In a packed Planning Commission agenda Thursday, two Mission addresses got some attention. The commission granted Pop’s Bar a full entertainment license. For the long-planned housing project at 490 South Van Ness, the commission voiced its approval, but voted to continue the issue for a few more weeks.
The housing project developed by J.C.N. Developers at the corner of 16th and South Van Ness would create 72 units of housing, 12 of which would be below-market-rate, at the former site of a gas station. The project has had several roadblocks, including soil contamination on the site, and its fair share of opponents. The commission’s decision came after over an hour of impassioned public testimony, with people speaking for and against the project.
Groups like Plaza 16 Coalition and the Red Stone Labor Temple Tenants Union, whose building would be adjacent to the development, oppose the project because they see it as luxury housing out of sync with the surrounding area. While several of the commissioners expressed sympathy towards those opposed to the project, all said they were leaning towards approving it.
Commissioner Dennis Richards explained that he looks at projects through several lenses, including whether existing residents are displaced and if it improves the livability of the neighborhood.
“I ask myself: does this project displace any tenants? Cumulatively, projects like this could,” said Richards, acknowledging the argument that high-end housing can affect the overall affordability of the surrounding neighborhood, “But ultimately, I think it’s a good project. It’s going to add to the character and livability of the neighborhood.”
As many proponents of the project pointed out, the current site of the project is a vacant lot that the projects sponsored had already improved by removing truckloads of contaminated soil.
The affordable units will be priced to be affordable for purchase for households making up to 90 percent of average median income (about $61,000 for a single person), an income bracket that opponents say is out of reach for most of the people in that corner of the Mission.
“I definitely agree with classification that the housing here is much more middle-class housing,” said commission president Cindy Wu. “But I think that’s a part of the spectrum that we need to address.”
Commissioner Christine Johnson also expressed appreciation of the developers’ inclusion of on-site affordable units.
“I appreciate this building has 16 percent inclusionary housing, when it’s so hard to find projects that have any on-site units, and this one does,” Johnson said. “The fact that we can get these units on-site is a good thing.”
The commission had some concerns about some of the design elements of the project, including some of the materials being used, the precise location of the building’s parking garage, and the exact mix of two- and one-bedrooms for the affordable units. While many of the members acknowledged that this plan has already been continued and delayed before, they said it could use just a little bit more time to be finalized. Before giving the final approval, they voted 6-to-1, with vice president Randy Fong dissenting, to hear the issue with more finalized plans once more on October 2nd.
Performance Plans for Pop’s
The Planning Commission also cast votes to determine the future of Pop’s Bar at 24th and York Street. The historic bar’s new owner, Michael Krouse, who also owns Madrone on Divisadero, applied for a permit to have a full entertainment license, meaning the bar could legally offer its patrons live bands and DJs. With some conditions, the commission unanimously approved the change of use.
“Pop’s Bar has been around for 79 years, and through 11 owners; our goal is to continue that tradition of a great neighborhood bar,” said Krouse, who bought the bar last fall. “We want to complement the district with a variety of music and entertainment options.”
The change of use was greeted with no opposing public commentary. Erick Arguello, of Calle 24, shared with the commission that he’s been working closely with Krouse, who has been responsive to most of the merchant association’s concerns.
“As a Latino Cultural District, we’ve talked about how they are accommodating us by playing once or twice a week Salsa, Cumbia, Reggaeton or other Latino music to connect with the existing community in the area,” Arguello said.
The bar’s live music program will operate until 10 p.m. and DJs until 2 a.m., its existing operating hours. Arguello said that Calle 24 is mostly supportive of granting the bar its full entertainment license, but hopes that they can find some sort of compromise about hours. The group of merchants hopes the bar will cease operations at midnight, to which Krouse noted that the bar can already operate until 2 a.m. with its existing liquor license.
The commission suggested that Krouse consider building in additional sound protection around the doors so exiting patrons wouldn’t release too much loud music onto the street. They approved the bar’s new license with the condition that he look into creating more sound protection and check back in to the commission with updates about the sound-proofing efforts.