A chilly afternoon in the middle of December didn’t stop regulars from venturing out onto the patio of one of the Mission’s most popular bars, Zeitgeist. But the manager there, Gideon Bush, fears that the shadow cast by a five-story building expected to go up across the street just might.
Bush said the building, a five-story, 28-unit mixed-use building with a ground floor commercial space, will cast a shadow on the beer bar’s popular outdoor space during its peak use times — March through October, he said, the shade would cost the bar business.
“We are definitely pro-housing, and we want to work with these developers. We want to find a balance between both of our business interests,” Bush said.
Zeitgeist and another neighbor have filed discretionary reviews against the project, meaning it will have to go before the Planning Commission for approval. In the review, the bar’s president, Klaus Burmeister, writes that the increased shadow would “impact 30 percent of our annual sales” and ultimately shut down the bar.
“This impact will result in a short run reduction of staff, but in the long run is highly likely to ultimately shutter the business as the sunny beer garden, its prime asset, will be lost,” he wrote, adding that he fears for his customers’ “loss of privacy” from “roof-top gawkers.” He also raised concerns about the “inadequate parking” in the project, which will have 14 parking spots — the maximum allowed without additional review.
Because Zeitgeist is a “world famous San Francisco destination,” Burmeister wrote, the bar should be protected and the project’s height reduced by two stories.
“Although we understand and support the addition of more housing in San Francisco, we believe this situation is exceptional and extraordinary — and measures should be taken to achieve a compromise to both allow for some new housing, but also to protect this cultural institution.”
The bar was added to the city’s legacy business registry in October.
Bush, the bar manager, said he has yet to hear a definitive answer from the developer. A developer’s representative did not return a call for comment by press time. Bush said the shadow impact was based off of an independent study he commissioned, not the study done by the developer.
Feelings on the patio Tuesday evening were mixed about the prospect of a building going up nearby. A table of regulars playing dominoes voiced dismay – “You mean we won’t be able to see the sunset anymore?” and “I wouldn’t stop coming here, but it would be a drag,” they said.
Though there wasn’t a clear consensus as to whether sunlight was crucial to patio-drinking, guests did seem to count the fact that an outdoor space exists at Zeitgeist as one of the bar’s most important features.
“There’s a lot of reasons, but that’s just the number 1 reason,” said Charlotte Welch of the outdoor space. She usually comes in the summer, but with a guest in from Washington, D.C., a visit was in order.
Roland Peters took shelter from the cold on the heated portion of the patio. Zeitgeist, he said, is his favorite spot in the city.
“It’s a bummer in a way, but I would come here either way,” he said. “I like the fresh air as opposed to a bar. In a way it would be sad.”
Same for Jason De la Cruz, who also said the outdoor space is what distinguishes Zeitgeist.
“It would change a little bit. It’s not like there’s a bunch of other tall buildings here. The outdoor space is specific to this place,” he said.
His drinking companion that afternoon, Abby, said while shade wouldn’t stop her, in San Francisco, warmth is a factor.
“It’s a nice place to sit in the sun, especially since it’s so cold and summers are so short,” she said.