Workers put finishing touches on the exterior of revamped McDonald's on 24th and Mission streets.

The Google buses idling at 24th and Valencia have now been forever enshrined as the symbol of the money rolling through the Mission District in the city’s second tech boom. Parked just one corner over sits a just-as-potent sign that change is here: softly glowing iconic golden arches.

Without fanfare or community protest or staged shouting matches, even the 24th and Mission Street McDonald’s has gone upscale.

Lounge section of McDonald's at 24th and Mission following renovations.
Lounge section of the newly renovated McDonald’s at 24th and Mission streets.

CARTOON: See our take on the 24th-Mission Street McDonald’s here.

If the old McDonald’s was a slightly seedy Mission curmudgeon greeting BART commuters since the 70s, the new one is an approximation of a Valencia hipster. Gone is the homey hut-like roof with french-fry-shaped detailing and the familiar red and yellow sign. Gone are the flower beds — the cops told the owner they were easy hiding places for gangbangers to stow drugs, money and guns. Instead: a disability law-compliant ramp, modern wood paneling and a minimalist arch logo. The murals have been quarantined to just the rear. Meanwhile, the dining area could easily fit in at a modern airport concourse with a corporate take on funky street art (a girl in headphones and shades), low-slung lamps in place of fluorescents, and lounge-like sitting á la Starbucks.

It says a lot about the pace-setting potential of 24th and Mission that this is where owner Scott Rodrick started renovating his empire of 10 McDonald’s across the city. “That corner is the Grand Central Station of the Mission; I thought it was important to make a statement in the city there first,” Rodrick says, adding that the 16th Street and Mission location will be changing in coming months, too. “I hope this seven-figure investment will trigger other building owners to modernize their facility without negatively impacting the community.”

Still, management says the redesign projects are where the Mission is going. “The redesign is going to fit in really well in the neighborhood,” says manager Richard Jones.

Interior of McDonald's on 24th and Mission following renovations.
Interior of McDonald’s on 24th and Mission after renovations.

In his epic chronicle “Super-Sized Day,” of embedding at the fast food joint, Mission Local writer Armand Emamdjomeh wrote, “This isn’t the McDonald’s we know as the franchise that is killing all of us with trans fats, but the Mission District’s equivalent of the Zócalo, the town square in Latin America.” It’s a place where 70-something Salvadorenos gather at 8 a.m. to eat pan dulce from neighborhood bakeries with their coffee, where teenagers smuggle in liquor in Powerade bottles, where police rustle out hoodie-clad loiterers, and a constant stream of street folk duck into the bathroom.

On its face, McDonald’s is anathema to everything San Francisco — a chain in a city with strict controls on formula retail, and target of city supervisors’ ban of toys in Happy Meals. Indeed, the Mission first resisted the corporate invasion in the 70s, recalls Susan Cervantes, the executive director of Precita Eyes. Back then, during the barrio’s nascent mural movement, she was part of Mujeres Muralistas, a group of Chicana painters commissioned to paint Paco’s Tacos on 24th and South Van Ness where La Casa de la Salud now sits. The mural showed women selling vegetables and tortillas at a market — which Paco’s owner hoped would send a statement to McDonald’s about the importance of local culture, Cervantes recalls.

Yet at a charity event hosted by the Ronald McDonald House in the mid 1990s, Cervantes ran into Scott Rodrick, the McDonald’s franchisee. To her surprise, he asked if Precita Eyes would paint a mural on his restaurant’s exterior. “I told him the whole story,” Cervantes recalls, “and told him that if you want a mural on that building, you’ll have to let us do whatever we want, but he said that he still wanted it.”

Rodrick continues the tale. “It was one of those things where I asked for forgiveness before permission [from the board of directors]. If I waited for outside architects to opine on colors or themes or what’s appropriate or not, that mural would never have been done.”

Completed by a group of 16 artists in 1998, Precita Eyes Muralists Association’s “Culture of the Crossroads” wraps around the backside of the building with a kaleidoscopic display of Central American deities, tropical vegetation and a woman with flaming breasts.

"Cultural at the Crossroads" a mural commissioned by McDonald's and painted by a group of Precita Eyes muralists in 1998.
“Culture of the Crossroads,” a mural commissioned by McDonald’s and painted by a group of Precita Eyes muralists in 1998, contains visions of tropical vegetation, mythological Central American deities and a woman with flaming breasts. The renovation will include a restoration of the mural in January.

The mural was a public relations coup for the fast food behemoth. Cervantes describes the mural as a “community treasure ever since,” and helped initial skeptics adopt the McDonald’s as a uniquely Mission mainstay. Now that the community is changing, so goes McDonald’s.

Follow Us

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.

Join the Conversation


Please keep your comments short and civil. Do not leave multiple comments under multiple names on one article. 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. This is not a new thing. The Wall Street McDonalds had upmarket decor, tablecloths, a host to greet you, a ticker tape display and even a guy playing a piano back in the 1980’s when I started out working there.

    While the McDonalds in Europe serve beer and wine. We’ve got a ways to go.

  2. The 24th and Mission McDonalds is the “anchor restaurant” of a (for a little while longer) working poor neighborhood. It has every bit as much right to be there as an artisanal organic wineglasses-on-white- tablecloth designer-lighting eatery.

    Although I’m not a fan of its highly engineered food-like products, this place is generally clean and orderly, and very popular with families with kids, and seniors.

    It may be hard for the 6-figure salary set to grasp, but McD’s infamous “Dollar Menu” is a godsend for those at the other end of the wealth spectrum… at least they get to sit and enjoy eating SOMETHING.

    1. Come on nutrisystem, there are plenty of places around there, like taco joints and fried chicken outlets, where you can get a lunch for $5 or so.

      That corner lot is a prime lot and should have a for a denser, if not higher value, use. It’s not like McDonalds being 50 yards away would impinge on those who love their food, or at least their prices.

      Also, the poor have the worst diet, health and obesity issues. Should we really be encouraging that? Your “nutrisystem” name almost implies you care about nutritional aspects.


      1. Wait.. I thought you were against the socialist nanny state – but now you want to dictate food choices?

        People like McDonalds, and with the “Dollar Menu” you can fill up for 3 bucks. A regular burrito is twice that, and a super burrito at some places is triple that. And a meal at Mission Local Eatery is ten times that. So, no surprise, when one doesn’t have much money, McDs looks like a good option.

        1. So which is it? The Mission is too gentrified, meaning there are no poor people and no cheap places?

          Or there are lots of places where you can eat for less then 10 bucks, so it’s a great place for poor folks?

          I’m having trouble understanding. It’s almost as if the mission is diverse even though some like you claim it has lost it’s diversity.

          But I like the new libertarian nutrisystem, supporting consumer choice and chain stores and businesses. The next logical step for you is to advocate abolishing the FDA and the EPA.

          1. Every extra dollar you wring out of your tenants is a dollar less they have to spend on food, so it’s not surprising that McDonalds is popular.

            Unlike real estate sleazebags, at least the McDonalds Corporation gives a fair deal: you give your dollar and get your French fries.

            I do support consumer choice and chains where appropriate. In fact, I’m a believer in actual competitive capitalism. That’s why I also support abolishing economic parasites and their bribed partners in government.

          2. nutrisystem, you may claim to support capitalism but you do not appear to know how it works.

            Every extra dollar in rent adds to the GDP, which is the main measure of the economy.

            Moreover, economists will tell you that it isn’t the amount of money in the economy that matters so much as the velocity of that money. The more it changes hands, the more that dollar achieves for the economy. And of course the more times it is taxed thereby boosting government revenues.

            McDonalds can sell cheap because their food is unhealthy crap and because they only need make a small amount on each meal to make massive profits. I hold MCD shares because it is such a great cash generator.

            But if the profit wasn’t there, either they would charge more, or they would close. And if my rents were lower, then I would close down as well, taking those homes off the market.

            If you want more homes in SF, you should want someone to be making a buck out of it, because that is the only reason those homes are here at all, including yours.

    2. Ok, nutrisystem, that’s it — I’m convinced you don’t even live in this city. You have *no idea* wtf is going on.

      I guess nutrisystem is the perfect name for you: outdated and fucking useless.

    3. Also, that’s some racist-ass (class-ist) shit you’re throwing around.

      There are plenty of affordable fresh food spots around there. How dare you lump “poor people” into having to eat lips and assholes?

      You’re a peace of shit, nutrisystem.

      1. Effete leftist intellectuals have long had something of a love affair with the idea of the working class. They love the idea of getting their hand dirty, and hob-nobbing with the proletariat.

        Of course, at the same time, they’d never actually be seen dead with them. It’s more of a cerebral fantasy than a real-word bond.

        I believe the apt phrases are “limousine liberal” and “champagne socialist”.

        1. It doesn’t take an intellectual to know that John is a scared old man, running low on juice and always worried that somebody will take his stuff. Desperately trying to prove he’s BETTER than somebody. Hiding in his small-picture world listening to his hero Rush Dopefiend, because he has no thoughts of his own. Hoping that CASH will somehow protect him from emptiness, decline and death.

        2. John

          December 19, 2013 at 4:54 pm

          “Effete leftist intellectuals have long had something of a love affair with the idea of the working class…”


          “I don’t think it is great secret that effete left-wing intellectuals who get banged up for protesting tend to leave prison with an anal cavity far larger than when they arrived.”

          Posted by Guest on Dec. 19, 2013 @ 2:17 pm

          1. Oh well, if two people both know and use the same two-syllable word, then that obviously proves, er, well nothing really.

            Should I worry I have an online stalker?

      2. Hey ThatGirl,

        I suggest you go into the McDs and tell everyone they are eating lips and assholes, and give them a lesson in proper fresh food eating, then take the Happy Meals away from the kids.

        You’d get your ass kicked, because people like their McNuggets and don’t like loud- mouth crazy people.

  3. This McDonalds at 24th and Mission is a perfect example of how classist the fast food industry is. The only reason that McDonalds is still there, and has been so successful is the sad fact that fast food is “poor people” food in San Francisco and a lot of other places in the US. The transformation of this place to the style of an upscale Starbucks offers a bizarre juxtaposition– bearded homeless guy drying his socks on the angular, white mid century style bench– that illustrates exactly this. It’s just really really weird.

  4. mcdonald’s is remodeling their outdated building, get the … over it. IT IS NOTHING DEEPER THAN THAT. go on with your lives.

  5. If we have to have a McDonald’s then at least it’s a cleaned up version of the dining establishment. That said, I’d much rather see that spot taken up by a new small-business restaurant owned and run by someone local.

  6. Precita Eyes promotes blight–flaming breasts? And the “food” here will still kill you. This building should be torn down and replaced with 10 stories of housing and a real restaurant at street level.

  7. This McDonald’s will still be a rat trap due to the people who hang out in/around there & at the BART station. A better upgrade would have been a Starbucks or similar. At least now the mural will be just in the back; maybe that can be modernized, too; as it is old & rundown. Hopefully there will be a much stronger SFPD presence. One good thing, at 16th/Mission new condos will be replacing that blighted corner.

    1. are you fucking kidding me, Pamela? Did you not READ the story? You are HAPPY the mural is hidden? ANOTHER corporation would have been an upgrade? YOU ARE OUT OF YOUR MIND!

    2. I know your sorry you can’t get rid of all the seniors that go to McDonalds and working class folks too. I know its really hard for you to see these types of folks walking around or living near you.

      1. If you eat at McDonalds every day, you won’t ever get to be a senior.

        My first reaction to this is that 24th and Mission is not remotely close to being gentrified enough for an upmarket anything.

    3. A Starbucks!??? I’m gonna go out on a limb and say you’re a transplant to S.F.and especially the Mission. This is the neighborhood I was born and raised in,and never before do I feel such a disconnect from it.
      People of your mind set feel you’re “Upgrading” it by your mere presence and adding another Starbucks will definitely keep out the rats.

    4. Pamela I hope you read this people like you should just leave the city and never come back. never step foot in the mission you stupid cunt kill yourself. there is a culture to our neighborhood and people like you just want to ruin it.

  8. “Gone are the flower beds – the cops told the owner they were easy hiding places for gangbangers to stow drugs, money, and guns. Instead: a disability law-compliant ramp, modern wood paneling, and a minimalist arch logo”

    Damn techies! *grumble grumble*