Supervisors push to revise laws regulating arcade gaming

mike koozmin/s.f. examiner file photoThe Board of Supervisors will vote today on an amended ordinance that would eliminate restrictions on the number of arcade games a San Francisco business can have based on its square footage.

mike koozmin/s.f. examiner file photoThe Board of Supervisors will vote today on an amended ordinance that would eliminate restrictions on the number of arcade games a San Francisco business can have based on its square footage.

The decision by an Upper Haight silk-screen business to put pinball machines in unused spaces has created a vibrant gaming site. But talk about a gutter ball: city laws do not allow it — although efforts are underway to change those laws some say are meant for a bygone era.

In the 1980s, as games such as “Pac-Man” and “Asteroids” created a generation of arcade machine addicts, San Francisco cracked down on the behavior, citing concerns ranging from sidewalk congestion to “petty crimes in the vicinity of these machines.”As gaming has gone mobile in recent years, migrating to the smartphone, arcade machines have become relics, and some lawmakers say so have the laws regulating them.

[jump]

San Francisco does not allow more than 10 arcade machines per location, and the exact amount is tied to a business’ square footage. That law could threaten the gaming craze at Free Gold Watch, a silk-screen print shop at 1767 Waller St. that opened in May 2007.

Business owner Matthew Henri, 35, initially put a few arcade machines inside the store to help draw more foot traffic and added more after they proved popular. Today, hundreds come each week to play pinball or other games, some stopping in on a regular basis after work for about 20 minutes of gaming. A pinball league has even been established.

While Henri’s inventory has grown to 34 machines, existing city law only allows for six, basd on the size of the site.Supervisor London Breed is hoping to change that. Today, the Board of Supervisors will vote on legislation that would exempt the business from the current square-footage requirement.

Supervisor Scott Wiener has also joined the effort and proposed lifting the requirement for the Upper Market Neighborhood Commercial Transit District, where owners of the Blackbird bar at 2200 Market St. plan to have vintage pinball machines.

But additional measures are still being sought to address the limit of 10 arcade machines. Breed and Wiener are working on subsequent legislation that would amend the police code to allow for more than 10 machines at locations throughout The City.

Henri said he hopes San Francisco will embrace the culture of arcades as has been done in Seattle and Portland, Ore. For Henri, the gaming business is about the community that grows up around it, not the bottom line.

“We don’t pay our rent in quarters over here,” Henri said.

Any business that uses what is known as a mechanical amusement device must obtain a permit from the Entertainment Commission. The initial application costs $744 and annual permit renewal costs $297. There are currently permits for such devices in 81 city locations.

Bay Area NewsBoard of SupervisorsSupervisor London BreedSupervisor Scott WienerUnder the Dome

Just Posted

A felled tree in Sydney G. Walton Square blocks part of a lane on Front Street following Sunday’s storm on Monday, Oct. 25, 2021. (Kevin N. Hume/The Examiner)
After the rain: What San Francisco learned from a monster storm

Widespread damage underscored The City’s susceptibility to heavy wind and rain

Plan Bay Area 2050 is an expansive plan guiding the region’s growth and development over the next three decades. The regional plan addresses progressive policy priorities like a universal basic income and a region-wide rent cap, alongside massive new spending on affordable housing and transportation infrastructure. (Shutterstock)
$1.4 trillion ‘blueprint’ would address Bay Area’s housing, transit woes

Analyzing the big ticket proposals in ‘Plan Bay Area 2050’

A felled tree in San Francisco is pictured on Fillmore Street following a major storm that produced high winds and heavy rains on Oct. 24, 2021. (Photo courtesy of Philip Ford)
Storm updates: Rainiest October day in San Francisco history

Rainfall exceeded 10 inches in parts of the Bay Area

On Sunday, California bore the brunt of what meteorologists referred to as a bomb cyclone and an atmospheric river, a convergence of storms that brought more than half a foot of rain to parts of the Bay Area, along with high winds, concerns about flash floods and the potential for heavy snow in the Sierra Nevada. Much of the Bay Area was under a flash flood watch on Sunday, with the National Weather Service warning of the potential for mudslides across the region. (NOAA via The New York Times)
Bomb cyclone, atmospheric river combine to pummel California with rain and wind

What you need to know about this historic weather event

The Department of Building Inspection, at 49 South Van Ness Ave., has been mired in scandal since since its creation by voter referendum under Proposition G in 1994. (Courtesy SF.gov)
The Department of Building Inspection, at 49 South Van Ness Ave., has been mired in scandal since its creation by voter referendum under Proposition G in 1994. (Courtesy SF.gov)
Whistleblowing hasn’t worked at the SF Dept. of Building Inspection

DBI inspectors say their boss kept them off connected builders’ projects

Most Read