Is it Time to Ban New Restaurants From Opening on Valencia?

Photo: Maren Caruso/Modern Luxury

Walking down Valencia Street, it's hard not to notice the radical change that the corridor has undergone in the last two years: hours long waits for “Marina Girl Salads” at Tacolicious, tables full of wine-sippers on the sidewalk outside of Farina Pizza and Mission Cheese, that weird techno lounge that apparently serves Indian food next to Luna Park…and that's just to name a few.  Sixteen new restaurants have opened between 16th and 19th street in the last 18 months, reportedly adding “nearly 1,000 new restaurant seats on these three blocks alone.”

“Overall, it's good for consumers. It reminds me a little of North Beach in the '80s, with all these restaurants popping up at different price points,” Slanted Door and Wo Hing General Store's Charles Phan told the Chronicle last month. “It's a good vibe here. To me, it makes it more San Francisco than a lot of neighborhoods.”

But many don't want to see the Mission become North Beach 2.0—a neighborhood exclusively defined by its former glory and largely dismissed by Mission residents, who understandably want nothing to do with a mainstream tourist trap.

“Valencia needs to be a cohesive neighborhood for people who live in it,” Deena Davenport, proprietress of Glama-Rama Salon & Gallery and President of the Valencia Corridor Merchants Association (VCMA), told us over the phone. “We have no florist, no hardware store, no large grocery store.”

“Restaurants are taking over so rapidly, it's as much as tripling rents lately and creating daytime dead zones that are uninviting to shoppers.”

The Merchants Association has become so alarmed by the changes that they added a line to their mission statement specifically addressing the problem: “We endeavor to combine our voices and views toward the goal of maintaining the unique identity and independent spirit of the neighborhood.”

“It's not change that we're against. I think that we all get that change is inevitable.  And that while sometimes uncomfortable, it's not always bad,” explains Jefferson McCarley, General Manager of Mission Bicycle and VCMA board member. “But there are a variety of concerns with so many high-end dinner-only restaurants opening up at such a high rate.”

He breaks down their concerns for us:

  • The impact it has on our rents.
  • The impact it has on foot traffic during the day when these restaurants are only open at night.
  • The impact that valet parking has on the safety of our cyclists.
  • The impact it has on where we can get an affordable meal as locals.
  • The lack of variety of businesses in the hood. (We want a hardware store!)
  • The impact it has on traffic and parking (the patrons of the businesses are almost always driving in from other parts of the city or from other cities).
  • The impact it has on the spirit and vibe of the street.

At a point, it sounds like retailers rebelling against restaurants, but that's not the case.  Some restauranteurs and cafe owners hope to prevent a similar fate that The Summit had earlier this year, when their landlord tripled their rent and tried to bring a La Boulange Bakery into the space.  This includes the proprietor of 780 Cafe Jose Ramos, who's trying to save his cafe after the same landlord raised rents from $9,000 to $30,000 in hopes to bring a multi-million dollar sports bar to the location.

So what is there to do?

Well, there's doing nothing and letting Valencia become a high-end truck stop for Uber cabs crisscrossing the city, but everyone seems to agree that's a lousy idea.  So that leaves us with two viable options: putting a moratorium on full-service restaurants or setting up a Special Use District along Valencia, requiring any new restaurants to meet community approval before opening.

The Valencia Merchants voted Wednesday to approve a combination of the two ideas: a 1-year temporary moratorium by the Planning Department on any new full-service restaurants (counter-service and cafes are exempt) from opening between 16th and 24th, followed by the Special Use Permitting process for restaurants.  The proposal has already received support from Supervisor Scott Wiener, who will take the proposal to City Hall for a final vote.

It's not perfect, as it burdens prospective new establishments with higher start-up costs (potentially making restaurants even more expensive).  Never mind that it threatens 24th and 20th Streets with hyper-gentrification as would-be Valencia restaurants look for alternative locations for expensive eateries.  But as the legislation is expected to stabilize—if not collapse—rents along Valencia, it strikes us as the right approach for the problem.

(Note: we're told merchants along 24th are considering similar legislation before it's too late, but we were unable to reach anyone to discuss it.)

Comments (73)

Might sound silly, but I’d propose that we require all restaurants in the area to be open for lunch every weekday. That should limit the number of places that focus on tourists.

Only if we required all locals to go eat lunch at them. Lunch is not always possible for full service restaurants to pull off profitably.

Wait, so they actually have something called a Marina Girl Salad. What does that even mean? I read the description on their website, so I see what’s in it, but still, what the hell does that even mean.

And now I’ve researched further and realized for the first time that their main(?) location is in the Marina. So that makes sense.

I know I’m late on boarding the Tacolicious hate train, but now it’s clear to me that it’s not the kind of place that belongs in the Mission.

Anyway, I know that Tacolicious isn’t the main point of the post, but it certainly drives the point home.

Oh stuff it. Seriously. Do you know what fucking matters about a restaurant? If the food tastes good. That’s it.

You do know that most Latin Americans in the Mission are Salvadoreans, right? So it’s OK for a Salvadorean to run a taqueria here but you can’t let in new people, who may or may not be Mexican? This is why the Mexican food in NYC has been kicking the ass of ours, as of late. Turns out not very many Mexicans own restaurants here.

I think the restaurant is actually called Mosto, not Tacolicious, but whatever.

Mosto is the bar next door, owned by the same guys, lots of great mezcal

Wrong the majority are from Mexico. I’ve been here all my life from Central America. Over 50 years.

Wrong the majority are from Mexico. I’ve been here all my life from Central America. Over 50 years.

The good thing is you don’t know how incredibly stupid you sound.

so valencia is afraid of becoming the new north beach while divisadero is afraid of becoming the new valencia?

Take the words “afraid of” out of your comment and you have nailed it!

Some SF eminences gris and I were just talking about this last night. I’m all for the neighborhood’s economic expansion. I especially love that many of the two-decades-vacant theaters on Mission are finally being developed into something. Nonetheless, if for parking reasons alone, we’re pretty much at the limits for restaurants.

There’s some variety in new entrants to Valencia - Ginkgo and Dijital Fix next to Rhea’s, the Chapel (a venue that has a restaurant, but offers something additional) - but more variety would be great. Keep the neighborhood economically diverse in a way the neighborhood itself can enjoy.

I think the repeated cry for a hardware store is silly, though. Lowe’s and Home Depot have killed local hardware stores. There was one nearby - Tuggy’s on 24th - but it died recently. There’s a Cole down in La Lengua, take the ten-block trip. Worse comes to worst, go to the dollar store at 17th and Mission. They’ve got a few one-time-use tools.

“I think the repeated cry for a hardware store is silly, though.” i have to agree with you. 14th and Market. Ace hardware. If you have a bike or even walking,then its pretty close.

And what about Discount Builder on Mission and 13th? I know it’s borderline SOMA, but it’s not far at all.

I think it’s with respect to quality. Discount Builder is more of a supply store (buying facets etc.) and the place on Valencia and 22nd is more of a plumbing supply store (from what I remember).

Workingman’s Hardware on Mission and 25th is my usually my choice, but that store has its obvious problems (irregular hours, the two (awesome) old men that run it need to get you anything because the place is so cluttered and disorganized), and Lowes in Bayview is big and evil and no one is remotely helpful.

Cole’s in La Lengua is generally the best bet, but it would be nice if there was something actually within the neighborhood.

I left out Discount Builder’s, which is weird, given how I’ve probably been there 50 times, but let me disagree with you on its “nature.” It really is just a big ol’ hardware store, with a lumber annex. There’s really nothing you wouldn’t be able to find there, from a screw, to paint, to a ladder. And since someone from Glamarama is complaining about the lack of a hardware store, let them know it’s a mere three blocks away.

The problem is that people talk about “the neighborhood” as if Valencia is all of the Mission, and the Mission is only Valencia. There are no big groceries on Valencia– but there’s Duc Loi a block over on Mission, not to mention Rainbow if you’re near there. Same with most of these supposed shortcomings. There are florists and hardware stores throughout the Mission, so why does it matter if 10 blocks of Valencia are saturated with restaurants, cafes, and home-decor shops? If I need a new hammer or a key cut I’ll buy it at a 99c store on Mission. The people complaining only reveal how myopic & Valencia-centric they are.

+1

But the parking’s still killing me.

I can get behind that point, although I think harping on the hardware store issue is missing the general point. Diversification of businesses is one small part of a bigger problem, don’t you think?

Besides, can’t you already see the Valencification of 24th? Nice restaurants and galleries and pop-up shops that don’t appear to be selling anything have flooded that street in the past 6 months. And I don’t see Mission Street being that far behind.

I don’t think you won’t be able to buy a cheap, disposable 99c hammer anytime soon, but they’re already being eaten away.

True about diversity of businesses, I’d hate to live in a neighborhood where I couln’t buy basic necessities, I just don’t need them all to be on the same street or within arbitrary “my neighborhood” boundaries, as long as they’re close enough to walk or bike. Mission Street is overflowing with fresh produce, fish and butcher shops, but someone complains there are no groceries on Valencia itself?

When we were building The Secret Alley we went to Discount about 4 times a week for a couple years. At least it seemed that way. They’re really helpful. The Ace on Market is pretty pricey.

If anyone ventures off of Valencia, there are many of the aforementioned “absent” services very nearby. In addition to the hardware stores mentioned above, there are several large grocery stores in walking and biking distance of Valencia:

Safeway: Church/Market
FoodsCo: 14th/Folsom
Rainbow Grocery: 14th/Folsom
Golden Produce: Church/Duboce

Trader Joes (9th/Bryant) is a short ride/drive away, and let’s not forget Bi-Rite (18th/Guerrero) though it’s high prices and target clientele may be part of the same problem as the restaurants. Valencia Whole Foods (19th/Valencia) is also a decent little store.

Consider that Whole Foods will soon open at Dolores/Market and there’s a lot of grocery choice in terms of merchandise, clientele, and price.

Stop it. You’ve just ruined his whole post, and he would have gotten away with it, if it weren’t for you meddling kids!
Confidential to KevMo. The Mission isn’t four blocks of Valencia, and Three blocks of 24th street.

Yeah, you’re totes right, the tides of change on Valencia absolutely won’t spread to other parts of the Mission.

And I HATE all the other non-Four Blocks of the Mission. They’re soooooooo gross and not Bold Italicy.

FYI Valencia Whole Foods is at 21st, don’t forget that other safeway past Cesar Chavez you know a block past the Cole Fox Hardware.

this is to someone else’s post
BTW Ace at Church/Market is expensive? Really? It ain’t the Home Depot (although I have seen its prices for some things), but they actually have a really wide range of crap, focused on the eccentricities of san francisco buildings, such that there are things I found there that I couldn’t find anywhere else. (Discount builders, Homo Depot, Lowes…)

There’s also a (crappy) hardware store on the West side of Valencia between 22nd and 23rd.

Some of these new places you walk by are ALWAYS empty- specifically that lounge/Indian place by Luna Park. I’m interested to see how the Chapel fares. Is it going to be a bar/concert venue you can get food at or a more traditional type of restaurant that happens to double as a concert venue?

It’s got a dedicated, large hall, bar attached, and then a restaurant tucked in somewhere. I saw one of the Elvis Costello shows last month, so I have a good idea of the hall, but not the rest of it. If the bookings are good, I’ll be really happy to have it here.

i want everything to stay the same!

no change. no ethnic people. no indian casinos and no weed clubs.

no one dollar coins with sack a jew eyeah.

i like violent crime and bum poop.

I hate to engage with idiots such as yourself, but to imply there “were no ethnic people” in the Mission before these new restaurants started opening shows that you have absolutely no clue what you are talking about. Stick to the Marina please.

Your sarcasm meter needs re-calibration, blinky!

There’s a hardware store on Valencia between 22nd and 23rd.

Who needs a hardware store when there are lesbians nearby??

Keep lesbians in the Mission!

It’s a sharing economy; you can borrow a ladder from them. They like it.

I don’t see how putting a moratorium on new restaurants from 16th to 24th is going to make the neighborhood any less desirable to the parade of SV workers who are driving up the rents. Can we put a moratorium on people moving into the neighborhood too? I’ll be the first one to lament how lame the neighborhood has gotten, but it’s been a long time coming and it’s already past the tipping point.

There’s rent, and there’s rent. The issue here is commercial rent, not apartment rent.

Ok yes, and do you actually think the two are mutually exclusive? If the neighborhood were not such a desirable place to live all of these new restaurants wouldn’t be popping up in the first place. More money shows up in the neighborhood, more places for them to spend that money follow. Everyone’s rent (commercial and apartment) goes up. Pretty simple.

I’m not clear on how you’re using the term “mutually exclusive” in this context. What does that mean here?

As for commercial rent and apartment rent being tightly correlated, I’m not sure I buy that. Commercial rents have rapidly outpaced apartment rents in this neighborhood.

it’s pretty simple that someone isn’t thinking before they’re typing, & has no idea about what they’re typing about.

Make more money… simple

I’m very glad to see that Jefferson McCarley highlights The impact that valet parking has on the safety of our cyclists. in his concerns. I believe that the years-ago traffic calming of Valencia is a huge part of what made it more interesting for all these new folks, however you feel about them. Threatening that is just depressing.

As someone that cycles down Valencia from Duncan to Market every day, it’s certainly been an interesting evolution to watch. The bulb-outs, while awesome for pedestrians and an important part of the streetscape, have been used as de facto white zones for cars, even when there are safer places (driveways, red zones, and heck, the median) for a quick pull-over. Since I don’t bike there at prime dining time, I don’t have a lot of experience gauging the valet issue, but would be curious to know how business owners react to people reporting illegal double-parking and other unsafe behavior, if it exists.

At any rate, coexist and be safe and all that jazz.

I’d like to see a special tax on Valet Parking, similar to the attempted taxes on sugary drinks and the “kind-of-a-tax” for paper bags. If you choose to valet park and drive to Valencia, you can certainly pay (although disabled exemptions would be nice).

I actually can’t believe valet parking is permitted at all. I am genuinely curious about how this is justified – presumably the tiny minority of people who are too old or disabled to take advantage of the plethora of public transit options in the area could take a cab.

+1 Lets ban Valet parking!

Ah, good to know that San Francisco neighborhood politics remains unchanged: nothing is so awful as success, and we must preserve our historic vacant storefronts at all costs.

You must have read a different post than I did. The one I read was about an oversupply of restaurants, not about across-the-board gentrification NIMBY-ism. I don’t think anyone wants vacant storefronts, they just want a more diverse economic base. Let a hundred flowers bloom, but let some of them be in different colors.

If there is actually an oversupply of restaurants, it will be really easy to notice, because the restaurants will have no customers and will go out of business. Judging by the lines outside of many of them, we have the exact opposite problem.

And for fuck’s sake, a bunch of restaurants on an eight block stretch of a single street is not exactly a corporate monoculture. The Valencia corridor isn’t even 5% of the total commercial real estate in the Mission.

But points for claiming to be in favor of “letting a hundred flowers bloom” while advocating for a policy of letting people veto their neighbor’s business.

“Letting people veto their neighbor’s business” - are you familiar with the concept of externalized costs? If you create a business that makes it impossible for me to park in my neighborhood (let alone on my street - impossible-plus), you are imposing a cost on me in furtherance of your success.* This is what regulation is intended to manage, at any level - financial markets, environmental laws, local business planning rules. Regulation reduces businesses shifting their costs to those around them. Limiting future restaurants is about reducing impact on the neighborhood. Is it necessary? Maybe. Maybe not. Let representative democracy do its thing!

*Disclosure: I’m particularly sensitive to this. I get home from work late in the evening, and can never park within blocks. No, I can’t take public transportation, sadly.

Sorry, long-timer, old-timer, whatever you are–you didn’t get the memo. Public street space is public, and you are not entitled to it. There is a very simple solution to your quandary regarding storage for your private property (that is, your car): Rent. A. Space.

what? this has nothing to do with vacancies. you do realize that success will eventually implode on itself if it goes unchecked, right? businesses not open during the day and high rents that only allow for restaurants to open is the kind of homogeneity that begets failure.

Given the lifespan of restaurants, I would say be patient and let the market take its course. I’m sure the newest ‘noun-and-noun’ money pit won’t be around for very long.

Don’t be so sure about that – many of these new joints are VC backed.

It’s just like the dotcom days, except now it’s food instead of software.

VC backed is right. And the VCs are pretty much the only ones applying for bank loans now. On top of which, the Federal Reserve, through QE3, is committed to buying $40 BILLION per month of failed mortgage backed securities from the banks , INDEFINITELY. The banks are swimming in money, and the only people asking to borrow any of it are the VCs.

The Food Bubble can be traced to the earlier, constrained quantitative easing programs. The new program is open-ended. Because of the sheer amount of money available to the VCs for their pet projects, the Food Bubble will persist until the Eurozone collapses within the next few years (sooner than later), and plunges the global economy into depression.

Good times!

They should abandon the moratorium on Mission St. alcohol licenses while they’re at it.

I think not; the Mission district booze moratorium was put in place for a reason, and the reason still exists.

Nah. The reason was chronic inebriants hanging around outside corner liquor stores. That’s not implicated when someone wants to open a cocktail bar serving $12 drinks. Now, whether there’s a problem with that is a separate question, but it is decidedly not the reason for the initial moratorium.

What we really need is a moratorium on parklets.

And find some way to park the cars of folks who do drive to the area.
And I don’t mean valet parking.

I think a 12-block walk from the nearest available street parking space should be punishment enough.

I have been advocating a strip club for years to keep housing/rent prices down. Everyone finds my idea distasteful :-[

Best idea yet!

Somewhere theres an Indian wondering why he cant throw a teepee down on Seacliff anymore. Yes, totally stupid, but the point is “keeping the rents down” is a futile exercise. You are not protected from people with money wanting to live in your neighborhood, especially when its an already-popular one with nice weather.

I would not argue that mission types sell out, join an investment bank, etc. But the reality is that not everyone gets to live wherever they want. Check out 35th and Ulloa, or is that not trendy enough?

move to the excelsior

If Valencia is the new North Beach, and Divisadero is the new Valencia, what’s the new Capp?

I have to throw in the fact that Farina is both not on Valencia and opened in 2007. It doesn’t help your argument that there are a bunch of new restaurants on Valencia when you cite a restaurant that is old and not on Valencia.

Have you been in the neighborhood recently? Farina Pizzeria. Valencia and 18th. Open about two months.

Haven’t we been down this road before? Didn’t upper Fillmore and Noe Valley recently end their moratoriums on restaurants due to vacant storefronts? The rent isn’t coming down any time soon. I am concerned with lesser commercial streets feeling the brunt of the further restaurantization of the mission, such as 20th.

It is sad when people dismiss North Beach. There is a lot more to North Beach than just the intersection of Columbus and Broadway! Valencia St is being cleaned up and it looks great. Many of these comments sound exactly the same when the first dot-com boom happened. The bubble will likely pop and all those new restaurants will go away. Also, do note that most restaurants don’t make it past two years!

Step 1: establish restaurant on Valencia.

Step 2: lobby to ban competition.

Step 3: profit!

Hello! Has anyone seen what is happening to Colma? People are dying to go there these days….in droves. It’s so disneyfied you can barely recognize it anymore. Sad. Time for the radical bourgeoisie to arm themselves and drive back these interlopers from our gates before they reach the Marina.

p.s., Eric Gregory’s cat pic is the best thing…scareeeeeeeeeee good. Nice job Eric.

I don’t have the patience to read ALL of the comments… and aside from the majority of horribly biased retorts and personal opinions, I’m sure there are a few well-considered, opportunity-based responses above that I have missed.

That being said, I feel that a moratorium on anything like this, temporary or otherwise, is a terrible idea and are in direct contradiction with the very ideals that are being fought for. Instead of blockading the new high-end restaurants, we should be searching for ways to encourage the latter (idk, through tax break incentives, lessing the fees on certain classifications of new businesses and offering grants for shops to set up, even as short lease based pop ups)… this includes small hardware stores and other utility based merchants that are obviously lacking from the corridor. The unfortunately shortsighted and in some ways, completely ignorant, ‘solutions’ that are presented at the end of this article make me cringe… Involving public opinion in the decision making process is UNDOUBTEDLY the least effective step towards getting anything changed. It has never worked and this isn’t an opportunity to give it another whirl.

There is no doubt that this sort of rapid market / consumer focus shift is hugely complicated and not easy to address, but that should not distract us from facing this as a way to prompt new opportunity instead of limiting and restricting it.

To add to Dizzer’s list, DBS is three blocks from Glamorama.

Can we also get a moratorium on obnoxious writers that think they know what’s best for the community? Do you actually live in the Valencia corridor? I have several friends on the street that love the breadth of restaurants nearby. I guess residents don’t count as part of the community.

fast call that different opinions are “obnoxious”

I have been on Valencia for 32 years and it’s never been better, all you fools who think you know what it needs can go jump in the Bay.

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