A coffee shop, a wine bar, and a home décor space featuring salvage yard treasures — all are coming to town. Yep, as the song goes, it’s beginning to sound a lot like Christmas.

Jonathan Siegel, owner of the upcoming Viracocha Creation Factory, a furniture store at Valencia and 21st streets, said, “The philosophy behind it is to utilize and give rebirth to things that already exist.”

The same could be said for what is springing up throughout the vacant storefronts lining Valencia Street. And in that spirit, Mission Local invites readers to Build a Block to fill in the remaining vacancies and to have a conversation about what the neighborhood needs, wants, can’t live without. For those that are listed as soon-to-bes, are you happy with what is going in or is already there? Any advice for the new owners?

The extensive work that went into this was funded by a campaign through Spot.Us.

Here are the blocks to build: 400 Block between 15th and 16th, 500 Block between 16th and 17th; 600 Block, 17th and 18th; 700 Block 18 and 19th; 800 Block, 19th and 20th; 900 Block, 20 and 21st; 1000 Block, 21 and 22nd; 1100, 22nd and 23rd; 1200 Block between 23rd and 24th; 1300 Block, 24th and 25th; 1400 Block, 25th and 26th.  All of these are linked at the end of the update again and on the Build a Block page. Enjoy.

The update:

During the four months since Mission Local’s last Valencia update, three storefronts have become vacant and six are now available for rent or for sale. Meanwhile, another five vacancies from the last map have been leased and three of the soon-to-bes have either opened or will open this month.

One storefront that has sat idle for the last 10 years – the old window shop at 1169 Valencia St. near 23rd Street – is close to being sold.

“One more hurdle and you’ll soon see a ‘Sold’ sign up,” said Don Jose Barrelier, the real estate broker.

The stories behind many of the vacant storefronts show that finalizing the paperwork on a property is only part of the battle. Fully three storefronts are waiting for final permits to open their doors.

Grub and the Little Sparrow – soon to be restaurants in the 700 and 400 block of Valencia – sit pretty as their alcohol licenses get processed, according to the notice on their doors. The only novelty at the former is a little welcome note: Hooray 4 Yuppies!

Zaytoon Mediterranean Ways is one of two empty storefronts near 22nd Street across from the City College of San Francisco’s Mission campus. It’s been caught in a building inspection limbo since 2008, when the first permit was issued for restaurant remodel and kitchen revisions.

“It’s been a real drag,” said Susan Quarterman from Bay West Property Management. “It’ll open as soon as the building department gives them the okay.”

The Department of Building Inspection has demanded a lot of corrections to the property, from a permit filed on Jul. 3, 2009 to revise the previous permit and install a full restaurant hood system, to the last one filed on Sept. 3 for fire sprinklers.

The holdup in permit processing doesn’t always happen with the Department of Building Inspection, said William Strawn, the department’s communications manager. In the case of safety issues, other agency reviews are required and a permit can get stalled with the fire or planning department.

“We haven’t had as much demand for permit processing like we’ve had in good economic times,” added Strawn, “especially if it’s a restaurant type of facility.”

Next door, there’s the promise of more food.

Since January, the reflection of the Mission Campus’ Aztec calendar was the only thing that could be seen through the windows of the vacant space at 1132 Valencia St.

The owner had originally intended to rent the property for $4 a sq. ft., but recently settled for $2.50 per sq. ft.

The For Rent sign was pulled only two weeks ago and the new renter plans to open a crepe restaurant.

Borderland Books will unveil a new 1,500 sq. ft. coffee shop at 870 Valencia St. on Dec. 18. In its previous life, the space was an upholstery shop that was left in bad condition.

“We’ve totally revamped the space,” said Jude Feldman, the store’s manager. “We did all the work that needed to be done ourselves.”

A block away, one can see artisan and 16th Street poet Jonathan Siegel at 998 Valencia St. assembling the stuff he gathers from salvage yards to recreate what will be the home décor store by day. By night, the 3,600 sq. ft Viracocha Creation Factory will become a performance space for musicians and artists.

Inside Viracocha Creation Factory at 998 Valencia St.
Inside Viracocha Creation Factory at 998 Valencia St.

“In a way this is for me a glorified garage sale with the intent to keep replenishing the space,” said Siegel. He signed a 10-year lease two months ago and expects to hold his first event on New Year’s Eve.

After four years of being empty, the three spots at 1270 Valencia St. will soon be occupied. An artsy wine bar will open within the next month, featuring work from local artists as well as film screenings.

The antique store Gypsy Honeymoon will move in next door from its original location on 24th and Guerrero while Arizmendi Bakery will set up shop at the remaining space in a few months, according to Ron Mallia, the property’s owner.

Meanwhile, a handful of properties sit empty and unavailable.

The Charles Phan promise continues to be just that, a promise. His three adjacent properties on the 500 block of Valencia Street remain vacant as the Slanted Door proprietor opens restaurants in other parts of the city. Although he intends to open a restaurant “soon” at this location, he said recently that he hasn’t because of permits. In the meantime, one of the spaces at 584 Valencia St. is now a private gallery of one artist. It’s open by appointment.

Construction has begun at La Rondalla Restaurat at 901 Valencia St.
Construction has begun at La Rondalla Restaurat at 901 Valencia St.

La Rondalla restaurant, closed since 2008, is now being remodeled. It won’t reopen for another eight months, said the owner Carlos Barrios.

The owner at 657 Valencia St., near 17th, has pulled her property off the market, despite receiving offers from contractors and developers willing to buy and fix up the fire-damaged space.

“She wouldn’t sell it even if she were offered a million dollars,” real estate agent Mark Kaplan said of the building’s owner.

Although Kaplan said the owner could probably sell the property for $600,000 as is, she has decided to instead shop for a loan to fix it up herself and make it available for rent in February.

Kaplan admits that the price is high, but pointed out that financing is finally becoming available. “It’s a matter of time,” he said, before the commercial market begins to recover in the footsteps of the housing market.

This might explain why the biggest change along Valencia Street could be the eight new flats now up for grabs at 1495 Valencia St. That, and the 17 housing units coming onto the market on the 700 block in the next few months.

Six of the residences at 1495 Valencia St. were open for contract on Nov. 20th. A two-bedroom, two-bathroom flat has already been sold for $739,000 and an offer was made on another – the asking price $899,000.

View of Valencia Street from one of the flats at 1495 Valencia St.
View of Valencia Street from one of the flats at 1495 Valencia St.

The mixed-unit building comes equipped with a 1,000 square foot commercial space that will open as a vintage clothing store in January of 2010, according to Frank Nolan, the prim and proper sales associate who was hosting an open house one recent Sunday afternoon. The asking price was $400,000.

One block north near 25th Street, however, the lights have been out at 1380 Valencia St. for the first time since 1975. In the last two months an escrow company and an acupuncturist have considered it, but no one has made an offer.

“We get a lot of interest but no action,” said Jim, who declined to give his last name, but said he owned the office space.

The offices at 455 and 475 Valencia near 16th Street were also recently vacated when the Chinese healing center at 455 lost a portion of it’s funding and had to move to a smaller space. The printing company at 475 simply went out of business.

“We’ve had quite a few interests,” said George Johnson from West Coast Property Management of 475 Valencia St. “It takes just the right person.”

Barrelier, the real estate agent for the neglected window shop at 1169 Valencia St., agreed.

The shop went up for sale when the previous owner’s wife passed away two years ago. Since then, Barrelier has had four accepted offers.

“One by one they failed,” he said.

The old window shop at 1169 Valencia St.
The old window shop at 1169 Valencia St.

The storefront has been in such bad condition that until recently, few buyers cared to knock at its door, he said. A mess of wood panels in various sizes could be seen through the opaque windows, scarcely reminiscent of what the shop once was.

When the previous owner passed 10 years ago, his wife decided not to do anything with the shop.

The initial offers failed because the commercial space is part of a mixed-use development that includes housing units. Potential owners couldn’t work out deals with tenants and one developer even attempted – unsuccessfully – to pay the tenants to move.

Banks want a buyer to put a 40 percent down payment, which at an asking price of $750,000, comes to $300,000.

“It put an end to the discussion,” said Barrelier. “The most likely buyer will be an all-cash buyer who can pay a 40 percent down payment.”

One such buyer has stepped up to the plate and plans to start a software company.

“It should become a bagel shop,” said Barrelier jokingly as he passed a broom from side to side outside the storefront.

Click below for a link to the map:

Here are the blocks to build:
400 Block, between 15th and 16th,
500 Block, between 16th and 17th;
600 Block, 17th and 18th;
700 Block, 18th and 19th;
800 Block, 19th and 20th;
900 Block, 20th and 21st;
1000 Block, 21st and 22nd;
1100 Block, 22nd and 23rd;
1200 Block, 23rd and 24th;
1300 Block, 24th and 25th;
1400 Block, 25th and 26th.

Thank you to all of our funders:
Jan Masaoka, Angelo Fernando, Tanja Aitamurto, Daniel Egnor, Ariel Vardi, Mark Rabine, Francisco Barradas, Megan Casey, Mission Dwellers, Leef Smith, Lila LaHood, Steve Gifford, Jennifer Roberts, Tori Tuncan, Seth Benton, Kara Andrade, Pepper Mint, Ken Ott, Chris Sacca, and especially to David Cohn at Spot.Us who is tireless in promoting good journalism.

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Housing, property, and space in general are prized commodities, especially in San Francisco. Nancy López gets to cover the stories that inevitably grow out of the cracks in the vacant storefronts, aging buildings and limited affordable housing - to name a few of the issues - found throughout the Mission District. She welcomes any story ideas readers may have.

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  1. So many great suggestions and I agree with Skim and others that for such a diverse neighborhood there is much to be desired in terms of store-diversification on Valencia…

    How many coffee shops and boutique clothing stores can Valencia support?

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  2. I wanted to second a few of Toby’s suggestions:

    A diverse delicatessen with sit-down space

    An art supply shop for all the Mission artists and artists to be (OR, better yet, a branch of castro’s Cliff’s Variety Store… with art supplies and sundries)

    and add my own observation, which is that we need a

    COPY STORE. An independent version of Kinko’s that can take care of printing, internet, fax, copies, and related tasks. Failing that, a Kinko’s would be fine.

    As far as a musical instrument store, it would be great to have a local joint for guitar strings, kazoos, and drumsticks. It does seem like this can be hard to support vs. Guitar center, but music lessons could perhaps sustain the business, maybe in conjunction with Mission Cultural Center or Loco Bloco.

    A while ago I wondered if a website existed that could match up vacant properties, prospective business owners, and community interests. Does that website exist? Is this it?

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  3. Dear Nancy,
    What a great article. In 2002 I wrote an article for the New Mission News re. Mission Street needs in terms of shops. These were listed based on a negative analysis of what was not there and are following. The thoughts could also apply to Valencia. And pessimistically speaking, not much has changed in 8 years. Toby Levine

    The Future
    Having gone through a highly speculative several years which did considerable damage to residents, businesses and non profits and considering that San Francisco is in a recession, there is an opportunity to think about how we would like our favorite shopping street to change…to become more diverse and more satisfying. Right now, there is considerable repetition in the types of shopping available. So how about looking at what doesn’t exist on Mission Street right now. (Think of the whole length of the street).

    Rehearsal studios (needs parking, though)
    Musical Instrument Shop (though the pawn shops have lots)
    A diverse delicatessen with sit-down space
    Health club and gym which could benefit the energetic youth
    A juice bar combined with an organic produce market
    A really good ice cream store…like Mitchell’s or St. Francis
    A combined and well-supplied baby, children’s and toy store…like the old
    An art supply shop for all the Mission artists and artists to be
    A really good chocolate and candy shop (we used to have a See’s)
    More late night dining and clubs where people can dance
    An elegant establishment for weddings, parties, anniversaries, retirement

    The whole article is available if any reader is interested.
    from tobylevine@earthlink.net

    dinners and family festivities
    A title company…sounds boring, but we don’t have one
    A theater for musical and dramatic productions
    Do we need a cyber café? An office supply store?
    More housing on Mission Street above the stores…there is plenty of opportunity
    A store featuring crafts from around the world such as the Global Exchange
    on 24th Street

    And you can add your own suggestions to the list. With this list and others, it would not take long for our 39 vacant store fronts and other mixed use buildings to be filled which in turn would bring considerable employment.

    Activists in the Mission are currently making an effort to plan the neighborhood in a more rational manner in order to prevent the displacement of residents, businesses and nonprofits that occurred over the past few years. The crux of this planning process is to figure out how an economically diverse neighborhood can be maintained so that no one is forced out due to speculation and displacement. And yet, at the same time, not be afraid of change or of trying new ideas, products, innovative businesses. Residents and businesses who are concerned about the future of the Mission neighborhood need to become involved with this planning process. To do that, you should work with your local neighborhood organization, or with your local business association and keep abreast of the discussions. For further information and/or providing your imput and ideas, you may contact

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  4. i am a small business owner currently outgrowing my space at 18th and treat, and could totally see our new clinic on valencia. there are a lot of great restaurants, shops and studios, but what about a group of young, educated therapists that keep it real and help to take care of our community?

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  5. why not a library outlet–a non-profit still pays rent or purchases their facility–perhaps could get municipal contribution for the building or even a grant for the purchase–the library could also offer free paperback book exchange–it could also be entirely self-service too–talk to a nearby library 🙂

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  6. digidave, calais – there’s Aquarius records in between 21st and 22nd, which has some awesome finds (a double LP of Iranian 60’s psychedelic garage rock comes to mind, also Algerian proto-rai) but it’d be good to see more.

    For instruments, there WAS Lark in the Morning, which kinda cleared out overnight maybe a month or two ago. Agreed a music gear shop is one thing that’s sorely lacking.

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  7. Well it’s a damn good thing that the Mission hipsters and hippies kept the evil American Apparel and Slanted Door out. I’d much rather look at tons of vacant store fronts covered in graffiti and garbage than have a socially conscious business that provides jobs and services for the community. What we need are more taquerias to supplement the 5 bigillion already in the neighborhood.

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  8. a music store is a cool idea. preferably one that dealt with gear, too. that’s unfortunately all priced out by online retail situation for music gear, which is basically a monopoly. i miss browsing instruments.

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  9. American Apparel “the most socially conscious and righteous retail chain that exists today.”

    Wait – is that the store that uses images that border close to kiddy porn? Socially conscious?

    Back to the point though: I’d like to see a music store. There used to be a record store on Valencia and Duboce – it shut down a year or so ago. There is still a record store on Market and Gough(ish) – but it’s almost TOO indy.

    I’m not looking for much – not Amoeba sized.

    Is it there and I’m missing it?

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  10. who would want to even try to move a business onto valencia st? american apparel, perhaps the most socially conscious and righteous retail chain that exists today, was chased out of the area by $6 coffee drinking spoiled brats (hi, ritual!) all those interloping hipsters could turn on your business at any moment.

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