The Board of Appeals hears testimony on Jack Spade in August 21 hearing.

In a hearing at City Hall Wednesday lasting nearly two hours, the Board of Appeals failed to get the necessary four votes to overturn  Jack Spade’s building permits for its proposed location on 16th Street.

This decision means that Jack Spade can renew construction which was halted last month when the Valencia Corridor Merchants Association first filed the appeal.

Though three members of the five-member board voted to grant the appeal to the Valencia merchants, four votes are required to rescind Jack Spade’s building permits.

In favor of granting the appeal, president Chris Hwang was joined by commissioners Darryl Honda and Arcelia Hurtado. Vice-president Ann Lazarus and commissioner Frank Fung opposed the appeal.

“I’m very disappointed,” said Kyle Smeallie a volunteer with the campaign opposing Jack Spade. “What we saw today was bureaucrats doing what bureaucrats do, hiding behind technicalities to further injustice.”

The main question of the evening centered around whether Jack Spade fit the Planning Code’s precise definition of formula retail, or chain store. If deemed a chain store the luxury men’s retailer would have had to face a conditional use hearing in which members of the community could voice their opinions to the Planning Commission.

The city defines a chain store as a retailer with 11 or more existing U.S. locations that have a similar look, feel, merchandise, design, among other attributes.

Jack Spade poses a particularly nuanced example when applying this definition. Its San Francisco location would be its 11th and the retailer is owned by a large parent company, kate spade, which shares some features of the brand.

Those opposed to Jack Spade say there’s no difference between it and kate spade, which  has more than 100 locations in the United States.  The carefully prepared argument presented by the merchants association vice president Jefferson McCarley and volunteer lawyer Alicia Gamez, cited similarities between the two retailers in merchandise, service mark, and general branding.

“Jack Spade clearly benefits from the association to the kate spade brand,” said McCarley. “When I say a ‘Spade is a Spade,’ it’s not just a pun, they benefit from a shared connection.”

Representatives from Jack Spade, including local paid consultant Phil Lesser and the company’s co-leader Melissa Xides, insisted that kate spade and Jack Spade share very little in common. Lesser spoke specifically about their different appearances and argued that the Jack Spade’s aesthetics wouldn’t damage the unique character of 16th Street.

“The spirit of the law is to keep a neighborhood unique based on visual factors,” said Lesser. “If you’re walking through the neighborhood you don’t see corporate structure.”

“We are a neighborhood retailer through and through, there is nothing formulaic about our stores,” said Xides. “We fell in love with the uniqueness of 16th Street…We fell in love with the food scene and gentrification that’s happening there.”

Zoning administrator Scott Sanchez, who first ruled that Jack Spade was not formula retail in a Letter of Determination issued September 2012, the most salient factor the city takes into account when defining a chain store is the number of U.S. locations. The city does not currently look at corporate ownership or international locations. In Sanchez’s estimation, kate and Jack Spade are different companies and the parent company’s numerous locations shouldn’t  be counted in determining Jack Spade’s status as formula retail.

For the divided Board, the issue was far from clearcut. Their arguments weighted the exact stipulations of the ordinance against the intent of voters when they first enacted the 2006 Proposition G on retail formula.

“Ultimately I do see Jack Spade as a component of one big parent company. Jack Spade and kate spade are one in the same,” said Board of Appeals president Chris Hwang. “Thinking about the intent of the law, this should have gone through a conditional use hearing… Community’s concerns need to be taken into account.”

Commissioner Arcelia Hurtado echoed Hwang’s comments.

“My hesitation [rejecting appeal] is it would make me throw common sense out the door. The spirit of the ordinance is to protect small businesses,” said Hurtado. “A conditional use hearing is the appropriate venue to have public discussion… It’s up to community who lives in the neighborhood.”

Commissioner Frank Fung opposed granting the appeal to the Valencia merchants based on the specific definitions of formula retail enumerated in the Planning Code.

“In this instance, if there is a specific code then people need to be able to rely on it,” Fung said, explaining that Jack Spade simply didn’t have enough stores for it to qualify as formula retail and shouldn’t be treated as such.

The Board of Appeals made its decision after nearly an hour of public comment from merchants, community members, and neighbors. Twenty two people spoke out against Jack’s Spade and seven spoke in favor of its arrival on 16th Street. Much of the testimony included impassioned pleas from merchants concerned about the homogenization of the Mission and the continued displacement of longtime residents and business owners.

“I’m very impressed by the gymnastics of Jack Spade saying it doesn’t violate the formula retail ordinance,” said Gabriel Medina policy manager for Mission Economic Development Agency. “There’s a huge epidemic of displacement, this Jack Spade would accelerate that.”

Several members of the Adobe Arts Cooperative, the bookstore and art space that existed in the proposed Jack Spade before having to move out when the rent increased, gave testimony opposed to the men’s luxury retailer.

“The community wanted us to stay, but because Jack Spade came along we had no choice,” said Jeff Ray a member of the Adobe Arts Collective. “To have this Park Avenue store plop down where Andrew was, is a desecration.”

Adobe’s owner Andrew McKinley implored the Board of Appeals to send this issue to a conditional use hearing. “You should consider a community, which is very upset,” he said.

Of the seven who spoke in favor of Jack Spade’s arrival, many discussed the often challenging environment of 16th Street, citing the prevalence of violence, drugs, and homelessness.

“I’ve really been on the fence about this issue, but I’ve seen decline on my street and sales are down,” said Sasha Wingate owner of Bell Jar. “I pick up human feces on a daily basis.”

Paul Stoll, owner of Body Manipulations, also voiced his support of Jack Spade due to his hope that it would clean up 16th Street.

“Valencia Street literally glitters. I want sparkly streets too,” he said.

Michael Katz, owner of Katz Bagels, doesn’t think Jack Spade will bring the changes that his neighboring merchants think it will.

“We have a lot of problems on our block, but Jack Spade is not going to fix them,” said Katz. “We as a community are in a dangerous position when we look to a multinational corporation to fix our block.”

Following the announcement of the decision, Jefferson McCarley explained that though the Valencia merchants can file another appeal within the next ten days he isn’t precisely sure what the group will do next.

“We’ll meet and talk about it,” McCarley said. “They’ll probably go back to work tomorrow.”

Regarding when Jack Spade will renew its renovations efforts or plan to open up its new shop, director of marketing Daniel Lahkman wouldn’t comment other than saying: “We’re just happy about tonight.”

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Daniel Hirsch is a freelance writer who has been living in the Mission since 2009. When he's not contributing to Mission Local, he's writing plays, working as an extra for HBO, and/or walking to the top of Bernal Hill.

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  1. Common sense prevails!..Yay for Jack Spade!
    District 9 slowly, surely getting a much needed upgrade.
    Now if only the denizens of Mission St would clean up/clear out their trash! Removing all the chains like Walgreens, Western Unions, Verizon/PCS, Burger King, etc. would be very nice change.16th St & 24th St/Mission are a disgrace to the community.

    1. how on earth is 24th street a disgrace? it’s full of useful, family-oriented businesses, artsy stuff, and now sprinkles of bourgie. you clearly don’t know … about the mission.

  2. So people are complaining about some stupid over-priced clothing store on a street where a burrito now costs $9.? Oh, and what about the rich, snooty people hanging out at the newly opened ugly-ass furniture store? Get real you stupid techies who have made SF a vapid wasteland.

    1. It really sucks when young creative people want to move into my neighborhood. Only people like me are cool and should be allowed to live here.

      1. The Mission used to be filled with young creative people until they couldn’t afford to live here anymore. Now, being creative and able to afford the housing here requires conformity and selling one’s creativity to corporate masters.

    1. Wow you are really showing your support of small business in the mission by wishing other small businesses to close down. You should be ashamed of yourself.

  3. “We fell in love with the […]..gentrification that’s happening there.”

    Well, there you have it.

    Rents are already spiking out of control. The arrival of Jack Spade will send rents through the roof parabolically, causing an unprecedented wave of store and restaurant closures in the 16th and Valencia corridor.

    1. Why don’t you just purchase some commercial property in this corridor and rent it out for free to small mom and pop establishments? Maybe put like a non-profit trangender youth community center . They would not be forced out due to escalating rents since you would be the landlord and giving them free rent. How cool would that be?

        1. And property owners get to decide who moves in and who doesn’t. Just because you’re offered 2x the amount someone else is willing to pay, doesn’t mean you have to actually accept it. Especially if you “care about the community.”

          Not that I care whether Jack Spade stays or goes, but I find it an interesting dichotomy. Folks are angry at Jack Spade for even offering the money, but nobody is angry at the property owner for accepting it.

    1. It’s down the street on 24th and mission!! lol why miss something that is a couple blocks away. BTW Adobe really excited about their new location because it gives them a chance to reinvent themselves. Read the article on this site about the new location and their thoughts on things

      1. It’s not “down the street”. It’s in a whole different area 12 blocks away where there are already two bookstores (one of which was chased off Valencia). There are no bookstores left on 16th. That’s sad.

      2. I’m on the BOD of the Adobe Books and Arts cooperative and we didn’t want to move. We were forced out of the space. Of course we’re making the best of it and love our new store, but Adobe was a foothold of genuine local culture in a neighborhood that is fast becoming “the Marina in denial”…

        Funny, all the pro-Spade store owners who spoke at the hearing cited uncleanliness and blight as the source of their problems on 16th street; I have very different reasons for avoiding it these days: With the exception of the Roxy Theater and Needles & Pens, there’s not much left there to interest me.

        I feel sad for the desperate businessmen (& woman) who welcome the Spade Corporation. Mark my words: unless they can triple their business in the next year or 2, their days in the Mission are numbered.

      3. I liked it at 16th St. Before someone dislodged them by offering to pay twice the rent.

        Look out. Gap is next.

    2. Captain Obvious, I always HATE when someone writes LOL in their posts. It almost always suggests you’re trying to distract from your lack of logic.

      Hopefully you’re not a Liz Clairborne PR hack cloaking as someone local. Because you sure sound like one.

      1. Good to know how you feel about LOL in a post, I use it because I am laughing while typing so get use to it…. LOL. And no I’m not on anybodies PR team. To be completely honest with you I can’t afford Jack Spade nor can I get Kate Spade for my wife. In fact the only places I can afford are the food places in the mission. I’m looking at it as if I worked in one of the “Local Owned Businessess on Mission” Nobody would be complaining if they could afford whatever crazy rent that landlords raise it too right? How does that happen? With making more money!!! I’m for local business but if they are to stay open and continue to do business they need to make money off the new customers that come into the neighborhood. People are moving from SF because they can’t afford to stay anymore but if there was a way to get paid more money and keep neighborhoods the same I’m for it. If there was a way my family could have gotten more hours at work or more overtime we would’ve have been able to keep my granfathers house a couple blocks from 16th

      2. By the way Mister Big it’s only because I’m not agreeing with you nor taking your side on this topic that I sound like a PR person for Jack Spade. You work at one of the stores on the same street as JS huh? Cool out on the name calling cheif

  4. Overall I’m sympathetic to those seeking to overturn the permit and generally supportive of the ordinance subjecting chain-store construction to local hearings. (though such things are never perfect, c.f. the unaffordable, luxury boutique-ism that pervades several neighbourhoods.) But Jack Spade clearly falls outside of the definition of chain store as defined by the ordinance, and clearly did not manipulate the organization of their chain to win approval on a technicality, and it would have been grossly unfair to have rescinded the permit even as it’s unfair to have subjected them to the added expense of a temporary injunction to halt construction.

    To be honest it’s this sort of thing that adds to the cost of doing business in San Francisco with the final effect of increasing the overall cost of living. Businesses need to be told up front what the rules are and the city needs to play by them. If activists groups want men’s and women’s apparel stores owned by the same parent company to be treated the same, then they should work to amend the ordinance. Likewise, if they feel that 11 existing stores crosses the line, then they should amend the number to something less.

    1. Couldn’t agree more. Stop focusing your attention and on this issue and work on changing the law. Use your efforts to fill the other empty spaces on 16th and all over mission street with other local businesses. Put your efforts somewhere more useful and productive.

    2. Right, it’s the people protecting their neighborhood who are “increasing the cost of doing business,” not the chain store who kicked out a tenant by offering to pay twice the rent. Makes total sense.

      1. I am sure Jack Spade has some proforma on how profitable this location is going to be. Why not buy them out of their lease and give them the profits they were expecting on top of it. I am sure they would go away in that situation . Truly a WIN WIN for all .

    3. Grossly unfair? How so? The Zoning Commissioner stated several times last night at the hearing that the number “11” was an arbitrary number, and that the commissioners could rely on their own discretion for how they interpret Jack Spade as being a wholly owned subsidiary of Kate Spade LLC. Never mind that this decision will actually ‘make’ Jack Spade formula retail.

      What adds to the cost of doing business in San Francisco are businesses with the resources of multi-national parent companies being able to drive up the rent cost by orders of magnitude, which ultimately force out smaller local businesses without those resources, who operate on much tighter margins.

    4. Something occurred to me after the hearing that might have been worth mentioning: There are fewer Jack Spade than Kate Spade stores because men shop a lot less than women. Every department store, vintage store, etc has 5-10 times as much women’s apparel and goods than men’s. Such a no-brainer may not have swayed the dissenting commissioners’ votes, but it’s so obvious they are really halves of the same formula.

      1. What do you bet Jack Spade gets a Kate Spade section very soon after the store opens? Trojan horse!

  5. Here’s my favorite quote from the Spade mouthpiece: “We fell in love with the uniqueness of 16th Street…We fell in love with the food scene and gentrification that’s happening there.”

    I will let someone else do the research, but why do I strongly doubt that the existence of the Spade stores elsewhere have solved social problems? The solution to homelessness that Spade supporters hope for is “move along, you aren’t welcome here.”

    1. Here’s an example of how Jack Spade will help clean up the neighborhood. If you have ever called the cops in a minority neighborhood the cops take their sweet time to get there and more often than not they dnt come. This is the state of the mission neighborhood. For the majority as soon as they make a 911 call, the response is almost immediate. That’s what JS brings, a voice that law enforcement will listen to. (Born and raised in the filmore but lived in Walnut Creek for some years) If this hearing has presented anything it’s the holes VCM has in their argument against bigger stores. A loss is a loss, except it as adults and get ready to defend the neighborhood against the next store. Create new laws so this won’t happen again, learn from your mistakes. They won, let them be.

      1. So cleaning up the neighborhood translates to transforming it into a majority neighborhood from a minority neighborhood.

        1. No not at all. The minority can use that one voice of the majority to address concerns to politicians, law officers and so fourth. Are people so focused on stopping JS from opening you never once considered how they could help you? If their going to open and they are, use they ass to bring in more foot traffic to your stores, more eyes for neighborhood watch. Make them help the community because all in all everyone on the block will have to clean up pee in front of their door.

          1. Amazing how a faceless, New York based corporation empowers the community more than a local bookstore that was actually part of the local community in your mind.

          2. This type of store can only hurt the minority more and other small businesses in the area. Hiring rents, displacement, police harassment of the minority population. Lets get real.

          3. The book store is still in the community…….. It’s on 24 th mission…… You know that right?

          4. Yes, they moved. No, 24th St is not the same community as 16th. Either way, a faceless corporation based in another state is NOT part of the local community, nor are they welcome here.

          5. If the employee’s go door to door asking what the store could do to help the community besides leave would your answer still be a faceless blah blah? How can you call it faceless when the folks working in the location won’t be from New York, they’ll more than likely be from the bay area. if you don’t think they will help why don’t you go work for them and make them help. No matter what opens up there they will still have to clean lord knows what from in front of their door. Complain about the police not catching the guy with the gernade fast enough (down the street). Stop wasting time worrying about what could happen like rent going up and focus on making a buck from new customers in the area so you can afford to stay if it happens. The story of one store needs to go away and more articles of positivity in the area needs go up.

            A big fan of