The boarded up structure hiding the soon-to-be Bar TZA. Photo taken by Annika Hom, July 2, 2021.

Bean to bar

Hello. Again, I got the tea (chai, this time). I was invited into a secret passageway at Cafe La Taza, and I can tell you behind closed doors — and a graffitied wooden structure — something’s brewing. 

That’s right, the owners of Cafe La Taza on 2475 Mission St. have resumed plans to open an adjoining bar, dubbed Bar TZA, management confirmed. The two establishments, though branded and named differently, will be connected by a door on a shared wall. 

Carlos Martinez, a manager at La Taza, showed me around the not-quite-ready space. There will be a full bar and a large, mounted flat-screen TVs that show “whatever sports games are on. Probably a lot of soccer, ‘cause we’re in the Mission,” Martinez said. Soon tables will go “here, here, and here,” he said, motioning toward the empty floor.

Part of the reason to keep the bar an extension of La Taza is so the building owners, Noel Sr. Martinez and Mayra Martinez, also Carlos’ parents, can launch their new venture more easily, he said. The idea for a bar emerged long ago, in part to ensure some income for Martinez’s parents as they seek to retire, but the pandemic stunted any progress. 

Other perks include shifting La Taza staff to Bar TZA. Still, “we’re looking to hire. We’re shorthanded,” Martinez noted.

Back in the day, this space used to be the pharmacy La Internacional, which moved a few doors down. Soon, it’ll invite dancing. An “excellent sound system” is prepped, evidenced by the huge speakers installed. 

It’s unclear exactly when Bar TZA will open; the fire code inspection is still needed, and construction needs to finish up. Martinez hopes it’ll launch by the end of the summer. (Me, too! A bar right next to my office? I’m sure someone here owes me a beer.)

But when it does, Bar TZA will put out a brand new menu, courtesy of La Taza’s star cook, Chef Boris. Details are still being ironed out, but Martinez imagines small plates he likened to tapas: “fish fillet, steak. Pretty much no sides,” he said. If you’re still peckish, when La Taza opens for dinner service again, you can always go there (which too, has a full bar).

And just because this development is still developing, it doesn’t mean it hasn’t been christened. Two of Martinez’s friends — one a current (and one of my favorite) member of La Taza staff, and one a former staffer — got married there just last weekend. They cleaned up the dust and added flowers, decorations, and offered champagne, cheese plates, tequila. A friend officiated. The celebration was attended by most of La Taza’s staff and a crowd of family members from Honduras. 

That’s the type of good time the bar is aiming for, Martinez said. “It’ll be a lively spot at night. Just a place where people can enjoy themselves.”  

Slimming South Van Ness

Perhaps there’s finally a diet you can get behind.

Among other changes, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency and Vision Zero San Francisco are proposing a “road diet” to make South Van Ness Avenue safer. 

This “road diet” will slim South Van Ness from four lanes into three wider ones. This means instead of two lanes in each direction, there will be a single wider one, and a new middle lane that allows a two-way left turn. Despite the avenue’s emaciation, it should still be able to stomach high levels of traffic, the agency stated on its site.

This is a part of the larger plan, “South Van Ness Avenue Quick-Build Project,” which responds to South Van Ness’s bad rep as having one of the highest rates of pedestrians, drivers and cyclists getting killed or seriously injured.

Let me say it again for the people in the back: One of the worst rates for being killed. 

The top three causes for accidents on South Van Ness are drivers who run reds, speed, and violate left-turn right-of-way. In other words, perps equate themselves to stars in Fast and Furious flicks. 

Enter the South Van Ness Avenue Quick-Build Project, which will encompass South Van Ness from Cesar Chavez to 14th Street. 

The Transit Agency thinks the project, which includes the aforementioned “road diet,” may prevent these types of accidents. In addition, traffic signals may be timed to give pedestrians a head start. “Curb management,” which means potentially adding loading zones to decrease double-parking, is also proposed. 

A lot of this is still in the works though. “We’re still engaging in outreach w/community members, businesses, and other stakeholders for the South Van Ness quick build project,” a San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency spokesperson wrote in an email.

Sure enough, Mission Local learned about this project via its agency’s mailed-in survey and flyer. Kudos. On our version, information is offered in both English and Spanish, and a QR code brings one to the agency’s survey.

Considering it’s such a dangerous and well-trafficked avenue, feedback would be useful. Past solutions, like painting curbs red at intersections to increase visibility, don’t necessarily immunize the avenue from danger. Anyone remember when the parklet at Napper Tandy got rammed not quite two months ago?

If not, maybe this will stick in your brain: there have been 190 reported collisions on South Van Ness from 2015 to 2020. While only 17 percent of these collisions involved pedestrians, two died. Let’s not add any more. 

Dreaming SF’s Housing Future

Um, helloooo, anybody out there?

On Tuesday, the Planning Department hosted a meeting regarding the San Francisco 2022 Housing Element. This very important state-directed document dictates how much housing each region needs to plan for, and comes only once every eight years. 

Specifically, Tuesday’s meeting was a public scoping meeting regarding environmental review. There, planners presented the proposal and community members aired out environmental concerns.

Unlike other planning public comment sessions, Tuesday’s elicited a low turnout:four callers, to be exact. The person facilitating public comment ended up spending the majority of the meeting urging these non-existent callers to drop a line. Think a slow speaking auctioneer: “I’m looking for a raised hand … Checking the language rooms to see if we have any commenters there … ” 

Okay, so we’re early in the Housing Element process. The first draft was released in April. But the Planning Department desperately seeks feedback. After all, the city’s current proposal is no joke: it asks San Francisco to add 5,000 housing units every year until 2050.

By 2050, the city should have 150,000 more units, which is plenty for the pandemic-born babies who will be ready to settle down by then. 

If all goes according to plan, pandemic babies will live in a much more equitable San Francisco housing scene, too. This is the first Housing Element to include racial and socioeconomic goals and policies. Current proposals to ensure this include increasing grant funding for Cultural Districts and adding more affordable units near transit and public schools. These numerous policies gained a mix of support and opposition, according to the plan’s feedback, which again, was minimal.

But back to the point, of which the people who did call in on Tuesday had plenty. 

Ingleside resident Steve Marzo implored officials to review how housing shortages may bring in more commuters, thus driving up car use and pollution. He asked them to consider building housing near transportation. 

“I would hope this environmental review would include not only the conventional efficiency that you could get from, you know, more public transit, but also reducing the vehicle miles,” Marzo said. 

District 2 resident Jonathan Buenemann added, “I would love if the environmental review would reflect the climate impact of not building the housing units in San Francisco, but instead building them in outlying, more car-dependent areas.” 

Member of the Racial Equity in All Planning Coalition, Anastasia Yovanopoulos, asked that people of color continue to be looped into the process. 

Indeed, a Planning Department planner, Elizabeth White, noted in her presentation that the majority of the 1,631 survey respondents were low-income people of color. 

It’s not too late to comment, but it will be soon. July 16, 2021, is when input for this section closes. Brush up on the Housing Element and the presentation from Tuesday here

Housekeeping: What you missed and what I’m reading

From us, to you, with love: 

I believe they call it a “one-two-punch.” In a recent column, Joe Eskenazi points out, “San Francisco building officials buried their heads in the concrete — along with gas lines.” If all that concrete sounds like quite a weight on officials’ shoulders, it’s because it should be, Eskenazi reminds us. The dangerous consequences are exactly why Los Angeles enforces this more seriously. “I mean, Miami,” he declared to me, while animatedly throwing up his hands.

Thus, true to his word, Eskenazi follows this up with “Miami building disaster: SF has completed 4K mandatory retrofits. Quality control is in question. Here’s what needs to happen.” 

What I’m reading:

Let’s look local.

I would recap the eviction moratorium “he said, she said” between local officials and Gov. Gavin Newsom, but I’ll pass it over to San Francisco Public Press’s Noah Arroyo, who’s had his finger on that AB 832 pulse for quite some time now. Turns out the state’s eviction protections not only trump local eviction protections, but also expire months earlier than local ones would’ve. All you need to know is in Arroyo’s article “State Extension of Eviction Moratorium Could Kill Local Tenant Protections” and his Twitter thread, which by the way, expertly uses the Charlie Kelly conspiracy meme. 

I’d be remiss in discussing Miami without giving The Herald its moment. I implore you to do the same with this feature by fellow Report for America member Syra Ortiz-Blanes, “College student came to Surfside with her boyfriend for a funeral. They are both missing.” It reels you back in from the rubbernecking and reminds us that behind the headlines are stories of real people and mourning. The death toll has risen to 20. 

Still can’t get enough of this Miami heat? Then breeze through “See where the Miami-area building collapse began,” which offers theories and an interactive building model that explains how the collapse may’ve started. 

Annika Hom

Annika Hom is our inequality reporter through our partnership with Report for America. Annika was born and raised in the Bay Area. She previously interned at SF Weekly and the Boston Globe where she focused...

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18 Comments

  1. Thanks for your coverage of the South Van Ness project. We travel that street everyday with our toddler and fully support the proposed change. The article describes the deadly nature of the street as designed today, but the “accidents” are nothing but, especially if the driver is driving like Fast and the Furious. Those are collisions and they’re much more likely to be deadly under today’s SVN design that invites speeding.

  2. Slowing down S. Van Ness will be a disaster and cut off the southern portion of the Mission from the rest of the city. What other routes are there? They made Mission St. impassable with the red lanes and forced turn-offs, Valencia is a bike route, Folsom is a bike route.

    They should just enforce the existing laws, instead of cutting us off from the northern part of the city.

  3. Road diet on S Van Ness is just plain dumb. You quote statistics about the high rate of accidents on the street, but why don’t you look at accidents per mile driven? When a street carries 10x more cars than another street, is it really surprising when it has 10x the accidents? We’ve already had diets on Valencia, Mission, and Folsom.

    As someone who lives near Potrero and Chavez, I can tell you exactly what happened when we removed lanes from both of those roads. Traffic, especially during rush hour, exploded on nearby side streets. What used to be quiet, narrow side streets are now the faster option than the main thoroughfares. Tons of traffic and folks blowing through stop signs on roads that used to be safe for bicycles and kids.

    Removing lanes from S Van Ness solves nothing. It just pushes cars to side streets. Dumb.

  4. I disagree with the people claiming this will be bad for traffic. In San Mateo they put a road diet at 3rd in fron of my apartment and not only did it not result in side street congestion the cars that did travel there could go quicker because the traffic was more orderly
    People in cars have a knee jerk reaction to road diets but they work ! They benefit both cars and cyclists

  5. South Van Ness lane diet is long overdue. It is a residential street that is unsafe. Gotta love all the SF drivers complaining about the project – they want to keep SVN as it is so they can continue abusing the street as if it’s a highway. The safety of the families living on SVN matter, too.

  6. Hey Greg, “ Tons of traffic and folks blowing through stop signs on roads that used to be safe for bicycles and kids.” Sounds unsafe. What about the traffic blowing through stop signs on S Van Ness? What about the kids who live on S Van Ness? S Van Ness is a residential street. Do those kids not matter as much?

  7. This is simply going to make drivers more frustrated (and impatient) and push more traffic and faster traffic onto the other streets (Folsom, etc) which are not designed for heavy traffic

  8. As a long time SF driver (I’ve had bikes, motorcycles and cars and I have even been a truck messenger so I’ve driven all over the Bay Area), it has been my observation that reducing lanes in major throughways like SVN creates more traffic and yes – road rage. Couple the lane reductions to the increase in Uber/Lyft cars and you get more frustration and anger on the roads. You will see more crazy stuff like red light running, tailgating and people swerving illegally around slower cars. SFMTA will never get everyone to abandon their cars in a extremely hilly city with inadequate public transportation.

  9. I would love to see South Van Ness traffic calmed. But I also do not want to see speeding traffic shunted off into residential side streets.

    So there is a solution to this: The Californa Environmental Quality Act that requires project sponsors to study the impacts of their projects on circulation.

    SF, in its zeal to “streamline” new construction, has blown through CEQA network analysis, “level of service,” that measures congestion, in favor of “auto trips generated,” the product of a formula that takes a project’s envelope and produces a number of auto trips it would generate and then charges a fee for each auto trip.

    This means that there are no tools for CEQA to analyze the roadway network impacts of changes to circulation. And with “fast build” in place, the MTA has empowered itself to make major changes to streets while giving no consideration at all to not just private auto delay and rerouting into neighborhoods, but to transit that gets snarled with new traffic patterns.

    The livability types like to think that their self-stated good intentions are sufficient to overcome any hard limits in built out complex systems. But we’ve seen with crappy engineered bicycle lanes (8th Street) and an inability to push down injuries and deaths to “vision zero” goals, that the agency is more interested in appealing to a very small constituency with which it agrees than in following the data, if it is even collected, where it would lead.

    1. Marcos: “I would love to see South Van Ness traffic calmed. But I also do not want to see speeding traffic shunted off into residential side streets.”

      Translation: let’s ignore the fact that South Van Ness is a residential street and is deadly. As long as the other residential streets stay safe. Let’s use CEQA or other tactics to block any effort to make South Van Ness safe for its residents.

      1. Ricardo: do the math and show your work, to ensure that the unintended consequences of your good intentions are not borne by others. Zealous monomaniacal zealots have not served anyone well, housing, cycling transit. Comprehensive disinterested generalism that does not let good intentions create blind spots is what we need.

  10. Hey Joe, First, there are no stop signs to blow through on S Van Ness. It’s traffic lights at every intersection. Second, S Van Ness is not a residential street. It’s a busy 4 lane major thoroughfare, with 3 gas stations, 3 car dealerships, Grocery Outlet, plumbing supply and lots of other industrial uses along with some residences. If you decided to live on that street, you knew what you were getting into and you decided that you wanted lower rent/mortgage in exchange for living on a busy street. Shotwell (one block over) is a residential street. S Van Ness in not.

    1. Northern SVN is the anvil head of the NEMIZ but south of 19th Street, it is all residential, palatial Victorians in a neighborhood fancy enough that they renamed Howard Street in the Mission to South Van Ness to trade the skid row implications for the grand boulevard. These flats are enormous, atmospheric ceilings, 5BR.

    1. SVN between Market and 19th is a mixed use street with a freeway ramp. SVN south of 19th is a residential street.

      That said, imposing a category of “residential” on what is now a 4 lane neighborhood arterial road might work for you and your in-group, but this arbitrary classification has no meaningful bearing outside of your tribe.

      The fact that SVN is residential south of 19th has no bearing on how traffic flow changes on SVN will impact adjacent residential streets or surface transit on Mission, 24th, 18th or 16th.

      C’mon, comprehensive planning is only your enemy if you’re trying to put something over on us.

  11. idk,

    More cars trying to make time on Shotwell and Capp could be a bad idea.

    I’d like to see nice streetlights from San Carlos Church going south.

    Sadly, the ML writer seems too biased for a controversial idea.

  12. Why not put the 49 onto South Van Ness? From the south it could turn onto Mission via 26th st from South Van Ness and conversely, it’d use 25th to zig zag onto South Van Ness northbound. Northbound, the 49 would turn off of Howard just after crossing 13th st. It’d then turn left onto South Van Ness headed toward Mission/Van Ness to go to Aquatic Park.

    Seeing as how both 14 lines and the 49 use 60 foot buses on Mission st which is extremely narrow and prone to traffic jams, the 49 could be sped up, there could be bus lanes on South Van Ness and the lights could be rigged to give the 49 transit signal priority. South Van Ness, being much wider than Mission does need the 49 on it.

    Besides, the 49 would be stopping at even numbered streets every 2 blocks. That way it’d serve both the BART stations at 16th and 24th. The only infrastructure needed are Muni bus shelters on the even numbered blocks and the traffic lights being changed to give the 49 transit signal priority.

  13. This comment thread is hilarious.

    A bunch of typical SF NIMBYs: “I don’t care if South Van Ness remains dangerous and — quite literally — deadly for whoever lives and spends time there. NO CHANGES THAT IN ANY WAY will slow down traffic or inconvenience me! ME ME ME!

    lol. especially love the guy threatening CEQA appeals against Vision Zero efforts as his suggested tactic to delay the project. you are what is wrong with SF, sir.

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