24th and Folsom Streets. Photo by Lola M. Chavez

San Francisco Supervisors unanimously approved an ordinance Tuesday that will regulate the use and the merging of commercial spaces to protect existing businesses on 24th Street.

The legislation, which designates a Calle 24 Special Use District, aims to stem the tide of new restaurants moving into former retail businesses. The legislation affects an area roughly outlined by Cesar Chavez and 22nd streets from Capp Street to Potrero Avenue.

It requires an additional city review process for certain new businesses: A Conditional Use approval would be required for any business that seeks to replace a legacy business or merge multiple storefronts for a combined size of more than 799 square feet.

The city’s Legacy Business Registry, approved by voters in 2015, denotes businesses that are least 20 years old and have been deemed significant to the neighborhoods they serve.

The proposal would also prevent new restaurants or bars from opening if such establishments make up more than 35 percent of the businesses within a 300-foot radius of the proposed business. Restaurants currently make up about 32 percent of businesses on the corridor.

“Like Chinatown, North Beach and Japantown, the Latino Cultural District is a vibrant, thriving neighborhood in San Francisco, one of the neighborhoods that make our city a world class city,” said Supervisor Hillary Ronen, who put forward the legislation as her first proposal after helping to develop it under her predecessor, David Campos.

With the legislation approved, “we really have some teeth to be able to preserve the culture and history of the Latino Cultural District,” said Erick Arguello, the president of the Calle 24 Latino Cultural District.

The Special Use District is just one more step in the Calle 24 Latino Cultural District’s efforts to preserve the street’s culture, businesses, and structures. The organization already has a tree replacement plan in place to remove dying trees and replace them with colorful gingkos and red maples over time.

Arguello’s next target is the allowable height of buildings on 24th Street. His organization wants to see the height limit reduced to 40 feet along the corridor, arguing that the average height of buildings there already is only one or two stories and a lower limit would keep developers from building housing that towers over its neighbors.

“It maintains a moderate scale to 24th Street,” he said.

It’s also another move meant to protect existing businesses, Arguello said. He cited the example of La Posta, a taqueria that he said was ousted by a developer demolishing the property they used to rent at 24th and Florida streets. La Posta was promised they could return, Arguello said, but found that the ground floor spaces at the base of the new four-story building were prohibitively small.

Nearby, a property owner at 24th and York streets was met with opposition when he proposed replacing his laundromat on the corner with housing. Similar pushback dissuaded a landlord from turning a grill into condos at 24th and Folsom streets.

“La Parrilla was slated for demolition, but we were able to work with the property owner, who took it off the market,” Arguello said.

He is still in talks with the city about the downzoning. Meanwhile, members of his group are brainstorming other ways to distinguish the corridor as a cultural zone. Ideas include (waterproof, perhaps made of metal) papel picado decorations along the corridor, or even an archway marking an entryway to the corridor, flanked by Mayan temples.

More ideas are in the works to “create and stabilize its identity,” Arguello said. 

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  1. Are latino business owners more or less likely to open a business in this area now that there are MORE regulations. SF is already very difficult city to open a business in. Especially if you don’t have a lot of money or higher education to manuever through the endless laws/restrictions. Unfortunately, adding this legislation just puts one more hurdle to jump over. More hurdles favor the rich, educated, and connected.

  2. Here is a map of the current height restrictions: http://imgur.com/mKyPAJw

    on smaller intersections, the height limit is 45ft and on busier, wider streets the height is 55ft. Those limits already, in your words, “keep developers from building housing that towers over its neighbors.” so why the hyperbole?

    I think lowering the height restrictions to the 40ft limit of the surrounding residential community would reduce the liveliness and diversity of 24th street- far more integral to its character than the building heights.

    lastly, The tree replacement program sounds great- glad that we have groups like Calle 24 LCD working to make our neighborhood so beautiful

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