Editor’s note: This is one of a biweekly series of conversations with District 9 Supervisor David Campos addressing issues and events in the Mission. If you have questions you would like Mission Local to ask Campos, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mission Local: Will you tell us about the new legislation that you and Supervisor Scott Wiener recently introduced regarding alcohol permits for Mission district businesses? What changes in terms of liquor licenses should we expect if this law is implemented?
David Campos: There are special use districts around the city, and the Mission is the only special use district that does not allow for transfer of licenses within the district. By not allowing [businesses] to transfer [alcohol] licenses to somebody else within the district, it forces some people to hold on to licenses even if they may not want to do that. It keeps new players from coming in.
By allowing the transfer [we] keep that same number of licenses that are in place, but we’re allowing people who want to go out of business [to] be able to transfer those licenses to somebody else who wants to come in. It actually allows us to even have better management and regulations of new people because you could update the requirements that they have to comply with.
ML: So you do not anticipate an increase in the number of bars or liquor stores in the district?
DC: Right. In fact, I think there probably are going to be a number of players that maybe we don’t want to be in business that will probably go away because they no longer have to hold on to this license and they can give it to somebody else who might end up being a more responsible player, if you will.
ML: Another part of the legislation would mean that anyone who wants to open a new restaurant on Valencia in a retail space has to go through the planning commission and get a conditional use permit. Is that right?
DC: No….There were conversations around having a moratorium on restaurants on Valencia, but we decided against that. Instead, this is a very modest change designed to protect what we believe is a real concern that many people have, which is the loss of retail on Valencia. If you have a retail business that goes out of business and there is someone other than retail or restaurant that wants to come in, then they do have to go through a conditional use.
They might still be approved, but it’s really a way of protecting retail businesses. If a new restaurant wants to go into a space where there was a restaurant already they don’t have to do anything through a conditional use. So, it was a modest way of taking some steps to protect retail without limiting the number of restaurants that are coming in.
ML: What are the scenarios in which the planning commission would and would not approve a new restaurant?
DC: Let’s say that if there is a restaurant that wants to come into a space that is currently held by a retail establishment, they would to go through a conditional use approval. At that point the planning commission would have a hearing to discuss the application and I imagine one of the issues that will be discussed will be, “Are there too many restaurants on this block?” What planning will do in that case depends. It’s up to [the Planning Commission]. What we wanted to do was not to have an outright prohibition, but to have a process for the community to be heard.
ML: How long does that process generally take to go through the planning commission to get that permit?
DC: In terms of a conditional use it probably takes an additional few weeks.
ML: Is there another important piece of the proposal that people should know about?
DC: One of the things that was prohibited before was that if you wanted to open a grocery smaller than 5,000 square feet, [you couldn’t] sell wine and beer. The law only allowed big supermarkets to do that. This will allow for that possibility….through a conditional use. It would allow for the opening of smaller supermarkets in some parts of the neighborhood.
ML: On another topic, you have been vocal about supporting LGBT rights as part of national immigration reform. Do you think that there should be a separate bill or do you think it should be within the immigration bill?
DC: I think that it’s something that should be included in the comprehensive bill. We want to see comprehensive immigration reform that includes everyone. Unfortunately, what came out of the Senate and what has been forwarded to the full Senate does not include the LGBT community in it.
The fact is anyone who is in a loving, committed relationship should be allowed to apply on behalf of their partner to allow them to stay in the country with them. Right now there are thousands of couples that are split apart because of this discriminatory law that doesn’t allow that to happen. I think that we should be included in whatever reform is passed by the Senate. There is no justification to leave out the LGBT community other than homophobia, and I think it’s wrong.
ML: Do you have any concerns that these type of provisions for same sex couples in the immigration bill would hold it up, make it fail?
DC: I think it’s a false choice that you have to choose comprehensive immigration reform or leave out same-sex couples. The idea that somehow if the LGBT community is included it will mean the death of immigration reform—I just don’t buy that. I have yet to hear a good argument other than “people who don’t like the LGBT community won’t vote for immigration reform if you include it.” I don’t think that’s a good reason to not include it.
ML: Mission Local is covering the financial struggles that the bar Esta Noche is currently going through. The situation is related to a new billing process for businesses in San Francisco, but some people are saying that the bar is a victim of gentrification. What are your thoughts on that?
DC: I think that it’s been a challenge for many businesses like Esta Noche to remain open and to be successful, and certainly gentrification is part of that. At the same time I think the situation was compounded by a change in the law that requires payments be made at once. We certainly believe that the law should be changed and we’re exploring ways of doing that.
ML: Switching topics, the theme of this year’s Carnaval was “Harlem Shake.” Have you ever been in a Harlem Shake video?
DC: No, I haven’t.
ML: Would you be willing to be in one at Carnaval, if they film one at the event?
DC: I might be open to it, yeah.
ML: What’s your favorite part of Carnaval?
DC: I love the costumes. I think the costumes are just incredible.