Paul Miller and Debbie Horn inside of their Royal Cuckoo Market at 3368 19th St. Photo by Laura Waxmann

At a public meeting Wednesday night, a nonprofit dedicated to promoting small businesses demanded that a mom and pop grocery and liquor store drop its application for a wine and beer license.

“The onsite liquor service is the issue,” said Gabriel Medina, the policy manager for the Mission Economic Development Agency, which is opposing the application.

The nonprofit agency has been at the forefront of developing affordable housing and  fighting the neighborhood’s rampant gentrification. In the latter, it has sought to protect small, locally owned-businesses from displacement, and some at Wednesday’s meeting wondered why it was going after the Royal Cuckoo Market at 3368 19th St. and its owners, Paul Miller and Debbie Horn, who live around the corner.

“Here you have the ideal Mission place – local people are being hired, local people own it. Most people who work here are bilingual,” said Chris Seibert, a Mission resident and local musician. “It’s like cutting the legs out below the actual local people by taking away something that’s going to help them do all the other good things they do.”

Medina told the 20 or so people assembled for the meeting that he opposed the market’s application to convert the retail market to include a restaurant – a step that is necessary to serve wine and beer.

Anywhere else in the city, such a change is straightforward, but Medina said converting to a restaurant overstepped the intentions of the Mission Action Plan 2020 and the Mission 2016 Interim Controls.

Both are aimed at slowing or reversing gentrification. The first focuses primarily on affordable housing and retaining production, distribution and repair space that serves light industry. The Mission 2016 Interim Controls, which were adopted and extended by the Planning Commission on March 2,  increase the oversight for business and housing changes within the Mission while the Mission Action Plan 2020 is being established. 

The controls require, for example, any business applying for a change of use to go through the Conditional Use authorization process, which requires community meetings, outreach and a hearing before the Planning Commission.

These controls are temporary and are “a way for MAP 2020 to finalize policies that basically prevent business displacements,” explained Medina.

Most at the meeting, however, were unaware of the legal tenets and were there to support the neighborhood store.

“What you’re trying to do is not only judge a book by its cover but you’re trying to paste your own cover on it first and then judge it,” said the man who identified himself as a carpenter and longtime Mission resident. “You guys want to pick on these guys? It’s ridiculous – there’s all these yuppies coming in around here…You’re just projecting on these local people and placing your narrative on them.”

Miller and Horn worked in the Mission’s service industry for 30 years and began their own business in 2010 with the first Royal Cuckoo, a full bar at 3202 Mission St.

They leased the space at 19th Street after the owner of a Salvadoran specialty market and liquor store, El Salvadoreño, retired in 2014.

Miller and Horn argued that they were not informed about the new policies in the Mission Action Plan 2020 and the Interim Controls.  In fact, in October 2016, the Planning Department approved their eligibility for a beer and wine license without requiring the restaurant conversion or a conditional use hearing. A spokesperson for the Planning Department did not immediately return requests for comment. 

“They told us, ‘you’re fine, you’re already serving food.’ And we were like, ‘Okay, we don’t have to do anything?’” said Horn, about the Planning Department.

However, a month later they were told that the approval was a mistake and the department had received two complaints about an “illegal bar.” It is unclear who made the complaints.

The Planning Department told the couple they would have to reapply, asking the city for a change of use permit that would allow a restaurant and thereby a wine and beer license. In the meantime, they are allowed to keep serving beer and wine as they have since late last year.  

In an effort to comply, Horn and Miller have started the change of use process but are now facing opposition from the Mission Economic Development Agency.

Now we are in a funky pickle,” said Horn.

With local markets impacted by e-commerce and delivery services, Miller and Horn struggled on 19th Street and said they intended to stabilize the small grocery and liquor store by creating a small counter area where they serve simple dishes, coffee and beer and wine.

The market and bar operates during the day and closes by 10 p.m. on weekdays and 11 p.m. on weekends.

Wednesday’s public meeting was one of the required steps to get a change of use permit.

At the meeting neighbors, family members and supporters filed into the 750 square foot sliver of a space to speak in support of what they called a “neighborhood gem.”

“They provide a service for me that I can’t afford anywhere else,” said Marvin, a Mission resident of 50 years. “I can come and get a cup of coffee and sit here and shoot the bull for half an hour for a dollar and a quarter. I feel welcomed here. Other businesses, they don’t welcome me, income wise.”

Medina suggested that Marvin visit a Chinese Bakery on Mission Street where the coffee is also cheap.

“But there’s a difference between cheap coffee and crap coffee,” said Marvin. “I’ve been to the bakery and they serve their coffee cold.”

Gabriel Medina (left) speaks with supporters and an opponent of the Royal Cuckoo Market. Photo by Laura Waxmann

Despite the clear support among those who attended the meeting, Medina remained insistent that the couple’s plans of legitimizing their license by converting their retail space to a restaurant fails to comply with the community standards developed by MEDA and other community groups under MAP 2020.

One supporter pointed out that the couple had been “caught in a transitional moment in policy.”

Medina acknowledged that the couple did not act in bad faith in the first place, but that applying for the permit now would be “out of compliance” with the interim controls.

“Planning gave you guys wrong information and I’m very disappointed,” he said.

Medina asked the couple to instead work with MEDA to establish a business plan that does not include an alcohol license. The organization provides technical assistance, lease negotiations, and has a low-interest loan fund for businesses, he said.  

“Our failure is if you shutter. Our failure is if we do not enforce the community standards,” he said.

Medina said that retail spaces rent for less than restaurants that serve beer and wine.  Once a space is converted  – even though the Royal Cuckoo is retaining the retail grocery – “the landlord is going to charge [the next tenant] a lot more rent,” Medina said.

Since 2000, some 40 percent of retail businesses – many small, locally and Latino owned – have been pushed out of the traditionally Latino neighborhood, Medina added.

“While we celebrate the Royal Cuckoo bringing their culture and residency to the area, we have to balance what the 30 percent poverty population that lives here [needs],” said Medina in an interview after the meeting.

Peter Papadopoulos, of the Cultural Action Network, was also present at the hearing and pointed to several retail spaces along Mission Street that have been subject to restaurant conversions.

A brewpub restaurant has applied for approval to open a block over, at 2243 Mission St., replacing a recently demolished furniture store.

“The entire area is moving toward nightlife destination. Destination areas are different than community serving. The Mission Street corridor is our family corridor – it’s home to lots of Asian and Latino mom and pops shops,” said Papadopoulos. “When you start giving up ground from retail to bars, restaurants, brewpubs – even the city acknowledges that it almost never goes back. It’s only a one way direction towards a destination nightlife environment, and that doesn’t match our most vulnerable residents.”

But supporters of the market wondered if the protections set forth by the community advocates were actually victimizing the exact businesses that they are meant to protect.

“Right now we are looking at some people who have been living in the Mission for decades, who have a thriving business, who are surviving within this juggernaut of outside individuals and businesses that are coming in and destroying the culture that we had here for such a long time,” said Philemon Abraham, a resident of the Mission and frequent patron. “It seems to me that the people who you are trying to protect are right here, the people who own this business.”

Miller and Horn said that losing the right to serve beer and wine could mean the end of their business.

Supporters pointed out that the Royal Cuckoo is neither a fancy restaurant nor a bar. Its eight wooden barstools and largely bilingual staff have made it a welcoming respite for many on the bar-studded block of 19th street.

Regardless, Medina was adamant.

“What happened on Valencia, just to be very clear – most of the retail there was evicted and we had a lot of fancy restaurants and bars that came in,” he said. He added that because the market is already a licensed liquor store, its owners could sell that license and transfer it to another Mission location while keeping the restaurant permit at the market.

But the Royal Cuckoo Market’s proprietors say that “flipping” their space or even nixing its retail component is not part of their plan.

“We are keeping our retail,” said Horn. “We are obviously not running this business to make a ton of money.”

“It’s hard to make it as retail,” she added.  

In a recent change of use permit on Valencia Street at Amado’s, the owner was able to get an application for restaurant space and a bar approved by agreeing to keep 700 square feet of retail at the front of his business.

Such a defined retail space could provide a roadmap to a solution at the Royal Cuckoo.
For now, Royal Cuckoo’s owners have agreed to a mediation meeting with MEDA in the coming weeks. Following the mediation, a hearing will be set in front of the Planning Commission.

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43 Comments

  1. These people are locals with good intentions – let them proceed with the license. Medina/MEDA and Argeullo/Calle24 should stop being Gladys Kravitz and MR Roper.

  2. mednina is the one who called planning which was somehow ommitted from the article. i know this for a fact because he mistakenly left an email copy his of his complaint to the city at the meeting.the other very important and most appalling aspect left out by the reporter is how medina offered to drop his complaint if they handed over all their banking information and if they comply with meta’s demands which were not disclosed at the meeting. i know meta is known for doing great things in sf but this isn’t one of them.i can’t get the mafia taste put of my mouth.

    1. Kathy, Medina asked for transparency in proceeding with the mediation. As I understood, he will continue to oppose unless an agreement is reached between both parties. The transparency was a reference to helping Paul and Debbie to re-negotiate their lease with their landlord. If you have other information, let us know.

      1. Yes we do lease space from MEDA. And,both MEDA and Royal Cuckoo are paid members of Mission Local. Royal Cuckoo is right across the street and we also buy coffee and other items from the store. If there are facts you disagree with in the story – or if you have been misquoted – we will correct.

        1. Perhaps the point that “housing, pls” is trying to make is that Mission Local article does not disclose in this article its close (Landlord/Tenant) relationship with MEDA, and the potential conflict of interest that may arise in reporting on matters related to MEDA (for example, retaliatory measures such as non-renewal of lease, etc)… particularly when dealing with an organization well-known for it’s hard-ball tactics. Mission Local really should disclose this relationship in the article. For example, does MEDA provide reduced rent to Mission Local? This would be important for the reader to know. The American Press Institute provides some clear guidelines on the issue here:

          https://www.americanpressinstitute.org/publications/reports/strategy-studies/disclosures-values/

        2. Why try to sugar coat what MEDA is doing? Everyone can see from this article that MEDA is trying to destroy this family just so they can push their agenda. I’ll bet they are trying to kick these guys out so they can take over their property for cheap and get the government to pay for a building and flip it to make a coin.

    2. I did call planning. But 2 complaints were already filed and being investigated. By then it was a fact finding mission how this happened.

      1. Why dont you use your energy to find who made the complaint and address their concerns rather than destroy this couple’s business? This is a perfect example of how a non-profit with good intention goes bad until leadership changes.

  3. Cuks like Medina need to be ran out of the city on a rail. Stop trying to curate the “culture” of SF, and stop trying to impose your world view and preferences on others. Culture is an organic, living, evolving thing. It’s the most ridiculously conservative thing in the world to use government and bureaucracy to impose your will on a neighborhood and force it to be what you want it to be. He’s just as bad as the self-important HOA twats that have nothing better to do than stick their noses in other peoples’ business in the name of “community”. What a double-standard…openly racist SF bigotry at its finest.

  4. Royal Cuckoo is the quintessential community business. To oppose a business with such strong community ties and community support is simply another MEDA tactic to drive a wedge into the community to further MEDA’s divisive agenda. MEDA’s tactics border on outright extortion.

    1. That’s exactly the word that came to my mind during the meeting. Medina kept making these patriarchal “suggestions” that MEDA would be happy to help- as long as RC changed their business plan to his liking and give them access (“transparency”) to their private financial information!

  5. Royal cuckoo is a local market I appreciate that serves the local community. It’s one of the few places where old school locals (often Latino) feeI comfortable to stop by and have a cheap cup of coffee, buy a pastry, or a sandwich. I don’t need MEDA or Gabriel Medina telling me that the cuckoo is a horrible addition to the neighborhood. I have lived here a long time, and will be fighting for the cuckoo market and for all the local and old school patrons who patronize this shop! Gabriel and MEDA will be hearing from me real soon! Fan your fires towards yuppie bars and $15 a cup juice shops that are ruining this neighborhood!

  6. I think it’s also time for MEDA to have an audit. You can legally ask for any 501C3s financial public statement. I would like to know who are there major funders/grants, and what the mission statement was to get the money. I’ve been a local for a long time, and I want to know and make sure that any non-profit who is advocating for our neighborhood, is considering the people who actually live here, and the desire of our want and needs.

    1. MEDA seems to get most of its money ($8 million or so in 2014) from public grants. The organization’s CA form 990 (latest is 2014) is public record and can be found in the “Related Documents” section here:

      http://rct.doj.ca.gov/Verification/Web/Details.aspx?result=ab0157cd-cfcd-405f-b841-59de535a4b3e

      Interestingly, MEDA does seem to be out of compliance for not submitting the proper information about which government agency it gets its grant from. It is not noted whether a response was received from MEDA by the deadline of Feb 26 2017.:
      —————–
      January 26, 2017
      MISSION ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT AGENCY
      2301 MISSION STREET, SUITE 301
      SAN FRANCISCO CA 94110
      CT FILE NUMBER: 019740

      RE: NOTICE OF INCOMPLETE REPORT

      The Annual Registration Renewal Fee Report submitted on behalf of the captioned organization
      for the fiscal year ending 12/31/2015 is incomplete for the following reason(s):
      1. Explanation/Information not provided for “YES” answer to Part B , Question No. 6. Note: The
      explanation cannot be accepted if submitted on the Schedule B, as the Schedule B is a
      confidential form which is not open to public inspection. Please submit the explanation on a
      separate sheet.
      Example of Explanation to Question 6
      Name of Government Agency
      Mailing Addresses of Government Agency
      Contact Person (if available)
      Telephone Number (if available)

      Please list all government agencies that the organization received grants from during
      the corresponding accounting period.

      In order to remain in compliance with the filing requirements set forth in Government Code sections
      12586 and 12587, please provide the requested information, together with a copy of this letter, to the
      above address, within thirty (30) days of the date of this letter.

      Sincerely,
      Registry of Charitable Trusts

  7. The community will be working with the Cuckoo Market to develop a plan that ensures their businesses’ sustainability while complying with the Mission Interim Controls and the spirit of the Mission Alcohol Restriction Special Use District. Many MEDA staff have supported this business now and since it was a Salvadoran Market. Retail space throughout the Mission is under threat for restaurant speculation which drives up rents for existing retail and prevents new entrepreneurs from starting their own retail businesses, let alone the homogenizing the economic diversity of the neighborhood and limiting accessibility to all income levels. Retail space on Valencia has to sell $500 handbags because landlords demand restaurant rents and retail space has gotten scarce from all the conversions into restaurant.

    Some questions will need to be answered: Will the liquor store license be sold to another location upon the restaurant conversion? Will this conversion threaten nearby retail lease demands like the adjacent barber shop? Can this conversion be protected against flipping, essentially being sold off once the extra value is conferred to the leaseholder and landlord?

    Restaurants conversations are a huge threat to all retail spaces throughout the Mission. I attended to tell Royal Cuckoo, staff, friends, family, other bar owners and community members that we can help make their business sustainable. Retail can be sustainable and does not need to change into bars or restaurants. We are meeting in a couple weeks to talk about how we this space can serve all members of the community.

      1. This is a sound and good explanation and I understand what Gabriel is trying to do as part of MEDA’S mission. I don’t believe MEDA’s intention is to choke this business, and definitely is not bias. It’s their mission to make sure it doesn’t happen what Gabriel explains above, which is for what they have been fighting for: to protect small businesses, residential spaces and property as a community neighborhood by controlling the type of businesses that come in. And they have done a great job for several decades.

        There is no doubt that once it is converted into a restaurant, the business value will go up tremendously, and that will affect retail spaces around. Just because the owners are local residents doesn’t mean they should be allowed to break some rules that were placed in to protect other small businesses and spaces in the Mission. And it is MEDA’s duty to stand up and do the right thing if it thinks something is not right.

        I agree that if this business is allowed to convert into restaurant with beer and wine as it is the intention here, it will allow everyone else to do the same. This could be the test that could change the Mission. Once you make an exception to the rule, it would be discrimination if someone else came and wanted to do the same thing and is denied.

        Gabriel’s questions above are legit and they should be analyzed answered before any opinion is said. Those who are trying to put MEDA in a bad light here now because of its opposition on this issue, don’t know what MEDA has been during the last 30 years for the neighborhood businesses and for the residents. Hadn’t been because of MEDA in great part, we wouldn’t have still a Mission District as it is now: under community control. business and residential wise. Please do your research before you condemn them. Please support MEDA, they truly are with the people. They know what they are talking about and know what they are doing.

        1. Hi Marvin, I too am a longtime Mission resident and (very) small business owner. I hope that we’ll get to meet in person someday.

          Here is my take on this situation:

          MEDA is a large, bureaucratic organization, and the Cuckoo is small (tiny) locally owned business. This is a real case of David vs. Goliath, and MEDA is goliath.

          There are mitigating factors here that don’t fit with MEDA’s bureaucratic, cookie-cutter-approach. It’s incumbent on MEDA, as an organization is making a claim to be an advocate for our neighborhood and for small locally-owned businesses, to take into account these mitigating factors:

          1) The owners of this tiny market were given approval by the city, and they have put a lot of time, effort and money into creating a lunch counter that serves beer and wine.
          2) They are retaining a significant amount of retail space, and simply hope generate some income in order to preserve the retail space in an economic environment that very harsh for small, locally-owned businesses.
          3) They are already legally licensed to sell alcohol (!), so this really seems like bureaucratic nit-picking
          4) They are one of the few businesess still standing in the neighborhood that is owned by people who live in, and care deeply about, this neighborhood. I disagree with your assertion that this doesn’t matter. After all, MEDA has claimed to be an adovcate for small locally-owned businesses, and have thus admitted that this is important and valuable for the neighborhood. And yet, they are putting the survival of this beloved neighborhood institution in jeopardy. This is a real contradition of MEDA’s stated goals, and quite ironic.
          5) These folks are beloved in the neighborhood. They are particularly valued by the arts community and jazz community, both of which are under threat in the city, because these wonderful folks present some of the true giants of San Francisco jazz and blues.
          6) If the market is forced to close, which is the likely outcome if MEDA persists in it’s actions, then the neighborhood will take a decided turn for the worse. The rent for the space will get jacked up, and the new owners will almost certainly be a corporate entity from outside the neighborhood that doesn’t care about the neighborhood or the people in it. In what sense would that possibly further MEDA’s stated goal of helping small, locally-owned businesses? This is theater of the absurd.

          I have heard MEDA claim to speak for the community numerous times over the past few days. MEDA does NOT speak for the community. MEDA speak for some part of the community (almost certainly not the majority, in this case), just as we speak for part of the community, which includes the actual people who live here, neighbors, small business owners and, especially, my comrades in the arts and music communites.

          Gabriel Medina do not live in our neighborhood, so it is understandable that he didn’t understand the depth of support among neighibors in the Mission and the arts and music community for the two small businesses owned by our neighbors. We have all been in the Mission for a very long time, laboring in the trenches of the service industry and the arts world. This is our neighborhood, this is our livelihood, this is our life.

          I certainly do NOT condemn MEDA for making that mistake. But it was a serious mistake, and MEDA could make this problem go away TODAY by admitting to your mistake, and stopping wasting MEDA’s valuable time and resources on crippling this tiny market. MEDA does indeed have that power. Then MEDA couild do what so many of us in the commuinity would hope they would do: focus their attention on the true villains who are changing our neighborhood – the outsiders and corporate entities who don’t care about our neighborhood or the people in it.

          MEDA DOES have power. MEDA’s actions will likely result in the closure of this market, in which case MEDA will have really harmed our neighborhood. The neighborhood is respectfully asking that MEDA cease and desist now, please. Continuing this assault on a tiny business owned by our neighbors is a horrible advertisement for MEDA, runs counter to MEDA’s stated intention to help small locally owned businesses, and is making a terrible impression on the neighborhood in terms of trusting MEDA to do the right thing for OUR community. It’s extremely bad P.R. for MEDA, and the word is spreading like wildfire in the neighborhood, on social media, and in our very diverse arts and music community. I have been engaged in online conversations with several hundred folks about this in the past two days: We are artists, working people, small businessess and progressive who are MEDA’s natural allies, but MEDA is alientaing us by not taking the actual input of the neighborhood account. We ask MEDA to respect the will of the neighborhood and aim their considerable resources at true neighborhood problems.

        2. Which business do you own on the MIssion and have you ever had MEDA fuck it up? If you do would love to drop by and see.

          1. Rosa, please go to the Royal Cuckoo Market on 19th between Valencia and Capp, and you will find a friendly neighborhood place, run by longtime Mission residents who worked in the local sevice industry for 30 years, and scrimped and saved, to own a small business. You will love it, and you will see for yourself that it is a tiny little famil-owned mom-and-pop shop that is adds a lot to our neighborhood. A very large number of people are very converned that MEDA’s actions will lead to the closure of this wonderful haven, leading to the rent being jacked up and a corporate, non-local entiy moving in and changing the culture and character of our neighborhood for the worse. We in the arts and music community are particularly frustrated because the Royal Cuckoo’s sister location is one of the last jazz venues left in Northern California, and we don’t appreciate such important supporters of the local arts scene being crippled in their efforts to survive in this crazy economy.

        3. But why should MEDA be the sole arbiter and power broker for what “the community” wants, when clearly the community does not agree with its policies and tacticts?

    1. Man who are you to tell them how to run their business? How patronizing! And you may speak for one part of the Mission community but you do not speak for everyone! You need to get over yourself. You are not an elected official and no one voted for you man. Go fight some massive developers or something and leave these people alone!

    2. All due respect, you seemed quite limited in your ability to assess situations past your training. You have a hard time actually listening to what the constituents are saying and do not seem to be processing at all. These are skills critical to being a successful community advocate. If all you can do is to recite policies over and over at different meetings, then you are not taking your responsibilities seriously at all. This type of work gives community advocates a bad name, and while I’m sure you’ll move on – feeling nothing as you casually misjudged a situation and are about to threaten an already-squeezed community – other folks you work with have to desperately repair yet another damage you e caused. I’m sure you’re not a bad guy, but your job requires just a little more imagination than what you seem capable of, sir. I hope you develop those skills soon, even at your age.

    3. Gabriel, your patronizing, patriarchal, one-size-fits-all, know-everything bombast is getting really old-and it’s damaging META’s credibility. You are a bully, and though you are well suited to shouting down a room full of people with well rehearsed sound bites and almost reasonable (at first) sounding false equivicacies, when you put these arguements into writing the absurdity starts to show. For example: you question if the proposed use of the RC will hurt the barber shop next door. Ok, that sounds like a good question-IF you have never been near the area in question AND forget that the Royal Cuckoo has been operating already for months and there is obviously NO harm to the community (quite the opposite). Was the barber there at the meeting complaining about the RC? No. only you with your supposed mandate from the “community”. Your message is aimed at an audience who doesn’t even live in or understand the Mission- people who do, know how false your assumptions are. You claim to be saving retail, but RC IS retail, and they have figured out a creative way to survive as such. What’s really annoying is how you throw terms like “retail” and “community” around and then pretend to have a god-like understanding of cause and effect in a complex economic environment which is actually way out of your countrol. For example, you want to save “retail”, but cry about all the retail on Valecia st. because they are selling 500$ handbags and in your patronizing perspective those are not good for the Community. And why are they selling 500$ handbags? Not because of something called capitalism (boo, hiss), but because of…restaurant conversions. Nevermind that the Real “community” based retail that you will save with your omnipotent power will also have to compete in a capitalist system, so I guess we’ll have to mandate ONLY big-booty distressed jeans, cheap toys and phone card shops shall be allowed in the Mission henceforth, by decree of MEDA. i hope that instead of meeting with you to listen to you tell them how to run their business ( have you ever actually run a retail business? Didn’t think so), the proprietors of Royal Cuckoo get a good lawyer and and simply defeat you in the real court and that of public opinion and that you ultimately take responsibility for damaging MEDA’s credibility, hopefully by losing your job. Oh yeah, I forgot you’re in tech. Ok so get another hobby.

    4. Mr. Medina, please educate me on what gives your organization the authority to enforce the Mission Interim Controls and ‘the spirit’ of the MARPUD? The fact that some of your staff members supported the business? I don’t think so. And also, please tell me, who else the Cuckoo Market NEED to serve? And again, what in God’s name makes you think you speak for ALL members of the community. You certainly don’t speak for me and most of the folks on this thread.

      Last, Lydia – the fact that the relationship wasn’t disclosed between MEDA and Mission Local can only be explained as intentional aka misleading or an oversight aka amateur-hour reporting.

  8. MEDA gets $8 million + in public money — that’s presumably money paid by *all* taxpayers — and MEDA’s director Luis Granados is paid more than $200,000 per year (!) to pursue it’s agenda “to strengthen low-and moderate-income *Latino* families.”

    This is not an agenda that I have made up, rather it is the stated agenda on MEDA’s website. And this is the point that comes sharply into focus here — where MEDA’s divisive agenda clashes with realities on the ground… as illustrated perfectly in this story. Royal Cuckoo is a business with huge community support, owned by locals who have been in the neighborhood for more than THREE DECADES… yet they don’t happen to be Latino.

    The reality is that it’s very difficult to have a successful food business without alcohol sales. In fact, many such business don’t make much profit on the food — particularly when you take into account the rising cost of labor for food prep, service and dishwashing, etc. The reality is, that denying Royal Cuckoo the right to continue serving beer and wine will seriously put the viability of the business in jeopardy.

    One has to address the elephant in the room here — If the long-time neighborhood residents and owners of this small community business — Paul Miller and Debbie Horn — were Latino, would MEDA be so quick to move in to jeopardize the viability of their business? Would they be actively working to squash the business by submitting complaints to the city government, etc. and throwing their political weight around to put up roadblocks to success? Or would they extend a hand to help them succeed in their business that has so much community support.

    1. You’re absolutely correct, it’s quite simply appalling racism. Don’t believe the rubbish that “reverse racism isn’t real” because it’s just demonstrably false, this egregious case is a perfect example. Nobody, white (irish?) people included, should be discriminated against in zoning neighborhoods, but the liberal order has become so severely ill as of late that we have been led to believe that renters are more valuable than property owners and white people are all reaping the rewards of slavery and colonialism so they are worth even less..I was raised in Bernal a block from mission and I used to believe this stuff until I became more educated..Plenty of white and Jewish people built SF from the ground up along with many other ethnicities and every neighborhood has a long and storied past of many different ethnicities inhabiting it.

      My “lived experience” if you will has been that the mission and Bernal is just way safer without the scourge of gang violence that used to be rampant blocks from my house, and my mom who is a single mom and works for modest wages in public health made a big investment in Bernal before it was nice, and endured all the fear of living in a crime-ridden neighborhood just like the people in this article, and now is reaping the rewards of higher property values and a higher standard of living (not fearing for one’s life / purse on a walk to the store is really nice). I know lots of Latino families who don’t get the fuss about the gang violence leaving the mission, plenty of middle class families bought homes decades ago have done really well, renters are vulnerable anywhere and this intrinsic fact does not make us all guilty of being modern day colonialists any more than the Mexicans who first pushed out the mission’s irish were. Fuck this racist anti-white anti-jew anti-asian agenda.

    2. Went through MEDA back financials/tax returns 2011-2015 (access was not available for fiscal 16) and found things that are quite interesting, will leave it at that for now. Most of their funding is actually via .gov subsidies and the balance by the usual suspects of banks and special interest groups- this is not where the meat of interest in the returns is though. I am in full agreement that MEDA’s Pravada and echo chamber (A.K.A Mission Local) is in slight conflict of interest and should also be considered dubious at best. Suffice it to say, Mr.Medina is far from being a do gooder and doesn’t exactly have an extensive, tangible work history (so down for the workers!), no agenda or public office aspirations at all- no, just a helpful dude with peoples best interests in mind. I have been in contact with other small business owners in the mission and in the excelsior dist. that concur and corrobarate with the assertions put forward by most commentors in this thread, their ( the biz owners) information was both interesting and of value in regards to Mr.Medina’s true feelings of community and “diversity”. Bottom line is Gabe isn’t exactly a straight shooter, more like straight shitter and a hustler. More to come…..

  9. I’m a long-time Mission resident whoI lives 2 blocks from the market, and I have been plugging away as a full-time musician in San Francisco for my entire adult life (30 years in the trenches). I play organ regularly at the Royal Cuckoo Organ Lounge. I would like to urge folk to look at the specifics of this case:

    While the standards may make some sense in many cases, this is a case where MEDA will likely destroy a locally owned business, throw a local and diverse staff out of work, and actually hasten the changes that they claim to oppose. It’s also a special case because the owners were told by the city that they could build a counter and serve beer and wine. They put a lot of work and money into this, and, as their neghbors, I would hope that MEDA would do the neighborly thing and consider the unique aspects of their case, and their hardships. True community is about heart, soul and understanding. If MEDA would relent, the issue would go away, and the neighbordhood could continue to benefit from one of it’s truly beloved locally-owned businesses.

    It is critical to note that the market will likely close if they can’t serve beer and wine at their food counter. In that case, the rent will get jacked up, and whoever comes in and replaces the current owners will almost certainly NOT be people from the immediate neighborhood. The huge irony here is that the owners of the The Royal Cuckoo Market and Horsies Saloon are LOCAL, they have struggled in the local service industry for three decades (mostly in the Mission district) in order to save up and own a business, and they are now being threatened by an organization that claims to support local businesses! This is THEATER OF THE ABSURD.

    Furthermore, these folks are HUGE supporters of the local arts scene. One of the owners is an artist herself who has long performed in the Mission. The Royal Cuckoo Organ Lounge is one of the last jazz clubs in Northern California, and presents some of the finest artists in the country, including legendary African American jazz singers Denise Perrier and the Fillmore’s very own SF Jazz Festival Beacon Award winner Mary Stallings, who the New York Times called the greatest living jazz singer. Every other Wednesday, you can check out low-rider favorite Freddie Hughes, the great soul singer who had the classic Bay Area top 10 R&B hit “Send My Baby Back”. The Cuckoo also presents Bill Ortiz from Santana’s band, and, tonight, we will feature 80-year old Jules Broussard, who is a veteran of the bands of Ray Charles and Santana and has a star on the Fillmore Jazz Walk Of Fame + Mike Olmos from Etta James’ band. These fine artists can be heard for the price of one cheap beer, and they work with us because they know us and trust us because are longtime comrades in the trenches of the San Francisco music scene. The Cuckoo has beome a hangout for a very diverse group of local musicians, visual artists, performance artists and writers.

    The point is, we ARE San Francisco. We ARE the community. We are the artists and musicians who are being displaced and assaulted by the changes to our neighborhood and city. The irony is that we musicians and artists are natural allies for MEDA. But MEDA does NOT speak for us in this case. We are feeling very disrespected and alienated, as if we are not valued members of the local community.

    We are working on organizing the local arts and music community to stand up for this tiny little market that has done so much to preserve the cultural legacy (especially jazz) that is threatened in San Francsico. We, would hope that, rather than taking on a beloved community member and alienating the arts and music communities, MEDA would spend it’s valuable time and resources taking on the non-local people and companies who are flooding our neighborhood with outside money and changing it’s character.

    For anybody reading this, come out and support the market and the organ lounge, which presents live local musicians 7 nights per week. As the legendary singer and Fillmore native Mary Stalling has said, you will find a place that preserves the spirit of the old San Francisco that she grew up in the 40s and 50s. And with that, I’ll sign off with Royal Cuckoo artist Freddie Hughes Bay Area classic “Send My Baby Back”. He’ll be sigining at the Cuckoo in a couple of weeks!

  10. MEDA is your local Mission Mafia…with a newspaper Mission Local as its personal PR. They continue to stick their noses into every aspect of the Mission trying to impose their racket on the moms and dad stores and homes in this region. This is exactly the reason why we have Trump in office… because of extortionist organizations like MEDA.

  11. I don’t get it. Why go after a business run by people who have worked in the service industry in the Mission for 30 years? It seems like they have been part of the neighborhood for a while and have things to offer to the locals that some of the recent businesses in the neighborhood definitely don’t.

  12. I was at the meeting, and my opinion of META has completely changed. I moved to the Mission in ’89, and got priced out 10 years later. I’ve worked with many non-profits including SLUG, Pacha Mama, and Precita Eyes Mural Center which have promoted empowerment for local Mission culture and sustainability. I have been dismayed by the effects of gentrification too.
    I used to support MEDA. The fact that they are spending energy to squelch this small, local business which is more like a labor of love/work of art, tells me that MEDA is feeling poweless against the monolithic forces of actual disruptive change and are grasping pathetically for some small victory to justify their existence. They have done good work, they should get back to that!
    Gabriel Medina is obviously experienced in holding his own in a meeting. Faced with a room full of RC supporters he kept chewing his ideological bone like a bulldog, not listening to all those impassioned pleas from real people and answering every comment with his canned sound bites. It was telling when he flat out said “I have no emotion”. Also telling that he “represents the community” but it was just him (and 1 sidekick who previously worked for him). Wonder who the 2 people who complained to planning were?
    I have to trust that this absurdity will go away and Royal Cuckoo will continue providing a tiny refuge from this messed up world. I had to leave the meeting early, and it was surreal to walk away from a small room of passionately argueing, well intentioned people and feel it in the context of all the horrible things going on in the world- let’s get real MEDA and pick your fights more wisely.

  13. I agree. At least in this case MEDA sounds sketchy. MEDA comes off as a bully who is trying to micromanage the mission and dictate what goes on here. The Mission belongs to us all!

  14. I support The RC Market and Horseys ?!
    This is ABSURD!
    I’ve known Debbie for 20+years, she has been in the service industry in the mission as long as I have known her, and has friends all over the mission who love and respect her. If anyone has ever made you feel at home in any business establishment, its Debbie and Paul.
    They are friendly, damned hard workers , and only have the best intentions and interests of the neighborhood that they have lived in for decades at heart.
    I consider the RC Market a total “mom and pop” business, and Paul and Debbie most definitely have that vibe as soon as you walk in their shop.
    This is a business that serves all members of the community equally, and it would be a shame to see them go . Who would then populate the space ? Some yuppie investors?
    Seems to me that Mr. Medina is very wrong about going after this mom and pop local residents establishment , and should focus on bigger issues.
    Such a shame they are being what I would call “targeted ” .
    They both have their finger on the pulse of the neighborhood.
    I really hope they win the right to keep their business open, there are no 2 people more deserving after serving the community in the service industry in the mission for so long.

  15. More than anything, I do not believe Gabriel Medina/MEDA’s agenda. Your actions speak louder than words, and so far you are the one who has made an issue, where there wasn’t one. You are the person/entity that have contested! Stop giving the impression that you are working with The Cuckoo, if your really not doing that. That location used to be a run down liquor store from what I remember. Now it’s a place where I stop for a cup of coffee and a pastry. Gabriel Medina, you need to take note that we are watching…your actions speak louder than any lip service you have given this far.

  16. Gabriel Medina: we need to see that your actions and your words are adding up, because so far what you’ve said and what you have done are two completely different things…which means that we are just getting lip service. From what I remember, this location was a run down liquor store, and thus has evolved into a place I can get a cup of coffee and pastry in the morning. Trying to play it up that it was some legacy Salvadorian business is absurd. I hope you have a very productive upcoming meeting with the royal cuckoo and the community looks forward to knowing the next steps you be taking in helping them, versus working against them. TBD, right?

  17. The fact is Royal Cuckoo already has the permits and is the type of local business that we should all support. Stop the bureaucratic BS.

  18. I think its important to note that the folks at MEDA come into our shop all the time, and they are not to blame. They have their own projects and were completely unaware that Medina was doing this.

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