Clubs vs. condos

Can new housing coexist with nightlife in western SoMa? A rezoning debate around the 11th Street Corridor heats up

|
(29)
"The purple building" at 340 11th Street could be the last housing allowed on that club-heavy block.
GUARDIAN PHOTO BY MIKE KOOZMIN

steve@sfbg.com

The Western South of Market area is ground zero for the city's War on Fun, a place where nightlife often comes into conflict with residential expectations, particularly on the raucous 300 block of 11th Street and, to a lesser degree, Folsom Street's old "miracle mile" of predominantly gay bars.

As the city's Planning Department and its development community looks to accommodate another 4,000 homes for 10,000 new residents on less than 300 acres of Western SoMa — most of it along Folsom Street between 7th and 13th streets — that potential for conflict could grow in the coming years as funky old buildings give way to shiny new stacks of expensive condos.

And efforts to sort it out may hinge on the future of a 105-year old purple building.

After nearly eight years of work by a unique citizen-led task force, the Western SoMa Community Plan is now before the Board of Supervisors, with the Land Use Committee set to hold its first hearing on Feb. 25. Despite dozens of task force meetings seeking to strike the right balance between residential and entertainment interests, the plan is still being tweaked.

When the Planning Commission approved the plan and some related projects on Dec. 6, it followed King Solomon's approach of cutting the 11th Street baby in half. The commission heeded the recent recommendation of the nightlife community and District 6 Sup. Jane Kim to modify the plan to prohibit new residential development on the 11th Street block where tipsy visitors to Slim's, DNA Lounge, and other big clubs clog the sidewalks every weekend. But it also voted to grandfather in a 24-unit residential project at 340 11th Street, which everyone now involved in closed-door negotiations simply calls "the purple building," a two-story masonry structure built in 1907 that is awaiting demolition.

The building houses light industrial businesses and is the former home of Universal Electric, whose owner, Tony Lo, wants to develop the property. Along with architect John Goldman, Lo submitted a residential project application in 2005, only to have it placed on hold pending adoption of the Western SoMa Community Plan.

"It was well along when the Planning Department put the project on hold," Goldman told us.

City officials and even many of the nightlife advocates say they sympathize with the long wait that Lo and Goldman have endured, even if many oppose housing on the site and have been urging Lo to find another use for the site, such as an office building.

"They would have no idea what they're getting into until that first Saturday night," nightlife advocate Terrance Alan said of the would-be residents of the building, envisioning a young couple who had only visited during daytime hours trying push a baby stroller past the throngs of club-goers. Alan took part in recent meetings Kim facilitated with Lo and Goldman, and Alan told us, "There was, for the first time, a very frank discussion about the problems that owners would experience and the pressure they would put on clubs in the area."

For example, just one neighbor of Slim's — a popular live music venue on the block owned by singer Boz Scaggs — has waged a relentless campaign that has forced temporary shutdowns and cost the club more than $750,000 in mediation costs, Alan said, despite the club's sound buffering and general compliance with local codes.

Alan said that it's simply unthinkable to add more than two dozen new homeowners to that busy block in a condominium building that only allows access on 11th Street. Alan is hopeful for a negotiated compromise with Lo, something that Kim told us she also thinks is likely.

"I'm hoping we can come to a consensus of the property owners and business owners on 11th street, including the purple building," Kim said, echoing Alan's point that, "Just one resident can really shut down a business and hurt its financing."

Comments

It was compromise—pusillanimous, self-interested politicians, instead of dispassionate legislative fortitude that yielded neoliberal investment-grade, rent-control busting, tenancy-in-common housing speculations, in the first place. Selfish moderate-to-conservative San Francisco politicians continue to move San Francisco toward neoliberal capitalist anarchy.

Posted by Awayneramsey on Feb. 20, 2013 @ 12:42 pm

It was compromise—pusillanimous, self-interested politicians, instead of dispassionate legislative fortitude that yielded neoliberal investment-grade, rent-control busting, tenancy-in-common housing speculations, in the first place. Selfish moderate-to-conservative San Francisco politicians continue to move San Francisco toward neoliberal capitalist anarchy.

Posted by Awayneramsey on Feb. 20, 2013 @ 12:45 pm

I doubt if more than 1% of SF'ers ever visit a nightclub. But 100% need housing.

Jobs and housing are important; nightclubs are not.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 20, 2013 @ 1:07 pm

Nightclubs create jobs.

Posted by marcos on Feb. 20, 2013 @ 1:43 pm

nor in a way that will help SF move forward.

It's a non-issue.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 20, 2013 @ 2:04 pm

I've worked in the night-club/ bar industry for 13yrs & in fact work at DNA. Born and raised in San Francisco as well. So I would argue that my job and right to afford to live in the city I love and lived in for 42yrs is ACTUALLY an issue. SF does not need every single inch of it covered in residents to move forward, not that much of that forward momentum is all that positive.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 21, 2013 @ 11:52 am

No wonder you want subsidized housing.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 21, 2013 @ 12:42 pm

and thus understandably scoffs at the notion that a bartender might support himself.

Posted by lillipublicans on Feb. 21, 2013 @ 1:13 pm

someone who is middle-aged and still serving drinks to spotty adolescents in seedy nightclubs probably isn't the most objective voice in the room, feel me?

Posted by Guest on Feb. 21, 2013 @ 1:29 pm

Another instance of the "Huh?" indentifier, natch.

Posted by lillipublicans on Feb. 21, 2013 @ 1:53 pm

Do elucidate.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 21, 2013 @ 2:07 pm

Especially not you with your market-based philosophy. What's wrong with a 42 year old bartender? I'd like to think that middle age doesn't start until age 50, or at least 45.

Posted by Eddie on Feb. 21, 2013 @ 2:14 pm

between those with agenda, and those who take wach issue on it's own merits.

We can debate when middle-aged starts, but 40 isn't a bad threshold, with 60 signifying "old".

Is this guy going to be serving beers to kids 40 years younger than him when he is in his 60's? I hope not, for his sake.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 21, 2013 @ 2:28 pm

Can't even under stand why you'd start to claim there is, or should be.

Some of the most beloved bartenders in San Francisco history worked until advanced age.

Ridiculous, gratuitous, *ugly*, ageism.

Posted by lillipublicans on Feb. 21, 2013 @ 3:45 pm

middle or old age. Not that I'd expect you to understand since you're probably on a mimimum wage yourself. Or unemployed which would explain why you're here 24/7

Posted by Guest on Feb. 21, 2013 @ 5:00 pm

And unfair. I'm a big fan of nightlife culture and the richness it adds to San Francisco. I don't want the city to be nothing but residents nor does it have to be, as the commenter noted in his thoughtful comment, in order to move the city forward. Insulting the commenter and degrading their choice of work isn't helpful.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Feb. 21, 2013 @ 3:27 pm

f-you

Posted by Guest on Mar. 09, 2013 @ 10:03 pm

Actually, Guest, it simply isn't true to dismiss the importance of nightclubs to the economy. Tourism, which includes nightlife, is San Francisco's number one industry, generating far more economic impact than housing development. And a city study last year found that the nightlife industry in particular employs 48,000 people and generates $4.2 billion in economic activity and $55 million in taxes per year. See: http://www.sfbg.com/2012/02/28/war-over-fun-won

Posted by steven on Feb. 21, 2013 @ 11:55 am

hitting nightclubs. I can guarantee you that.

A few low-spending Scandinavian backpackers might be, I suppose.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 21, 2013 @ 12:43 pm

Bad answer. By that logic we should level museums, libraries, city parks, recreation centers... And if you're gonna make up your own statistics--only 1% of San Franciscans ever visit a nightclub?--YOU'VE LOST THE RIGHT TO COMMENT!

Posted by Carl Russo on Feb. 23, 2013 @ 2:05 pm

Then why doesn't the city pay for nightclubs.?

I guess what you said is a lie.

Posted by anon on Feb. 23, 2013 @ 2:21 pm

Get out much?

Posted by Guest on Feb. 26, 2013 @ 4:32 am

That's the point. Some areas are not appropriate for single or multifamily housing because their use is incompatible with either - this is one of those cases. We're not talking about an entire residential district here - just a little alley. Seems reasonable to me.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Feb. 20, 2013 @ 1:50 pm

Exactly the demographic for nightclubs?

Most people would hate to live there, but not everyone.

Posted by anon on Feb. 24, 2013 @ 8:54 am

Remember when Steven exclaimed that everyone was waging a war on fun when Club Six expected to keep the party going even though a few thousand SRO dwellers lived right on top of it?

I'm okay with banning market rate condos from 11th Street and I never liked the charge from Planning that we had to zone for much more housing.

But as far as extending the licensing hours at ground floor restaurant/entertainment lite uses in the upzoned Folsom NCT, that's just begging for the kind of land use conflicts that thoughtful zoning is supposed to anticipate and rule out.

That seems too close to then supervisor Newsom's suggestion for an entertainment zone in the western SOMA and which got pilloried and excoriated royally.

Posted by marcos on Feb. 20, 2013 @ 1:48 pm

The Richmond? The Sunset? Why can't they just develop those neighborhoods? Those could use development, more than SOMA.

Posted by ??? on Feb. 21, 2013 @ 10:58 pm

the 1950's and 1960's. But the east side, having all the industry, is perfect for conversion to residential now that industry has all but left. And the allowable heights in SOMA, along with much better transit, make it the obvious location for new high-rise residential build.

Same goes for the entire SE of the city.

Posted by anon on Feb. 24, 2013 @ 8:53 am

How about RICHMOND and UNION CITY and SAN LEANDRO and NEWARK and FREMONT, why can't these cities along existing rapid transit corridors upzone to San Francisco neighborhood heights, 45' and THEN we can start to bring Yogi Berra to life in San Francisco--it is so crowded that nobody wants to live there anymore.

Posted by marcos on Feb. 24, 2013 @ 9:09 am

Develop Hunters Point or the Bayview

Posted by Guest on Feb. 26, 2013 @ 4:37 am