A Mission District nonprofit is adding a hurdle for a cafe hoping to open on Mission Street near 22nd, asking the operator to agree to concessions they say will mitigate its gentrifying effects.

The Mission Economic Development Agency, or MEDA, filed a request for a discretionary review on a proposal for a cafe at 2567 Mission St. That means the project has to go to a hearing in front of the Planning Commission.

Project plans indicate a private existing ground-floor cafe will be renovated and opened to the public.

Doing so, MEDA wrote in the request, “will exacerbate the gentrification and cultural displacement problem as this area is starting to turn from a community-serving retail area for Latino working-class families to a tourist destination area based on a growing density of fancy coffee shops, restaurants, and bars.”

To mitigate those effects, MEDA came to the cafe operators with suggestions for a deal: They would drop their opposition if the cafe owners agreed to hire locally through community workforce partners, strive for a bilingual and bicultural environment, and keep their drinks and baked goods affordable while sourcing them through a local baker or foodservice group.

MEDA also asked for a discount plan for Mission Street workers “encourage a strengthening of the Mission St retail corridor,” according to a statement.

When no deal was reached, MEDA requested the review, which asks the Planning Commission to weigh in.

The property owner could not be reached for comment. A contact for the tenant of the building declined to comment.

Mission Street, long a corridor of thrift stores, dollar stores and inexpensive taquerias, has been changing over the last eight years. Meanwhile rents on Valencia Street have risen dramatically, putting pressure on retailers.

A big change on the corridor was the opening of Vida in 2015, a building of $1 million plus condominiums. Lauren Smiley reported how San Francisco developer Dean Givas forestalled any community uproar on that building by spending a lot of money on the community – some $800,000 in money to mitigate a backlash. 

Since then, MEDA and other neighborhood nonprofits like Our Mission No Eviction and the Cultural Action Network have forced several projects along Mission Street to go to the Planning Commission over similar concerns.

MEDA stepped in to oppose the opening of a small new beer and wine bar on 19th Street, after it had already opened, citing concerns about filling the Mission with “destination” food and drink establishments. The use was eventually approved by the Planning Commission.

Housing projects, too, have been taken before the Commission. MEDA asked for and got changes made to a proposed new housing project on 15th and Mission streets on the basis that it looked too high-income and unwelcoming. That site and its permits are now up for sale. Just two doors down at 1924 Mission St., Our Mission No Eviction went through the same routine, and the developer was ordered to come up with an adjusted design.

In the request, MEDA cited a proposal for a wine bar across the street at Foreign Cinema as another example of “destination” businesses.

“[T]his coffee shop could become the eighth food and drink space on this block of Mission St.,” the request reads (emphasis original).

The Foreign Cinema proposal, as it happens, was dropped – in the face of opposition from a coalition of neighborhood groups called United to Save the Mission, as well as the planning department, which found it not to be a “neighborhood serving” business.

Disclosure: Mission Local rents its office from the Mission Economic Development Agency.

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  1. Fellow Mission Residents

    Are you interested in preserving the historical integrity and residency of current residents?

    Are you interested in supporting a balanced community development model?

    Then I would like to hear from you.

    As of late too often we are hearing ‘no’ to development of any kind unless it fits a relatively narrow definition of ‘neighborhood serving’. If we want the Mission to be a vibrant community that we ALL can enjoy living in then the no needs to be replaced by how.

    To be added to the list and participate in future meetings and/or discussions please sent your name and email address to MissionProjectYes@tonic.net

  2. I’m wondering if the fact that Mission Local rents its office space from MEDA colors its views of the non-profit? For example, how would MEDA react if a Mission Local writer did a critical exposé on MEDA’s political machinations, focussing, for example, on its sweetheart deals with the City? I like Mission Local, but I don’t see it ever having the courage to write anything that might tarnish it’s “progressive” credentials.

  3. Sadly, the “anti-gentrification” zealots would rather have the Mission filthy and dangerous if cleaning it up and making it safer and more inviting means higher sales prices and rents. “Gentrification” is the dirtiest word in their lexicon—they’re living in fantasyland. As evidence of this regressive attitude (nothing “progressive” about it) just look what supervisor Campos did to the Mission Miracle Mile Business Improvement District on the 2500 block of Mission: He shut it down—after 10 years of very successful operation. Campos was clearly embarrassed that this one-block stretch of Mission St. looked so much better than the rest of his “city-maintained” district, a testament to what property owners can do when they get together and pay for additional services out of their own pocket because the CIty’s “baseline services” are totally inadequate. Campos disingenously cloaked his opposition in the false claim that the BID had not done sufficient outreach and did not meet the needs of the Mission.

    Tom Wetzel of Mission Anti-Displacement Coalition made a statement some years back that expresses this cynical (but truthful) attitude clearly:
    “The “let’s leave it trashy” mindset has a certain kind of advantage. If the area is full of drug dealers, prostitutes and people tagging, the professional managerial class of people is not going to want to buy property in those neighborhoods. With prices down, low-income families will not fear being displaced, the homeless will not be run out, and creative, low-income artists and Latinos can still call the Mission “home.”

  4. How can the community best activate to resist the brownshirtesque racist intimidation tactics of MEDA? Since ML has a (acknowledged) conflict of interest we should probably take this discussion elsewhere. Any ideas?

    1. We’re going to have to start sharing with friends and neighbors of a like mind and ultimately start a group like Progress Noe Valley (progressnoe.com). I did reach out to them about a model whereby their success can be replicated using a chapter approach. They did get back to me and stated that was a part of their original idea and has been evolving over the course of 2017. Also MEDA has a website with all the contact information for their employees … perhaps its as simply as reaching out to the Executive Director and having him explain the exclusionary and regressive stance of their organization?

  5. I have seen this trend of ‘opposition at all costs’ reach what I consider to be alarming levels. Two groups in particular MEDA and United to Save the Mission have appointed themselves as the arbiters of all things local and have in essence co-opted the Mission purporting to speak for all Mission residents. While I support their goal of ensuring the legacy of the Mission is protected their NO stance to virtually everything that does not fit their cultural cred standard now needs to be checked. As a property owner and tax payer I want to see the Mission thrive which means protecting the legacy (culture and residents) but also supporting appropriate growth and change. So instead of ongoing opposition and rejection I would like to see these groups provide the residents with a business development plan that is scalable, sustainable, and support the needs of ALL who reside in this neighborhood. Frankly if they spent more time advocating for much needed infrastructure changes along 24th and Mission street I for one would be grateful. Instead I get to look at a filthy BART station, garbage, broken sidewalks, drunks, and empty storefronts. Perhaps we need to start a Progress Mission group (similar to Progress Noe Valley) to ensure that the voice of everyone is represented and support for business owners (i.e. Foreign Cinema) is heard by local (read neighborhood) and city leaders.

    1. ^^ What Grant said.
      Am personally not aware of the full charter of MEDA, but squashing the opening of espresso bars like some futile whack-a-mole game can’t be the full extent of it. How about working with the City to condemn some of the chronic eyesore buildings on Mission Street and get them rehabilitated into something functional other than garbage dump and urinal? That would be a visible and helpful Mission economic development.

      1. Exactly … for example how long to do we have to endure that horrific hole in the ground at Mission and 22nd. I realize the owner, city, insurance agencies, etcetera are all ‘dealing’ with the aftermath but for god’s sake can’t it at least be cleaned up, filled in, and maintained in some way? If we have 275 MM to deal with homelessness maybe we can find a few bucks to deal with this huh?

  6. No one elected MEDA to become an alternative local government in the Mission, which seems to be what they are trying to become.

    As a largely government funded non-profit, MEDA should focus on helping everyone in the Mission rather than on helping some and attacking others. If they cannot focus exclusively on helping people, then they should be defunded.

    1. I agree wholehearted … they should call themselves the Mission Economic Non Development Agency b/c that’s what it seems is their mandate!

  7. Power has the ability to corrupt no matter whose hands its in. It’s non-discriminatory in that way, which is somewhat ironic in this instance.

  8. Remember the stories of businesses having to pay protection money to the mafia? MEDA is nothing more than a modern-day mafia, with a racist twist. They used the same playbook with locally owned business, the Royal Cuckoo Market (https://missionlocal-newspack.newspackstaging.com/2017/05/non-profit-developer-opposes-mom-and-pop-stores-plan-for-beer-and-wine/) , threatening the livelihood and viability of local businesses who don’t cede to their demands. How we got to this point speaks volumes about the blind folly of “progressive” politics. The road to hell is paved with good intentions.

  9. Hoping for some state or federal intervention to stop MEDA on behalf of all the business owners in the Mission.

    1. Actually Progress Noe Valley and Grow the Richmond as well as the YIMBY chapters are becoming increasingly popular in neighborhoods where local politics has outright rejected growth and development and residents (taxpayers) are becoming increasingly disenchanted with that lack of vision or meaningful planning.

  10. While i do appreciate that change is difficult, and there are ways to preserve cultures, i do not want to go back to the times that cabs wouldn’t come to the Mission, not that long ago, like not long ago at all. It is a mix of good and bad the changes happening in the mission and we should appreciate the good also. MEDA, you can’t stop this change, you can certainly cause a lot of heartache and lose in the long run. Have some heart.

  11. I just read this story. I have a difficult time expressing just how angry MEDA’s action makes me. Some poor guy just wants to open a cafe and serve some food and coffee, and he is being shaken down. It is simply not right. How is this different than being shaken down by the mob?

    1. I don’t think the requests are outrageous. It’s getting tiring seeing four barrel type places everywhere. Much prefer Grand coffee type places.