500 Florida St. Panorama Bakery
500 Florida St. Panorama Bakery. Photo by Lydia Chávez

All boarded up  

When one window closes, another one opens? The wholesaler Pan-O-Rama bakery at 500 Florida St. suddenly shut down its popular window operation, leaving many customers bereft. 

To recap, the wholesaler branched out from selling to its normal restaurant clientele — many of which closed because of the pandemic — once owners realized revenue was becoming an issue. As a result, they launched a pop-up bakery from one of its windows. It was a grassroots effort that helped the company eke out an existence on its two-day-a-week schedule, largely in part to its near overnight word-of-mouth success.

Then, last week, the owner allegedly received a letter from the city and was told to board it up. He reportedly had the Pan-O-Rama staff shut it down immediately, according to staff. Now at the window, instead of a person delivering piping hot bread, is a letter that reads “Today is our last day/Bread Truck coming! We will be closing the retail for about two months. We are looking to be opening a Bread Truck check for updates on this door. Thank you for everything, we appreciate your support!”

The owner has not gotten back to me with comments. 

Though I couldn’t independently confirm this, multiple sources alleged that someone complained about the bread window, thus drawing a letter from the city. (At the very least, no complaints were filed or reported on the city’s Department of Building Inspection complaint tracking system.)

According to the Planning Department’s zoning, a retail restaurant such as the window would be allowed in the district and at the property, which it already owns. But would is different than is. It is unclear, and honestly unlikely, that the wholesaler procured the correct permits that would allow this operation. 

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In any case, staff who would not like to be named out of fear of workplace retaliation said that Pan-O-rama wanted another chance to get that bread — with permits. Staff and the owner agreed to venture over to City Hall this past week, and got an application rolling for a food truck, which they hope to park near the bakery’s 500 Florida St. flagship. Still, staff emphasized, the plans are half-baked at this point. 

It’s clear the retail window will be missed. As I dropped by the bustling facility, a woman looked at the window confusedly, before asking what happened to it. “My four-year-old daughter just loves that french baguette,” she said. Others sent us devastated emails asking us to investigate. 

A staff member and a baker mourned the loss, too; it was their way to get to know their neighbors. “We were almost in tears,” one said when they heard the window would shut down, clearly tearing up again. “We were really just grateful.”

Apparently, when the window was open, the orders never stopped. Until now. 

To build or not to build

A lot can happen in five years. For instance, two presidential elections can occur. A student can earn a college degree. Drake can come out with two studio albums and another mixtape.

At the same time, a whole lot of nothing can happen. That’s the case for the construction of proposed eight-story “modern-day Single Room Occupancy” project at 1500 15th St., which twin brother developers Chris and Brian Elsey presented in 2016. The project, as it stands, offers 160 bedroom units, including 30 that are affordable and 16 bunk rooms. In total, the group housing project promises 225 Murphy beds. On the basement level, residents will share the space to cook, and there will be a rooftop space for community gatherings. The two extra stories are allowed thanks to the state’s density bonus law.  

It’s been a controversial project to community activists in the past, who argued that more than 25 percent of the units should rent for below market rate. 

And for the developers, it’s been a bit of a headache. The last time Mission Local reported on this development, in 2019, Elsey said “I hope it’s not another three years till I get close. Hopefully, someone can figure out how to build something faster.”

read the other proposed project by the Elsey brothers:

Well, it hasn’t exactly been three years yet, but it’s about to be. 

The Planning Commission was supposed to hold a hearing on whether to grant the project a “large project authorization,” because of its size, but that hearing has been tabled until October. Elsey did not respond for request for comment.

But, hey. What’s a few more months against a backdrop of five years? 

Home improvement

You win some, you lose some. Jacob Bintliff, a legislative aide to District 8 Supe Rafael Mandelman, presented two items back to back at Thursday’s Planning Commission. The first proposal aimed to bolster retention of board-and-care facilities in San Francisco, and elicited glowing reviews. However the second part of Bintliff’s self-proclaimed “double-feature” presentation, starring an ordinance that would restrict construction exceeding 2,500 square feet for homes, wasn’t exactly met with thundering applause.  

The ordinance, which Mandelman introduced in February, asked that conditional use authorizations be used whenever a homeowner sought to expand their house by more than 50 percent of its total area, or if it would be larger than 2,500 square feet. Homes that would tack on extra units would be exempt, but each extra unit must be at least one-third of the size of a bigger pre-existing unit to ensure homeowners can’t add tiny rooms to their giant house. 

Bintliff said this ordinance aims to tackle a “trend” of “monster homes” sprouting up in District 8. 

“That trend is a seemingly constant stream of existing 1,200- or 1,500-square-foot older, relatively affordable homes being converted into four, five or even 6,000-square-foot luxury single family mansions that are flipped and sold for six or seven million dollars,” Bintliff said. “These kinds of conversions, we continue to see on a near weekly basis.”

He noted that regulating planning isn’t new in San Francisco, but conceded that “we’re talking about the size of people’s homes, density in residential neighborhoods, historic resources and neighborhood context. And none of these issues are uncontroversial in San Francisco.”

Right on cue came the wave of disapproval. Several architects phoned in to oppose the measure. Prior to Thursday’s meeting, the American Institute of Architects submitted a letter criticizing it, too. 

Additionally, multiple residents argued the ordinance would delay further projects — which already have many “hoops” to jump through, one caller noted — by possibly piling on more work to the Planning Commission. Even though at the meeting’s start Bintliff said “our intention is not to create process for the sake of process,” callers weren’t convinced. Neither were commissioners.

Others alleged that constructing homes was necessary for multi-generational families. “It’s going to be harder for working folks [and] multigenerational families to stay in their homes and to make roots here in San Francisco.”

While critics certainly dwarfed those in favor, a handful supported the legislation. “Placing a limit on the maximum size of single family homes is consistent with the Planning Department and the ambitious goal of increasing housing density in San Francisco,” one said. 

The commissioners didn’t think the legislation was fit to move forward, a few reasons being that there was so far “no data presented” to support the trends of monster homes, nor that there was sufficient data showing how other neighborhoods like the Bayview or Sunset would be affected by this city-sweeping legislation. 

Commissioner Sue Diamond went as far to say it was “extremely anti-family.” She continued, “I don’t think it’s unreasonable for a family that wants to live in the city to try to find a house, either as it exists, or to modify an existing house so that it has three bedrooms on one floor, which is what parents want when they have small children.”

In seeming response to the problem of “monster homes” in District 8, Commissioner Kathrin Moore suggested that interim legislation may be put in place there while more studies are done to make the ordinance palatable citywide. 

Nevertheless, for now the curtain has closed on the original legislation, which was sent back to the drawing board and will be reviewed again on Sept. 23. 

Housekeeping: What you missed, and what I’m reading

From us, to you, with love

Perhaps all will be well with the 2861 San Bruno Ave. building, according to Mission Local’s Eleni Balakrishnan. A settlement was finally reached for the project that teemed with violations — including stuffing 19 units where only 10 were originally allowed — and thus ties up the original shocking story reported by Joe Eskenazi, where “everything about this building was done wrong.”  

And, along a different vein, she brings our attention to the Mission Public Library, where a new stained glass window is proposed. Three artists are up for the awesome gig, and you can comment on your favorite design. See their visions here.  

What I’m reading

Uh … go Bears??? Berkeleyside’s Frances Dinkelspiel finely distills the complicated issues confronting the city of Berkeley due to the eponymous  university’s housing shortage. A striking statistic: there were 42,347 students in the university’s 2019-20 academic year, and yet only 22 percent of undergrads and 9 percent of graduate students are housed by the college. In comparison, the University of California schools, on average, report that 38 percent of undergrads and 19 percent of graduates are given housing. Even once Cal builds almost 12,000 beds over the next 16 years, as it has promised, that still leaves 70 percent of students short of beds. Should Berkeley follow other college towns that purportedly have contracts to keep enrollment in line with housing? Did the city cash out too quickly? Find out. 

When choosing where to live, so much has to do with how we’ll get around. The Chron’s Ricardo Cano delivers us a detailed review of the latest issues confronting Muni, and let us know that even as 85 percent of routes revive by early next year, it’s likely the bus system will never reach 100 percent pre-pandemic capacity without a stable source of revenue. Catch up here, or scan to see if your route is back here.  

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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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5 Comments

  1. “Then suddenly last week, the owner allegedly received a letter from the city and was told to board it up.”

    This makes me sad. Why doesn’t the city send this letter with the paperwork needed to get it permitted and give the business 15-30 days to comply before having to shut down?

    This is why SF sucks so much for businesses. It’s a location that is allowed to have a window for food, people love it, and there’s an f–king pandemic going on. They couldn’t haven’t given a warning first and helped the business comply? The city is just losing more tax dollars by not assisting this business. Everyone loses.

  2. The people of Panorama are sweet! The bakery is a lovely neighborhood addition that brings people together to support this wonderful business. I hope they are allowed to continue!

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