New eateries may pop up on Union Street

New restaurants and take-out stores could open this year along a six-block stretch of Union Street in the Marina neighborhood after planning commissioners worked some wiggle-room into a decades-old prohibition on new eateries there.

In an effort to reinvigorate the corridor’s economy, commissioners voted Thursday to allow up to five new eateries to serve food and alcohol between Steiner Street and Van Ness Avenue, where new restaurants have been barred since the late 1980s. The change will take effect if it’s endorsed by the Board of Supervisors.

Over the past two decades, the number of fast-food and take-out stores in the strip fell from 19 to 12, according to a city report, while the number of full-service restaurants dipped from 31 to 27, leaving roughly one eatery every 30 yards.

When a popular bagel restaurant was replaced several years ago by a sunglasses store, Union Street shopkeepers lost a place to eat as well as a chunk of their Sunday-morning sales, jewelry store owner Leslie Drapkin said. The 20-year-old law forbade conversion of the storefront back into an eatery.

Upscale gift-store owner Dennis Beckman told commissioners that he wanted more restaurants in the strip. “Unfortunately, we’ve lost our movie theater; we’ve lost some major full-service restaurants and small restaurants,” he said. “I’ve seen our customer base dwindle.”

But the change was opposed by the Golden Gate Valley Neighborhood Association, which asked for more time to consider the proposal. Association representatives told commissioners they first learned of the proposal in December.

“On Friday and Saturday nights, parking is impossible, and additional restaurants ain’t going to make it any better,” neighbor Jack Branning told commissioners. “We don’t need more restaurants — we just need better restaurants.”

Supervisor Michela Alioto-Pier, appointed by the mayor to represent the area, sponsored the legislation. She originally proposed allowing 10 new restaurants to open, but that number was negotiated down to five.

Alioto-Pier told The Examiner that new restaurants would bring jobs, money and visitors to the neighborhood, which she said is home to an “interesting mix” of singles, young families and retirees.

Some residents were worried that a flood of new liquor-licensed restaurants could turn their neighborhood into more of a party zone, according to Alioto-Pier.

“You have merchants on one side and you have the neighborhood community on the other,” Alioto-Pier said. “We came up with what I think is a pretty good compromise.”

jupton@examiner.com

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