By NICHOLAS KUSNETZ
District 9 Supervisor David Campos is keeping his silence on American Apparel’s bid for a Mission location, even as another protest is set for Monday night at the Amnesia Bar. Supervisor Bevan Dufty of District 8 said he isn’t keen on the idea of chain stores taking over the Mission District, but refrained from taking an official position.
“I have zero desire to see San Francisco look like Phoenix,” he said. “I think people can look at my record as a supervisor and see that I believe strongly in the importance of neighborhoods being able to determine the character of their commercial districts.”
That may sound like a no, but Dufty said that if he took an official position, he’d have to recuse himself from a vote if the application comes before the Board of Supervisors because the process of getting approval is semi-judicial.
Any chain store seeking a location in the Mission District must request a conditional use application. The planning commission will hear American Apparel’s application on Thursday. If the request is approved, community members can appeal the decision to the Board, which could overturn the earlier decision.
Campos’s office did not respond to requests for comment, leaving his position open to speculation. Dufty said he expects Campos will oppose the matter if it comes before the Board and played down his silence.
“Knowing David, I think he would support a neighborhood’s right to determine its character,” Dufty said. “But I think that David’s also a lawyer and I think he’s probably been advised as well that he has to be cautious.”
Campos’s predecessor, Tom Ammiano, had been at work on legislation banning chain stores from certain areas, including this stretch of Valencia, before being elected to the state assembly last November. And he thinks that work will continue.
“I do believe [Campos] is going to follow through,” he said, while cautioning that he doesn’t want to speak for the supervisor. Ammiano said it’s common that a supervisor would stay quiet on such an issue until a vote comes, to avoid the conflict mentioned by Dufty.
Eric Quezada, a community activist who ran against Campos in the race for supervisor last year, echoed the elected officials’ comments.
“This isn’t a huge issue that he has to take a stand on,” he said. “It would be nice to know what his position is, but we don’t need to vilify him for not having a strong position on it.”
Quezada opposes the bid but said the debate is missing the point on the larger issue of gentrification and displacement in the neighborhood. American Apparel might be more likely to employ young locals, he said, and would probably have more affordable clothing than many of the neighborhood’s boutiques. That doesn’t mean he’s willing to waver from his anti-chain position, though.
We’ve reported on the mixed reactions within the neighborhood to the hipster chain’s possible arrival in San Francisco’s hipster-central. Those against the move have been much louder, with a Saturday morning rally organized by Pirate Cat Radio preceding Monday night’s protest. Dufty said he has received more than 200 letters expressing concerns about the proposal and fewer than five in favor of it.
Dufty said he was surprised American Apparel didn’t see the opposition coming. He said he spoke with the company months ago and gave advice about how to proceed if they were interested in working with the community, including talking with people in the neighborhood.
“In the months that have followed, I’ve never been contacted again by them,” he said. “And I really haven’t seen any evidence that they’ve done any of the things I’ve suggested to them.”