David Chen was four months from celebrating his furniture store’s 11-year anniversary on Valencia Street when his landlord gave him an early surprise: his rent would triple.

“We are a local small business,” Chen said shaking his head as he stood in his new space where a backless chaise lounge costs $475 and a minimalistic arm chair, $45. “We can’t pay that much.”

The increase would take his rent from $6,100 a month, which was roughly what he had been paying since he opened The Touch in 2002, to $16,000.

He clearly had to move, but in the realm of rising rent stories, Chen’s reads like a fairytale with a reasonable landlord and a soft landing on Mission Street.

Chen’s new landlord, a limited partnership named after the building’s address, 956 Valencia St., reduced the increase to $13,500, but that was still too high. As a compromise, the owner kept the rent at $6,100 a month until Chen found a new spot.

That happened nearly a year later in July, when Chen, an immigrant from China, discovered the 2,220-square-foot storefront at 2221 Mission St near 18th Street. It’s less than three blocks from the Valencia spot and smaller, but the rent is lower — although Chen declined to say exactly how much he paid.

Back on Valencia, it’s still uncertain what will happen to Chen’s old space. The storefront has been vacant since he moved out, but in September the city issued the building owners a $49,000 permit to renovate the store’s interior, property records show.

The landlords purchased the building—956-966 Valencia—in July 2009 for $4 million, according to the San Francisco Realtors Association. Before that, the building sold in August, 2007 for $4.2 million.

In addition to the retail store, the building has a restaurant space, which currently houses Mission Creek Cafe on the ground floor. The top two floors are residential units.

As for Chen, he’s already becoming a Mission Street partisan.Although the Mission shop gets slightly less traffic than the Valencia store, “it’s better than we expected,” he said.

Moreover, in the last two years more tourists that locals visited his store on Valencia and they would buy small things instead of the larger pieces, he said.

On Mission Street Chen sells primarily to locals.

He compared Valencia Street to Fisherman’s Wharf, a tourist street without a sense of community. That is not life, he said.

“On Mission you can go and buy a bunch of tomatoes,” Chen said with a laugh. “Over there, you can’t even find a tomato.”

Follow Us

Soon after Dorothy M. Atkins moved to the Bay Area, she met an artist painting a heroin-themed scene in one of the Mission’s mural alleys. The artist explained that despite the city’s high number of drug users, it lacks an effective needle exchange program. Dorothy hopes to explore the complexity of such policies and their impact on the Mission through her political reporting.

Join the Conversation


Please keep your comments short and civil. We will zap comments that fail to adhere to these short and very easy-to-follow rules.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. $16,000 per month rent for a shop, while technically not criminal, is obscene profiteering.

    Assuming the business operates 30 days per month, $533 PER DAY would be required for rent alone.

    Small retail can’t pay this.

    When It takes a steady clip of $12 cocktail purchases to even make rent, let alone turn a profit, you have a profoundly unhealthy situation.

  2. All the best to you Mr Chen! One good store like that will bring others to Mission St. About time it is upgrading.

  3. His store where “a backless chaise lounge costs $475 and a minimalistic arm chair, $45” was itself gentrification, IMHO

    1. Seriously? $45 for an arm chair is a steal. You can barely get an IKEA chair for that price.

      Furniture is expensive to produce, and the only reason you think $475 is expensive for an chaise lounge is because you’re used to mass-produced crap from China. How about you support some local vendors and craftsmen instead?

      1. No I find my furniture on the sidewalk in front of my haus. I believe in recycling the $45 chairs you get tired of after 5 minutes.

    2. The Mission used to have many vintage shops like this, but the google bus kids buy their furniture at IKEA.

  4. At the rate we’re going, he’ll only get a year or two in his new shop. Then the gentrification of Mission Street will force him out of there as well.

    When finally the Mission is a landscape of expensive restaurant and bars, it will suck. The interesting and vibrant character that attracted people in the first place will be gone.

    The only way to maintain a variety of business types (which most people want) is to instate price controls on commercial real estate.

    1. vote with your dollar, dipshit. did you buy anything from this store while he was on valencia?

      right. stfu.

      1. What does that have to do with it? Even if said person bought from the previous location, how is that going to compensate for a $120,000 in additional annual rent?

  5. Yet more proof that bike lanes are good for businessed! Just ask the dozen or so other shops that have disappeared on Valencia since the 26-Muni line was removed to accomodate all the cyclists riding to their Google bus stops.

    1. The 26-Valencia wasn’t removed to accommodate bicyclists. Where did you get that idea? Bike lanes were striped on Valencia 14 years ago. The 26-Valencia a largely redundant line. It hardly ever ran, took a ridiculously circuitous route to SFSU and spotting one was much like spotting a unicorn. Gentrification in the Mission and on Valencia Street has exploded. It is horrible and sad. But to equate the loss of small businesses to the loss of the V-26 to the catering of Googlite bicyclists is not based in reality.

    2. Way to try to hijack the thread and throw out a strawman to divert discussion of the real story here: rampant landlord avarice, and the need to implement rent control for commercial property.