Diane Nutting solicited Les Natalie [owner of the Badlands and the Toadhall and the Patio Cafe site] for a donation for the Pink Triangle Park Memorial and he wrote a check to the Pink Triangle Park Memorial for $1000.00. We need to applaud Diane's efforts on behalf of the Pink Triangle Park Memorial. In addition to this effort, Diane, along with Jack and Justin, does routine maintenance on the park and keeps it one of the gems of our neighborhood. The flowers in bloom this spring have been amazing!
One reason people mention that they are supportive of the Walgreen’s expansion into the Laundromat on 18th is because “there are too many vacant storefronts in the Castro.” The other reason, “Walgreen’s is a good neighbor,” was debunked, I think, in the last Eureka!
Being a curious type, I walked the streets, 17th to 19th and Noe to Diamond, counting shops to see if this was true. I counted ground floor spaces and when a shop occupied more than one, I counted the total storefronts, e.g., Walgreen’s on Castro occupies 3. Though not a professional statistical analysis, I intended to verify whether impression matches reality, and in my opinion, it does not.
Truth is that we have 90% occupancy and 10% vacancy rates – see chart below.
Out of a total of 149 street level storefronts only 15 are vacant. Further, the vacancies include Welcome Home, under construction for occupancy, Castro Video approved for Levi’s store, and rumor has it that Ritz Camera might be occupied soon. Allow for these and rates are 92% occupancy, 8% vacancy. Very good!
Analyzing the numbers even further, of the 12 remaining vacancies, 58% include spaces that are off the market due to the owners/lessor’s own intent, e.g. Les Natali who owns the five “Patio spaces” on Castro that have inexplicably been vacant for nearly 10 years, and the former Pendulum on 18th, or the Laundromat which Walgreen’s snapped up and then left vacant for over a year. If one takes these 7 storefronts out of the count, the occupancy rate shoots to 97% with ONLY 5 vacancies out of 149 storefronts. So, I’d say our occupancy is very, VERY good.
Of course, I understand that a few high visibility spaces do create a sense of blight. At long last things seem to be moving quickly with Les’ properties –THANK YOU! Levi’s plans to be open by Folsom Street Fair, and hopefully plans for Ritz will come to fruition. This combined activity is sure to make the Castro feel much more vibrant, something all of us want. Perhaps Walgreens will open up the Laundromat for an artist gallery while it contemplates next steps –it certainly would be better than an empty storefront!
Finally, I know that some will find all of this analyzing of the numbers as a demonstration that EVPA is anti-business. I for one most certainly am not anti business and in fact pro-business. As long as businesses reflect the community, work with, respect and support the whole neighborhood and don’t try to dominate the neighborhood or overtake the “village” charm that is what makes the Castro special, I am in support of them. I would be opposed to De La Sole, the Midnight Sun, Blue, Sumi, or any other single business if they wanted to occupy 5 storefronts in the Castro. I feel we need variety, not 5 storefronts occupied by one business like Walgreen’s wants.
Here’s my analysis for your perusal:
Castro storefronts (Ground floor shops only)
Street Total Vacant Occupancy
Castro between 17th-18th:
East side (Ritz) 21 1 95%
West side (Welcome Home) 18 1 94%
Sub-total Castro Street, 17th to 18th 39 2 95%
Castro between 18th-19th:
East side* (Castro Video, Patio spaces - 5, Title Co.) 19 7 63%
West side 26 0 100%
Sub-total Castro Street, 18th to 19th 45 7 84%
17th Street, South side only 5 0 100%
Sub-total 17th Street 5 0 100%
18th E of Castro (to Noe):
North side (Flux, space at Hartford) 8 2 75%
South side** (Card shop, Planet Weaver’s) 16 2 88%
Sub-total 18th East side 24 4 83%
18th W of Castro (to Diamond)
North side* (former Pendulum) 11 1 91%
South side (Laundromat) 15 1 93%
Sub-total 18th W of Castro 26 2 92%
North side 2 0 100%
South side 8 0 100%
Sub-total 19th West side 10 0 100%
Grand total: 149 15 90%
Taking Ritz, Welcome Home, Levi, Natali and Walgreen’s spaces out vacancies, totals are: 149 5 97%
*Incl. Les Natali's vacant spots: Patio (5) & former Pendulum (1) and Walgreen's keeping their space vacant.
**Incl. Planet Weaver's temp location as vacant
As of June 3, 2008, Laura Fraenza was hired by the City of San Francisco as our new Events Manager for the Entertainment Commission. Laura has a long career in events including Artist Manager with Bill Graham Presents; a Castro-based production company called Two Visions as part of a team for major events for Cisco and PeopleSoft; Cirque du Soleil as Production Office Director on the European tour of Quidam and for the past 8 years as a freelance entertainment producer on events for Cisco, Google, and PeopleSoft, among others.
I think we all can agree that it is great to have her on board working with Audrey Joseph on this year’s Halloween.
Laura and I, along with Dennis Richards will be meeting on July 16 to discuss EVPA and DTNA concerns about Halloween and the Castro. Additionally, Laura and Audrey Joseph, President of the Entertainment Commission will attend our next EVPA General Membership meeting on Thursday, July 17.
Currently, Laura is reviewing information gathered across the city in neighborhood meetings and city departments and is developing a plan of action. She expects to announce formal plans by the end of July.
As of now, she informs us that the plan for this year is not to shut down the Castro as it was last year, but to let the bars and other businesses stay open. They will be continuing with the message of last year "Don't come to the Castro to celebrate Halloween, there is no event in the Castro," and will provide a list of myriad other options of things to do in the City. We want to change the perception that Halloween is a Castro event and instead present a variety of options in every neighborhood, working with merchant groups City-wide. Halloween is a Friday night this year, so there would be the normal crowd that comes into the City looking for something to do as they do every weekend. We will provide listings of events in every neighborhood and reassert the message that the party is not in the Castro. We are currently exploring an option of an event to be held in another part of the City.
It is critical that we have a plan of action for this year, and I am sure that with Laura and Audrey at the helm, we will see improved results that positively impact the neighborhood. Stay tuned as more develops on this important topic.
By Rob Cox
It started last spring. A group of neighbors were out on the sidewalk talking when another neighbor, Bob, walked down his front steps to his car parked at the curb. We all gave the “good morning neighbor” wave and continued our conversation.
The next thing we saw was Bob bounding out of his car looking astonished and a bit shaken. There was a homeless person in his back seat. The guy broke into Bob’s car, spent the night and trashed it.
Another neighbor walking across the street said “call the cops on this guy, he’s bad news”. And sure enough, when officer Fraser apprehended this man a block away he had 35 priors, including assault and breaking and entering. We found out he had been breaking into houses and terrorizing businesses - among a litany of other crimes. He has since been put in jail and we haven’t seen him since.
The small group of neighbors that filed complaints that day began talking about some of the not so nice events that were going on in our neighborhood. Topics included break-ins, gay rape, loud partying at 2 A.M., homeless people camping out on the street and on our doorsteps and the situation surrounding Halloween. The more we talked the more we were convinced we should do something about these problems as neighbors. So, we contacted San Francisco SAFE.
San Francisco SAFE is the city's leading crime-prevention education organization. They help residents, police, and community groups work together to create safe, vibrant neighborhoods by providing violence prevention education, public safety information and community organizing services. (www.sfsafe.org)
Hartford Street is a residential street that runs behind Castro Street and as such gets a lot of overflow traffic – both foot and vehicular – from the Castro Businesses. So, with a few neighbors taking the lead, we met monthly at the Eureka Valley Community Center and wrestled with these issues. Through these meetings we created the Hartford Street Neighborhood Association (HSNA). A local neighborhood association established to help advocate for a safe, informed and social environment on Hartford Street.
Since we have been meeting we have had at least two chronic criminals removed from Hartford. There has also been a notable decrease in people sleeping on the sidewalk and in doorways. We also helped with making sure the Cafe would meet its conditions of use before they were allowed to expand.
The group meets monthly and is working to help neighbors interact and keep each other informed about events and goings on and also provide activities that will help Hartford Street become a more familiar group of neighbors. The idea is to watch out for each other and become better neighbors. We also want to provide annual or semi annual get-togethers on our block.
If you live on Hartford Street you can stay informed by going to our Yahoo group and signing up. Go to: www.groups.yahoo.com/group/HartfordStreetNeighborhoodAssoc
Let's Talk Trash.
How is trash collection adding you your quality of life herein Erueka Valley? Let us know. We want to hear from the perspective of the neighbors what problems there are, if any, in the way trash is treated.
You may have noticed that I have some of the stories going... they are all "works in progress" until we go to assemble the next newsletter.
Here are some more of the articles that we need:
- Revised Police Boundaries (judy?)
- Let's Talk Trash (steve)
- President's Column - Hooray for Us! (steve)
- "Block in the Spotlight" (alan)
- Frameline 33 Endorsement (steve)
- 17th Street Plaza (steve)
- Halloween Update (alan)
- EV Foundation 501(c)(3) Status (steve)
- Jet Bar Update (steve/alan)
- Walgreen's Update (steve)
- 80 Ord?? (play by ear if it that far along)
This story needs a lot more help.
Members of our organization attended a "neighborhood outreach meeting" with the project sponsor and her representatives regarding 412 Noe (the one that burned/totally demolished). Although we do have questions regarding the"illegal demolition" and concerns about the design of the replacement structure of 412, our major concern is about 420 Noe. This structure appears to be a "Fernando Nelson" Victorian, but in the early 70's, the building had the historically significant facade sawed off to build the front extension. That structure is currently vacant, with fire damage of the original old structure now visible and the 70's addition remaining, also in poor condition.
At our meeting with the project sponsor, they seemed reluctant to discuss plans for 420. We do not know why. From the neighborhood perspective, it makes no sense whatsoever for 420 to be salvaged. In my discussion with the project sponsor's architect, Mr James Cline, he, too, agrees that a repair would cost significantly more than a demo/rebuild, in both time and money.
The bottom line for the neighborhood is that we would like to see reconstruction be started as soon as possible on both structures, minimizing the length of time that the immediate neighborhood must live with the inconveniences of construction, and getting the properties developed for much needed for housing. We would to like to pursuade the project sponsor to get going on this.
At our last General Membership meeting on May 15th, EVPA Board Member was elected as EVPA Treasurer to fill out the rest of the term. This now leaves one of three “At-Large” Board Positions vacant. All EVPA members are welcome to express their desire to serve on the EVPA Board of Directors. We have had one member so far express an interest. If you are interested, please let one of the board members know.
Additionally, the nomination and election of our 2009 Officers and Board is just around the corner. Again, all EVPA members are welcome to become part of the "Internal Affairs" Committee that will choose the slate of officers for us.
It has been over 20 years since the sections of the San Francisco Planning Code that define the Castro Neighborhood Commercial District (NCD) and the Upper Market NCD were last changed. But in those past 20 years, our neighborhood and the needs of our neighborhood have changed.
Last year as part of the SF Planning Department's "NCD at 20 Review" - the EVPA Planning Committee did a thorough review of both NCDs, then brought their proposed changes to the Planning Code to the General Membership for ratification. That review was all-encompassing, with no distinction made between changes which were "good" versus those that were essential or critical for the immediate future to ensure our NCDs trive. Additionally, the proposed changes were only to be included as part of the review and report to the Planning Comission, and not intended for actually modifying the Planning Code.
The Planning Committee has again revisited the NCD requirements, this time to distinctly calling our changes that we feel are very necessary for the immediate future. At the next EVPA General Membership meeting on July 17th, the Planning Committee will once again be coming to the EVPA membership for approval of proposed changes to the Planning Code. In this round, the only changes being proposed are those that are both essential to ensure our NCDs remain lively, profitable and neighborhood serving. As such, we will not pe proposing any changes that could be considered "policital." Proposed changes are:
Planning Code Section 715 (Castro NCD):
- Change permitted operating hours to 6am to 12 Midnight, otherwise by conditional use
- Allow bars by “Conditional Use” (currently not permitted)
- Allow Full Service Restaurants by “Conditional Use” (currently not permitted)
- Allow small self-service restaurants by “Conditional Use” (currently not permitted)
- Allow Animal Hospitals on second floor with “Conditional Use” (currently only allowed w/CU on first floor)
- Allow Administrative Services on the second floor (currently not permitted anywhere)
- Allow residential use on the ground floor only with “Conditional Use” (currently permitted)
Planning Code Section 721 (Upper Market NCD):
- Change permitted operating hours to 6am to 12 Midnight, otherwise by condition
- Allow Full Service Restaurants on second floor by “Conditional Use” (currently only allowed w/CU on first floor)
- Allow movie theaters on second floor (currently only allowed on first floor)
- Allow Mortuaries on first or second floor with “Conditional Use”(currently not permitted)
- Allow Administrative Services on the second floor (currently not permitted anywhere)
On June 12th, the San Francisco Planning Commission granted Levi's the required "Conditional Use" (CU) to open a "Formula Use Retail" store within the Castro Neighborhood Commercial District (NCD). Levi's is very excited about opening this store. Construction should begin as soon as permits are issued, most likely by the end of June, with a goal of having the store in full operation by "Folsom Street Fair." This is the first time in memory that a national chain actually has a goal based on our neighborhood culture.
Although some EVPA members expressed valid concern that this formula use retail is not consistent with the EVPA position of not allowing any further formula use retail within the Castro NCD, the overwhelming majority of EVPA members felt that Levi’s was uniquely qualified as an “exception.” Levi’s unparalleled corporate support of the community and the long-time connection with our neighborhood significantly outweighed the concerns of formula retail use.
Because there was no known opposition to Levi's, the s item was placed no the "Consent Calendar" meaning that the Planning Commission was able to approve the conditional use without lengthy hearings. The EVPA would like to thank planner Sophie Middlebrook who was the planner responsible who made that possible, as otherwise the hearing date would have been significantly delayed.
We look forward to the grand opening party!