Hyundai announces its arrival back in 2010.

After four years in business, the Hyundai dealership at 16th and South Van Ness Avenue closed last month. Its departure leaves the Mission, which once boasted its own “auto row,” with just one dealership in the neighborhood and four highly coveted, newly-available parcels.

The four parcels, which were once a showroom, parking and a service shop for the Korean franchise company, are now on the rental market. The properties, which tally more than 12,000 square-feet, could be rented individually, or $30,000 for all four of them, said Benjamin Durham, the real estate agent representing the property owner. Three of the four lots could become condos under the areas’ zoning, but the repair shop has to remain industrial. However, the owner is not interested in selling, he added.

“A lot of people are selling them to developers. We are not doing it,” said Durham. “We’ll see what comes in.”

The owners, the Albera family, used to run a Jeep dealership before closing in 2008, have no interest in selling right now because they are attached to the building, according to Durham.

It is unclear exactly what drove Hyundai away, as the former owners of the franchise declined to comment for this article. Car sales are up 8.7 percent in the Bay Area from last year and California as a whole has had 15 consecutive quarters of growth, according to figures from the California New Car Dealers Association.

But dealers in San Francisco have to fight with the false perception that their cars are more expensive than suburban lots. High rents and limited real estate means that it’s unlikely that another dealer will come back to the Mission, said Andy Heston, the owner of Royal Automotive Group.

“My grandfather started out business in the Mission in the 1930s and our family owns most of the real estate which has allowed us to continue to do well,” he said. “This is also the case with most of the other dealerships in San Francisco.”

The Royal Automotive Group, which sells Volkswagens, Volvos, and Mazdas and is three months away from finishing a 20,000 square feet lot at the corner of 14th and South Van Ness is the only game in the neighborhood.

Aside from South Van Ness, the Mission once boasted car dealers near Mission and 24th Street and had a short-lived “auto row” at 16th and Bryant streets, where the Safeway now stands.

“The center did not last long, but while it did, it gave dealers a place to move to, and hastened the department of dealerships from Van Ness Avenue,” according to a report on car dealerships by the Planning Department.

Heston laments Hyundai’s departures, which still has dealerships in the peninsula and the East Bay, but he said he plans to stay put for another 80 years.

“Even with the rise in car sales, it would be very difficult for a new dealer to survive in San Francisco,” Heston said. “I love working in San Francisco and in the Mission but all the regulations and cost of real estate make it hard to compete with dealers in the region that do not have the added costs.”

Rigoberto Hernandez

Rigoberto Hernandez is a journalism student at San Francisco State University. He has interned at The Oregonian and The Orange County Register, but prefers to report on the Mission District. In his spare...

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