Sapphire Photo Studio, 2761 Mission Street. Photo by Lola M. Chavez

Activists who have long tried to fight gentrification by opposing market-rate development and upscale businesses are now targeting new restaurants on Mission Street.

The latest focus is a tea restaurant planned for the site of the former Sapphire Photo store at 2761 Mission St. between 23rd and 24th streets.

A frequent opponent of new developments in the Mission has filed a request with the city to delay its conversion – one of nine similar applications for conversion to restaurant use along the Mission Street corridor.

“All parties should be aware at this point that the Mission community does not wish to see any more restaurant conversions on Mission Street,” wrote Rick Hall, an activist, in the discretionary review application he filed January 5.

He added that the proposed restaurant would contribute to the “Valencia-zation” of Mission Street and exacerbate gentrification effects on Latino and working-class communities.

It’s not that he believes that all restaurants contribute to gentrification – though the organizers do worry about oversaturation of restaurants on business corridors.

Hall said in an interview that he and other activists from a group of organizations called “United to Save the Mission” have dropped their opposition to some restaurants after meeting with the owner and determining that they will not be forces of gentrification. Usually, that determination depends on how expensive the menu will be, he said.  

It’s unclear how widespread their support is and whether they can prevent any one business from going forward.

“For example, the falafel guy is going to have reasonably price[d] food. It’s a counter, you go up to the counter and order, and then you can go sit down,” he explained. “It’s not a full service restaurant with white tablecloths and hundred-dollar-a-plate sushi. It fits in for the working class that live in the neighborhood.”

With rents high, Hall said it was unclear how activists can ensure that neighborhood-serving businesses are able to move in.

“I don’t know exactly how to do it, but…throwing a little noise onto the issue like we’re doing with challenging the retail to restaurant conversions may help with that process,” Hall said.

For his part, the man applying for the restaurant conversion permit is nonchalant and a bit baffled about the opposition. Tommy Woo, a contractor who is applying for the conversion on behalf of the landlord of the building where the tea cafe is planned, said he hadn’t read the complaint but hopes to go ahead with the application process.

“Some people complain about everything,” he said. “You have to utilize [the space], otherwise it’s a waste of space.” He added that a local business also offers jobs.

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  1. Uh, no. “Techies” do not count as “Working Class”. Yes, it is true that they have jobs. “Working Class” would be more the companies they outsource for security, food, delivery to their offices, etc. My impression that it applies a little more to (physical) labor and pay grade.

    1. Working class was meant the differentiate the monied classes, who didn’t have to work, from the masses, who did. If you have an objection about pay grade, then I hope you don’t mind it applying to lawyers, accountants, nurses, doctors, all of who make more than the average salary.

      1. That is a ridiculous and wildly priveleged thing to bother writing. Everyone is very clear what working class means in a modern context. Your pretending you don’t only makes the point of the working class.

        1. Peter, not everyone is as educated as you seem to think they are. To assume every is very clear on anything is not wise. You may be educated, but you lack wisdom. If it were that clear, there wouldn’t be multile people chiming in with varied definitions.

          Techies are not working class, they are borderline slaves. Most, don’t make much more than bartenders and construction workers when you break down their hourly wage. Many techies work 80-100 hours per week, but are on salary so they don’t get paid overtime. If you work 80-100 hours in construction, you will be making way more than 100K per year.

  2. Oh, great. Yet another Mission organization to save something. How many such groups do we have now? If anyone’s keeping score, share the stats.

    As renters, my hubby and I deplore the gentrification, but what the hell do the advocacy groups want to move in to the empty spaces?

    We remember when Disaster Campos was helping the Tamale Lady open a cantina. It never materialized. Just one example of a politically correct business no one objected to that didn’t open in Mission.

    If the activists get their way, there will be one more empty storefront on Mission. That’s helps everyone. NOT.

  3. Wonder how much he is extorting from the other restaurants he has approached on Mission and said they would pass. Rick Hall should try to open his own business and see how hard it is before sticking his ass in places it shouldn’t be.

  4. Our previous commenters are entirely missing the point and basically being defensive smart asses. our city as a whole is being gentrified minute by minute and the lower income population, many communities of color, are being pushed out because of rising rents and costs of living. Nit picking activists word usuage is not helping matters whatsoever. Yes techies work BUT working class historically is associated with low and middle class communities bc the populations are doing more physical work.
    Yes we want to fill in empty store fronts but we should also want to fill them with diverse businesses that not only the rich can afford!

    1. Shouldn’t the market determine what goes in the open space? If the market determines that a taco bell goes in, then so be it. And if the market says a $100 plate sushi restaurant goes in (where are there $100 a plate sushi restaurants, btw?), ok fine.

      That’s how life works folks. We can’t decide that a business is right or not, the market will.

  5. Rick Hall is just the type of Activist we need in the Mission. Lets keep the Mission looking like a piece of crap with no jobs and lots of empty store fronts!! I vote Rick Hall for next District Nine Supervisor

    1. My friends and I prefer old-school Mission Street to the new Valencia. And gentrification hasn’t prevented boarded-up storefronts on Valencia. Trendiness causes some property owners to raise leases beyond the means of their commercial tenants, then hold out for the high rollers. Same thing on touristy Haight. Have you seen the amount of vacant spaces there?

  6. Rick Hall basically giving activists a bad name… opposing new jobs and tax revenue and instead advocating an empty storefront and blight? Not sure how he thinks things through or how he can get excited about what he is trying to do to the area.

  7. I find it Ironic that Rick Hall and United to Save the Mission, with statements like, “the Mission community does not wish to see any more restaurant conversions” claims to speak for the Mission, and yet seemingly exist only on Facebook, a company whose employees they no doubt would oppose living in their ‘working class’ neighborhood.

    Working-class is just a sound byte. Does Mr. Hall think people eating at $100 restaurants or whatever don’t have jobs? Do Techies count as working class or does their work some how not count? Or maybe it’s the other side of the coin and Mr. Hall is implying there is something wrong with those that don’t earn a paycheck, like stay at home parents or the unemployed? It’s a meanings team except for it’s the emotional response it creates.

  8. The current building looks blighted, as do huge stretches of Mission Street. It’s one thing to be against the closing of a local business, but quite another to want to rid the neighborhood of a building that seems to be just an eyesore.