Editor’s note: This is the final installment of our weekly conversations with District 9 Supervisor David Campos addressing issues and events in the Mission.
Mission Local: You introduced a measure that will determine whether or not personal care businesses — beauty parlors, massage businesses, etc — can expand onto third floors, which is currently not permitted in zoning laws. Can you discuss this new zoning recommendation and it’s implication for its target location, the Mission’s Valencia Street?
David Campos: In terms of the Valencia Street measure, that’s a very narrow one. Part of [the measure] was understanding what the rules actually allow for.
In this case, we had a [massage] business that wanted to come into the third floor. At the beginning, the Planning Commission had thought that legally it wasn’t possible for them to do so under a conditional use application.
ML: What is conditional use?
DC: Conditional use is where something is allowed to happen … that the use [of that space] could be approved based on certain conditions.
The initial understanding from the Planning [Department] was yes [the massage business] can [expand], but they have to apply under conditional use. It turned out, in fact, by virtue of wanting to go onto the third floor, a conditional use was not allowed if they want to go on the third floor. It’s ok [under zoning laws] on the second floor but not third floor.
From our perspective, in looking at it at a policy rationale, I feel that in this case, there was not a rationale in making a distinction between the second floor or the third floor. There is no policy rationale, how we see it, to allow [them to apply for expansion under the] conditional use application when they want to go on the second floor but not the third floor.
From our perspective, we’re simply addressing that specific issue by saying, if you want to go on the third floor, at least we’re allowing for you to go through that process if the specific use is appropriate. The analysis [would] take place when you’re applying for conditional use.
That’s the reason we’re doing that. It’s a narrow issue, we just didn’t think that it made sense to allow it on the second floor, but not on the third floor.
ML: Would this revised permit application apply across the board, for all businesses?
DC: It would apply to other businesses. But it’s not automatic. They still have to go through the process. They still have to convince the Planning Commission that approval should be provided. If it is [eligible for expansion], they have to have a justification. This allows for that analysis, business by business, as opposed to if you want to go on the third floor, you [just] can’t, even if you have a good rationale. At least, let’s give [businesses] the opportunity to give them the case.
[So basically] it’s a narrow issue about what happens in the code. [Currently] there are loopholes, unintended consequences. There is no rationale for distinguishing businesses wanting to apply.
ML: Similarly, there are concerns by merchants in the Valencia Street corridor about future incoming businesses on the street. Some are asking for a moratorium. Would you support one?
DC: [In reference to The Examiner article that ran this morning], The Examiner article raises a larger issue. And that’s what we are focusing on. We’re working with Supervisor Scott Wiener’s office because Valencia Street basically is shared by two supervisors. One [part] is District 9 and one is District 8. Whatever we do, we do it collectively, something that makes sense for both districts.
Some of things that have been raised, that we’ve been looking at including, are raised by some merchants. Some merchants in that corridor have asked for a moratorium. We are in discussion in my office and with Supervisor Wiener’s office about that, trying to figure out if that’s appropriate.
ML: Does the Merchant’s Association support a moratorium?
DC: To be honest, I don’t want to speak for them. That might be their position. Those conversations just started. There are merchants on Valencia Street that are saying we should have a restaurant moratorium.
ML: Would the moratorium apply to all business on Valencia Street? What is your opinion?
DC: [It would be for] restaurants only.
I haven’t taken a position yet. I would like to see what they have to say. I want to see where Supervisor Wiener is on this. Both are positions right now that we are open to what people have to say.
ML: Many people say that what the Mission needs is economic revitalization.
DC: I think it’s about striking the right balance. We want to see economic development, we want to see businesses in, but also helping businesses that are here.
The moratorium [would] not [be] a permanent one. That’s still being talked about. It’s temporary for a short period of time. It would depend on what [the legislation] looks like. Whenever you want to place a moratorium, there are plusses and minuses. It may or may not make sense.
I really want to hear more about what the benefits would be. And to talk about the negative, or the possible negative consequences in terms of keeping some businesses out. You have to weigh what.
ML: Have you spoken with Valencia Street merchants?
DC: We are having discussions and whatever happens will be based on community input, and the meetings will involve the community. Nothing is going to be decided [today].
Something else that has come up from time to time is abandoning formula retail [or chains]. Right now, the way it works, is that retail has to go through conditional use. [So] that is another issue that has been raised on Valencia Street. That will also be on the table. Should we change the current structure where formula retail goes into conditional use or [should we] have a complete ban on formula retail?
ML: The California Public Utilities Commission has served cease and desist order to three alternative car/ride sharing companies — Uber, Lyft, and Sidecar — under the premise that they are operating without proper licensing. Many cab companies are complaining that the three companies are unfair competition. What do you think?
DC: I haven’t heard of this case. I know there’s a company that serves the gay community.
ML: These companies operate on a donation-based fee. So they are not necessarily charging customers for rides. However the Commission says that these companies are required to meet certain requirements like insurance for drivers, for example.
DC: But from my perspective, I do believe in giving residents and consumers a choice. And I do think that we have to [accommodate for] all modes of transportation if you will.
I would like to know more about this. Is there a way to address the concerns that have been addressed by taxi companies and still allow these options for consumers?
I would be interested in seeing if there is a middle ground.
I think it’s good to provide that option to residents of the city. As the economy evolves, enterprise initiatives come out. We’re going to have discussions about whether or not … where they sit in the regulatory legal structure. I’m not convinced that the two are mutually exclusive. I’d like to explore ways in which there are legal ways of co-existence.
ML: Can you give us an update about free MUNI rides for low-income youth?
DC: We’re really optimistic about the program finally being approved and being implemented. There’s a vote on Tuesday Dec. 4 of the [Municipal Transportation Agency] Board of Directors where we’ll be voting on the spending plan that would allow for pilot program [to start] early next year.
The SF Board of Supervisors [sent a] clear message that we want to see program implemented and that it should be approved.
ML: The pilot program will happen early next year. In January?
DC: I don’t know that it will happen in January or what the exact date will be. We want to make sure it runs smoothly and that we have a good implementation plan in place.
ML: Where will the funding come from?
DC: The funding has come from different sources. Some from MUNI, some small funding from the school district. But the question has been … we recognize that for the program to be implemented, we need help from the region, from the [Metropolitan Transportation Commission]. What has happened is we finally got funding from [them].
ML: How long will the pilot program be in place?
DC: I think the goal here is that it will be a pilot that will last from whenever the start date is, early 2013, to the end of the school year in 2014.
One of the things that we are committed to working on, not only my office but the Mayor’s office is to find focused funding.
ML: What does a successful pilot program look like?
DC: The objective of the funds from MTC is to promote increased ridership in our public transit systems. We will be looking at whether or not that happened here. Will there be an increase in ridership?
You have to remember that what we have seen in the last couple of years is that the yellow school buses were cut in half and the price of fast pass has more than doubled.
[A few years ago,] 21,000 youth and children were paying for a fast pass. That number is now 10,000 on the Clipper card … it’s a significant decrease for those buying and paying.
It will be the first time [something like] this happens in San Francisco but also in the region. There are other jurisdictions looking at San Francisco to see how we do it. It’s another example of San Francisco leading the way on policy.
ML: This is our last conversation. Is there anything you would like our readers to know?
DC: We wish everyone a happy holiday season. We are gearing up for the next year and we’re very excited about what the next year will bring. We will be engaging the community, the neighborhood in terms of what are their priorities and setting up meetings throughout the neighborhood to continue to hear from them on what’s happening on the ground.