Levi Strauss & Co in the Castro

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!

Levi Strauss & Co in the Castro

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!

Draft minutes from 5/15/08 EVPA membership meeting

The president called the meeting to order at 7:30 p.m.

The president made the following announcements:
-Castro/Upper Market Community Streetscape Design Workshop, June 4, 6:30, Harvey Milk Civil Rights Academy
-Castro Theater programming -- Indiana Jones movie will cause parking issues from June 22-29
-Website upgrade -- the site is becoming much more interactive and members are encouraged to contribute content
-The Eureka Valley Foundation has finally received 501(c)(3) status from the IRS

Pink Saturday
Sister Barbi Mitzvah from the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence presented the Sisters' plan for Pink Saturday (night before Pride). The Sisters will continue to organize security for the evening and are working with law enforcement to increase safety, to prevent underage drinking, etc. A media blackout will be enforced again, which was successful last year in preventing the neighborhood from being overrun. Castro Community on Patrol will once again provide security assistance on the perimeter of the event.

Levi's
Representatives of Levi Strauss presented their plans for the 525 Castro Street location that they propose to use. They stressed Levi's longstanding role in the LGBT community, the HIV/AIDS community, and the Castro neighborhood, as well as Levi's generous giving. They described the uniqueness of this store, unlike other chains. After a number of questions and discussion, on motion and second the membership voted to support the Levi's store at 525 Castro.

Jet
Greg Bronstein presented Jet's proposed expansion into the gallery space next door to the bar. Greg presented renderings and provided details about hours, usage of different parts of the space, and Jet's efforts to be a good neighborhood. After a number of questions and discussion, on motion and second, the membership voted to support Jet's proposed expansion and to authorize the Planning Committee to work out conditional use requirements.

Treasurer election
The president announced that Joe Caruso had resigned as treasurer. Alan Beach was nominated as treasurer and was unanimously elected by the membership.

Bylaws
The president provided an overview of the proposed bylaw changes. The proposed amended bylaws have been posted on the website for several months. On motion and second, the membership approved the bylaw amendments.

There were no additional reports or announcements. After discussion on various topics, the president adjourned the meeting at 8:44 p.m.

I Love Living in Eureka Valley

I live on Hartford Street in Eureka Valley, aka The Castro, with my partner, John Kruse, and our 4-year-old daughters, Zola and Veronica Kruschel. Hartford Street is a quiet little residential street just steps away from the hustle of Castro Street and the bustle of Market Street. I love living here.

We have a great mix of businesses in the neighborhood. Take a walk with me and I'll tell you my personal faves. I buy birthday cards at Wild Card! I'm addicted to the Morning Rush coffee beans at the Castro Cheesery. I love the Castro Theater. Its marquis defines the neighborhood, and I'm thrilled that it has begun mixing first-run movies into its fare, giving me yet another reason to patronize it. When I need hardware to hang a picture of Veronica, I head to Cliff's Variety. I'm happy that both A Different Light Bookstore and Books, Inc. carry "Papa and Daddy and Babies in Alaska", the book I wrote about how John and I became fathers to our daughters. I window shop for real estate porn at Herth Realty. I bank at Wells Fargo, the most gay-friendly bank I've ever been in. We get takeout at Thaihouse Express. Buffalo Whole Food satisfies my Barbara's Cheese Puffs and Reed's Ginger Brew cravings. The underwear I buy at Injeanious Lounge makes me feel sexy. I feel virtuous shopping at Under One Roof. I just bought a nightlight of the Castro Theater there. I shop for groceries at Delano's – I love their cold cuts. (I wish Trader Joe's had been welcomed in the Duboce Triangle, and I hope one day to see a fruit and vegetable store closer than Church Street or 16th and Mission.) Sumi is great for an intimate dinner. The burritos at Zapata are quick and yummy. Walgreen's is great for buying a box of Sponge Bob Squarepants bandages to make Zola's booboo feel better. The croque madame at A Bon Port is an indulgence I grant myself. At Superstar Video, I rent movies the whole family can enjoy, as well as ones just for John and me. The roast turkey sandwich with swiss cheese at Rossi's Deli makes a good lunch. I'm sad when a restaurant I like closes – farewell Ararat – and excited to see what takes its place – welcome Poesia. I'm glad to see some businesses go – bu-bye Wolf Camera, but I don't understand why some storefronts are vacant so long, and wish they would be filled.

I love seeing children in the neighborhood. My block has ten, with more on the way. I love seeing multi-culti tutti-frutti families coexisting with traditional ones. Toto, we're not in Kansas! Walk by the playground at the Eureka Valley Recreation Center on a weekend and burst with pride at the diversity.

I'm glad to live in a neighborhood in which neighbors take care of their property. I like to stop and smell the roses in front of Al and Govinder's house. Don't pick them! I'm heartened that my neighbors care enough to make a difference. When The Cafe wanted to remodel and expand, my neighbors got the EVPA involved and made sure that The Cafe did it in a way that respected the interests of the community, as well as the interests of The Cafe. My neighbors recently formed the Hartford Street Neighborhood Association. We're currently fighting MUNI's plans to run the 37 bus line down our street. Aside from that, I like MUNI because it makes it so easy for me to visit other neighborhoods. The F-line, especially, makes me smile. It's an amusement park ride with a purpose.

LEVI’s “BOUTIQUE” STORE PROPOSED FOR CASTRO STREET LOCATION

Levi Strauss and Company is proposing to open a “boutique” Levi’s Store at 525 Castro Street in the the space that was previously occupied by Castro Video, between the Sausage Factory and the long-time shuttered Patio Café. View a draft rendering of the store at http://evpa.org/docs/080505leviplan.pdf

EVPA has previously taken a position for a Formula Retail Use ban in the Castro Neighborhood Commercial District (NCD), but this ban has many hurdles to jump before it would ever go into effect. About 200 of Levi’s 1000 corporate employees based here in San Francisco are members of our community. And unlike Walgreen’s Company (the only Formula Use retail institution that the EVPA has ever opposed on the grounds of Formula Use), Levi Strauss has a very long and consistent record of being a very good supporter of our community.

Levis representatives will be at our membership meeting on May 15th to explain their proposal and to request our support for the Conditional Use required to open a Formula Use Retail store in the Castro NCD. Our May 15 meeting has a very busy agenda, so if you have questions you want to ensure are answered during the presentation, please send them to planning@evpa.org by May 7th.

JET Bar Proposes Expansion

EVPA Member Greg Bronstein, owner of the Flavors you Crave and Lime restaurant will be presenting his proposal to expand the JET Bar into the space formerly occupied by the Reaves Gallery at 2344 Market Street.

Greg has already begun working with the EVPA Planning Committee to ensure the proposed “Conditions of Use” will be beneficial to all parties concerned.

Greg will be asking for EVPA support for obtaining the required “Conditional Uses” for this expansion. If you have any questions you want to ensure are answered at our membership meeting, please send them to planning@evpa.org by May 7th.

PROP 98 IS BAD FOR CALIFORNIA AND BAD FOR SAN FRANCISCO

In 2006, California voters wisely rejected Proposition 90, a stealth measure that would have dramatically reduced government’s ability to protect the environment, enact zoning laws, and engage in many other regulatory activities that enhance Californians’ quality of life. Having lost on Prop 90, the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association has come back with a supposedly scaled back version, Prop 98.

Prop 98, however, is every bit as overbroad and dangerous as Prop 90, and even more deceptive. If it passes, it will repeal rent control. It also may cripple California’s ability to deal with the significant natural resource and infrastructure challenges facing the state, as well as undermining government’s ability to enact effective zoning measures and to protect the environment.

First, some history. In 2005, the Supreme Court, held that a city could use eminent domain, consistent with the U.S. Constitution, to forcibly purchase a private home to encourage private redevelopment. The decision sparked an outcry across the political spectrum, and broad support formed for banning government from taking private homes for private development projects.

It would be straightforward to accomplish that goal by simply banning government from transferring private homes to private developers. But, unfortunately, certain conservative anti-government groups took advantage of the situation by submitting ballot measures across the country that, in name, were limited to the taking of private homes for private use, but in effect, contained buried text that exploded the definition of eminent domain to include most regulation, including environmental and zoning laws. Prop 90 was one of those stealth measures.

After the defeat of Prop 90, Democrats in the California Legislature introduced a constitutional amendment (Assembly Constitutional Amendment 8) to reform eminent domain by prohibiting use of eminent domain to acquire an owner-occupied home or a small business for transfer to another private party. ACA 8 had the strong support of the League of California Cities and the League of Conservation Voters, but Republicans in the Legislature killed it, because they wanted a broader Prop-90-style measure. (The League of California Cities then collected signatures to place the measure on the ballot as Prop 99, which is a good, common-sense eminent domain reform without a hidden agenda.)

That measure is Prop 98. Its statements of findings and purpose seem innocuous enough and appear to limit the measure to reforming eminent domain. However, when one examines the text, and particularly the definition section, its broader impacts becomes clear:

→→ Prop 98 explicitly repeals rent control statewide. It leaves local jurisdictions with no ability to control escalation of rents. Whatever one’s views on rent control, this is a draconian measure that would eliminate local control of this very local issue.

→ After banning the taking of private property for private use, the measure defines “private use” to include the taking by a public agency of private property “for the consumption of natural resources.” The measure therefore would prohibit government agencies from using eminent domain, for example, to acquire property for public water projects to increase California’s capacity to store, transport, and deliver water. The language also likely bars use of eminent domain for preservation of open space.

→ Prop 98 further defines prohibited “private use” as regulation of private property in order to “transfer the economic benefit” to another person. This language could have devastating effects on land use planning and environmental regulation by barring government from engaging in regulation that reduces the market value of property. Examples of prohibited activities could include historic preservation laws and height limitations. All zoning decisions arguably transfer economic benefits among property owners, as courts have held, and this measure therefore would reduce the ability of government to engage in traditional land use regulation – regulation that is especially important in dense urban environments.

→ The “transfer economic benefit” prohibition also would create problems for new development. Any land use or zoning decision designed to facilitate new construction could be tied up in court on the ground that it transfers an “economic benefit” from current property owners to new ones, such as reduction of a view or changes in traffic patterns – changes that could reduce property values.

→ Prop 98’s “transfer economic benefit” language also could seriously limit government’s ability to require developers to provide public benefits in connection with development, such as making street improvements, contributing to park enhancements, or other expenditures traditionally required of developers in order to provide adequate public infrastructure to support the increased population that development spurs.

→ Prop 98 also fails to provide an exception for health and safety regulations and is arguably retroactive to existing regulations. This makes Prop 98 more extreme than Prop 90, which contained a health → Given how vaguely Prop 98 is drafted, it will create immediate and significant litigation. Any decision by government in California that arguably affects the value of property or arguably transfers an economic benefit from one property owner to another will result in a court challenge seeking compensation and injunctive relief. Even if courts eventually interpret the measure narrowly, taxpayers will spend huge sums of money litigating its scope. In San Francisco, the funding for this litigation will typically come directly from the General Fund – i.e., the fund that pays for parks, street repairs, police, and other services on which we all depend.

California, and the Bay Area, are growing rapidly and will continue to do so for decades. We have seen the results of poor planning in California – clogged roads, pollution, suburban sprawl that covers up open space, inferior public transit, and a looming water crisis because of inadequate storage capacity. We need our government to be able to plan effectively for growth. Prop 98 is exactly the opposite of what we need and will take California in the wrong direction.

Why Walgreen's Continued Expansion is not good for the Neighborhood

In 2007, Walgreen Co. had net income of $2.04 Billion. With 6,271 Walgreen's stores nationwide, the average after-tax profit is $325,306 per store. That's their “take-home-pay.” Per Walgreen's own spokesperson, Todd Horton, with 54 stores in San Francisco, Walgreen's only donated $100,000 to local charitable causes in 2007 (about $1,850 per store), a mere 0.57% of their approximate San Francisco net-profit of $17.5 Million. Industry standard for corporate giving is 2.0% to 5.0%. The recent $5,000 contribution to Harvey Milk is nice, but far from being a good neighborhood business and community partner.

If Walgreen's were to expand the specialty pharmacy into the space at 4127 18th Street, the total Walgreen's footprint in the Castro Neighborhood Commercial District (NCD) would reach 14,000 square feet (slightly larger than 1/4 the size of the giant Safeway on Market).
For over 4 years, Supervisor Bevan Dufty has been pleading with Walgreen's to improve the look of the front of their Castro store. They haven't. The loiterers and dated window displays remain. The paint has not been refreshed in a generation.

The memberships of several of our neighborhood groups have gone on record opposing the expansion. Our goal for Castro Village is to keep it vital and diverse. A conversion of yet another neighborhood- serving business into a generic corporate giant will accomplish neither of these goals.

The space into which Walgreen's hopes to expand had been a thriving laundromat for several decades. Per the SF Tax Collector, the laundromat ceased operations in November 2006. The landromat operator declined to give reasons for the closure. In only three months (over the holiday season), Walgreen's developed a corporate plan for the space and in February 2007 signed a 20 year lease. Spokesperson Todd Horton would not reveal how the rent Walgreen's is paying compares to that of the laundromat, saying it was proprietary.

For the past 15 months the former laundromat space has remained unoccupied as Walgreen's pays the rent. A primary argument for allowing Walgreen's and other unattractive chains into Castro Village is that empty storefronts are bad for business. This is undisputed. But if Walgreen's had any sense of community, it would have offered the space for use as a gallery or by a non-profit while waiting for permits. At least it would not have been left vacant. Walgreen's supporters fail to mention that certain property owners and leaseholders in the Castro apparently don't need nor care to lease or
occupy their properties. The owner of the largest restaurant space in the neighborhood, who also owns a bar on 18th Street, seems content to leave them vacant in perpetuity. Others are asking obscene rents.

What many of us have been working hard to achieve is a neighborhood commercial district that attracts local residents, but also encourages people to come and shop because we offer something that other neighborhoods do not. We have several other Walgreen's within walking distance (one just three blocks away at Market & Sanchez). Having yet another will not bring us more business or vitality. There is only one Cliff's Hardware, only one Buffalo Foods, only one De La Sole shoes. These are businesses that add to the fabric of our village. Please don't sell us out.

(alan beach also contributed to this story)

Working to Improve Life in Eureka Valley Since 1881