avenue to the south.

Interim controls, though not incorporated into the planning code, are temporary restrictions that carry the full weight of the law and can be adopted by the Board of Supervisors without a hearing at the Planning Commission, according to the Planning Department.

The controls currently in place require a conditional use authorization process — which includes community meetings, outreach and a hearing before the Planning Commission — before any commercial or other space may be converted into a restaurant.

Conditional use is “a type of land use that is not principally permitted in a particular Zoning District, and requires a Planning Commission hearing in order to determine if the proposed use is ‘necessary or desirable to the neighborhood,’” Planning Department spokesperson Gina Simi said. The process determines whether a project could “potentially have a negative impact on the surrounding neighborhood,” she said.

Just one application for a restaurant conversion in the area designated for the restaurant use restrictions is currently being reviewed by the Planning Department, according to Simi.

The resolution, sponsored by Mission District Supervisor Hillary Ronen, would also add a new set of controls on the merging of commercial storefronts, similarly triggering the conditional use process for the combining of storefronts exceeding 2,000 square feet.

“Mission Street as it currently exists has a variety of sizes of commercial spaces. Some are large and some are small. There [are] a lot of smaller storefronts that really help to provide opportunities for the more mom-and-pop shops,” said Amy Beinert, Ronen’s legislative aide.

“The goal is to ensure that that kind of commercial diversity stays in place,” she said, adding that the conditional use authorization process “allows for the community to weigh in” on the neighborhood’s development.

The controls are a temporary solution to curbing the displacement of small, locally-owned businesses that serve working class residents in a neighborhood heavily impacted by gentrification in recent years, Beinert said.

The interim controls are part of an ongoing effort of updating the Mission Area Plan 2020 — a policy plan that recommends solutions to creating more housing and economic stability in the Mission, and is a collaborative effort between The City, neighborhood nonprofits and advocacy groups.

Beinert said the controls offer an immediate intervention as The City and community groups continue to evaluate permanent protections for vulnerable tenants of residential and commercial spaces.

The restrictions on restaurant conversions were first added during an extension of existing interim controls in March 2017 and are set to expire Jan. 14. If approved Tuesday, both the controls on restaurant use and storefront mergers would be in place for 15 months.

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