About a week ago, the For Rent signs at Discolandia came down and sheets of brown paper lined the empty store’s windows.

On Tuesday, the building’s possible future tenant contacted Mission Loc@l after reading our article on the fate of the store’s beloved sign. “I’m somewhat surprised at people concerned about conserving the sign,” he said.

The potential tenant, a Mission resident who asked that his name be withheld, said he signed the lease nearly two weeks ago and is in the early stages of planning; he wouldn’t disclose the type of business that might occupy the space.

He will apply for a conditional use permit, meaning the business he’s hoping to open on 24th Street isn’t automatically allowed in this zoning district but may still open after the tenant goes through several steps, including sending out neighborhood notifications and undergoing a public hearing before the Planning Commission. The business must also be deemed “necessary and desirable to the neighborhood” in order to get a permit.

Some of the types of businesses listed on the planning site as conditional use along the 24th Street Mission corridor include: full-service restaurants, small self-service restaurants, massage establishments, video stores, establishments that provide live entertainment (other than adult entertainment), dance halls, billiard parlors, and tobacco paraphernalia establishments.

For now, the possible tenant has come up with a couple of options for Discolandia’s two signs (“Discolandia” on the storefront and “Records” above the roof). One is changing the sign that says “Records” to reflect the new business.

Another is changing the word “Disco” and keeping the “landia.”

“We like the way the exterior is, and we prefer not to do much to it,” he said. “But we obviously want to make the sign something about us instead of the business that used to be there.”

This second type of modification is legal, said Daniel Sider, assistant to the Planning Department’s zoning administrator, as long as the sign still fits within the area allowed per building for wall signage.

But the “Records” sign may have to come down altogether, said Ozzie Taeb with the city’s Planning Information Center. Signs that hang perpendicular to a building cannot be larger than 6 feet, 6 inches or hang above roof lines, according to current regulations. After eyeing the sign online, Taeb said it appears to violate the law. Unless it was properly permitted when it was first put up in the 1970s, it must go. This will come to light when new building permits are issued.

But even if, say, he wanted to keep the “Records” sign, the new tenant wouldn’t be able to, said Sider. Leaving it as is would be illegal under the planning codes.

“The sign about records directs attention to a store that sells records. Now that the store’s closed, it’s an abandoned sign that has to be removed.”

A similar and controversial case about an old Coca-Cola sign in Bernal Heights has gotten the attention of city officials. Partly in response to that case, Supervisor David Campos recently introduced a piece of legislation that would allow such signs, which would otherwise be classified as illegal, to remain.

The legislation must go through several stages before it’s enacted, however, and could take another five months, Sider said.

Perhaps by that time, the new tenant will be closer to moving in to the old Discolandia.

But the hopes of keeping the sign up in its entirety depend on someone making a case for historic preservation. For this to happen, a sign typically must be more than 50 years old, and the Discolandia sign is not — the business opened in 1972, making it 38 years old. And getting the sign designated as a landmark is a rigorous process, said Sider.

“I certainly understand it’s a part of the neighborhood,” said the possible tenant about the community’s fondness for the sign. “I hate it when I see murals covered by a new business.”

Another option for keeping the sign intact, according to Planning Department staff, is for the community to rally and ask the building’s owner to bring up the case. This makes sense since, according to Sider, the Campos legislation will most likely require the property owner to raise the issue of sign preservation.

But Nicholas Saucedo, the building owner’s agent, said that the contract with the tenant gives him the option of replacing the sign, indicating that the owner might not be as attached to the sign as some might hope.

Asked if the owner could still have some say over the sign’s preservation, Saucedo replied, “The contract’s been signed.”

“I don’t want to run into problems about the sign,” said the potential tenant. “It seems like we can change the lettering and still be respectful of the history. That’s my opinion, but I could be wrong.”

Join the Conversation

15 Comments

  1. I think the new tenant should consider the fact that the sign is dear and historic to many, and support for its maintenance and preservation would only endear their new business to the community.

    The sign is a landmark and obviously draws a lot of curiosity from passersby and inspires a connection to the history of the neighborhood. In preserving the sign, the new owners would be demonstrating a connection to and respect for that history.

    Conversely, removing or altering the sign could cause some backlash, and who wants that at the start of a new business?

    I would suggest that the new owners realize they have a good thing going here, and an opportunity to generate positive attention for their endeavor by supporting the preservation of the sign.

    Only good things can come of it.

    1. If the “RECORDS” part must be removed, why not incorporate it into the interior design? A lot of us have fond memories of these signs. The nod to the past would likely attract a lot of people (depending on what the business is, of course).

      1. I am so encouraged that the new tenant is interested in the opinion of the community. And I am hands down ready to patronize and support any business that wants to be a part of our neighborhood and loves and respects it as much as we do.

        I’m not sure what type of business will replace this but in my humble opinion the records sign could be removed and could be an amazing part of the interior design. I am not in favor in taking the disco out of the landia but ultimately I respect the fact that it is up to the business owner. But before any decisions are made I would like to propose an alternative.

        Another sign could be placed over the Discolandia sign to indicate the business. Or else another sign could be fabricated to hang where the ‘records’ sign is now.

        I am part of an amazing group of artists and fabricators, some of who do neon. In an effort to put my money where my mouth is I would be interested in fundraising or starting a kickstarter campaign to raise the money the owner would need to have a custom sign made to replace the record sign.

        I know that it’s not the policy of Mission Local to give out contact information but if you have any interest in my offer I would be happy to discuss it with you.
        My name is Linda Lagunas and I can be reached at:
        linda@cyclecide.com
        and you can check out some of the things we make at:
        http://www.cyclecide.com

        Thank you!

  2. Sure hope the sign gets saved. I’d definitely have a more favorable disposition to the incoming business if they can preserve as much of the sign as possible

  3. maybe it’s just my love of puns, but i can’t help but think that the “RECORDS” problem could be explained away by telling any potential sign-tearing-down types that you plan to use the word’s other pronunciation and notify passers-by about your security system

  4. What if this were the sign to a former strip club that said “live nude girls” or something to that effect, or advertised beer, soda, or liquor? I suspect you would have different feelings on the signs. Just because the signs look cool and retro, doesn’t mean that they deserve to stay or must remain in place. Will you be saying that the Skechers sign should remain, long after Skechers moves on? I think not. Personal taste should not be forced on the new owners of this building.

    1. I wonder whether anyone has paid any attention to the condition of these signs? An awful lot of pigeon droppings have been deposited there over the years, in spite of the wire mesh. “Deferred maintenance” is a huge problem for the Mission District’s historical resources. Loss of such resources is a consequence of a policy which fights gentrification at all costs.

    2. No but I wish the Leeds sign was still there. It was amazing when bands played in that alcove and the fliers said Live at Leeds. Sounds like an ancient music venue in England.

  5. I have to admit that I’m extremely dubious about the necessity of turning this sign into a historical landmark, thus involving copious regulation about what the property owners can do with it. Yes, it’s a cool sign, I think it’s awesome and wouldn’t want to see it torn down, but is the solution therefore to force whoever owns the property there to leave it up in perpetuity? Maybe all the people who really love the sign can pool their money, buy it from the property owner, and do something cool with it? This seems, much like the Doggie Diner heads, to be destined to be outside of some theme camp at Burning Man in the next few years

  6. Hey, new tenant here.

    I’m actually really happy that there seems to be community interest in conserving the sign. We love the sign and want to keep it up. Like a lot of you, it’s part of the neighborhood that I’m used to and don’t want to see leave. If we can keep it we hope that we can alter the lettering to reflect the new business without pissing too many people off. If we can’t keep it up we’ll almost certainly make it part of the interior. We’re willing to fight some battles with city hall but at some point it’s just hitting your head on a wall.

    It’s a bit early in our planning process but we should have more info in a week or two. I’ll keep my eye on this post, and will answer any questions to the best of my ability.

    Thanks,
    -Miles

    1. While the best location is to keep them where they are, I love both those signs and offer them a safe home in our yard in the neighborhood. While it does remove them from the building, we plan on offering our home for the garden tours and would be happy to allow mission denizens free entry to view what is clearly an important part of our neighborhood.

  7. I grew up in Savannah, GA, which is a very old city with a beautiful historic district that still exists today because of fairly strict laws and ordinances controlling what kind of changes can be made, so I’m no stranger to historic preservation or the sacrifices that have to be made to accomplish it.

    Still, this particular situation feels like telling the new tenant “This is how I remember things being, and this is how they’re going to stay, even though you’re the one paying the bills now”. Is this sign really a big enough deal to hang that kind of burden on every future owner or tenant?

  8. Leaving that storefront the way it looks is a major asset to that property and any kind of business. Even if it was something totally different, like for example, a bike shop, the support of the community would be way more valuable than the simple title of “bike shop” on the front of the building.

    I’d encourage you to think outside the box. People will figure out what your business is and keeping that sign will only enhance whatever you’re hoping to transact inside.

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