Neighborhood Notes: Off Top, Planning Imposters, and Victorian gets a makeover

Off Top co-founder Armando Ramirez. Photo by Michael Nolan

Off Top is growing up

The Mission-based cap designer Off Top is growing fast – so much so that it’s finally getting its own space on the corner of 19th and Mission streets June 1.

Co-owner Armando Ramirez, 29, said the move will allow the one-year-old cap-embroidery business to focus on its own branding. Right now, he shares a space with a hair salon on Mission Street, closer to 20th.

“Here, it feels like we have roommates — we share the vibes,” he said. “It’s great and I love it, but our own space will give us our own home and atmosphere.”

This, he said, will be great for business. When Off Top first opened last April, it did business out of the front corner of the space. It soon expanded to take up a whole front half of the store, which was apparently a smart move.

“We doubled our sales,” Ramirez said, explaining that now they take in $6,000 to $10,000 a month in revenue.

But when they move into the new space, with its higher visibility and more room to be creative, Ramirez is projecting the business will take in $20,000 a month. “Having restaurants and stores around will help us a lot,” he said.

Their rent will also help. At their current spot, Ramirez said they were paying $1,700 to share the space, and soon they will only have to pay $1,300. He said he persistently spoke to the Mission Economic Development Agency about leasing the space. (Mission Local also rents space from MEDA.)  

What’s more, he said, last year he and his business partner, Daniel Rayes, were paying the rent out of their pockets. “In November, it started paying for itself,” he said.

Ramirez is no stranger to doing business. In a past life, he was a mortgage lender in Sacramento, but became disillusioned and moved to San Francisco. After living out of his car for a time, he opened his store in the Mission.

Once the move is complete, he’s hoping to turn a real profit, he said.

“It feels amazing,” he said. “My kid (business) can finally walk now.”

Planning Department Imposters

Fake Planning Department notes went up around the site of a proposed three-story, 12-unit housing project at 25th Street and San Jose Avenue. The Planning Department was not happy.

The note, complete with Planning Department letterhead, reads:

Dear Neighbor:

An outside group wants to demolish the Victorian at 350 San Jose Ave … so they can erect a huge building (condos) with an additional 3rd Floor featuring a 4-BR penthouse $$$ with balconies overlooking Juri Commons Park. This will dramatically change your park & your neighborhood. Please contact Megan at SF Planning Dept. today to oppose their plans before it gains any traction or city approval.

Thank you.

Of course, the Planning Department was less-than-thrilled. Megan Caplin, the planner for the project, sent out a letter shortly after false notes went up, notifying neighbors that the letters were indeed a hoax.

“We are alarmed by this falsification of official materials and are disappointed by the author’s attempt to mislead neighbors,” the note reads.

Caplin urged neighbors — and the imposters — to contact her with any questions or concerns.

Moreover, on Tuesday, an environmental review was filed for the project. In an email, a neighbor named Edward Stiel said he supported the environmental review, citing a shadow that would be cast over Juri Commons Park, not enough off-street parking spaces, and the density of the project being out of scale with the neighborhood.

The project would indeed double in height — from 21-feet-tall to 40-feet-tall, per the proposal. It will include four parking spaces total, with 12 bicycle spots.

Stiel said he did not know who the note impersonators were.

House transformed for the indie movie

A Victorian on South Van Ness between 20th and 21st is going through some transformations, albeit temporary ones. Over the month of May, a film crew will be shooting part of a movie called The Last Black Man in San Francisco in the Mission, and in particular at the Victorian (where, full disclosure, this reporter lives.)

The front of the house has a completely new look: set crews erected walls composed of wood and painted to look like stone. The wall is overlaid with real and fake vines. One of the designers explained all the hullabaloo.

“We wanted to mask the garage to make it look like an original Victorian from top to bottom,” the designer said, explaining that Victorians originally did not come with garages.

The film follows a young man who occupies and tries to renovate a house his grandfather built in San Francisco. The movie is primarily being shot in Hunters Point, but the Mission is also getting its fair share of screen time.

Fake walls and vines at the Victorian on S. Van Ness. Photo by Julian Mark.

Creativity Explored, Mind Place

Join Creativity Explored, a studio and art gallery for artists with developmental disabilities, for its opening reception of Mind Place on Thursday, May 10, from 7 to 9 p.m. The exhibit, which runs through July 12, explores the “psychology of place.” It will feature artistic depictions that lead “the viewer on a journey to ethereal environments that are physical, yet based on the mind.”

The artists: Ian Adams, Jay Herndon, Camille Holvoet, Laron Bickerstaff, Kathy Wen, and Marilyn Wong. Curated by Visual Arts Instructor Leeza Doreian.

Orange Moon by Marilyn Wong.

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