Schmidt’s and the Bad Neighbor Schnitzel

En Español

The owners of the restaurant Schmidt’s on 20th and Folsom streets are in a bit of a schnitzel.

The upstairs neighbor has posted a sign with an arrow pointing to Schmidt’s.  “Bad Neighbors,”  it announces to anyone walking by.  For their part, the owners of the Berlin-style restaurant, say  the neighbor causes noise disturbances almost daily.  The landlord has told the owners that he doesn’t want to be involved and the police say they can’t yet jump in.

“We don’t know what to do,” said co-owner of the restaurant David Pierce.

“It’s not good advertisement,” added the other owner, Christiane Schmidt, referring to the sign that went up last weekend during Carnaval.

The upstairs neighbor Patricia Kerman and property owner Kaushik Dattani could not be reached for comment.

Schmidt’s relationship with Kerman has been bad since Schmidt’s opened in May 2009. Back then Kerman complained about a kitchen fan that made too much noise – Schmidt said that while it took her three weeks to make repairs, she was able to muster the $2,000 to do it.

It did not stop there. Kerman called a restaurant inspector and staff members have allegedly seen her talk to customers before they come in and telling them she became ill from eating there, Schmidt said.

Kerman was described as a woman in her late 50s and has lived there for at least the 14 years that Dattani has owned the building.  Before Schmidt’s, the location was left vacant by El Farito market for more than a year.

Schmidt, originally from Germany, said she doesn’t know why Kerman thinks she’s a bad neighborhood. Schmidt also owns Walzwerk, on South Van Ness Avenue.

Ravick Ruiz, a neighbor who has lived next door for eight years, defended Schmidt’s.

“At first, I was a concerned that they were going to play loud music and have people outside making noise,” he said. “But they didn’t so I think they are good neighbors.”

Another neighbor, who knows Kerman and wanted to be anonymous for fear of retaliation, said Kerman’s assessment is unsubstantiated.

Because of the circumstances, restaurants in mixed-used buildings like Schmidt’s find themselves with no real options to solve their dispute unless it escalates to the point where more serious legal action is required.

“We don’t want to get to that point,” Pierce said. “And certainly it won’t escalate because of us.”

Pierce and Schmidt took the police’s advice to mediate the problem through the Community Boards, but to no avail.

Kay Suk, of the Community Boards  Program said there is nothing they can do if one of the parties refuses to go through mediation — which is so far the case with Kerman.

The community board process requires both parties to meet at a neutral location with three mediators to discuss the issues. The Community Boards have an 80-90 percent success rate, Suk said.

Schmidt said they had a meeting with their landlord, but his only suggestion was that they call police when there is noise.

The owners took his advice, but they can do very little with noise complaints and the “bad neighbor” sign is freedom of speech.

The sign is already having an impact, Schmidt said.

The staff has had to explain the problem to customers and at one point someone came inside and used sign language to say shame.

On Thursday afternoon, Schmidt’s called the police again for a noise complaint that was described by Schmidt as someone dropping a bowling ball.

Kerman did not open the door when they knocked and the officer said to keep calling to document the incidents. At some point the restaurant owners will be able to file a restraining order, the officer told them.

This is something Schmidt said she doesn’t want to do, but will. Moving is also not an option.

Pierce and Schmidt have spent some $100,000 on the restaurant, and Schmidt said she is in debt from opening Schmidt’s.

“I don’t want to go – I like this corner,” Schmidt said.

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3 Comments

  1. jane

    noise is increasing in commercial areas w/o the consent or knowledge of residents.
    machinery is texas-sized, and decibel meter readings are not conducted by the city between 10pm-7am. and the city makes the big bucks from taxes from these establishments so they turn a blind eye.
    the new noise legislation is not enforced. unlike other cities, sf does not have vibration control, and this is a huge problem, health-wise.
    the thing about sf is that people live above the shops. it used to be that the owner of the shop lived upstairs and knew all the neighbours.
    all noise laws apply to all residents equally.
    all citizens have the right to peace and privacy and quiet enjoyment of life in their residence.
    although ms kerman could file for a decrease in services, it would not take the noise away and she would still be miserable.

    the noise is not her fault.

    the city is catering more and more to people who have money at their disposal to eat out all the time.

    people used to shop for their meals, cook them at home, and eat with their family or community.

    we now have take out, take out trash bloating the landfills because of the constant need for instant gratification.

    shame on you people calling this woman crazy, telling her to move to the suburbs.
    she had her rights taken right out from under her, and it’ll happen to you , too at some point, as it is happening more and more in our world.

    the erosion of civil rights is something that comes on slowly, yet has a ripple effect, undiscernible until it hits as a big wave. then people cry, when they had a hand in it themselves all along.

    sf is all about big money now. high rents, evictions of long-term tenants who are in rent-controlled flats or small business owners who can’t pay the rents that whole foods, la boulange, pasta pomodoro,gap, old navy, all chains stores can.

    homelessness is on the rise.
    art, physical education, music programs are being cut from schools so kids grow up to be slaves working for bio-tech, tech, 80+ hours/week with the resulting “need” for restaurants, nail salons, entertainment, on-line everything because people are out of touch with real, human, basic needs .

    so then they have no idea that the person or people who live/s over the loud cool taqueria, tapas, waffle, crepe, pizzeria , bar, anything-that-you-want-any-time-of-day-you-want-it
    is/are being affected in a very primal way to the core of their being.

    to those who have commented on the great establishment this is:
    you come, you eat, you leave.

    when you return to your homes, is it condusive to your well-being? other’s well-being?
    if it were not, would you just leave instead of trying to make it better?
    if you caused your neighbour grief would you leave? or would you tell them to leave if they didn’t like it?
    does everyone come, take, then leave?

  2. lighight

    Jane honey, I’ve lived over a business for more than 10 years and yes, we’ve had our issues – but I’ve never done anything to affect their business (ok, I’ve thought it but I’ve never actually done it because that would be fucked up and wrong). Instead, I’ve handled our problems through the owner’s and through mediation (SF Rent Board mediators are fucking awesome!)

    ¡Viva el Schmidt’s!

  3. lets be real

    IrishH and other simpaticos, you are painting her as THE ONLY victim here when we all know that isn’t the case. She is justified in her retaliations. Really?

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