Thoughts and Opinions!

Crabby Chronicle Columnist Chuck Nevius on the Valencia Restaurant Ban: "You Can't Put a Moratorium on Progress"

This morning, the Chronicle's banner fuddy-duddy graced us with his thoughts on the proposed temporary 1-year moratorium on new restaurants on Valencia.  As you might imagine, he knows it would be bad policy:

Consider the case of Noe Valley, which implemented a ban on restaurants and coffee shops in the 1980s. The concerns were the same: new food establishments would push rents to the skies, residents wouldn't be able to afford to go out to eat, and the street would turn into an upscale food court. And of course there was always the scary g-word - gentrification.

By 2010, Noe Valley residents were clamoring to repeal the moratorium and embracing the trendy food influx…

“It was no more bars and no more restaurants,” said Robert Roddick, president of the Noe Valley Merchants Association. “As a bar or restaurant would close, we would not issue another permit. We started losing taverns and restaurants.”

Quick fact check here: Valencia merchants have only proposed a 1-year ban on new restaurants overtaking retail spaces, old licenses can still be transferred.  After the year is up, restauranteurs can petition a community board to convert storefronts into eateries. This makes the strict, no-transfer 25+ year ban in Noe Valley largely irrelevant, but, you know, as they say in the newspaper business, “whatever.”

The clincher came when the [Noe Valley] merchants association conducted a survey of what improvements residents would like to see. Diverse restaurants topped the list.

The ban was lifted two years ago, and Roddick says the results have been “fabulous.” Not only has it encouraged new restaurants, it has restored healthy competition.

Again, the Mission isn't Noe Valley.  The Mission already has a diverse set of restaurants, the not “fabulous” part is that the artisanal gárbáge is displacing establishments the community actually frequents and can afford.

“Twenty-four years ago, when we bought our house, it was a dump,” [Noe Valley resident Deb Niemann] said. “Now I couldn't afford to move into the neighborhood.”

The same transition seems to be happening along Valencia Street. My guess is they will learn the same lesson as Noe - you can't put a moratorium on progress.

Considering the attitude of your audience, I'd say you're probably right.