YuBalance was not weighed down by fear when it operated in its 24th Street space without permits for more than a year. Photo by Julian Mark

When Paloma Trigueros went into her backyard to set up for her sister’s birthday party early one October morning, much to her surprise, “it sounded like there was already a party” going on outside. 

Just over her fence in the adjacent backyard, Britney Spears’ “Toxic” was on full blast and around a dozen people were doing high-intensity fitness training to the abrasive tune. They were members of the YuBalance Gym at 2860 24th St. near Bryant Street, which had moved into the building several months before.  

Trigueros called over the fence to a woman leading the training, noting that it was 7 a.m. and her son was trying to sleep. The trainer, Trigueros said, argued that what she and the class were doing was perfectly fine. 

But it turns out, it wasn’t fine — it was illegal.  

After filing a complaint with the Department of Building Inspection in November, Trigueros and her father, Jose, discovered that this YuBalance Gym had not sought nor received permission from the city to use the backyard as a commercial gym. Moreover, the gym — which also has locations in the Sunset and the Richmond — hadn’t pulled a permit to use its indoor space as a gym, either. 

The Trigueros family and their neighbors feel that building an outdoor basketball court without seeking community support — which is required — and moving into the building without a permit was brazen and disrespectful to the neighborhood. 

 “They don’t live here,” Jose Trigueros said. “They just come in, make their money and leave.” 

“We have to live here,” Paloma Trigueros agreed. “We don’t work here — we have to sleep here.” 

The father and daughter additionally accuse YuBalance trainers and members of the gym staff of taunting their dogs — and even tormenting them with a high-pitched dog whistle. Most of all, the dogs become distressed when staffers and gym members play basketball. Ball playing had not stopped even following November’s formal complaint, Trigueros and his daughter say. 

Laura Rios, who runs Laura’s Beauty and Barber Shop next door to the gym on 24th Street, shares a backyard with it. She says gym management did not inform her they would be building a basketball court in a shared-use space. Before the court, Rios used the backyard as a place for her autistic son to play. 

“They took the whole thing,” she said. She says she asked the gym’s owner, Rory Cox, who gave him permission to build the court: “He didn’t answer me — nothing.” 

YuBalance has not returned Mission Local’s messages seeking comment. 

After multiple complaints about the gym, the Planning Department in February ordered it to cease outdoor use and gave it 30 days to obtain permits for indoor activities. 

But on Monday, Planning Department spokeswoman Gina Simi said gym management “just informed staff earlier today that they would not be moving forward with the compliance process and plan to cease operations.” 

“Our understanding is they aren’t moving forward with the entire gym,” she continued. 

Jose Trigueros said he’ll believe it when he sees it. Or, rather, when he doesn’t hear it. “I gotta see it first that they go,” he said. “I don’t believe them — I don’t believe none of it.” 

Even if the gym went, Trigueros bemoaned what he felt was an unfair process, accusing the Planning Department of dragging its feet in addressing what was clearly a violation of city code. 

“When a homeowner does something wrong — they make you tear it down right away,” he said. “But these guys have been doing something wrong for over a year — and nobody did anything about it.” 

Update 12:00 p.m.: Shala Cox, a co-owner of YuBalance, told Mission Local that the gym pared back its backyard hours after neighbors began complaining — and completely stopped using the backyard for classes around December. She and her husband, Rory, did not know they had to seek conditional use authorization from the city to use the backyard. She bemoaned an overly complex planning process and said that, as a small business, YuBalance did not have permit expeditors or lawyers to help them navigate it.

“It was never our intention to do anything illegal,” she said. “We thought we understood the planning code and clearly it’s way more complex than we could understand.”

Cox confirmed that YuBalance will be closing in its space. Without the backyard available for classes, she said, the location was simply too small, and getting authorization to use the backyard area would have been too long and draining on the business. Since they opened on 24th and Harrison six years ago, she said (the gym had since moved), “People have made it clear, we’re part of gentrification — they don’t want a gym on the street.”

“At this point,” she added, “we just want to leave as quietly as possible.”

Julian Mark

Julian grew up in the East Bay and moved to San Francisco in 2014. Before joining Mission Local, he wrote for the East Bay Express, the SF Bay Guardian, and the San Francisco Business Times.

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58 Comments

    1. >> Shala Cox, a co-owner of YuBalance: “It was never our intention to do anything illegal,” she said. “We thought we understood the planning code and clearly it’s way more complex than we could understand.”
      >> “People have made it clear, we’re part of gentrification — they don’t want a gym on the street.”
      >> “At this point,” she added, “we just want to leave as quietly as possible.”

      So, running a business is “way more complex” than they could handle, but even if they did the yeoman’s work of figuring out how to legally run their own business it wouldn’t have mattered because “people” have decided they’re gentrifying the neighborhood. Uh…ok? (◔_◔)

      Glad to see they’re taking responsibility before taking their ball and going home. LOL.

  1. If the neighbors first complained in November, a resolution in 3 months is pretty quick for a non emergency issue. Not sure what they expected to happen without a complaint. The building department doesn’t have ESP In any case, glad to hear they’re getting some relief.

  2. Wow, what assholes. I’m usually not a fan of yelp, but it seems like this might be a good time to use their site to share some views on these “business practices”.

    1. As a resident of 24th St. my sleep is consistantly disturbed by dogs barking and fireworks but those noises are part of city life. Our community is pushing small businesses out. We need to support small businesses not tear them down.

      1. We need to support small businesses that play by the rules and operate with the proper permits. “Small businesses” that do not operate within the law are cheating the other small businesses who are doing it right.

        Adios YubaDubaDoo

        1. Unfortunately, there are an increasingly few number of small businesses that can operate by our rules and permits, as evidenced by the retail vacancies throughout the city.

        2. Like all the “small business” vendors selling food and cell phone cases and other items on mission street?

        3. When the city moves at a snails pace, you can’t expect small businesses to move at lightning speed. Change takes time and it’s a shame that neighbors like you couldn’t have been supportive of such an amazing small business. They weren’t cheating anyone and Id like to see you contribute to the community like they did. Instead you’re just tearing down other hard working people.

      2. I’ve lived on 24th for 10 years and I’m familiar with all the street sounds, the car alarms, stereos, voices, skateboarders, fireworks, grocery carts, etc. I lived over their other location and they were what almost drove us out of the neighborhood. It was different than ambient street noise, much worse, more invasive, more constant. I feel for these neighbors.

        1. I live upstairs from one of their other locations, and have been battling with them for the past two years to do something about the noise. Most recently they’ve responded by telling me my complaints are interfering with their rights to run their business, that I need to install sound absorbing devices in my apartment instead. Glad those neighbors took action. they’re my new role models.

          1. jh – which location? Inner Sunset? Isn’t the burden on them since they are creating the noise? I’d hire a lawyer, in the end they will have to pay fees.

      3. Agreed but legally. You can’t open any commercial space without permits. I am surprised it till the city so long to do something about it.

    2. Honestly, if you haven’t been to the gym, how on earth could you use this a disqualifier? I loved this gym and appreciated having it in our community and so close to my home. I felt that Rory and the Yuba team was amazing. I was able to meet many neighbors in the area that I may not otherwise have been connected to. As someone who appreciates my community- I’m sad that there are so many haters out there. Rory and his team worked hard as a small business to provide our community with amazing experiences and helped forge positive relationships. Also, if you’re using yelp to write false reviews about this companies offerings, you’re what’s wrong with the system.

      1. Sounds like the least the gym could have done was to talk with the immediate neighbors about possible noise outside of business hours and about their intention to use the backyard, on what specific days / hours. Some communication before-hand might have generated more goodwill with the folks who’ve been living there for quite awhile.

    3. OK, the internet brought out the worst in me. My yelp idea is dumb and inappropriate, and I’d delete my comment if I knew how to. After reading all of these comments, it’s clear that these people are appreciated by their customers and probably decent people. Unfortunately, it;s also clear that they were bad neighbors in this instance. Hopefully they take it as a learning experience and get off on a better foot with their next location- do their homework on use of space, negotiate volume and hours with neighbors, and have a better dialogue with the community beyond their customers.

  3. I have been a Mission Local reader for a long time and your publication is something I feel I am very aligned to from a values point of view, but also as someone that has been to this gym, I do think it’s worth noting that having a small independently owned gym on 24th is a nice benefit given there are no other options.

    The permit stuff is very damning and I would love to know if Mission Local reached out to Yuba to get their side of the story (if there is one) but ultimately I personally feel Yuba contributed socially and economically to this area and am sad to see them leave.

    Long time ML reader and Mission Resident

    1. Hi there.

      We did reach out to gym management and they did not return our messages prior to publication. We are still interested in what they have to say. But there is only so much nuance with regard to the gym’s actions; you either have the permitting or you don’t.

      Best,

      JE

      1. Their reply on your facebook post as of 10:50am seems to tell a drastically different side of the story. Didn’t seem like the balanced perspective I have come to expect from Mission Local.

        1. Andre — 

          We have since spoken with gym management and, sadly, their own story does not appear to be compatible with what they have posted on Facebook.

          Our article is accurate. We will update it with their comments. It would have been nice if they had returned our multiple messages sooner.

          Best,

          JE

          1. The “YuBlance” Gym (2860 24th Street) is located within the 24th Street Neighborhood Commercial Transit District.

            Per Planning Code Sec. 763, “Gym” is a principally-permitted Use at the 1st floor (street level) as long as it is less than 2500 sf.

            Accordingly, if YuBalance is occupying less than 2500 sf. then they are completely legal in this regard.

            If their space is 2500 sf or larger (or are operating on an upper floor), then they would require a Conditional Use Permit. Both the Planning Dept’s response to the complaint on their “Property Information Map” as well as Mission Local’s story are unclear on this point.

            However, the Assessor’s Report indicates that only a 1150 sf, 1-story building exists on this 2600 sf site, so it would appear to me that, in this respect (especially since the ground floor of the building is shared with “Laura’s Beauty & Barber Shop”), that YuBalance is in entirely in compliance with the law.

            Now, operating an Outdoor Activity Area (i.e., in the Rear Yard) is a different matter.
            That is allowed, but it requires a Conditional Use permit.

    2. Being their customer and being their neighbor — very different things. They made it clear they valued the needs of the former and didn’t care at all what the impact was on the latter. As an ex neighbor I can attest.

  4. The gym seems to believe in the old startup adage, “Better to ask forgiveness than permission.”

    1. They aren’t a start up though so. Why are you treating them as such? They aren’t google nor do they have the funding of Dropbox or any of those other startups. They’re a family owned business and were working with the city to try and figure it out. Now there is no one in the space and you wonder why the store fronts are shutting down. You all live in a city- get over the extra sound or move out yourselves.

  5. Stop the misinformation. You were tipped off my a city official over the weekend and didn’t give the business owners time to respond before publicaiton.

    Shame on you.

    1. Sir or madam — 

      With all due respect, you’re the one trafficking misinformation. We did not find out about this from a city official. We did not find out about this “over the weekend” but quite some time ago. The business owners were given ample time to respond and if and when they belatedly choose to do so, we still welcome their input.

      Yours,

      JE

  6. Yubalance has been operating on 24th street for over 6 years, they’re not exactly a new business operating without permits.

    It’s interesting that you fail to mention that the gym is a small business owned by a woman of color that is being driven out of a neighborhood with liquor stores on every corner, empty storefronts, and very limited options for fitness classes.

    I have been a member of the gym for 3 years and have seen how the staff and owners (who all live in SF and many of them in the Mission neighborhood) interact and engage with the community. I personally witnessed an interaction between Paloma and Rory. He listened, apologized, and they seemed to negotiate a compromise.
    I find it very hard to believe any staff member would taunt dogs or be anything other than completely professional, especially since there would be 10 witnesses to the interaction during class.

    I understand that people are frustrated by noise but we live in a densely populated city, in close quarters, and the noise level is of course higher along a busy business street like 24th St.

    This really feels like frustrations being pinned on a convenient scapegoat. The issues will continue. Her dogs will bark. And if they’re anything like mine they’ll bark at the wind, a shadow, or the morning sun.

    It’s really sad that a Black owned business is being run out of the neighborhood and and creating yet another empty storefront.

    1. Sir or madam — 

      The gym was operating on 24th and Harrison and moved to the most recent location a year ago.

      It’s sad. But the article is accurate.

      Yours,

      JE

  7. The question remains: why did this take so long to enforce? You know that if this was in North Beach, Pacific Heights, or any other less diverse neighborhood, that this would have been dealt with swiftly and without delay. The actions here (or lack thereof) clearly demonstrate the Planning Department’s colonial approach to land use policies that pander to white privilege.

  8. When I walked by yesterday, it appears that they are moving to the 1400 or 1500 block of Church Street…i can’t remember the address, but I think they had signs up at Royal Cleaners old location.

  9. I absolutely love YuBalance. It’s shameful that this small business is being chased out of a neighborhood they’ve been a part of for years. I joined them back in 2017 to get in shape prior to my wedding, and have been a loyal customer since. The neighborhood will be worse off without it.

    1. >>… It’s shameful that this small business is being chased out of a neighborhood they’ve been a part of for years….

      Uh, no one is being chased out of anything. Yubalance failed to get the proper legal permits to run their business within the parameters of the law and *rather than* doing the work other businesses have to do they are simply taking their ball and going home:

      “[Yubalance]…would not be moving forward with the compliance process and plan to cease operations.”

      That’s called QUITTING. We have to play by the rules? We quit.

      Not much of a workout mantra, IMO. Personally I’d find a trainer who doesn’t give up immediately in the face of difficulty, but YMMV.

      1. If you go to the San Francisco Business Portal, and select Gym/Yoga Studio, aside from the basic business licenses and fictitious name statements, and you only need a place of assembly permit (according to that site) if you have over 49 people.

        https://businessportal.sfgov.org/node/2919

        Could you cite the specific laws they were violating?

        I’d be curious if the author reached out to the building’s landlord to clarify the back yard usage from the adjoining commercial spaces.

        There is too much emotion and not enough specific information in this article.

      2. They found a better place and probably didn’t want to put up with haters like you anymore. They didn’t quit- they found a better opportunity with less hassle. Sounds like a smart business move to me.

  10. “She bemoaned an overly complex planning process” Waaah. So it was someone else’s fault?
    Good Riddance!

  11. If they’re not in compliance, they should be shut down. But I would greatly prefer use of the term “unpermitted operation” rather than “illegal operation”. Mission Local of all publications should be sensitive to that.

    1. > If they’re not in compliance, they should be shut down.

      Like all this paletta vendors who roam the mission? Or the people playing wares on mission? How about the pop up vendors like birria Vic and the place on S Van Ness and 23rd next to the groceria?

      Or those weekly garage sales on 24th? You need a permit for that too. Are you going to call those in?

  12. Pared back, not paired back. Other than that, good story. Good end to lousy neighbors who have the nerve to cry “poor me.”

  13. We live over what used to be their old location — pounding bass at 6am, instructors shouting countdowns constantly, and when we told them it was a problem (ie. we live and sleep here) Rory was openly rude and condescending to us. Really entitled aggressive gentrifiers. One time they roped off our front door for their own personal sidewalk washing and I couldn’t get inside with my laundry cart. The dude they hired was super rude to me for needing to be allowed inside *my own house*. That was the general energy.

    Proud of this family for making their voice heard (over the pounding bass, lol). I mean wtf was that stuff with the dogs… yikes.

  14. Yubalance was a huge asset to the neighborhood!! . Shame on you for this reporting and picking on a family owned small business. I a long time resident of the mission and a monthly donator to mission local who will be stopping my donation after this inflammatory article full of untruths.

  15. I’m also a Yubalance customer, small business owner and mother of 3 young kids.

    From the neighbor perspective, living above blaring music is not ideal in the least (that’s an understatement). I understand that frustration and I wouldn’t want my family woken up to that music every morning. I hope there was an open dialogue between both sides to come to a resolution. From the article + update, there seems to be two sides to the story.

    As a small business owner, yes, they should absolutely comply with the rules like everyone else. That is black and white. I do want to acknowledge that owning a small business in this city (and in CA) is really expensive and complicated, but rules need to be followed regardless.

    My biggest issue with this article is outright demonizing the gym and gym owners. Specifically, I find the headline with terms like “renegade” and “illegal operation” to be very misleading. This isn’t a huge chain gym – it’s a small business. In my personal experience at Yubalance, I found their staff and owners to be welcoming, open and professional. All ages of people enjoyed the classes and there was a real sense of community among the clients that was unique. I agree that it’s also a small business that should follow the rules and regulations. It’s just a shame that readers only will see this renegade illegal operation.

  16. Thank goodness for the Mission Local!! Fighting the good fight against business owners trying to make a buck. We don’t want gyms, we don’t want coffee shops, we want people to abide by the permitting process. If we put enough permitting in place, we might not have any business owners at all, what a success story that would be.

  17. This is TERRIBLE journalism. This reads like an opinion piece rather than investigative journalism. It’s evident from Julien’s word choice that he already made up his mind about YuBalance. I am very disappointed in the quality of journalism and will no longer donate to Mission Local.

    For example, the title “Renegade 24th Street gym YuBalance announces it’ll leave the Mission after a year of illegal operation” – The word “Renegade” has a negative connotation and so extreme. An unbiased title would be “24th Street gym YuBalance announces it will leave Mission after unpermited operation”. (Please don’t respond back saying , “well of course we called them Renegades, because that’s exactly what they are, law breakers!” … you would actually just prove my point ) . There are other word choices that are more neutral – and less click baity. You are a journalist and you should know better.

    Article is too emotional and one-sided and needs additional information from more sides. What is the specific law they are violating ? What does the landlord say ?

    1. Sir or madam — 

      Thanks for your lecture on what constitutes quality journalism.

      Hopefully you can put the money you won’t be giving us toward something you consider a more worthy journalistic outlet, but, obviously, you’re free to do whatever you want.

      Sorry to lose you, but I think we’ll be okay.

      Best,

      JE

  18. Yubalance is NOT a startup; it is a family-owned business run by a woman of color. As a customer I can attest to how they really focus on building community and how friendly the staff is (and they like all own dogs, so I can’t believe that dog-tormenting stuff at all!) This language in this article seems really biased and demonizing.

  19. I love small group fitness classes and attended this gym for about a year. It was clean and the workouts were satisfying. For the most part, I liked it, although there were some indications that the business started having growing pains (staff and location changes got unpredictable towards the end of my membership). As someone who lives above a noisy restaurant/weekend karaoke party, I empathize with the neighbors, but would love to trade places and have a gym downstairs instead! It’s too bad they couldn’t find a way to coexist, such as keeping the music lower in the morning. The staff encouraged feedback from clients and were very open to suggestions – they seemed like a nice group of folks. I wish them well in their other locations. Hope those neighbors don’t get an even noisier business moving in next!

  20. I do not know the intricacies of city permit rules and regulations, so I cannot comment on the accuracy of the claim that they breached some rules (although that looks very difficult to deny) but I do personally know the owners of YuBalance, and I have to say that the portrayal of Rory and Shala is spot on here.

    They are rude and obnoxious. (Mainly Rory, but Shala passively goes along with Rory’s judgments.) In my presence, they have discussed intentionally making work conditions difficult for an employee of theirs in hopes of making them quit. Rory has admitted that he is rude and lacking compassion. To his staff, the attitude is very much ‘if you don’t like it, there’s the door’. There’s a reason why they have had such a high staff turnover in the last several years in addition to their blatant disregard for labor laws.

    I am not trying to add insult to injury here… I do not take satisfaction in a family business facing a threat to its income… but I can say that this looks like karma, and is no real surprise.

    The comments of this page from those defending them as business owners and contributors to the local community are only half truths. They only wish to build a community when it serves them.

  21. I moved into an apartment in the Mission District in 2010. There was a taqueria behind my building, but the noise was predictable: sounds of glass meeting glass when recycling was going out, and some mariachi music, which I enjoyed. Not a problem.

    Then along came a restaurant, Michelin-star rated, whose back porch was used as a dish washing station under a tree and only six feet from our bedroom window. Folks working there were facing our bedroom window while washing the dishes. They were looking right into our bedroom window while washing dishes. The workers additionally would hang out on that back porch until 2:00-4:00 AM talking loudly, while we were trying to sleep. As you might be able to imagine, the workers talking in the wee hours talked about being treated unfairly in the workplace. This at 2:00-4:00 AM, next to my bedroom window.

    I’m not a NIMBY kind of person. However, when businesses move in and it changes quality of life for neighbors, it needs to be addressed.

    I called the health department because of the unsanitary practice of washing dishes under a tree. It was all I could do after repeated attempts to solve this with the owner. This abated the loud noise some. They were ordered to wash dishes in an enclosed space downstairs. The owner put up a dark canopy to keep the noise level down, keep their lights from shining through our windows, and keep workers from looking into our bedroom window.

    I do think proper business permits are necessary based on my experience.

  22. Can’t imagine any neighbors, anywhere would want an outdoor, backyard commercial gym pounding their spin cycle music in the early AM. So YuBalance should find bigger, indoor locations when they open new extensions.

    But I would cast a wary eye on the landlord of this building. It seems like they were okay with the unpermitted, outdoor use as long as they could get away with it. Doesn’t seem like YuBalance had much of a long-term lease.

    Mission Local should investigate the rental strategies of these shady businesses. I imagine if the vacancy tax passes, there will be many more gorilla operations like this one popping up and closing down.

  23. As any small business owner knows, this city is very difficult to meet any and all requirements when the onus is placed on you to navigate beguiling rules and ever changing regulations. ADA anyone? However, it’s been enlightening to read the writer’s biased reporting and community posters here. I’m sure they can’t wait to leave.

  24. Lol at these people in the comments. Yeah let them move in underneath where you sleep and see how magnanimous you are about “small family-owned businesses” then. That’s cute language but if you glanced in there once you could see that their clientele was not at all representative of the neighborhood and was a noisy and conspicuous contributor to gentrification. If you want someone to shout numbers at you while you do burpees in front of a mirror there are 100 other places in a 10 block radius.

  25. Gentrification at its finest. This place is trash. Small business ownership does not mean shit when you disregard your neighbors and the neighborhood you move into. If they wanted to do anything to be a part of the community it should have been to offer AFFORDABLE classes and want to meet the neighborhood, listen to and respect those who live nearby. Anyone who frequented this place, just as trashy. Move along, go to the Marina, so the homies can take over and sell the phone cases and earbuds and roses in glass orbs. Reclaim SF

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