Biking along Valencia during rush hour has long been a dangerous dance of swerving around cars pulling into the bike lane for valet parking or to drop hungry frumps off in front of restaurants. However, the messy street scene, which was typically contained to the two blocks between 16th and 18th, has crept further south in recent months. Just two weeks ago, Abbot's Cellar—who previously promised neighbors they'd never offer valet parking—began blocking the bike lane with valet parking at 19th and Valencia.
It's hard not to see it as a harbinger of further valets along the white table-clothed Valencia.
So as I hastily dodged a Town Car last Tuesday, I couldn't help but wonder whatever came of Valencia's proposed restaurant moratorium. If you recall, it was last November that the Valencia Corridor Merchant's Association (VCMA) endorsed a plan to put a temporary ban on new restaurants and a conditional use permit on them following that, in hopes of preserving some of the street's economic diversity.
However, in the months that followed, the neighborhood's two elected supervisors—David Campos and Scott Wiener—have remained coy on the matter. In fact, Campos last told Mission Local, “I haven’t taken a position yet [on the moratorium],” and Wiener told the Chronicle's resident old person C.W. Nevius, “I'm pretty skeptical of a moratorium.”
Since those comments, two more restaurants and Abbot's valet parking have come to Valencia.
“The word moratorium triggers an emotional response. It sounds very permanent,” a local businessman and member of the VCMA—who requested anonymity—recently told us. “I keep hearing that other neighborhoods have enacted permanent moratoriums and it was DEVASTATING to the community. Look at Noe Valley for example. They had 6 restaurants, so they enacted a permanent moratorium. Over the years as each of those restaurants closed, they ended up with no place to eat. It was a HUGE mistake. Thank GOD they got rid of that.”
He explains what VCMA was actually proposing:
The VCMA actually recommended that Planning Department should consider the views of the community (businesses and residents) before rubber stamping another new full-service (not self-service, like Curry Up Now) restaurant opening up on Valencia (and “new” as in brand new—used-to-be-a-book-store-new, not used-to-be-another-full-service-restaurant new). This is called a Special Use Permit process.
This was to be proceed by a temporary breather - a 12 month moratorium.
However, after some negative press came in from the likes of C.W. Nevius, Wiener and Campos spiked the proposal. Wiener himself told the Chronicle, “[Moratoriums] were enacted in Noe and the Castro in the late '80s, and the food scene in both neighborhoods suffered.”
Of course, the Mission isn't Noe Valley. Valencia alone has 36 restaurants between 15th and 20th, and that doesn't include the dozens on sides streets immediately off of Valencia. Even if the VCMA supported a full ban on new restaurants—which they obviously are not—it's not like the Mission would suddenly be a foodless wasteland.
“The supervisors who were once supportive of the Special Use Permit idea (it even came from one of them) don't seem to be very excited about it now,” our source confirmed. “But they seem to want to be able to do something.”
“They are proposing a cap at a percentage by block.”
That's right, the supervisors what to restrict the number of restaurants per block to a certain percentage.
That might strike you as a good way to prevent total homogeneity along Valencia without resorting to something silly like “community imput” and “temporary breathers.” But with 41% of all storefronts between 15th and 20th are already restaurants, it's difficult to see how that'll solve anything.
Well, anything besides the Supervisor's getting bad press from a moratorium, of course…