Chase Bank’s plans to open a branch on Valencia Street this fall will face an appeal by neighbors who are organizing to derail the project.

Chase might be one of the last banks to benefit from what District 1 Supervisor Eric Mar calls a loophole in the planning code, which allows banks to open without neighbors’ input. Last month the San Francisco Planning Commission voted 6-1 in support of an amendment that would close that loophole.

The amendment would require banks to apply for a conditional use permit when opening a branch in the city. At present, banks can open without the permits required of other chain and corporate businesses, like American Apparel or Starbucks.

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“The legislation intends to give neighborhoods a greater say in the way that commercial corridors are developed and adds protection to small businesses,” said Mar, the amendment’s chief sponsor.

The Uptown Almanac first wrote about the branch opening last month.

The Board of Supervisors will consider the amendment in the coming months, but it will not affect the opening of the branch on Valencia Street because Chase has already obtained a building permit — one of the last steps needed before construction can begin — said Chase spokeswoman Eileen Leveckis.

“We have followed the required process to build a branch,” Leveckis said. She added that Chase opposes the amendment because unlike other chain businesses, bank branches are part of a larger network.

But a group of neighbors continues to oppose the new branch and is in the process of filing an appeal to the building permit at the San Francisco Board of Appeals.

“It would be best to have the supervisor’s measure on our side to support the appeal, but I think we’ll go forward with the appeal regardless, especially with the Planning Commission win our side,” said Julie Napolin, a neighbor who is organizing against the branch opening.

A change.org petition started by Napolin gathered 109 signatures in opposition. Branch opponents, in solidarity with neighbors who unsuccessfully opposed the opening of a Chase Bank at 401 Divisadero, also sent letters in support of the amendment.

“This motion, supported by the Supes, should be a model for towns everywhere fighting to keep the unique quality of their neighborhoods composed of local business owners and useful, desirable services,” Napolin wrote on the petition’s website.

The proposed branch, on the bottom floor of a new condominium development at 299 Valencia St., is part of an ongoing expansion by Chase, which opened two branches on Mission Street in 2010 and 2011. This will be the fourth Chase Branch in the Mission — one more than Wells Fargo operates and two more than Bank of America.

Chase tries to incorporate itself into the local community, Leveckis said. She noted that the bank will employ between 12 and 15 people, and was a sponsor of this year’s Dogfest in Duboce Park.

“Every neighborhood that we go into, we are committed to helping the local economy,” she said.

Napolin said she doesn’t buy it.

“While Chase claims they will help provide jobs, economic growth and increase[d] convenience for its customers, its expansion effectively monopolizes the storefront banking landscape in San Francisco,” she said. “Chase Bank forecloses on families in San Francisco and nationwide, profiting from the eviction of low-income, senior and disabled tenants. And it does so at the cost of businesses that have a vested interest in the local community.”

Chris Wright, the executive director of the Committee on Jobs and the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce, opposes the amendment.

“I would argue that [banks] are anchors of strong neighborhood commercial districts,” he said. “Let me just say that these bank branches inherently serve local residents and retailers. I know from my personal experience in the Richmond District, when I go to the bank to get cash, I spend locally, I visit many stores along that corridor. I would argue that this proposal in general is unnecessary.”

Businesses on Valencia Street have previously opposed the opening of chain outlets along the corridor for fear that it would increase their own rents.

When American Apparel tried to open a store on Valencia Street in 2009, neighbors organized and opposed the project during the permitting process. Eventually the retailer agreed not to open.

Representatives of neighborhood business associations from the Haight and Telegraph Hill, as well as Livable City’s executive director Tom Radulovich, spoke in favor of the amendment at a recent Planning Commission meeting. They argued that San Francisco neighborhoods are unique because they have independently owned businesses, and an influx of corporate banks would ruin their character.

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Rigoberto Hernandez

Rigoberto Hernandez is a journalism student at San Francisco State University. He has interned at The Oregonian and The Orange County Register, but prefers to report on the Mission District. In his spare time he can be found riding his bike around the city, going to Giants games and admiring the Stable building.

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33 Comments

  1. What small local business is going to open a competing bank in the neighborhood. The only other bank we have around here is Wells Fargo. I tried to open an account at that Mission Bank on 16th St some years ago to support local institutions with a substantial deposit and they said no (I couldn’t believe it, having never been denied an account before in my life, and to this day I still don’t understand it). A bank provides a convenient services to local residents. What would be better? Another high-end restaurant? Another cafe? These NIMBYs have to start thinking about people who live here, where an immigrant family has to use a check cashing place instead of a bank because there are no banks nearby.

  2. “…fighting to keep the unique quality of their neighborhoods composed of … useful, desirable services…”

    Right…and a bank would a useless service that no one needs. Meanwhile, the homeowners’ association for that condominium complex would be receiving monthly rent from Chase for the use of the commercial unit on the ground floor. Therefore, Chase’s money stays local and improves the value of that property. You really wanna diss your neighbors like that?

  3. I really hope Chase moves forward with opening this branch. It would be really convenient for me and I’m tired of people complaining and protesting things just because. I’d much rather have a Chase branch than one of those “city ATMs” that charge me $4 to take money out.

  4. Where’s the petition in support of opening this Chase ?

    Where’s the petition against letting people like Julie Napolin who don’t even have the grasp of economics a 3rd grader would have try to screw over our neighborhood with their ignorance and kneejerk reactions ?

      1. and yet your opinion, as reported by Mission Local, is “banks including Chase foreclose on properties in the Mission, so don’t allow a Chase to open”?

        Would you have opposed Wells Fargo opening in the neighborhood and thus prevented their donation of $25,000 to neighborhood businesses impacted by the recent riots?

  5. That apartment building looks gorgeous! I was wondering whatever became of that lot that I used to walk past. The Mission continues to gentrify. It’s looking more and more like Hayes Valley.

  6. Chase is a lousy bank – 2 years after I signed up with them I lost my job and my automatic deposit status, and they deducted the $200, 2 year old signing bonus from my account as a way of saying – Hi there customer, lost your job? Well f*** you!

  7. I used to have several accounts at Chase bank – closed them all and switched to SF Fire Credit Union and I couldn’t be happier. SF Fire reimburses your ATM fees worldwide (any ATM!) and their charter is much better aligned with improving San Francisco, rather than enriching corporate stockholders.

    1. When there’s not a convenient SF Fire Credit Union in your neighborhood (is there one in the Mission?) whose ATM do you use? I thought so.

      1. Hi Marco. That’s the awesome part about SF Fire Credit Union’s ATM policy – you can use *any* ATM and they automatically reimburse you for any fees charged by the ATM owner, be it bank, bar, or bodega. They do have a limited number of branches, so if you need to do a lot of in-person banking it is harder, but otherwise they’re great.

    1. would you also accept a smoke shop or somewhere selling long distance calling cards ?

  8. I don’t see a problem with a bank in my neighborhood. It is no less legitimate than an overpriced hipster barbershop or restaurant on Valencia.

  9. The Mission is no longer a special place it’s a bedroom community for Google and Facebook. Stop pretending the Mission is special and let the chains (In this case a bank) open. Looking at the comments it what people want. Personally a Walgreens or a PF Changs would also be great!

    1. The Walgreens reference is a joke right ?

      Where in the Mission do you live that you don’t know about the one at 16th and Mission ?

    2. I think a strip mall concept is perfect idea! But a baby Gap would also be a great fit! We need baby clothing!!!!

      1. Four blocks away? You are off a bit on your distance. The bank will be small and most wont even notice it is there. Everyone wants to leave their mark. When different types of commerce opened on Valencia and the inner Mission no one really challenged. The businesses so why challenge a bank? You can’t have it both ways. Either you are business friendly or you are not.

        1. By character do you mean all of the late night guests who urinate and vomit in my driveway each weekend. I really don’t see what the big deal is. Chase bank will not trample on the neighborhood like some of you think.

  10. Valencia Street has long played host to small and locally-owned businesses–almost the entire stretch is such. Adding a big business eyesore like Chase on the north end of Valencia would really grate against the neighborhood character. This is why the Planning Commission just recommended approval of legislation to require conditional use authorization for formula financial institutions on neighborhood commercial corridors. Restrictions on formula retail in place since the mid-2000’s have kept Valencia and similar City streets from turning into bland corporate malls, and we owe that to the foresight of longtime locals, the kind who know that formula bank branches should site elsewhere. Sheesh, there’s a Chase four blocks away on Market, and several on Mission.

  11. YES, thank god someone is taking action, Chase is a chain and it would suck to have it there

    1. why aren’t you demanding Burger King and McDonalds be removed from the neighborhood ?

    1. And that’s your right. All we are asking for is that the neighborhood be allowed to give its own input, as we are legally allowed to for other chains. The appeal would not necessarily prevent the bank from opening. If the appeal works out (or, ideally, if the new measure passes in time), the neighborhood could be in discussion with the Board of Supervisors about whether this branch is “necessary and desirable.” Indeed, the community may generally decide that it is. I and other co-signers believe that it is not.

  12. And that’s your right. All we are asking for is that the neighborhood be allowed to give its own input, as we are legally allowed to for other chains. The appeal would not necessarily prevent the bank from opening. If the appeal works out (or, ideally, if the new measure passes in time), the neighborhood could be in discussion with the Board of Supervisors about whether this branch is “necessary and desirable.” Indeed, the community may generally decide that it is. I and other co-signers believe that it is not.

  13. I think the point of this whole initiative is going over the heads of a lot of the commenters here. The primary issue is that, currently, big banks, unlike other chains, are not required to hold a conditional use hearing in order to provide the community with an opportunity to have a say in what types of services they want to have in their neighborhood. There are already 2 other Chase bank branches in the Mission, not to mention a third branch just a few blocks away from the proposed branch on Valencia on Market St.

    I heard the overriding sentiment behind this issue very succinctly stated tonight: “We want to ensure that development happens WITH us, not TO us.” If that means that the community gets together and the majority agrees that they welcome this service, so be it. However, the idea that a community should not have a say in the direction of its own development is just ignorant.

    1. so, you haven’t looked at a map of the local Chase ATMs/branches recently then ?

      from their comments it seems like the opposition to the new Chase is mostly negativity against banks themselves, rather than any real interest in what services are or aren’t provided in the neighborhood

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