Joey Mucha’s plans to turn his rental and repair business for video games, pinball and skeeball into a family-friendly arcade will be heard by the Planning Commission Thursday — and Mission activists are pledging to oppose the project.  

“It’s not designed for families, it’s designed to be attractive for young, affluent professionals*,” said Kevin Ortiz, a member of United to Save the Mission and the Cultural Action Network, a direct action group focused on preserving the Mission’s diversity and artistic spaces. Ortiz said he believes Mucha’s plan is disingenuous and will contribute to further gentrification. 

Mucha is applying for a change-of-use permit for the current home of his repair business, Joey the Cat, at 3252 19th St. between South Van Ness and Shotwell Streets. His family purchased the space in 2014 for $1.5 million. Last month, the city granted him a temporary use authorization to host private events, but he’s hoping to make the change permanent. 

He wants to transition the space into a pure arcade and entertainment site. Mucha said that the site was previously an artist studio and a cannabis growing operation — that caught on fire. His family purchased it after renovations were done.

Mucha said that when the family bought the building, it was already empty.

Ortiz said he filed a discretionary review application because he believes the arcade won’t be catering to families and Mission residents, as Mucha claims, but to corporate clients and tech companies. 

He noted that Mucha ran it as a corporate event space illegally for months; Ortiz maintains that the space should be reserved for a business that would hire locals. Mucha confirmed that he had indeed used the site for private gatherings in the past — but once the city informed him he needed to have permits, he stopped hosting events there. 

“If the argument was that I threw illegal parties, well, now I’m trying to get this place legal for a wholesome family environment. I’m trying to look ahead, not at the past,” Mucha said. 

Mucha’s location is zoned for Urban Mixed Use, according to the Planning Department’s website, which allows for entertainment and retail services as well as restaurants. 

Ortiz said that bringing another business into the area that could sell alcohol, even if it has a restaurant component, is adding to the oversaturation of alcohol in the Mission. 

But Mucha has lined up letter-writers in support of his plans, including state treasurer and former city supervisor Fiona Ma.

One of Mucha’s backers, Lilian Marlene Samson,  works next door to his building at CMSC Janitorial, and praised his efforts to add a family-friendly business in the Mission, adding that she’s taken her family to Mucha’s arcade during private events in the past. Even her elderly parents enjoyed the games, she said. 

She provided Mission Local with photos of kids playing skee-ball. One of the photos even shows nuns playing skee-ball on one of the machines Mucha rents out.

Photos courtesy of Marlene Samson.

“This just brings back childhood memories,” Samson said as she scrolled through pictures of her family playing skee-ball. 

She also supports his business because, she says, his security guards working at events act as a deterrent against sex workers who wait for pick-ups on Shotwell Street. 

Mucha also power-washes the sidewalks, which Samson said has contributed to keeping the block clean and free of homeless camps.

But Ortiz said he had heard the security talking point from Mucha as well, and questioned its intent. 

“This whole argument about bringing more police into communities of color, when historically there haven’t been good interactions between the two, it’s a fake argument. It comes off as disingenuous,” Ortiz said. 

Ortiz said that having alcohol sales in an area already dealing with heavy prostitution and vehicle traffic would lead to more property crime. But he also said that all of those people would be calling rideshares at night, which would lead to more traffic. 

“They haven’t even studied the effects of having more Uber and Lyfts in the area,” he said.

Mucha hopes he can overcome the complaints at today’s Planning Commission hearing. He’s lived in the Mission now for 11 years, he said, and even met his wife while playing skee-ball at a nearby bar.

“Wholesome family fun is something that I think is missing from the neighborhood, and I think this is an opportunity to bring some of it back,” he said. 

Ed note: This article contained a  quote of Mr. Ortiz, saying ““It’s not designed for families, it’s designed for young, attractive, affluent professionals,”. It has been changed to reflect his intended comment.