Mike Koozmin/The S.F. ExaminerGum Gee Lee and Poon Heung Lee stand in the doorway of the Jackson Street home where they've raised seven children and which they will soon be forced to leave. The family

Mike Koozmin/The S.F. ExaminerGum Gee Lee and Poon Heung Lee stand in the doorway of the Jackson Street home where they've raised seven children and which they will soon be forced to leave. The family

Catholic Diocese enters Mission gentrification debate — as landlord

A pair of small businesses on 24th Street catering to The City's Spanish-speaking population may be on the way out in favor of another high-end restaurant. But this gentrification story has a different flavor: the landlord of the Librería San Pedro religious bookstore and the “indigenous craft shop” G.G. Tukuy is the Catholic Church.

The Archdiocese of San Francisco approached real estate brokers to find a new tenant for the tiny storefronts next to St. Peter's Church at Florida Street in the spring, bilingual newspaper El Tecolote first reported.

No deal has been struck, but the notion of a religious institution sending longtime merchants packing has sparked neighborhood outrage and a campaign organized by the Lower 24th Merchants Association — slogan: “24th Street is not for sale” — to ensure that the bookstore and clothing shop stay put.

To date, more than 1,800 people have signed a Change.org petition supporting the businesses, and another 4,000 people have signed paper petitions.

The church approached real estate broker Mark Kaplan in the spring to help find a new tenant for the small spaces next to St. Peter's, he said Wednesday.

“We gave them an offer,” he said, noting that in the interim, the church has increased San Pedro Librería's rent and asked both tenants to help with electrical repairs.

Neither of the businesses — tiny and dim, where Spanish is the first language and where there is room for only a few shoppers inside — currently have leases. Both are month to month.

The Archdiocese of San Francisco sent letters to the business owners two months ago, informing them that their situation was being “evaluated” by church officials, according to the proprietor of one of the two businesses, who asked not to be identified by name.

The church's pastor, Father Manuel Estrada, declined to discuss the matter with The San Francisco Examiner. Archdiocese spokeswoman Christine A. Mugridge did not provide comment by late Wednesday afternoon.

Rents on 24th Street are increasing rapidly — and with them, the flavor of the area is changing. Kaplan tells the story of another bookstore, Adobe Books, that was eyeing a $3,000-a-month lease in December. By the time the store signed in spring 2013, the rent was close to $5,000 a month.

Next door to G.G. Tukuy is Modern Times Bookstore, which itself is a gentrification refugee. The bookstore lost its lease on Valencia Street two years ago — but it, too, is now on a month-to-month agreement and lives in fear of an investor offering its landlord an offer too good to refuse.

There is hope that the church can be persuaded to keep the businesses. “There's no way they're tripping on the mortgage,” said community organizer Oscar Grande.

And if the church evicts the businesses?

“It's part of the growing class tension on this corridor,” he said. “We see who has access to the new capital, and we see who is on the receiving end of evictions.”

Bay Area NewsCatholic ChurchgentrificationMission districtneighborhoods

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