The Planning Commission gave the owner of 777 Valencia the OK on Thursday to begin construction of two restaurants and a jazz venue, Preservation Hall West.
“We see great things for a long time to come in the Mission District,” said Jack Knowles, the owner of the property. Knowles also owns Oakland’s A Coté restaurant.
The Chapel at 777 Valencia will be an upscale restaurant serving New Orleans and Southern food, and the Second Line Café will offer more casual and moderately priced dining. The adjacent parking space will serve as outdoor seating for the café, and the auditorium will be an entertainment venue, according to the plans.
The Mission restaurants will take up 4,581 square feet and the jazz venue an additional 2,575 square feet at 777 Valencia, vacant since New College closed in 2008. The other former New College space, on the west side of the same block on Valencia, has been transformed into offices for tech start-ups and the Summit café.
Ben Jaffe, the director of the historic New Orleans Preservation Hall venue, said they would continue the traditions of musician residencies and of partnering with schools and charities to teach kids jazz.
While those at the meeting showed strong support for the project, some neighbors asked for a hearing six months after the venue opens to see if the owners have complied with the conditions of the permit. These include noise and nuisance provisions.
Roberto Hernandez, a longtime resident and local promoter, said he likes the project because it will be a place where kids can learn about jazz –- a pursuit no longer possible in many schools, as cutbacks have meant the end of music programs.
“Most of you know me and know I have been here before you on some very controversial issues about displacement and gentrification of our people in our neighborhood,” said Hernandez. “ And I am actually here to support this project; we now have an opportunity to work with an organization and an entrepreneur in our community to begin to teach…all children in our neighborhood about jazz.”
Another resident said that changes on Valencia have been unnerving, but he likes this one.
“When a new business is proposed, it is a little bit like gambling. You are pulling the arm on a slot machine and hope for a winning run of seven’s,” he said. “For 777 Valencia Street, this is a jackpot. I urge you to accept this project so we can all start collecting our winnings.”