New Mission Theater Project Could Mean Big Changes For Mission Street

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Developers of the New Mission Theater, one of the most iconic buildings in the neighborhood, will seek permission from the city on Thursday to rehabilitate the dilapidated theater and construct more than 100 housing units next door.

“This is far and away the most impactful project that the Mission has seen in decades,” said Philip Lesser, a longtime Mission landlord and business consultant.

Oyster Development plans to demolish what is now the Giant Value building to make way for 114 market-rate housing units, 89 parking spaces and 14,750 square feet of retail space on the bottom floor.

Alamo Drafthouse plans to restore and convert the New Mission Theater into a five-screen, 600-seat theater, which will include a full service restaurant and bar. The original theater was built in 1910 and has been closed since 1993.

The San Francisco Planning Commission will consider both projects conjointly at its Thursday meeting – a significant milestone in the development process.

The project will not only leave a large footprint on the block — at 85-feet, it will become the second tallest building in the Mission — but it has the potential to attract new businesses, Lesser said.

Parking Issues

The New Mission Theater would be able to sit 600 people at full capacity, in addition to 500 more at Preservation Hall West, the Jazz venue slated to open later this Winter or early Spring. Those numbers are making business groups wonder what impact that influx of people would have on parking in the neighborhood.

Although the site of the proposed development is well served by transit — two BART stations, multiple Muni lines — the developer is asking for 89 parking spaces. That’s 29 more spaces than what the city desires for a transit-rich neighborhood.

“This is going to be the test: can we handle this level of intensification?” Lesser asked. “Will the 20-somethings, will the 30-somethings be willing to take a Manhattan lifestyle? This definitely will test the theory that the neighborhood can attract people (who can) live without having a vehicle.”

Mission Street In Transition 

Lesser, who is the president of the Business Improvement District on the block where the proposed project would be built, said he hopes the street can return to its glory days when it was known as the Mission Miracle Mile shopping district.

“There was a reason it was called the Mission Miracle Mile,” he said.”It brought a lot of activity to the corridor. What people have been seeing is a shell of what it was.”

That change has been evident over the last few months. Mission Street has seen a small influx of new shops and restaurants that were inspired by the success of Valencia Street, and the international accolades that Mission Chinese Food restaurant has received.

“What you are doing (with the development) is creating a substantial increase to the customer base for the neighborhood merchants,” Lesser, who is also an economist, said. “The number one thing a merchant wants is neighbors.”

Already some restaurant entrepreneurs have inquired about getting a space on the new development, Oyster Development president Dean Givas told Mission Local last year.

Whatever economic affects the development brings — if it gets built — won’t be felt until at least 12 to 18 months from now, when the projects are scheduled to be finished.

That hasn’t stopped other landlords on the street from working on restaurant projects of their own.

Robert Randles, for example, the owner of 2673-2675 Mission St., began the extensive permitting process to transform one of his storefront from retail space to restaurant even before finding a tenant.

“Tenants and neighbors have suggested — some have pleaded – that we find a tenant who will open a restaurant, since there is no full service restaurant open at dinner time on our block of Mission,” he told Mission Local last year.

At least two other landlords near 24th and Mission streets have signed temporarily leases with a gallery and a retailer, respectively, while they go through the permitting process.

Nidal Nazzal, who is part of the family that owns 2485-2491 Mission St., previously Mission Local that they are anticipating the opening of the new theater, and are in no hurry to sign a long-term lease.

“The old Mission Street stores have gone on for years, that’s phasing out,” he said.

Winner and Losers

The project has wide community support, but some worry about the impact it would have on existing businesses.

“I look at it as another nail in the coffin to the working class Latino immigrant community,” said Oscar Grande, the executive director of PODER, an environmental justice organization. “I am sure all the property owners are waiting to see what happens, but for the merchants there it’s a different story.”

Some struggling Mission Street merchants previously told Mission Local that landlords are giving them the cold-shoulder when it comes to signing a long-term lease.

The developer will dedicate a piece of land near Shotwell and Cesar Chavez streets to the Mayor’s Office on Housing to construct affordable housing to comply with the city’s affordable housing requirement.

Typically developers are required by law to dedicate 15 percent of their units to inclusionary housing or pay a fee that, once the project is completed, will go toward financing affordable housing elsewhere.

The idea behind the land dedication, which is unprecedented, is that the city can turn that land around and build up to 46 affordable housing units as opposed to settling for fewer units being built on-site.

Grande, who was among the nonprofits’ directors that negotiated the deal with the developer, said this would allow the city to have more say on how the affordable housing units are built.

“It’s better because you get more bang for your buck,” he said. “With off-site affordable housing units this also gives us more community control on how the development will happen. It means partnering with affordable housing developers, who would abide by local hiring, and hire union workers.”

However for Howard Ruy, the owner of Auto Smog & Oil Changers at 1296 Shotwell St., which is on the site of the would-be affordable housing building, was told by his landlord that he would have to leave the shop once the land is transferred to the city.

“It means I’m going to have to close shop,” he said. “Honestly I am just waiting for (the landlord) to call me to say ‘you have to move out.’”

52 Comments

  1. Eddie

    What this neighborhood desperately needs is affordable housing at both sites. A movie theatre is fine if the price is affordable and competitive with existing cinemas.

    Are other business besides the Auto Smog & Oil Changers being displaced by the development on Shotwell Street?

    • emoat

      “competitive with existing cinemas”
      What does this mean? They all have closed & are long ago gone – the Roxie is barely hanging on through donations.

      • Eddie

        I was referring to citywide. I’m not going to pay more to go to a movie at the new theatre than I pay at one of the AMC’s or Landmarks. That’s why I avoid the Sundance Kabuki unless the film is only playing there.

        I think a movie theatre (as well as affordable housing) would be a good addition to Mission Street. Only time will tell if this business model will work.

        • Old Mission Neighbor

          You don’t have to go. I, for one, will be going to this theater, just as I go to the Kabuki (when I can get tickets).

        • Ginger Beer

          Alamo is different. They’re known for having a no nonsense ideal that will force people that are obstructive out. It will be above market coming at a premium, but it is a premium experience.

      • Red Vic closed in 2011, the Clay barely escaped; the Bridge and the Lumiere both went in 2012.

        Alamo Drafthouse consistently wins polls of best theaters in the country. i couldn’t be happier to have them in SF.

  2. Jay

    While this does need to done carefully and I would like to see a bunch of BMR units in those development plans, this does need to be done. That building has been sitting there like a rotting corpse on Mission St. for years. And I’m super excited about Preservation Hall West.

  3. Joe Wiley

    The gold rush mentality is back in full. Just like it was in the late 90′s, I don’t know if it’s really worth sticking around for this again.

  4. luchagrande

    In addition to being a “business consultant”, president of the Mission Miracle Mile BID, and “economist”, I believe Phil Lesser is also a large Mission property and has made his home out in the Peninsula for many years.

    • SF Resident

      Phil Lesser was born and raised in the Mission. His grandfather was a member of the Mission Merchant’s Association. He and his family work hard and are successful.

    • Rigoberto Hernandez Post author

      Hi Oscar,

      You’re right, Philip Lesser lives in San Mateo and is indeed a property owner. I knew that, but I made the error because I am used to writing “longtime Mission resident” as an identifier. I’ve changed the paragraph to reflect that. Best, RH.

  5. two beers

    “Tenants and neighbors have suggested — some have pleaded – that we find a tenant who will open a restaurant, since there is no full service restaurant open at dinner time on our block of Mission,” he told Mission Local last year.

    Yeah, because it sucks having to walk one block over where there are restaurants in every store front.

    Can we just make it mandatory already that only restaurants will be permitted to operate in the Mission, and that only rich white techies can live here?

    • Mark

      The economic, cultural and lifestyle benefits of this project will certainly benefit the young, wealthy immigrants. It will tighten the noose around our stressed Latin and low income community whose existence gives the Mission its soul, a link to the wider world. My Latin and lower income friends are certain that in less than decade, most of them will be forced to relocate to East Oakland, and with them, will go our cobblers, our tailors, our florists, hair salons, produce markets, panaderias, all the small tiendas that make this place welcoming and safe for our community.

      • e001

        Sorry Mark but the place you describe sounds more like Sesame Street than the Mission. There is a lot that needs to change and there is no reason why existing small businesses can’t profit from the improvements and increased customer base.

  6. Eddie

    I walked by the two sites earlier today. First, the Mission Street development site is on the 2500 block (between 21st and 22nd Streets) and already has at least two restaurants that are open at night, Foreign Cinema and Lolinda.

    Second, the site at Shotwell and Cesar Chavez presently has at least one (maybe more, depending on the property line) light industrial auto repair shop. Has the City included potential hazardous waste remediation costs in their development plan? Otherwise, will the number of units have to be reduced or the income affordability guidelines raised?

    Finally, Lesser’s comment, “this definitely will test the theory that the neighborhood can attract people [who can] live without having a vehicle,” actually refers to replacing existing working class residents without cars with wealthier ones without cars. We already know the neighborhood attracts people without cars–they are already here and have been for many generations.

    • “Lesser’s comment, “this definitely will test the theory that the neighborhood can attract people [who can] live without having a vehicle,” actually refers to replacing existing working class residents without cars with wealthier ones without cars. We already know the neighborhood attracts people without cars–they are already here and have been for many generations.”

      Great point.

  7. Bob

    This great news for the neighborhood. We need about 20 more of these projects to help increase the supply of housing near transit hubs in the Mission.

    • nimby

      If you want to live in Manhattan there’s a flight leaving every hour.

      No need to ruin our City.

      There’s an old saying here in SF “the City was better before you got here”. Never truer than it is today.

      • Jay

        “Nimby” is definitely an appropriate handle given your comment. People like you have always existed – harkening back to the “golden age” of when things were better. What a joke. SF will always be SF, so quit freaking. In 10 years, someone in that new development will be complaining about the NEXT new development and how things used to be better, yadda yadda yadda. Change happens – deal.

      • I only moved here 25 years ago so that saying may precede me. At any rate, I don’t see it to be true.

        When I moved to SF SOMA was basically a slum filled with chop shops, the Embarcadero Freeway was a blight hanging over the Embarcadero, getting around on bicycle meant taking your life in your hands — hell, Valencia was four lanes of speeding traffic with parking down the center as well as on the sides. The homeless had set up an encampment right outside of City Hall — and it dwarfed the recent Occupy encampments.

        This is my 20th year in my current Mission apartment and on the whole things have gotten much better in the city and in the Mission which is why the wealthy are flocking here in droves. Because its a desirable place to live.

        • nimby

          Actually I think it’s an old Native American saying but I could be wrong. Herb Caen used to like to write that they were telling him that the day he arrived in town.

        • Dave

          Yes….Valencia St was four lanesof speeding traffic.

          The city fixed the problem. I wish that they would fix South Van Ness’ traffic mess (safety issue) as well.

      • Bob

        Typical rude, fearful NIMBY comment.

        • nimby

          Twenty eighty-five foot dormitories with upscale finishes to supersize the post-collegiate frat party raging outside my door. Yes Bob, I’m afeared.
          How can an old man like me possibly keep up with hosing all those delish small plates and inventive cocktails off the sidewalk. I’ll probably have a heart attack.
          At least I won’t ever have to think about crossing over to the sunny side of the street when I walk down Mission. See every cloud has a silver lining.

  8. nimby

    Your comment is awaiting moderation.
    If you verify your address your comment will be approved immediately. Instructions have been sent to you by e-mail.

    If you want to live in Manhattan there’s a flight leaving every hour.

    No need to ruin our City.

    There’s an old saying here in SF “the City was better before you got here”. Never truer than it is today.

  9. Eddie

    Philip Lesser is a registered lobbyist according to the San Francisco Ethics Commission:

    http://system.netfile.com/Sunlight/sf/Lobbyist/Details/2012/4/SFO-112424

    The author of the article may not have known this information.

    • Rigoberto Hernandez Post author

      Actually I was aware of this, and I linked to the same page you are linking to on the second graph under ‘business consultant.” Thanks for reading. Best, RH.

      • FYI

        Actually he is a permit expediter.

        I think we all know what they do.

      • FYI

        What I really like about his lobbying statement is even though he reported receiving a substantial amount of money he didn’t spend nickel one in expenses in all of 2012 on any of his “activities”. 100% of his money goes right into peoples pockets. Now that’s cool.

      • FYI

        Wow, this guy is good. He took in close to $50,000.00 in 2012 spent $0.00 on behalf of his clients and had only one single contact with a public official in the entire year.

        If he’s really an economist I sure hope he’s one of them trickle down kind of guys.

    • meatsack

      Oh eddie, your surge in posting at various local web pages over the last few months is so entertaining.

      The SF ethics commission is a joke. It’s laws around lobbyists is a laugh that the only people not in on are you progressives.

  10. Ramon

    Next stop: 24th Street.

  11. marcos

    If the nonprofits had an actual base in the community, they would organize the Mission towards self determination on development issues. But many of them do not live in the Mission, have been at this for years if not decades, and have managed to achieve little more than negotiate away the Mission to developers. My read is that the nonprofits do not get a seat at the table to negotiate crumbs if they organize their claimed base to go for half of a loaf.

    Combine this with Yet Another Sell Out of the sustainable transit tribe of nonprofits by the social justice nonprofit tribe, 3:4 parking in a neighborhood commercial transit oriented upzoned district, and we have another data point on how the nonprofit tribes are played against one another by developers for their benefit with all negative outcomes outsourced to existing San Franciscans. We have to weigh those affordable units against the hours of ongoing delay that tens of thousands of Muni riding San Franciscans will see for the duration. Solidarity is a two-way street and these leftie nonprofits would not know it if it bit them in the cadre, it is all reduced to them getting something for theirs irrespective of and with contempt for the costs to their allies.

    These nonprofits have been at it for some time. Their rate of accomplishment is less than the rate of accomplishment by the developers. At this rate, it is but a matter of time before the neighborhood is nothing but a landing pad for itinerant tech workers that the speculative boom puts through the meat grinder with 70 hour weeks before they burn out and return to whatever suburb they came from. So long as there is the nonprofits and their paid staff are not held accountable for their consistent inability to deliver, we are guaranteed to see political loss pile upon political loss.

    The major crime here is leaving a decisive weapon on the table in a fight to the death. That weapon is the strength of the community, “social capital,” that makes the Mission what it is. All it would take is for the nonprofits to cast the net wide, to organize and mobilize the community to demand self determination instead of being beat about like a rag doll for speculative real estate developers. They did this 13 years ago with limited success. It is time to dust off those organizing techniques and build anew. The only question is whether their prejudicial contempt for anyone who is not an poor person of color prevents them from organizing the kind of broad coalition of the un-rich required to stop this development insanity.

    The nonprofits share a contempt for San Franciscans with the Planning Department and the developers. Those are the only three interests allowed at the table. San Franciscans need not apply.

  12. CRS

    It’d be great if the Planning Commission and others in City admin treated cars as a reality rather than something to attack and eliminate at all costs.

    The issue is not that folks won’t own a car, but that they won’t drive it often.

    In the Mission at all times of the day, evening and night after the shops and restaurants close cars are parked bumper to bumper curbside. So I find it difficult to accept the statement that the Mission’s current population of “working class people don’t have cars.”
    They do; there is no place to put them except for parked along the street because a lot of houses lack a garage.

    On another note, I do welcome these developments, but didn’t we recently complete a rezoning effort, and wasn’t 5 storeys the rezoned height for Mission Street?
    Did this project get an exemption?
    Or did Mission Street get re-re-zoned?
    Or what?

    • Eddie

      I wasn’t referring to all Mission residents as not having cars; some do, some don’t. But there is no need to speculate if the Mission can attract residents without cars, as Lesser states in the article, because there have been many residents here without cars throughout the entire history of the neighborhood.

    • marcos

      Mission Street got rezoned in 2008. The Planning Department tried to rezone Mission up to 85′. But Aaron Peskin’s last good planning move was to hold that in abeyance pending further study. It turns out that there was a “printing error” in the legal documents send over by Planning that allowed one parcel and one parcel only to get the 85′ height, and that just happened to be a parcel owned by Gus Murad.

      http://sf.curbed.com/archives/2009/04/23/condogate_still_85_feet_after_a_stay_of_execution.php

  13. Bob

    This project looks great. I’ll never understand why some people will fight to keep parts of the Mission run down.

  14. Mari

    The ONLY BIG problem with creating “affordable housing” is the PEOPLE who will live there and therefore impact the street!..
    I’m so sorry to say this but I live in a Tax Credit building for low income and although MOST of the people are great there is always PROBLEMS with GANGS AND DRUGS. It seems that usually affordable housing projects bring people that are problematic!! believe me! I live in one and having so many of these projects with unfortunately people who are very poor (and some due to this with problems on their own, most of the youth go to public high schools which are terrible and most of them are gangs) every single child that got older and went to a public high school here always turned out to be involved in gangs or something (from experience!). Now imagine putting a THEATHER next to them? I really wish they would live the PROJECTS or buildings of SORT somewhere Else! please! we want a safe Mission.

  15. Mari

    HAVING UNITS MADE FOR THE POOR (WHICH USUALLY BRINGS AT LEAST %10 TO BE PEOPLE WITH PROBLEMS LIKE DRUGS OR GANGS) AND NEXT TO A THEATER IS NOT SOMETHING I WOULD LIKE TO SEE ON THE MAIN STREET OF MISSION. YOU’RE JUST CALLING FOR A BUNCH OF GANGS TO BE HANGING AROUND THERE ALLL DAY!

  16. Tata

    I’d take condos over a Giant Value, a functioning cinema over an abandoned one, a miracle mile over a mile of tawdry warehouses stocked with cheap Chinese imports. A long view of the Mission’s demographic history includes the Ohlone, Irish, German, Polish as well as Latino. I love the character of the neighborhood, but in a vibrant city, neighborhoods change over time. Why cling to the past? The most you can do is manage the pace of change.

  17. marcos

    Can we please impose the death penalty for anyone using the word “vibrant” to describe the Mission? In plannerese that means more people than were there previously but with more disposable income.

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