Joey Mucha in front of his skee-ball machines. Photo by Abraham Rodriguez.

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. 

Join the Conversation

37 Comments

  1. United to Save the Mission = United to keep it boring and unsafe as hell. Why do they keep obstructing obstructing obstructing?

    1. Shakedown artists go away. There are more dogs than children in San Francisco, for God’s sake. There is no reason to delay or obstruct this business. Largate, sin verguenza!

  2. I can’t believe they’re giving this guy a hard time! It doesn’t get more wholesome than this. Seems like Ortiz is the real monster here making hard working business owners suffer the consequences of the long drawn out planning department appeal and the incredible expensive costs that go with it. Seems like Ortiz is being racist as I’m guessing Mucha isn’t Latino.

  3. Kevin Ortiz’ is everything wrong with society these days. God forbid there’s a place I can bring my kids for entertainment in the Mission district.

    Everyone with Kids in SF, they don’t want you! Get out and come to the suburbs where neighborhoods and businesses all welcome your presence.

  4. Coincidentally, while reading this story, on the side of the webpage is an ad for another evil gentrifying invader in Mission, Urban Putt. Thank God(!) we have brave souls like Mr Ortiz to protect Mission residents from menaces to society like GoBikes, barcades and the like. I’d also like to put a call out for shutting down Humphry Slocombe. I find that the variety of flavors they offer scream elitism!

  5. i have some great ideas to help the Mission:

    1) let’s block legitimate businesses from opening in our neighborhood and make things way hard for prospective small business owners

    2) Let’s have a really narrow definition of what businesses can go in to a given neighborhood, and then we can complain a lot about retail vacancies and empty storefronts

    3) we definitely don’t want to add any businesses to the neighborhood that involve customers needing transport to and from, owners who want to keep storefronts clean, or offer unique engagement opportunities to the community

    i dont have any skin in this game but reading Ortiz’ comments obviously make my eyes roll back in my head. way to be inclusive brother

    1. the link says temporary use authorization…a skeeball arcade is literally what you are spending your time trying to shut down?!?! ridiculous…

  6. So ridiculous. I have a kid and would love to take my son here. I loved arcade games growing up and this would be a great place to him to. So what if it gets used for corporate events too? This is so ridiculous. And also hearing that urban putt is getting flack on these comments is disgusting. My son also loves that place. Please SF, don’t block a business owner from operating a business that could be good for the community (both kids and private companies alike).

    1. Seems you didn’t get my tinge of sarcasm. Glad that you and your family support such businesses.

  7. You know who actually sounds disingenuous here? Ortiz. The article makes it sound like he has some kind of personal vendetta against Mucha. One guy (Ortiz) should not be allowed such an outsize say in business permitting in a real city. Perhaps a small town would be a better fit for someone who’s so interested in meddling in other people’s businesses.

  8. Where was Ortiz when all the bowling alleys shut down? Is he exercised about Spark and miniature golf in China Basin? Blocking small business owners from opening an arcade is not the answer to tech money distorting this city. And, frankly, Ess Eff needs more places where parents (like me) can take their kids to places like this. God forbid it actually helps clean up the surrounding neighborhood.

  9. “United to Save the Mission and the Cultural Action Network, a direct action group focused on preserving the Mission’s diversity “ — do they even know what diversity means? Trying to run non-Latinos out of a Latino neighborhood is not preserving diversity.

    1. For Kevin Ortiz, a member of United to Save the Mission and the Cultural Action Network to say that Joey the Cat Skee-ball is “not designed for families, it’s designed for young, attractive affluent professionals”, I feel is a little twisted. This place is fun for both adults and children and more importantly it is SAFE. I don’t have to worry about my children playing or having parties at a park where 1) there are over-intoxicated individuals that are passed out and/or urinate in public in front of kids, or 2) where there are used needles everywhere. I would LOVE IT if Joey the Cat opened up to the public. It’s just sad as f**k that this place is safer than the parks we take our children to. We’ve had some good times there, and most of us are 3rd & 4th generation San Franciscans that are born and raised in the Mission.

    2. It’s not even a “historically” latino neighborhood unless your only looking at history as being from the 70’s to the early 2000s..

  10. If you are a neighbor in favor of Joey’s arcade email richard.sucre [at] sfgov [dot] org, the planner assigned to it.

  11. “It’s not designed for families, it’s designed for young, attractive affluent professionals,”

    What does that even mean? You don’t want ‘young’ or ‘attractive’ people to frequent your neighborhood? This is peak absurdity for people trying to open a business in SF these days.

    The fact that someone who lives in the neighborhood has to deal with people like Ortiz trying to roadblock their business is insanity. Where is he working to bring a cool space to the community?

  12. I thought the make-your-own tortilleria was the best idea. All you would need would be cornmeal and water. What happened to that plan?

  13. This would be a great place for everyone in the Mission to enjoy?! Why is it some people’s mission to stop fun from happening in The Mission?

  14. As per Bev S’s suggestion, I emailed richard.sucre [at] sfgov [dot] org. This sounds like a great place that Joey Mucha has – let’s support him!

  15. I love skew-ball and it’s a great activity with some arcades for kids and teens. We keep losing these prior fun spaces and safe zones for kids and adults… the urban put and bowling alleys and fun amusement is needed in the excelsior. We have plenty of empty storefronts and lots of kids hanging around after school… bring it to the excelsior!

  16. What’s interesting is that they are advertising event space to corporations, not families. I would love to have my kids bday party there, but when I looked at the website their suggested budgets start at <$2500.
    I would feel silly to tell them my budget, let’s say of $500, they’ll laugh.
    So, I do agree we need to have more places for families and support small businesses, but, I don’t see how this business would do that they way they are describing it right now. It would be great if they have a combination of kid friendly family nights/days and corporate private parties or over 21 events.
    But maybe that is what they are working on?

    1. CR – at the moment you have to rent out the entire place for 49 people so I”m sure that’s why the cost is that high. I bet if it was open to the public, you could just bring a party of 10-15 kids there for well within your budget and not have to rent the whole thing. It would be competing with all the other party places like pump it up, trampoline parks, urban putt, spark (and I see diverse groups at all of these places). I’m not young, but I’d love to go here with other families on a weekend night. Everyone likes to go out and have fun, and I’m hoping it would be priced similarly per person to a movie.

  17. Mission Mafia at it again. Look at what Senor Sigsig and The Laundromat had to go through. Locals trying fulfill their dream to open small a business only to be harassed and resisted by a small group of people who make unvalidated arguments about “what might happen”. These small business owners are not the bad guys. They say “scum” who patronize these places are going to break into cars and piss on the sidewalk? Doubtful. Besides that is already happening. This city disheartens me sometimes–Its so liberal its conservative.

  18. Ortiz makes zero valid arguments and comes off as a NIMBY. When each argument fails, he moves on to a new one to support his weak position.

    When the gentrification argument fails, it’s time to move to the “no, it’s not gentrification, it’s making things more sleazy with more booze” argument:

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

    And of course, when that argument fails, it’s time to go to the “blame uber” argument:
    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.

    More traffic is more local business support, and more people on the streets means less street crime, you fucking moron.

  19. I know it is an old story and Joey got his approval….but is Ortiz one of those “activists” who abhor Gentrification and at the same time complains about “White Flight”?

  20. Ortiz is a person who can’t make a positive contribution to the community, so he can only block and try to destroy businesses. He and his cohorts who are woke joke adults with the mentality of a self centered teenage.

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