Has North Beach hit alcohol limit?

The latest in a long line of proposals to deal with the violence, public drunkenness and littering in North Beach would ban new restaurants and bars.

The rowdiness and increasing crime that plague the nightlife hot spot has city officials and neighborhood residents at odds on the proposal, which essentially restricts new alcohol permits in the area.

Attempts to curb the rowdy revelers have included proposals banning the sale of early-morning pizza, and North Beach property owners paying a new tax to increase the police presence. City leaders have also proposed giving specific handstamps to clubs and bars to track where drunken partygoers have been.

However, the neighborhood’s powerful neighborhood association and the area’s top cop say the number of restaurants and bars needs to be restricted to quell the weekend partygoers.

The legislation to cap the number of eateries, bars and ATMs was introduced by the district’s  supervisor, Aaron Peskin, and would prohibit those establishments from replacing neighborhood services such as grocery stores, pharmacies and dry cleaners.

But some business groups and residents say that the bill is another attempt to block merchant growth in a neighborhood that already has the reputation of being an obstacle course for new businesses. Kevin Westlye, president of the Golden Gate Restaurant Association, dryly describes North Beach as a district that has “made an art form out of blocking development.”

Peskin and other proponents for the new plan say the proposed legislation is not about blocking new businesses — rather, it would preserve some neighborhood services in an area in which 45 percent of storefronts are restaurants or bars. That’s nearly twice what The City’s general plan recommends, they say.

“We all value the tradition of dining in North Beach, but it shouldn’t be at the expense of killing everything else,” Peskin said.

Nancy Shanahan, Peskin’s wife and member of the  Planning and Zoning Committee of the powerful Telegraph Hill Dwellers association, said that one decade ago, there were three hardware stores in the neighborhood. Those are now gone, she said.

But Marsha Garland, president of the North Beach Chamber of Commerce, described the legislation as “totalitarian.”

“How much more government do we need in North Beach?” she said. “We’ve already got a huge reputation as a very undesirable neighborhood to do business in.”

The neighborhood’s top cop, Central Police Station Capt. James Dudley said he’s stopped recommending new liquor licenses because he feels the saturation of bars and clubs in the neighborhood has increased crime. He said that state regulators recommend about 15 to 18 liquor licenses in a neighborhood the size of North Beach, but that it currently has more than 50.

“There’s a lot of people in the district who are calling me ‘the new prohibitionist,’” he said. “But my job is to watch over a district and not let it get out of hand, so I’d be neglectful to just rubber-stamp them.”

kworth@sfexaminer.com

No new restaurants

Neighborhood commercial districts in San Francisco that restrict new restaurants, bars and other establishments:

Broadway: Large fast-food restaurants

Castro: Bars and restaurants

Inner Clement Street: Restaurants

Outer Clement Street: Bars and restaurants

Upper Fillmore: Bars and restaurants

Haight Street: Bars, restaurants and liquor stores

Upper Market Street: Large fast-food restaurants

North Beach: Large fast-food restaurants

Polk Street:Large fast-food restaurants

Sacramento Street: Bars and large fast-food restaurants

Union Street: Bars and restaurants

Valencia Street: Liquor stores

24th Street-Mission: Large fast-food restaurants, bars and liquor stores

24th Street-Noe Valley: Restaurants

West Portal: Restaurants

Inner Sunset: Large fast-food restaurants and liquor stores

Pacific Avenue: Bars, restaurants, liquor stores and movie theaters

Source: S.F. Planning Department

My Story

“It’s the small restaurants that keep North Beach vibrant.”

Albert Loustaunau, 56 Long Beach

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