Fire-Damaged Cole Hardware and Playa Azul Demolished

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It wasn’t with a bang, but with a whimper.

Yesterday, the Mission Street buildings that once housed Cole Hardware and Playa Azul — structures that were hollowed-out by the devastating fire last June — were finally demolished.

Neighbor Valerie took the blue-sky photo above later in the day, when work was wrapping up. Yet earlier in the morning, Neighbor William shared these photos taken just as the demolition was getting underway:

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colehardwaredemo3It’s a sad (if inevitable) spectacle, and the void that’s left behind is a glaring symbol of the sadness many Bernalese feel at the loss of two esteemed neighborhood institutions.

PHOTOS: Top, Neighbor Valerie. Below, Neighbor William

Tuesday: SFMTA to Consider Revisions to Mission Street “Red Carpet” Rules

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Tomorrow, Tuesday, August 16, the San Francisco Municipal Transit Agency Board will consider some proposed updates to the “red carpet” lanes installed recently on Mission Street to provide more rapid Muni bus service. The red carpets have been very popular among transit riders, but some Mission Street merchants have expressed concern that the revised traffic flows have been bad for business.

Here’s what the SFMTA has in mind:

We recognize [the red carpet] was a big change for the Mission, and it’s our priority to make it work for everyone. Already we’ve made several changes to enhance the project and make traffic flow more smoothly. We will be recommending a few more changes to improve traffic circulation, which will be heard at the next SFMTA Board of Directors meeting. The SFMTA commits to continuing to monitor Mission Street to ensure the project goals are achieved.

Mission Street Changes at SFMTA Board
August 16, 2016
Mission item will be heard at 3:00 PM
City Hall Room 400
If you are unable to attend, submit comments to MTABoard@sfmta.com.

The following changes will be recommended for legislation by the SFMTA Board of Directors:

  • Removing two of the required right turns on Mission at 26th and 22nd. This will allow vehicles to travel four blocks on Mission before encountering a required right turn, making it easier to access businesses and find parking along the street. We expect this change to improve traffic circulation without increasing through traffic or delaying bus riders.
  • Relocating the outbound Cortland stop to the nearside of the intersection. Moving the bus stop nearside will improve boarding ease for Muni riders.
  • Exempting taxis from the left turn restriction at 21st Street. This exemption, in the middle of the Mission corridor, will provide more options for taxis to reach their destinations.

The recommended changes are the result of a series of community engagement activities to discuss how the new street design is being perceived by neighborhood residents, bus riders, motorists and others using Mission Street. Staff worked closely with community members, Muni riders, neighborhood organizations and other non-profit organizations, as well as David Campos, District 9 Supervisor. Outreach activities included several small group discussions, a community hearing (summary of comments heard is available here), merchant walks and an intercept survey of 1,400 people on Mission Street.

That SFMTA survey is interesting, because it underscores the extent to which the data about how shoppers get to Mission Street diverges from what merchants believe about their customers. In an article that looked at this question, Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez from the San Francisco Examiner wrote:

The recent SFMTA survey of people in the Mission — conducted June 28, June 29 and July 9 — found that 69 percent of 1,400 respondents went to the Mission by public transit.

Those surveyed arrived to eat, drink, visit friends and work. But the largest group surveyed — about 350 people — was there to shop.

Specifically, the SFMTA said 76 percent of surveyed shoppers “usually” take transit, and 10 percent drive.

Merchants, however, disagree that most shoppers take transit.

Michael Gardner, the 42-year president of Siegel’s Clothing Superstore & Tuxedos on Mission Street, felt the survey was all wrong.

“This just doesn’t make sense to me. It just can’t be right,” he said.

For Bernal Heights residents,  the mandatory right turn on Mission Street northbound at Cesar Chavez has been a particular point of concern. The SFMTA’s FAQ explains why the mandatory turn at Cesar Chavez will remain in place:

Why aren’t you removing the required right turn at Cesar Chavez?

We heard many requests to remove the required right turn at Cesar Chavez Street, which some feel acts as a barrier to two neighborhoods. This was a difficult decision. Doing so would make traffic and transit performance worse on northbound Mission Street than before the project was implemented because one lane of traffic was removed [to create the restricted access lane for Muni buses].

The required turn at Cesar Chavez diverts drivers who drive through Mission toward downtown. Instead, we will address community concerns by removing two of the required right turns at 26th and 22nd to improve access to destinations along Mission without congesting the street with traffic looking for a fast way downtown.

PHOTO: Top, a worker installs flexible bollards to prevent traffic from crossing Mission Street at Cesar Chavez, April 7, 2015. Photo by Telstar Logistics

Planning Commission Unanimously Approves New Housing Proposal

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Late last week, the San Francisco Planning Commission unanimously approved the proposal by Lennar Corp. to build 157 units of mixed-income housing at 1515 South Van Ness (at 26th Street), at the foot of Bernal’s north slope.

The Lennar proposal, which was first proposed two years ago, was approved in the Planning Commission after a 6-0 vote. It will replace the former McMillan Electric warehouse  at the corner of South Van Ness and 26th, which was originally built as a dealership for Lesher-Muirhead Oldsmobile:

The approved plan for 1515 South Van Ness features  a new, 65-foot tall building that includes 157 residential units and 81 basement parking spaces. At street-level on 26th Street, the new building will provide 5,241 square feet of commercial space intended for small-scale “maker” workshop or artist use.

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Negotiations with housing opponents resulted in two late changes to the project. First, it was agreed that the project would be constructed with union labor. Second, the quantity of subsidized-affordable housing in the complex was expanded from 12% to 25%.

Despite the unanimous vote in the Planning Commission, it’s still possible housing opponents will leverage their close ties to outgoing D9 Supervisor David Campos to appeal the project at the Board of Supervisors. MissionLocal reports:

The below-market-rate units at 1515 South Van Ness Ave. would be reserved for both low and moderate-income tenants. Fifteen percent of the total units would be available to those making up to 55 percent of area median income, or $53,300 for a family of three, while the remaining 10 percent would go to those making up to 100 percent of area median income, or $96,950 for a family of three.

Speakers [at the Planning Commission Meeting[ were divided roughly half in support and half against, some saying the project was just one of many needed in San Francisco to curb soaring rental costs and put a dent in the city’s — and neighborhood’s — housing crunch.

“As much as some folks might want, it is not possible to address the Mission District’s housing problem by putting a wall around [the neighborhood],” said Tim Colen, the departing director of the Housing Action Coalition, a pro-development advocacy group.

Planning commissioners heeded those calls on Thursday, saying the project had reached a good affordability level and approving it unanimously. Negotiations will continue between opponents and the developer, and opponents said they were not sure whether they would appeal the project but hoped to avoid the step and reach a deal instead.

Saturday: Here Is Your Official 2016 Hillwide Garage Sale Treasure Map

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This is your moment, Bernal Heights craphounds treasure-hunters!

That magical time of year is here. On Saturday, August 13, you should stuff your pockets with wads of petty cash and load that bootlegged copy of Amazon Prime’s route-optimization software onto your smartphone. The 2016 Bernal Hillwide Garage Sale starts at 9 am on Saturday , so it’s time to map out your plan of attack!

Here’s the latest update from the magical elves in the Hillwide Garage Sale Command Center:

Total Garages Registered = 122
Total Funds Raised = $2790

Thanks to everyone for rallying to the cause, we’ve raised almost $1000 in additional donations for BHNC in the last 5 days. That is something to be proud of🙂

It’s definitely not too late to join the party that will descend on the [Saturday] tomorrow morning at 9am.

CLICK HERE to register for the Hillwide and The Elves will be working their magic to get you on The Map in plenty of time.

You can register as late as midnight tonight (Friday August 12th).

AND, if we can raise just $275 more we will break our record-breaking-year from last year. Just by a few dollars, but it would feel SO good!

Federal Loans Offered for Merchants Recovering from Mission Street Fire

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There’s some encouraging news for merchants working to rebuild their businesses after last June’s devastating Cole Hardware fire — and the customers who  miss them.

In addition to the $10,000 grant each business has already received from the City, the federal government’s Small Business Administration is also offering low-interest disaster-relief loans to help shuttered businesses reopen.

Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez from the San Francisco Examiner reports:

The U.S. Small Business Administration on Wednesday declared the five-alarm fire June 28 at Mission and 29th streets, which displaced at least seven businesses and 40 residents and families, a “disaster” in response to a request from the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services.

The declaration, also urged by the Mayor’s Office of Economic and Workforce Development, is a special status allowing the Small Business Administration to make federal assistance available.

That assistance comes in the form of disaster loans, allowing the businesses affected by the blaze up to $2 million to replace or repair damaged or destroyed real estate, machinery, equipment or other business assets.

The Mayor’s Office is coordinating with Keane’s 3300 Club, El Gran Taco Loco, Playa Azul Seafood, Coronitas, the Front Porch, and Harvest Shop to access available funds.

The families and individuals displaced from a nearby apartment building and the Graywood Hotel, a single-room occupancy hotel, will be able to take out $40,000 loans for damaged or destroyed personal property.

Though these are loans and not grants, “certainly any additional capital they have access to will give them ability to get going again sooner,” said Bijan Karimi, assistant deputy director of the San Francisco Department of Emergency Management.

PHOTO: Former site of Cole Hardware, July 16, 2016, photographed by Neighbor Valerie

Nutes Noodles Seeking Permanent Place at 903 Cortland

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Pastafarians and multicultural noodle-freaks, rejoice! Nute’s Noodles, the Asian-infused  noodle soup and ramen restaurant that has long been doing pop-ups inside the space at 903 Cortland, now plans to become a permanent restaurant at (you guessed it) 903 Cortland.

Sarah Fritsche from Inside Scoop got the inside scoop:

Inside Scoop reached out to [chef Nute] Chulasuwan, who confirmed that she is indeed in the process of buying the Bernal Heights space from [former Sandbox Bakery owner Mutsumi] Takehara. (Also listed on the ABC license are partners Makiko Nakagawara and Supreeya Pongkasem.)

Chulasuwan says that the new incarnation of the space will be a continuation of her popular noodle pop-ups, which currently run four nights a week. For more details on what to expect from the forthcoming restaurant, check out Chulasuwan’s menu, which feature Thai noodle dishes, including a promising version of Northern Thai coconut curry noodle soup called Khao Soi, as well as Japanese-inspired ramen.

Chulasuwan says that the transfer will take a couple of months, but she hopes to open the restaurant by September.

IMAGE: 903 Cortland by Telstar Logistics

Supervisor Campos Seeks to Revive Mission Moratorium on New Housing

Site of proposed housing at 1515 South Van Ness, photographed on August 9, 2016

Site of proposed housing at 1515 South Van Ness, photographed on August 9, 2016

Less than a year ago, in November 2015, San Francisco voters were asked to vote on Proposition I, the Mission Moratorium, which sought to suspend construction of new market-rate housing in the Mission District. On election day, however, voters overwhelmingly rejected Prop I, by a 57% margin.

Yesterday, however, MissionLocal broke the story that District 9 Supervisor David Campos now seeks to ignore the results of the Prop I vote and implement the Mission Moratorium through the Planning Department and the Board of Supervisors. MissionLocal writes:

In a letter sent to the Planning Commission on Wednesday, Campos urged commissioners to delay all projects in the [Calle24] Latino Cultural District, which is bounded by Potrero Avenue and Mission Street between 22nd and Cesar Chavez streets.

Campos singled out for delay three housing developments planned for the Mission District that would would bring in 293 units of mostly market-rate housing in the next few years. All three are being opposed by neighborhood activists, who say they would worsen gentrification in the district.

“These and several market-rate projects in and next to the cultural district could transform the district and threaten to displace long-time residents, businesses, and non-profits,” Campos wrote. “The Planning Department should consider the impacts of these projects on the Latino Cultural District and develop measures that will mitigate those impacts.”

That area was designated a “Latino cultural and commercial district” by San Francisco in 2014, a largely symbolic proclamation. Calle 24, the neighborhood and merchants association, hoped that designation would lead to construction guidelines down the road with more legal standing.

Now, Campos and others are acting on those wishes, crafting legislation that will be introduced to the Board of Supervisors later this year to specify the kinds of development that should be allowed in the neighborhood.

Campos wants the Planning Department to study the effects of market-rate housing on the district, specifying the potential effects on neighborhood businesses, residential displacement, rental affordability, and “the Latino community.”

This is a strange request, not least because it would exceed the legal mandate of the the Calle24 Cultural District, which does not include any development guidelines, ethnic quotas, or demographic requirements. Regardless, MissionLocal reports that Erick Arguello, a Mission District landlord and power-broker who leads the Calle24 group, opposes the creation of new market-rate housing projects, even when they meet city-mandated requirements for subsidized-affordable units.

The three housing proposals that would be impacted by Supervisor Campos’s revived Mission moratorium are 157 units at 1515 South Van Ness (at 26th St.), 117 units at 2675 Folsom St. (at 23rd St.), and 19 units at 2600 Harrison (at 22nd St.). All three sites are currently occupied by empty warehouse-style buildings, and construction of new housing on these sites would not displace any existing residents.

In a 2015 study on the potential impact of the Proposition I Mission moratorium, San Francisco’s chief economist concluded there is “no reason to believe that either a temporary moratorium, or an indefinite prohibition, of market rate housing will reduce the number of upper- income residents in the Mission, or slow the process of gentrification.”