The Mission restaurant boom that has transformed Valencia Street in recent years will continue to spread east on 24th Street and push out established businesses, many of which are owned by Latinos, a neighborhood merchants’ group fears.
Members of the Lower 24th Street Merchants and Neighbors Association are analyzing a range of options for preserving the current culture of the neighborhood. Among the possibilities under consideration are establishing a cultural district and imposing a moratorium on new restaurants.
“Talking about preserving the Latino culture, sometimes it’s a bad word,” said Erick Arguello, president of the merchants’ group. “People look at you like you are already on your way out.”
Talk of a moratorium on restaurants in order to slow gentrification is not new to the Mission. Last fall, the Valencia Corridor Merchants Association proposed a restaurant moratorium for Valencia Street. The San Francisco Chronicle reported that at least 16 new restaurants opened there last year, and according to Supervisor David Campos, that moratorium is still being considered.
Community groups in other parts of the city, such as Japantown and SoMa’s leather district, are also working on preserving community identities by enacting zoning restrictions.
At a meeting of the lower 24th Street group last Thursday, community members also proposed expanding any moratorium to include bars and limiting the sale of alcohol in grocery stores. Campos, who led the meeting, said that a restaurant moratorium could be designed to expire in a year or two or could be made permanent.
Brooke Oliver, an attorney and local resident, thinks that if the Valencia Street moratorium is enacted, 24th Street could see an influx of new businesses.
“One of the biggest concerns we have is Valencia Street,” he said. “If there is a moratorium on restaurants there, it’s going to be like a toothpaste tube squeezing the speculation onto 24th Street.” Even without the restriction, some businesses that have opened recently on 24th either relocated from Valencia or avoided it altogether because of high rents. Wise Son’s Deli opened on 24th and Shotwell streets instead of Valencia last year because of the rents being asked, the owner told SF Weekly.
Pig and Pie, which opened last year, kept an iconic sign from the previous business, Discolandia, at the request of the merchants’ association and residents who are keen to preserve the feeling of the area.
Some local merchants worry that a moratorium could do more harm than good. Yaron Milgrom, the owner of restaurants Local Mission Eatery and Local’s Corner, said he would be opposed to a policy with absolute restrictions.
“I don’t think we should keep the same business at all costs,” he said. “If the auto shop was vacant, if no one else is going to come, if they make it work, it’s better.” Milgrom plans to open a market in the 24th Street area.
Aside from a moratorium, other options for 24th Street include requiring a Planning Commission hearing for proposed new restaurants, limiting the number of restaurants allowed in spaces previously occupied for other uses, and enacting no new zoning regulations.
“There are pros and cons” to each option, Campos said. With the future of the 24th Street neighborhood far from settled, business owners and residents are expected to continue the debate in months to come.