New eateries may bud in Haight-Ashbury

New restaurants might be allowed to open later this year in the Haight-Ashbury, after planning commissioners for the third time in eight months agreed to tweak a San Francisco neighborhood’s decades-old restaurant moratorium. The Planning Commission voted unanimously and without debate last week to allow as many as four new alcohol-serving restaurants to open along a six-block strip of Haight Street east of Golden Gate Park or in nearby streets. The change was proposed by Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, whose district includes the neighborhood, and must be approved by the Board of Supervisors. The proposed change was supported by department staff.

“Eating and drinking habits have changed over the past 20 years,” Planning Department legislative analyst Tara Sullivan-Lenane wrote in a memo to commissioners.

Off-sale liquor licenses will continue to be prohibited and new restaurant permit applications will be considered on a “first-come, first-served basis,” according to Sullivan-Lenane.

Dean Macris, a former planning director who works on special department projects, told The Examiner that in the 1980s there was a “strong, strong concern about two or three kinds of uses” that were taking up swathes of retail space in the Haight Street district. Like most of The City’s 18 Neighborhood Commercial Districts, which regulate housing developments and new businesses, the district was created in 1987, records show.

At the time the limitations were introduced, bars, restaurants and bank branches were seen to be overtaking The City and displacing neighborhood-serving businesses like cobblers, dry cleaners and hardware stores, Macris said.

“I think there’s a growing interest that those limitations should be re-examined,” Macris said. “It needs to be looked at again.” San Francisco residents are more “receptive” to new restaurants in their neighborhoods than they were in the 1980s, Macris said.

New bank branches create fewer concerns than they did 20 years ago because of the growth of ATMs, he said.

New bars, however, are often opposed during Planning Commission meetings. ThePlanning Commission last week rejected an application to open a new wine bar in club-filled North Beach, where Supervisor Aaron Peskin has proposed new liquor controls.

Kevin Westlye, executive director of the Golden Gate Restaurant Association, said recent decisions by the Planning Commission to relax restaurant moratoriums have helped neighborhoods replace eateries that were shut down.

“It’s encouraging that restaurants want to continue to go into neighborhoods,” Westlye said, “where they’re working with residents as their customer base.”

jupton@examiner.com

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